LIVE REPORTWHITE STAGE8/21 SAT
Tried, true and time tested
Even though legendary group Number Girl reformed in 2019, some 17 years after they initially called it quits, for most in attendance at their Saturday White Stage gig this was their first chance in decades to see the band perform. Or more likely their first at all. The years while the band was away saw frontman Shutoku Mukai’s follow-up band Zazen Boys get a lot of well deserved attention, but nothing can compare to seeing a legendary group like Number Girl being resurrected and returning to the stage.
Opener Touch instantly transported the crowd back to a time when guitar rock was still king, and how cathartic it was to hear music that sounded like a melodic exposed nerve. ZEGEN vs UNDERCOVER followed close on its heels, showing off the tempo and intensity changes the band utilizes so well. Not simple Pixies loud quiet loud, but something evolved out from the same equation.
Things really heated up with Teppu Surudoku Natte, with its blistering tempo and jackhammer bass. Muaki’s vocals ran wild, from cooing to barking, while the chaotic, guitar driven frenzy of the song built. They just don’t make music like that anymore.
Coming a few songs later, Destruction Baby was a great reminder of how good a loud, angry, fast and relatively simple rock song can be. No need for bells and whistles, just a couple guitars, a bass and some drums. However, their following song Toumei Shoujo took that energy and turned it up a few notches and quite a few BPM. It is one of their best songs, and in many ways one of their most straight-forward. Again, sometimes rock is best served raw.
This is not to say that Number Girl doesn’t spend a good portion of time in a solid groove pocket. Moments from songs like CIBICCO-san demonstrated this. It’s just that they don’t stay there for long, relishing the disorientation in the transition from forebeat to backbeat, then a jerking return.
The next song U-REI really let Hisako Tabuchi rip on the guitar, and nothing hurts the ears as nicely as distorted and atonal guitar shredding, especially when the rest of the band keeps things grounded as a counterpoint. Throughout the whole set, Number Girl felt like a band that never took a hiatus, their cooperative action was always on point. Things could get crazy, but concurrently some other part of the band would always balance this out with a solid foundation.
Even after it seemed like the band had given all it had to give, closing with a blistering version of I Don’t Know, they still couldn’t leave the hungry crowd behind without giving them an encore they thoroughly deserved. 17 years is a long time to wait, after all. And what better song to end the night with than IGGY POP FANCLUB, a tribute to one of their influences, and a fitting image as we now know the way Number Girl in turn went on to inspire a subsequent generation of musicians.
Theirs was a sound that felt like a gift from the past without feeling like a time capsule, nostalgic but not at all redundant. You can see how many younger bands evolved out of blueprints drawn up by Number Girl, but sometimes you need to go straight to the source to get the good stuff. Fortunately for us that some rock ‘n roll Lazarus has brought them back for one more round.
[Photo: 6 All photo]