Could Sean Lennon draw a crowd if he didn’t have his dauntingly famous pedigree? Or, for that matter, could his model-musician-girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl pack a house, if not for appearing on all those fabulous magazine covers? No, probably not: The whimsical folk pop that they create together under the fabulist name Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is a little too dreamy to outshine their quirky backgrounds.
Three months after they quietly released their debut album, Acoustic Sessions, on their own label, the duo launched their first extensive U.S. tour on Thursday night at Boston’s intimate dive Great Scott. While the intentions seem bigger than a mere vanity project, Lennon still hasn’t found the musical outlet that will set him apart from John and Yoko. And with the addition of Kemp Muhl, you might say one is riding the coattails of another who’s riding coattails.
Which is too bad, because they do mix well together and create enough charm to nearly overcome their handicaps. She arrived onstage wearing early-Twentieth Century-esque garb, alongside Lennon in a costume military coat and cap. They may have appeared unnecessarily precocious, but they also tuned their own instruments, like roadies, as if they weren’t even somewhat famous enough not to have to. And so the sold-out audience seemed ready to give these two lovers a chance, as long as they remained everyman/women.
The band’s set-up was also sparsely everyman: Opening with their gypsy-esque “Jardin du Luxembourg” from Acoustic Sessions, Lennon helmed the acoustic guitar while keeping the beat with one foot on the kick drum and the other on the tambourine. Kemp Muhl played a wide range of instruments throughout the night, including accordion and acoustic bass guitar with her long, skinny fingers.
Most of the songs were held together by their tuneful harmonies, and trumpet-player C.J. Camerieri solidly filled in any of the night’s loose ends, which popped up regularly as Lennon called the show a “rehearsal.” (Aside from a Jimmy Fallon TV appearance the night before, it was the first time they played live with this set-up.)
They played most of their debut album while throwing in a couple of covers, including a pop-rock version of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.” With only nine recorded songs so far, they don’t have much material to rely on yet.
The songs they do have sometime sound like 1960s French pop. Other times they sound like a stoner’s soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIV.
At its best, their music sounds like being followed through the woods by a gnome riding on the back of a deer. So, yeah, it basically just sounds like being stoned. Really, really stoned — which is usually a little too dull and insular, but sometimes it comes up with something great, like this wonderful Kemp Muhl-penned line: “Wearing Freudian slips like evening gowns / Taking guilt trips from town to town…”
Lennon and Muhl Kemp upheld their everyperson veneer at the end of the night by taking pictures with fans after their encore. But it was easy to see that those photo-ops had more to do with the band’s background than their clever lyrics or whimsical harmonies.
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