It's hard to believe that it's 30 years since I first saw Shonen Knife play live, that was at the Reading Festival in 1992 when the band were special guests of headliners Nirvana on what turned out to be a memorable event and certainly one of the best festival line-ups ever I've ever seen. It's even harder to believe that tonight's show at Sub89 in Reading is part of their COVID-postponed 40th Anniversary tour, although the band are actually 42 years old, forming in Japan's second city Osaka in 1981. The set-list spanned the band's long career from all the familiar classics such as "Twist Barbie" and "Riding On The Rocket" to two tracks from their excellent new album "Our Best Place". Of course, it's their gleeful lyrical obsession with food on songs such as "Wasabi" and "Jelly Bean Attack" that always raises a smile and you find yourself shouting out the words to "Banana Chips" at the top of your voice without a care in the world. I think I mentioned last time I saw them that it was going to be tough to follow the previous line-up after bassist Ritsuko and drummer Emi left - but getting back co-founder Atsuko on bass was a stroke of genius. Atsuko, the sister of vocalist and guitarist Naoko was actually the drummer when I first saw them in '92 but she excels up front, head banging and shaking her hair next to her sister and taking lead vocals on a few songs including the superb "I Am A Cat".
Naoko has barely changed over the years, she looks and sounds amazing, pointing her guitar out over the crowd, blasting out those immediately catchy riffs. Then there is Risa on drums, a blur of flailing limbs and hair behind her kit, she's an immensely powerful drummer but still manages a huge smile on her face throughout the show. When you turn on the news and see how bleak things seem to be at the moment, you can always guarantee that Shonen Knife will cheer you up and put a smile on your face, and that's one reason why I would never miss a show when they are in town. For more information on Shonen Knife, please check out their official Facebook page here. You can see more videos from the show by subscribing to the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here.
Special mention must go to the local support band The Go-Go Cult, who I'd seen once before supporting The Fuzztones in London and their swampy, voodoo-infused dark Blues went down really well with the crowd. You can investigate them further at their Facebook page here.
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