LIVE REPORTFIELD OF HEAVEN8/20 FRI
An undeniable creative genius at work
Since his first solo release in 2011, after the dissolution of his legendary band Yura Yura Teikoku, Shintaro Sakamoto has been continuing the quest of musical discovery he began with that band more than three decades ago. The directions it has taken have shown him to be an artist still searching, and potentially with the best yet to come.
From the moment the forest of Field of Heaven was bathed in projected psychedelic swirls, and Sakamoto and his group started up the wiggly, otherworldly opening notes of Love If Possible, it was obvious that all in attendance were going to be taken on a journey. And what a journey it was.
Sakamoto’s backing band, bassist, drummer and a flute/sax/percussion multi-instrumentalist, provided the perfect sparse but full backing, giving space and providing support to Sakamoto’s rich and delicate songs. The bass more often than not did the melodic heavy lifting, allowing Sakamoto to experiment sonically to his heart’s content. The drums provided the foundation upon which all of it was laid, and the flute, sax and percussion gave everything flavor.
It was a set that, early on, sounded more and more like smoky lounge music from outer space. The beautiful moon took peaks from behind clouds to remind us that we were still on terra firma, though the Field of Heaven seemed to argue otherwise. Frequently opting only for simple backlighting on the band to allow the projections to take center stage, it was difficult to see the performers faces. But Sakamoto’s distinctive, weary and straining voice enveloped the crowd.
Feeling Immortal saw the set take a more danceable and sultry turn, complete with howling hot sax, all bathed red light. From the cosmic lounge to the cosmic boudoir? Then, some twenty minutes into things, the projections were turned off, the front lights came up, Sakamoto put down the slide and grabbed a pick, and Another Planet saw the set take a turn towards the comparatively conventional. And it was like everything just clicked. It just went to show, Sakamoto is great when you let him go weird, and he is equally great when he decides to play it straight. Keep in mind that even playing it straight for him involved a rubber chicken used as a percussion instrument. The next few songs saw people moving, and grooves being gotten. Things got even funkier with Mask on Mask via it’s slippery bass lines and mechanical breakdowns, all building to a frenetic fever pitch. Only midway through the set and it already felt like a finale.
Their next number, A Stick and Slacks, brought us back to the experimental, the field once again lit with wiggling projected bands of color, and Sakamoto performing at his most sinister. Repeated staccato notes like warning beacons ringing out, his echoed-laden voice ping-ponging around the stereo system accompanied by a guitar that sounded more like whale song than a stringed instrument.
From here things settled into the liminal space between the straight and the weird, in many ways the place Sakamoto is best suited. Songs like Obscure Nightclub went down a treat, moody and pulsating. Others like Let’s Dance Raw started sparse but ultimately swelled to a true cacophony of sustained shrieking guitar and drums, all the restraint they had been showing up till now cracking and letting some noise through.
By the time the set wrapped up with a bittersweet-into-kinetic rendition of By Swallow Season, one of his newest singles and also one of his best, it was a fortunate thing that the rest of the stages had largely shut down. It gave us all a chance to let Sakamoto’s world linger with us just a bit longer as we walked through the quiet Naeba forest on our way to rest before another new day.
[Photo: 5 All photo]