by Nathan Midgley
Part of the Rhythm Sticks percussion festival
Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 13th July 2002
If indeed there's such a thing as a 'typical' Boredoms gig, this was not to be one.
The anarchic, punk sensibility that gets them lumped in - to their consternation - with the 'Noise' bands their native Japanese underground exports so successfully was to be reigned in, and guitars were to be dispensed with in favour of three drum kits. Even band leader Eye's trademark palette of yelps, roars and caterwauls contented itself with a supporting role, to the disappointment, one would imagine, of the several Faith No More fans who've cottoned on to the debt Mike Patton's vocal excesses owe it.
So were we in for a disappointment? As Damon Albarn will attest, special projects for festival seasons are apt to turn out ill-considered turkeys, and the combination of chimes, sparse rhythms and whispers from girl drummer/singer Yoshimi P-We cause some initial concern, apparently heralding an evening of arty noodling. Ah, no. Suddenly all three drummers kick in and Eye starts working his sequencer/sampler/whatever like a nutter; percussive minimalism gives way to live, super-charged breakbeat with a potency that assumes control of your arms, legs and very soul until you're dancing like a prize twat. Involuntarily. Which many of the audience do, as the front of the stage comes to resemble footage of an early Pink Floyd gig.
Multiple drummers are always a good bet, and when The Boredoms hit a groove tonight it's just irresistible. In fact, the punk spirit has gone nowhere - it's there in the pure energy, strength and fuck-it-all abandon of their set, and it's thrilling to see a crowd react to it so insanely and so spontaneously in the same building that, a few weeks previously, saw Fischerspooner's Casey Spooner usher his audience down to the front like awestruck children. Music, if I can divulge for a second, is not a power relationship. They play; we respond. Any artist that issues orders is a prick, and any audience that takes them is a collective of pricks.
This, clearly part of a divine plan to reaffirm my faith, was perfect. During a lull one of the keenest freakers yells 'Don't stop!' in tones of genuine concern; Yoshimi, mid-whisper, gently raises her hand, in a gesture that almost audibly replies, 'Be calm. Soon we kick off again.' We laugh, and they, as good as their unspoken word, launch into a beat that causes something akin to demonic possession in the front row.
It's little short of revelatory to see a band so passionate that they make three drummers and a guy with a box of electronics look like a visceral, kinetic, helluva show - and when Eye eventually comes into his own, screeching, jumping, dancing and clambering up on stuff, the mad, inspired intensity of the whole spectacle transports you. I feel like tearing the roof off and throwing my lungs at the moon, and when I finally come out it's with a fucking afterglow. It's one of the most straightforward, down-to-earth, uplifting and totally pleasurable live performances I've ever seen. We're still buzzing off it. Stick it in your wrap, Spooner, and sniff it.
(c) Nathan Midgley 2002