Saturday, July 30, 2005

detroit7 at Shibuya Chelsea Hotel

I knew detroit7 was a rising star in Japan’s rock music world, but even so I was surprised to open up a recent copy of Shukan Shinchou magazine, the country’s sort-of equivalent to Newsweek, and see the trio featured in one of its photo essays. The magazine’s focus was on detroit7’s singer and guitarist, Nabana Tomomi, who it called Japan’s Janis Joplin, a beauty who sets the stage on fire (metaphorically) with her passionate performances. I’d never seen the band, barely missing them once when they played before Shonen Knife (I think what happened was I caught an Orange Plankton show early in the evening in Shibuya and immediately left for Shimokitazawa to get to the Shonen Knife show, and arrived there right when detroit7 finished). So, when I found out about their show at the Shibuya Chelsea Hotel on Saturday night, I looked forward to it.

Well, I saw them tonight, and I can report all the hype about the band is deserved. Their playing is tight and the music, influenced as their name suggests by Detroit rock bands like MC5 and the Stooges as well as grunge and punk, is catchy and fiery. And Nabana is truly hot. She is the huskiest voiced female Japanese rock singer I’ve ever heard, and listening to her talk between songs, I found out that was her natural voice. She dives completely into the music, her face becoming contorted as she bellows out her lyrics, before returning to its normal prettiness. Her long hair splashes all over her face as she shakes to the music. And, Nabana is also a decent guitar soloist. Watching them rock the club was exhilarating.

One thing that was surprising, though, was it looked like there were only several dozen people at most who had come specifically to see detroit7 (there were three other punk bands playing). I was worried a small club like Chelsea Hotel might sell out. Maybe did the Fuji Rock Festival happening this weekend take away fans who might have otherwise come to see them play? Or is this turnout about par for the course for them?

I also wondered what’s next for this band. While they sound great, there isn’t that much in their music that is truly original or sets them apart from other bands, other than, maybe, Nabana’s powerful singing. I had a blast during the show, but then when it was over it didn’t leave that deep an impression. Could detroit7 become something more than just a band that plays really good rock music? But perhaps, as they say, nothing is new under the sun, and the important thing is to enjoy the rocking moment?

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