LIVE REPORTWHITE STAGE8/22 SUN
The mad scientist busy in his lab
Susumu Hirasawa is a legend. From his early days with P-Model up to his surprisingly fertile present, he has always had a unique approach to his music and his art generally. Who better to close out this year’s White Stage on Sunday night.
The scene – stage bathed in blue smoke, a spray of green lasers fanning up from the front of the stage, the lightning bolts off a Tesla coil providing bass notes, and a silver haired mad scientist approaches stage front, guitar in tow. He plays the lasers like a harp, plucking the beams from the air. He sings, like a restrained German opera singer. An electronic violinist and contrabass duo with slick black suits and horrific black boxes streaked in red for heads appear. The guitar is struck, clear distorted notes ringing out. The performance has begun, Cold Song. What a way to start a set.
In no time he was off to Enola, a thundering electronic banger. Theramin and strings layered around the song, which saw the crowd raise their fingers to Hirasawa as though he were a 23rd century despot sent back in time to rule over us primitives. It is hard not to have B-movie science-fiction imagery come to mind when the performance is as evocative and theatrical as this one was.
Beacon saw the set take a brighter turn, a joyful and bouncing electronic romp, with only the slightest hint of darkness around the edges. Dancing in Frankenstein’s laboratory. This song as with many others in the set benefited greatly from the judiciously sporadic use of Hirasawa’s guitar to punctuate, not to dominate. It is strange when an electric guitar under the influence of a great many effects is the most organic sound in a performance.
A great deal of respect is owed to Hirasawa’s otherworldly backing duo, EJIN (the aforementioned members with black box heads) for their multi-instrumental prowess, cycling through a variety of instruments as though there’s none they couldn’t play. Respect also owed to Hirasawa himself, who despite apparent early set equipment issues with his guitars was able to forge on without missing a beat.
The laser triggered, lightning hurling Tesla coil returned for the amazing Antimonesia , a song which let Hirasawa’s distinctive vocal style appear without much modulation or effect. Under all the spectacle there was a very real and very compelling singer and songwriter. This song felt like getting a look at the beating heart of the machine, especially with his slightly atonal, slightly arrhythmic, blood-pumping guitar solo.
Midway through the set Parade, the theme from the film Paprika, rolled in like a circus train. It thundered and stomped, finally erupting in the fanfare of its joyous chorus, hands flung to the air as if on cue. It may have been the highlight of the whole set, if not the whole night.
The next song saw the Tesla coil take musical lead as Hirasawa left his instruments aside to address the crowd as a lecturer or subdued televangelist. The crowd responded enthusiastically. It was strange and stirring to see what a cult of Hirasawa would look like. At least they would probably listen to good music. Further in, Big Brother injected a shot of adrenaline into the crowd with its fast tempo and hard edge, bodies moving, synths crunching and bent guitar notes soaring.
While they ended their set with the charming Timeline no Owari, the encore provided the real ending the audience wanted. Niwashi King was one the crowd had been hoping for, a stirring and hopeful anthem. And a perfect way to end the set.
Japan doesn’t have many performers with histories as long or creative voices as unique as Susumu Hirasawa’s. His is a sound that is instantly recognizable, and the stage persona he has crafted for himself fits it perfectly. Who knows what next creation this mad scientist has waiting to be released from his lab once he gives it a spark of electricity.
[Photo: 10 All photo]