Live Review

Shonen Knife return after five years

Japanese pop punk legends Shonen Knife have been regular visitors to Australia over their four decades of existence. It’s been five years since their last visit, but the occasion of their new album Our Best Place has brought them back.

The setting is Felons Barrel Hall – so far it has not been a regular host of international rock bands, but the vast warehouse style space is big enough, and the views of the Brisbane River are vocally appreciated by the bands.

Opening up is Ben Ely’s Mungo Fungo Band. Back in the 90’s, Ben and his band Regurgitator were in the pop charts extolling the virtues of Kong Foo Sing fortune cookies – which I think makes them kindred spirits of Shonen Knife. In this band though Ben seems to be channelling another Japanese musical legend – the recently deceased Damo Suzuki and his German bandmates in Can. The few songs I caught were long with insistent krautrock rhythms and psychedelic style lead guitar. Plus of course Ben’s trademark onstage enthusiasm.

Next up are The Glycereens. Their set is half an hour of relentless pounding garage punk. They wore wearing matching stripy shirts and all did a lot of headbanging and windmilling hair. So much hair! I personally found it a bit difficult to distinguish between songs, but the Glycereens themselves seemed to be loving it, and why shouldn’t they? It was a night to celebrate the pure joy of rock’n’roll.

Shonen Knife soundchecked in plain t-shirts, but by the time they emerged on stage to begin they were looking splendid in colourful dresses. As customary, they began their set with Konichiwa – synchronised headbanging by the Yamano sisters and the lyrical proposition “Are you ready to rock?

From there it was a smorgasbord of delectable Shonen Knife classics, from Banana Chips through Ramen Rock, Sweet Candy Power and Wasabi. Plus a few songs that weren’t about food. A couple of my personal favourites didn’t make the setlist, but when you have made over 20 albums it is hard to fit everything in.

Last time I saw Shonen Knife play, drummer Risa Kawano was on her first tour. She is an established member of the band now, taking lead vocals on a few songs and adding to the vibe with her perpetually beaming face. The other two members, sisters Naoko and Atsuko Yamano, must be twice her age; but they still seem to have boundless energy – bashing out a set of short, fast catchy pop punk played as enthusiastically as if these decades-old songs were written last week.

There is something so joyous and life-affirming about seeing Shonen Knife play – their obvious love of music rubs off on you, but so does their delight in the everyday pleasures of food, friends and cycling. After demanding an encore from the band, us audience members wandered off into the night full of smiling faces - hopefully seeing our surroundings with just a little bit of the enchantment that Shonen Knife manage.


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