Live Music + Gig Reviews

Tujiko Noriko @ Bush Hall, London

27 February 2008

One of the more noticeably refreshing aspects of the alternative music scene in recent years is the arrival of several new promoters who display a clear passion for music out of the ordinary without having one eye directed at making a quick buck.

A fine example of this is the team behind End of The Road, whose late summer festival of the same name is now an eagerly anticipated fixture on the live calendar.

Tonight’s event showcases four acts that will appear alongside the big guns at this year’s event.

One band hoping to fit onto the stage come September will be Sons of Noel & Adrian, a 10-strong collective from Brighton who deliver a lush opening set incorporating what appears to be nearly every instrument imaginable. The somewhat obvious Arcade Fire comparisons are valid but the tender melodies accompanied by Will Oldham-esque vocals suits the gorgeous venue’s acoustics perfectly. As if they weren’t faultless enough, they also appear so charmingly courteous, as if they’re embarrassed that anyone is watching at all. They have little to worry about as the collective sigh once the words “last song” are uttered is plainly audible.

From the mass to the plain bare, two-piece Congregation consist of a howling female vocal in the vein of CocoRosie and a one man guitar playing, bass drum thumping beast, dressed as if he’s fresh from an Austrian folk dance. For such a stripped down set-up, the delivery is powerful and vocalist Victoria Yeulet’s stunning voice, along with her stand-off hand-on-hip display onstage, suggests the makings of a future star. Quality control takes a slight dip towards the end (there’s only so much a bass drum can do before you enter samey territory) but this short set is nothing less than promising.

Matador-signed The Cave Singers also show us a thing or two about distinctive vocals, if only for how English they sound for a band that hail from Seattle. The mature three-piece spurt riffs, akin to Afghan Whigs, tinged with country melodies that Devendra Banhart would kill for. Their set feels far too short . Hopefully they’ll be back in the country before too long.

Things take a turn after that, and not all for the good. This being Tujiko Noriko‘s first gig in the country, expectations are high from some but others appear highly disinterested. While the polite nature of the evening had been consistent throughout until this point (the audience have been firmly on the floor for the duration, something that could be seen as a lack of respect but until now just seemed appropriate) it soon breaks once the Japanese marvel abruptly appears onstage.

The subtle mix of beats and her ethereal voice is difficult to focus on when discourteous members of the audience seem more interested in the sound of their own voices than paying attention to what’s onstage. This is made even more infuriating when pockets of fans down the front are literally stretching their necks in order to hear her. But Tujiko doesn’t seem to mind. Despite standing awkwardly and saying nothing to the audience, she has a massive smile on her face throughout.

The songs really are tremendous. Think a more mischievous (and erm, Japanese) Björk and you’d be close. But the apathy from the audience takes it toll and, by the time her set ends just 25 minutes in, the venue is half empty. It’s a damn shame. In different circumstances (the size of the venue was perhaps slightly ambitious) this could have been dazzling. Both the few who had waited for a lengthy time for this gig to happen and Tujiko herself deserved better than this.

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Tujiko Noriko @ Bush Hall, London