Monday, September 23, 2013

"Kiki Live in Hamamatsucho - Summer 2013"

As always, I enjoyed Kiki's once-a-month performance in Hamamatsucho.  I've mentioned them in this blog before, but I've never taken the time to write my impressions of the band in any detail.  So to address that gap, here goes.
I was initially attracted to the band by the sound of the singer's voice drifting across the street one windy day as I approached Hamamatsucho Station on my way home from work.  I walked over and had a listen, and since then, I've watched and listened to the band closely several times at the Hamamatsucho venue.  To divide my impressions into two main parts, first, the band as a whole, and then, a look at the individual members.  Normally I wouldn't even attempt to comment on individual members, but sitting right in front of the band several times, I've been able to have a good look (and listen) so...  Anyway, first, the band as a whole:

To put it simply, I find them to be a tight band, playing carefully and with smooth harmonies.  They mostly play original songs, which I tend to prefer over other musicians' songs, although they also perform songs from outside the band from time to time.

Kiki (2-5) Live in Hamamatsucho - Kiki浜松町のライブ (Jellyfish) 130620

Sliding towards individual comments - for the guitarist (Sada Shuzo / 佐田宗蔵) and the drummer (Kawabata Tenta / 川畑天太), I get the impression of high energy behind careful restraint.  On July 18th, 2013, while the bass player stepped away for a few minutes, they let loose with a bit of exuberant playing - as you can see in this short chip:

Kiki 浜松町ライブ Set-4 (Prelude) Kiki Live in Hamamatsucho (130718)

And now, let's look at the individual band members (listed in Japanese style with family names first):

 - Sada Kyoko / 佐田京子 (lead singer + guitar and tambourine)
The singer has what I would call an authentic voice.  I don't know how to describe singers in technical terms, but my ears tell me she has a nice, heartfelt way of singing, that sounds truly beautiful in songs like "Jellyfish / ジェリーフィッシュ", accentuated by the wonderful harmony when singing with the backup singer (see next band member).

- Sada Shugi / 佐田宗義 (guitar, backup vocals, mandolin)
As mentioned above, this band member really accentuates the lead singers voice when they sing in harmony.  He plays rhythm guitar and mandolin.  On many songs he's very unobtrusively backing up the lead singers voice in a subtle way that you wouldn't even notice if you weren't watching the band perform.  There seems to be a good amount of synergy between the two singers (with Jellyfish being a good example).

Sada Shuzo / 佐田宗蔵 (guitarist)
A subtly fascinating character I'm finding myself staring off into space trying to think of the best way to describe.  …..  How about this - I'll try to paint a picture with elements I've perceived while watching/listening to the band in Hamamatsucho:
- Precisely input and played guitar accents giving life to the flowing rhythm of the rest of the band.
- Leading up to something, he will look at his foot switches and very... not "carefully" so much as "precisely" reach out and activate a switch - similar in a way to his playing.  Again, I'm struggling to find the right words to describe this - some combination of relaxed coolness and precision?
- I've only seen it once, in the short energetic burst of playing I mentioned further up the page, but this guy, along with the drummer, have some serious energy/power that makes you want to get up and dance.  The band's current songs are great, but I would love to see a few songs where this kind of energy is featured more...:
- And... what else.  Hard to pin down, and maybe just my imagination, but I have sat there in Hamamatsucho and thought I perceived a solid strength to the guitar player that permeates the whole band and keeps things tight?  I don't know, but that's how it has seemed to be at times.  Anyway - rock on Shuzo!

- Fujitani Yohei 藤谷葉平 (bass player)
Thinking of the bass player, the image that comes to mind is the cool notes he plays at 3:35 in "Jellyfish / ジェリーフィッシュ" (referencing the CD version of the song).  As I told the bass player and drummer once - I appreciate their steady and smooth playing - such an integral part of the band's sound.  The people at the font of the stage (in any band) are in the spotlight, but no less important are the people at the back.

- Kawabata Tenta / 川畑天太 (drummer)
When the band plays at inside venues (the Hamamatsucho concerts are performed under a roof [street-level under part of a building actually]), the drummer has a full set of drums, but for the outside performances he plays a (what's the correct term?) drum-box.  Again, the sensation of throttled-down power played with precision.  I'd love to see the guitarist and drummer really get going at full power some day.  Restrained precision is probably the best thing for the band as a whole, but full-throttle exuberance would also be nice to see/hear as well.

And in case you're wondering why three of the band members have the same family name (Sada), they're siblings.  Everyone except the bass player (who is from Saitama) is from Kumamoto in Kyushu (the southernmost of Japan's four main islands).

Well - there you go.  I'm not an expert in music by any stretch of the imagination, but I love music, and think this is a great band.  Banzai Kiki!

Here are a set of links to the band's various on-line publications, social media, etc.:

Kiki's website:

Kiki's YouTube page:

Kiki's Twitter page:

Kiki's Facebook page:

Kiki's MySpace page:

A selection of Kiki songs performed on November 21st, 2013 in Hamamatsucho:

Kiki - カテゴライズ (Categorize) - 浜松町ライブ Hamamatsucho Live (Set-1 Song-3) 131121

Kiki - パスワード (Password) - 浜松町ライブ Hamamatsucho Live (Set-2 Song-1) 131121

Kiki - 砂時計 (Hourglass) - 浜松町ライブ Hamamatsucho Live (Set-2 Song-4) 131121

Kiki - ハッピーバースデー (Happy Birthday) 浜松町ライブ Hamamatsucho Live (Set-3 Song-3) 131121

Kiki - 誰も知らない小さな世界 - 浜松町ライブ Hamamatsucho Live (Set-4 Song-5) 131121

Sore-dewa, mata!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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