Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bo Ningen @ Scala, London

10 October 2013

Bo Ningen The very first thing Bo Ningen do when they step out onto stage is unleash a noise which sounds like the world ending. The first thing. But that isn’t what’s remarkable. What’s remarkable is it just gets better from there on in. Lead singer Taigen Kawabe alternates between plucking his bass and grasping at the air. He shrieks. He whispers. He grimaces, gurns, grins and generally acts like what a trained professional might describe as a man possessed.

Twin flanking guitarists Kohhei Matsuda and Yuki Tsujii, one topless, one in the sort of red trouser suit/ceremonial robe Bootsy Collins would have dismissed as being a bit OTT, both framed in hair, produce riffs that range from metallic and barbed, to delicate and finessed, to that which you can’t quite comprehend as have being birthed from six strings. Behind them, Akihide Monna hits and hits and hits and hits and hits, and drives Bo Ningen on with such increasing acceleration you wonder if at any moment they may spontaneously travel back in time.

It sounds like madness. It looks incredible. It sounds incredible. The songs attack like raptors. They creep quietly up you from all sides and then pounce as a pack, tearing, eviscerating, leaving your mouth agog and your entrails dangling. At one point, during some of the choppier staccato bits of Nichijyou, it could nearly be Don’t Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At several other points there’s almost a relaxed, funky lope. At many others it’s like a band trying to find out what happens if you play all of the notes at once. It sounds indulgent and excessive.

But it isn’t. It’s startling and exciting. Somehow, someway, Bo Ningen always, always, always manage to make excess not seem, well, excessive. Their chaos always feels very tightly controlled. The sheer breadth and scope across which they travel takes the breath away. Things dart from wiry to thrashy to funky to psychedelic and melodic, often in the same track. Bo Ningen don’t do time signatures. They do time petitions.

At one point Kawabe thanks us, and says they have “only three songs left”. But, he adds with a self deprecating smile, “you know Bo Ningen songs last a very long time”. He’s right, they do. But at no point do they ever feel longer than they should be.

This is the kind of show that ends in blinding epiphany. Bo Ningen are the answer. The question is all but irrelevant.

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Bo Ningen @ Scala, London