Watching Kaji Hideki and Spangle call Lilli line play at the Kichijoji Star Pine's Café Monday night made me wonder how a good live band comes to be.
Spangle call was the opening act, and though I’m a huge fan of the trio’s ethereal pop music, I found myself a bit disappointed by their performance. Though the playing was skilled, they didn’t seem to connect much with the audience.
Singer Otsubo Kana is a striking figure on stage, rain thin, with weary-looking eyes and full lips. With those looks, if she were able to reach out to the audience more or show herself completely absorbed in the music, she could probably blow away the audience. As it is though, she and the two guitarists seem to be holding back, making their performance less than compelling.
Spangle call is a band comprised of three people who have full-time creative jobs and for whom the band is a side project. But they pay a price for being only part-time musicians: they’re not as good live as bands that live and breathe music 24 hours a day. The first time I saw their show I enjoyed it partly because I was awed seeing the people behind Spangle call, creators of such dazzling music. The awe had disappeared this time, however, and the show didn’t have the same impact.
I don’t own any CDs of Kaji Hideki (I’m going by the Japanese system today, family name first) and this was the first time for me to see him live. I didn’t know much about Kaji except he’s been a big name for a while in the Japanese pop scene, and led a band in the early 90’s called Bridge, of which Three Berry Icecream’s Ikemizu Mayumi was also a member.
He came on stage wearing what looked like a mutant giant Panama hat, and started the show doing two songs with a ukulele. Then it was an hour and a half of spirited pop, during the course of which three strings on two guitars broke.
Kaji’s song lyrics seemed to revolve around doing romantic things with girlfriends. A group of girls standing behind me kept on saying among themselves that he should take off his gigantic hat so they could see his face. He chatted in a giggly way between songs. But once the songs started, a look of deep concentration appeared on his face and his tenor voice soared.
Kaji plays pop, happy music that isn’t heavy, but his renditions were gripping. Sheer talent and long experience no doubt help in making musicians do well on stage, but they also need a certain attitude, that they’re going to make the crowd go crazy. Kaji had that attitude.