Photo by Keiko Hirakawa
A Slice of Musical Heaven
The musical term con brio means “with vigor” and if Thursday night’s set at the Red Marquee was anything to go by, Fuji Rock was going to be in for a treat as the Californian band of the same name wowed the audience with a powerful opening performance that would be repeated twice more over the weekend. That being said, it’s not exactly difficult to impress the hardcore Thursday night crowd, who’d get excited about you changing your shoes if you did it on stage, but the band left a lasting impression.
Up at Field of Heaven, Con Brio appeared to huge cheers from the expectant crowd and started up with a funky number that channeled James Brown in vibe. Vocalist Ziek appeared from the rear of the stage and slinky-danced up to the microphone with a sexy shimmy emphasized by a tasseled jacket sweeping his presence about even wider.
We need to deal with Ziek first, not only because the chap belts out tunes like he’s been doing this for years, but also because he rocks some moves that had the audience gasping and whooping and not a little bit overcome. His stage presence is thoroughly mesmerizing; whether he’s whooping, crooning, getting the crowd to clap along with him, or lost in his own funky dance moves, all the while sending out “enough sex-machine energy to power the entire greater Tokyo area.” Not that Ziek is the only one channeling something. Throughout the rest of the show the band were jamming on the good vibes emanating around the Field of Heaven, clearly enjoying themselves throughout, with trumpeter Brenden taking every opportunity he wasn’t playing to boogie about the stage.
Most important is the music, and here the band rocked things out rocked through a set that made me put down my pen and go dancing instead. With funky nods to James Brown, the late disco of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” and even D’Angelo – comparisons that have probably been made more than a few times – the music was infectiously danceable and pretty darn sexy to boot. Con Brio’s new album “Paradise” was just released internationally last week and a few of the tracks featured in the set including “Money” and “Free and Brave”. Much of the message in the songs may have got lost on the audience, but music was language enough for the Japanese crowd who waved their hands, howled and danced non-stop. “Give It All” was a romantic and powerful rendition while closing number “Never Be The Same” slowed things down but amped up the voltage to positively thrilling.
Halfway through the set, Ziek looked out over the audience, to the forested hills in the background and said: “This is the most beautiful venue we’ve played. This is heaven, isn’t it?” Just a slice of heaven for us, for now, and a potently delicious one at that. Con Brio are a band with much more to come and something tells me we’ll need to stay hungry for the rest.