[Champagne] Live at The Pipeline, London

live report - 03.06.2013 01:01

The walls could barely contain the sparkling indie rockers as they burst onto the UK scene for the first time.

In the sweltering basement of The Pipeline bar in London on May 15th, a Tokyo indie rock band turned a new page in its history book. After performances by Area 11, NO CARS and Ken Kobayashi and The Colors, Japan Underground were able to present the enthusiastic crowd with [Champagne]'s first ever overseas live gig.

The guys came onstage and tuned up to LUNA SEA classic True Blue, perhaps an homage to the older rockers. They launched into Dear Enemies, a casual performance of a ferocious track that was still enjoyed by everyone, judging from the crowd reaction. It was slightly confusing when it was followed by shouted instructions to staff scurrying around onstage and random test playing, with lead singer and guitarist Kawakami Yoohei's "see you later guys!" prompting some jokes that is was over already. It turned out it was an extended sound check, and after this opening, it was the start proper with, as Yoohei put it, "f**king For Freedom." The vocalist's petulance and carefree attitude was evocative of Placebo's Brian Molko. Even in this starting piece the rapid and varied Michael Jackson-esque rhythms that inspire Yoohei were evident. The sharp and off-beat motifs carried into the funkier She's Very and many other songs too. It was particularly notable in the Hispanic sound of Waitress, Waitress! where the sonorous, rhythmic beat complimented guitarist Masaki's forceful strums and Hiroyuki's detailed bassline perfectly. Despite (or maybe because of) the reported conflict between Yoohei and drummer Satoyasu over the rhythm during recording, the results are spectacular.

Like the Brit rockers that they admire, the band tended to play down and into themselves rather than posture to the crowd as many J-rock bands do. The exception that night was Satoyasu, who with mouth dangling open and wide eyes was a frantic and expressive ball of energy throughout, his arms whipping all around and up to his very high hi-hat like a mad spider. The rest of the band opened up more as the night went on, starting with the catchy and raucous Rocknrolla through to the wall of noise that was new song Stimulator from their upcoming fourth album Me no do karate.. The fun Cat2 also brought out their personalities more with it's clap-a-long tune and cute "miaow miaow"s in the chorus.

Later on the aggressive Don't Fuck With Yoohei Kawakami visibly got everyone going after its deceptively calm opening section, creating a wave of sweaty, jumping bodies. In the middle they paid tribute to their Brit rock influences by breaking into the familiar and fierce riff of Blur's Song 2. Yoohei ramped up the performance, proving capable of imitating Damon Albarn's cocky drawl well and leaning outwards menacingly with each "woo hoo." After this interlude it was back to the headbanging final minute of the song it interrupted, which even saw the stoic Masaki more animated than usual and shaking up his flawless curtain of hair. In fact his crowning bowl-like glory hadn't gone unnoticed by the spectators, as when Yoohei requested a nickname to replace his "hard to say" name, one person suggested "mushroom." Masaki didn't seem to be a fan.

The value of this moment for the band was expressed by Hiroyuki, who had decided to wear his guitar strap studded with union jacks. He told the crowd that they had dreamt of playing in the UK for "13 f**king years!", and that it was worth travelling for twelve hours to get here. "What's the dream?" Yoohei asked him, and his answer that it was to headline at Glastonbury was met with mocking laughter from some individuals. "You may laugh, but I don't give a s**t" was all he needed in reply.

The highlight was the final song of the main set, which was pre-empted by some who cried out the title. Starrrrrrr was met with a roar of appreciation, and giving their best performance of the night, it was clear that the band also love the song. They played without reserve, with an effervescent exuberance that culminated in a chorus that was powerful and uplifting. It might have made for a better end than the actual final song, the encore You're So Sweet & I Love You. It's a lighter, fun song and the crowd had fun singing back the title at them during the bridge, but it didn't leave as lasting an impression.

The foursome's UK debut was a hit, and the crowd made it clear a repeat visit would be welcomed when Yoohei announced that their manager had ok'ed it. They're big dreamers with big goals and the determination to achieve them. With their energy and noise practically bursting out of the confines of such a small venue, they more than deserve to play to a much bigger audience, as they already have back in Japan.


Set list

1. For Freedom
2. She's Very
3. Rocknrolla!
4. Waitress, Waitress!
5. city
6. Forever Young
7. Stimulator
8. Cat2
9. Don't Fuck With Yoohei Kawakami
10. Starrrrrrr

Encore

You're So Sweet & I Love You
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[Alexandros] 15/05

[Alexandros]
London - United Kingdom
The Pipeline
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