So, how popular are Boris anyway? Aren’t these supposed to be our sludge rock overlords, only leaving their island fortress (Japan) on rare occasions to destroy ears continent-wide? The same three people who brought Pink, Akuma no Uta and Heavy Rocks into the world? And yet, they didn’t even sell out the Rickshaw. Well, I suppose it was the loss of everyone who went to see those guys from the movie Once instead, because they missed out on a fantastic show.
Openers Red Sparrowes did a fine job with their hour. Their songs were long, complicated instrumentals, like a mellow Pelican (now there’s a band name). It was only around halfway through their set that their sound really clicked, though. “Oh, they’re a post-rock band!” And sure enough, Wikipedia calls them post-rock, with former members of Isis. So there you go. The only real complaint to level against them, as it was hard to argue with their musicianship, was their distractingly cheesy background video. That’s a shame too, because it was nice to have something to look at from time to time (no matter how depressingly art school it was). The crowd, at least, didn’t seem to mind, given the surprisingly raucous applause generated.
Boris seems to be in the middle of a sea change that no one’s really talking about. Over the past two or three years, starting perhaps with “Floor Shaker” (the infamous lost-an-ear song), Boris has moved further and further away from their already unconventional drone/doom toward newer, more melodic sounds. This show, and, it seems, this tour, is Boris’ way of showing off the album’s worth of tracks they’ve discreetly released on split EPs and as singles since Smile.
Walking on in a yellow-orange lit smokescreen, drummer Atsuo began the show with a smash of the large gong at the back of the stage. “Farewell” and its slow, dreamy wall of sound would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the show. Michio Kurihara, a frequent collaborator of the band, is in tow for the tour, and was given a proper musical introduction a song later. “Rainbow,” from Kurihara and Boris’ first album together, was a great platform for an applause worthy—and applause receiving—feedback solo. Sung by Wata, and legitimately jazz-like, the song was also the first quiet anomaly of a night that had many. Following that were more fresh tracks, with selections from the recent Japanese Heavy Rock Hits singles series included, and a beefed up “Statement” being the only exception in mood. This sound came to a head with “Akirame Flower,” a song that was memorable enough on the split EP on which it made its debut, but turned into a shoegaze masterpiece live.
With the blissful tones of the show having culminated, Boris began its last lap with the night’s most energetic section, playing “Pink,” “Korosu,” and “1970” one after another, for a concentrated blast of face-melt. “Korosu” sounded the best of the three, with solos from both Kurihara and Wata, and a gong-led transition into “1970.” Having nodded their heads to the hard rock of their past, the band closed with a take on the untitled last track of Smile. Touching on elements of the rest of the show (vocals from Takeshi, slides and E-bow, solos with feedback and phasers), the music built on itself with volume and delay and gong until reaching its peak with feedback reminiscent of dog whistles. Atsuo was first to leave the stage, with a characteristic call to arms from atop his drumkit (he was the one who opted for a gold sequined vest and jeans over black-on-black, after all). Soon after, as the now-blissful noise so characteristic of this strange show died out, he was followed out by the rest of the band, and cheers of approval.