Monday 29 October 2012

Shonen Knife live at Cargo London October 16th

Shonen Knife in action - Photo by Paul Slattery
Yes, it's back to the Cargo for another fix of smiley day-glo catchy pop-punk with Shonen Knife. The recent sell-out gig at the same venue, where they played as their alter-ego tribute band, the Osaka Ramones, was certainly great fun. However, there was a slight down-side in that we were only treated to three of their own Shonen Knife songs as an encore. So there was no contest, immediately after the show I just had to snap up tickets for the return fixture as I was desperate to hear some more of their original classics. There was an expectant crowd building up and suddenly Naoko, Emi and Ritsuko bounded on stage to the strains of their own "Welcome To The Rock Club", took up their positions and then it's bang, straight into the opener, "Konnichiwa".

Ritsuko - Photo by Paul Slattery
I suppose that "Konnichiwa", could almost be the band's mission statement really, encouraging the crowd with a call to arms that promises that we'll all have "a good time tonight". They are not wrong either. Next up is their classic "Riding On The Rocket", the opening track from their 1992 breakthrough album "Let's Knife", it's one of those perfectly crafted songs that the band excel in. Then we are treated to a double hit of foodie songs, the impossibly catchy "Banana Chips", which are delicious fried in coconut oil apparently, and one of the set's highlights, "Flying Jelly Attack", that instigates some wild dancing from some enthusiastic fans beside me. They power through two songs from the latest album, the title track "Pop Tune" and then the brilliant tribute to their home town, "Osaka Rock City". I noticed that Photographer Paul Slattery was finding it difficult to take photos, as bassist Ritsuko was whipping him with her flailing hair as she threw herself around the front of the stage. He soldiered on regardless...

Emi - Photo by Paul Slattery
Naoko introduces the band and hands over lead vocal duties to live-wire drummer, Emi, to sing "Psychedelic Life" from the new album. Naoko explains that the song is about Emi's "Bohemian private life", which causes much whooping and whistling from the crowd. Although, some might have been disappointed as this is Shonen Knife, and the Bohemian life portrayed in the lyrics actually consists of sitting around sipping peppermint tea and burning incense. Then bassist, Ritsuko takes her turn on lead vocals for the slower paced sweet pop of "Sunshine". Next, they elevate that handy everday object, the "Rubber Band", into the subject of a catchy Punky thrash. "BBQ Party" from the album "Super Group", continues with their food obsession and then it's one of the highlights of the last album "Free Time", the Buzzcocks style Pop-Punk of "Do You Happen To Know", in which Naoko tells of time she lost her guitar en-route from Heathrow to Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Then it's the spooky "Jack The Ripper" guitar riff intro to "Devil's House" and the rocking "Bear Up Bison". The band then get into their Osaka Ramones character for a great, well received run through of  "Rock & Roll High School". Actually, Shonen Knife could almost be the cheeky little sisters of Johnny, Joey, Marky and Dee Dee. They have that knack of taking classic music references and making them sound fresh and envigorating. Not only that, but the lyrical twists on mundane every-day objects, food stuffs and cute animals is elevated to near genius, very much like their heroes, the Ramones. 

Naoko - Photo by Paul Slattery
This leads into one of the band's signature tunes, "Twist Barbie" and then "Tomato Head" from their "Rock Animals" album, which is a grungey number that reminds me of L7. Next up is the hardcore thrash of "Cobra vs. Mongoose" and the band close the show, putting down their instruments and holding their Shonen Knife scarves aloft, lapping up the applause and calls for an encore. They return for a "three cat encore"...a trio of feline inspired numbers. "Cat Nip Dream" sung by Ritsuko, "I am a Cat" sung by Emi and then Naoko takes over again for "Giant Kitty". Then all too soon, it's all over and the band leave to cheers, stomping feet and more encore requests. Unfortunately, that's it for tonight, the lights go up and illuminate a crowd of happy smiling faces. But the band do, however, graciously hang about afterwards, chatting, signing merchandise and having their photos taken with extremely satisfied Shonen Knife fans.

Shonen Knife greet their adoring fans - Photo by Steve Worrall
Photo by Paul Slattery
Photo by Steve Worrall
Shonen Knife - Photo by Steve Worrall
Shonen Knife (L/R) Ritsuko, Naoko & Emi - Photo by Paul Slattery
With many thanks to Paul Slattery for contributing his excellent Photos - all Photos Copyright of the credited photographers Paul Slattery 2012 & Steve Worrall Retro Man Blog 2012.