On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was tragically shot and killed outside his home in New York, and the world grieved over the loss of the former Beatle. A thirty-fifth anniversary commemorative concert called The John Lennon Jam was performed to a packed house last night, December 8, 2015 at the Triple Door in Seattle, Washington, by world-renowned tribute band Apple Jam. The performance showcased songs he wrote both with the Beatles as well as his solo music. The John Lennon Examiner attended the show, and here is our report, with photos by Jerry & Lois Photography and John Friar.
Presented by Roseta Productions, the show was long sold-out, and some fans even bought “standing room only” tickets at show time. The room was packed as this very special concert began at 7:30pm, lasting two and a half hours with a short intermission. The set list featured an eclectic, wide variety of his compositions, from the most popular Beatles hits to his solo work, and some of the very earliest compositions that were given away to other artists.
The band did thirty-three songs, in Lennon’s style and vocals, with precision and great passion. Apple Jam was formed in Seattle exactly ten years ago for Lennon’s 25th anniversary. The current line-up of band members include front man Rick Lovrovich (The Beatniks, bass, vocals), Johnny Jones (keyboards), Jakael Tristram (guitar), Josh Jones (drums, vocals), and Doug Kilishek (guitar). They are widely acclaimed and known internationally, also having produced two CDs and performed in Liverpool at International Beatles Week. Their CD “Off the Beatle Track” features the earliest Beatles compositions that other artists recorded, in a Beatlesque style.
The mood was instantly cast for a perfect evening of Lennon’s music as the opening song, the ethereal and sentimental number “Free As a Bird” began. The 1970s song “Number 9 Dream” came next, followed by the early composition “Bad To Me” (originally recorded by Billy J. Kramer), then Beatles hits “Any Time at All,” and “I Call Your Name.” Another early number, “I’m In Love” was performed, then “Beautiful Boy,” one of Lennon’s last songs that he wrote for his son Sean. In honor of the anniversary, the band did “Here Today”, a very moving song Paul McCartney wrote for his fallen band mate after his death, one he still performs at his live shows in honor of John. Ironically, this song was performed at the very moment that John’s death had occurred thirty-five years ago.
Alan White, who played drums for Lennon on the Imagine album and was in the original Plastic Ono Band, (drummer for Yes) then came on stage to great applause and cheering. Alan had brought his original drum set that he used with Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, to the absolute delight of the audience. He played drums for the next four songs, including “Crippled Inside,” explaining the story behind its recording and how Lennon liked his ideas, Very young at that time, Alan said, “He took me under his wing.”
Alan remained on stage to play three more songs, “Help Me To Help Myself”, “Instant Karma” and of course, “Imagine.” During “Imagine”, people in the audience lifted up the candles that were on the tables. During this song, Josh Jones, who was singing from the back of the stage on keyboards, couldn’t be seen from our seats, which were on the side. His vocals were so spot-on, so perfect, it was as if Lennon was singing himself. That was a particularly eerie moment of the concert, especially with the original drummer for the song on stage.
Alan and his wife Gigi had just returned from another event in Los Angeles just in time for this show. Gigi told us, “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Remember Alan did this with Apple Jam for their first show ten years ago for the twenty-fifth anniversary of John’s death. So it’s an important anniversary for all of them; and we are very happy to be here.”
After a short intermission, Apple Jam began the second set with “(Just Like) Starting Over” followed by “I’m Losing You,” songs from Double Fantasy that had just been released before Lennon’s death. Other highlights of the evening included Beatles songs “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and “Good Morning, Good Morning,” and “In My Life.” One surprise of the evening was a medley composed of three songs that were slated for the Beatles “White Album” but never appeared: “Look at Me/What’s the New Mary Jane/Child of Nature.” (“Look at Me” appeared later on Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, “Mary Jane” did appear on the Beatles Anthology, and “Child of Nature” evolved into “Jealous Guy” on Imagine.) Steve Roseta told us, “The band will now start focusing on producing a CD comprised of these White Album songs that never made it on the album.”
Lennon demo “Now and Then” debuted:
An amazing highlight of the show was the debut of Apple Jam’s completed composition of an unfinished demo that Lennon had been working on at the time of his death, “Now and Then.” This was one of three tracks Yoko Ono had presented to the Beatles for inclusion in the Beatles Anthology. Rick Lovrovich, bassist and vocalist for Apple Jam, told KOMO News in an interview earlier in the day that the track was special because “there was a note on the cassette from John that said ‘for Paul.’”
The remaining Beatles never finished the song, in favor of the two other tracks “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird” (both of which were performed at the show last night.) Apple Jam took on the challenge of finishing the song for Lennon, composing the remaining lyrics and finishing the verses. Their work on the song was stunning and showed the audience the extent of their talent and expertise. the song in its completed form was flawless and smooth, and it would be easy to believe Lennon would have loved it. (See our interview with drummer Josh Jones, talking about their approach on the composition, listed below.) We asked Roseta and Jakael Tristrom after the show if they were going to record the song and release it, and basically the answer is “I don’t know” because of the song was never formally released by Lennon.
The audience was on its feet for “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey” and the last song was “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. The encore of “Happy Xmas” was a beautiful and festive ending, again with the audience lifting up their candles and swaying back and forth, singing along.
The John Lennon Jam was more than a tribute, it was a celebration, with Apple Jams’ perfect blend of passion, perfection, talent and spirit. Despite the somber anniversary, the mood was light and happy, full of love. And that’s a perfect way to remember John Lennon.
Many thanks to Jerry & Lois Photography and John Friar for the use of their photos for this article.