It is inexplicable that Kasabian‘s well-designed and danceable take on rock is not hugely popular on this side of the Pond. On the other hand, it is completely understandable that Bo Ningen‘s avant garde performance noise rock, isn’t. Together, the two groups combined for one of the most memorable and entertaining events a concert-goer could hope for, combining the sublime power of rock with supreme attention to detail and absurd theatrics on a Wednesday evening in Los Angeles.
The latter description is primarily reserved for Bo Ningen, the Japan-by-way-of-London / cross-dressing nowave-punk-meets-acidic shoegazer quartet that opened the evening at The Wiltern. The foursome takes the stage looking largely like women. With the exception of their drummer (and his fu-manchu), their long, Pantene-commercial-quality hair is flowing like the Shinano. Those manes become their primary props as they swirl and bob and jump around the stage. Feminine looks are juxtaposed with unbridled aggression and the sense that lead singer Taigen Kawabe is the sort of guy you’ll see talking to himself on the street. If not tonight, definitely in the next thirty years.
They throw down with pounding, thumping bass; their sound is dark, mysterious, and foreboding. It’s a roller coaster careening and speeding towards the inverted twist, the one you’re not sure has been properly inspected.
The vocals are hounded by tons of echo, and the songs themselves are epically discombobulated and purposely discordant. It’s as much — if not more — performance art and improvisational dance than concert. The performance is entirely interesting and innately memorable, but like ghost peppers, their heat goes a LONG way. It’s full of anxiety; they could soundtrack premeditated murder.
Kasabian, on the other hand, is a party. The six-piece band with origins in Leicester is well-known within the crowded Koreatown venue, if not with American audiences writ large. They offer up various versions of Yin and Yang, from their black and white outfits to their ability to turn soft and plaintive moments into soaring, epic ones. They wer picked to close down the 2014 edition of Glastonbury, so even the unfamiliar can infer that they must be doing something right.
As they take the stage the room literally goes off kilter, the shake a bit worrisome given our location.They are a professional band; they’re tight, well-practiced, and each band member clearly knows their role and their value. As they begin with the thunder and chanting of “bumblebeee,” you immediately know what those booking Glastonbury already did: they must be seen live.
It’s a love song of sorts, and serves as a message from band to audience that is returned in a virtuous circle.
“‘Cause when we’re together, I’m in ecstasy / I’m in ecstasy / I’m in ecstasy / I’m in ecstasy / Everybody go!”
Within seconds of taking the stage, their lyrics have quickly become ambient choruses, ambient choruses quickly become chants, and casual fans quickly become massive ones.
Their drums are perfectly mic’d, and a red & white Rickenbacker and goldtop Les Paul and red Gibson SG alternate to provide screaming rock moments amidst a properly calibrated mix that is more comprehensive than simple guitar rock. Proper amounts of electronics are mixed without losing the rock and roll vibe: they’re offering danceability without effete polish. The drums maintain the pace, filling when necessary but mostly staying out of the way and setting the party’s tone.
It’s tough not to see Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno as physical inspiration to Russell Brand‘s character in “Get Him To The Greek,” his cock-of-the-walk British confidence belying the self-doubt and psychological strains that seemingly afflict most whose art requires public affirmation.
At times, Tom Meighan‘s vocals owe something to Ian Brown, the famed frontman of The Stone Roses. Epic band moments remind one of Muse. Dancing rockers channel Bloc Party. Slightly cocky and blustery rockers raise the specter of Oasis. And then there are numerous Madchester moments, a few of which flirt with hip hop. These are all part of their DNA and are touchstones through which American audiences should understand Kasabian, through which record companies should promote their art, through which they should be in much bigger venues, Stateside. They’re undeniably hip and perceptibly perfect for danceable music’s ascendant moment, all the while retaining rock’s snarl and soul. They bring all of this to the stage, the relatively intimate setting belying just how polished Kasabian’s craft has become.
The Marshall stacks are thumping and no one — no one — is still. The undulating audience is riding their wave, taking it as far as possible. The band notices: “Los Angeles … you are empire.” Coming from a Brit, this sounds like high praise…even if it’s probably just a creatively announced song title that doubles as flattery.
The bass vibrates through our consciousness as the room vibrates in synch, the end of the set offering up yet another climax. “I’m on fire…..” And so we are, as they articulate what they’ve been doing all show, setting the dump ablaze with their idiosyncratic party in a (Marshall) box.
An insane encore reaches back to cover Fat Boy Slim‘s party classic, “Praise You.” The place is coming unhinged, and there may or may not be some sort of dust falling down from the rafters. They finish their performance, and the audience doesn’t leave. The party continues, even as concert goers gradually become concert leavers, chanting on their way towards the smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs and the cool night air.
The heat isn’t dissipating, though, as the steam slowly shifts to the lobby “…LA LA LA la…” — the chant from their closer, “L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)” — morphs into something resembling the “Ole ole” soccer chant. It’s amazing and heart-warming and it shouldn’t end…but it must.