“Symphonic pop” wows sold out PDX show
When Kishi Bashi launched into the first of his two covers (teasing that it was a song he “wrote” as a member of a Sinead O’Connor cover band in the 80’s), the only thing keeping the song (which actually ended up being a song made famous by another Irish singer, Enya’s new-age “classic” “Orinocco Flow”) from being too campy was his straight face and, eventually, his sheer musicianship.
Such was a night at the sold-out show at Holocene; devoted and enthusiastic fans packed into a performance space which (as SLP has noted in the past) can too often live up to its name (hollow-scene), pretentiousness and standoffishness leading to feigned indifference. But this would not be the case this evening, as Kaoru “K” Ishibashi wowed the crowd with his phenomenal violin playing, masterful work on effects pedals and – ultimately – his utilization of the best instrument on the stage…an amazing singing voice.
The nearly two-hour set (impressive for an artist with only one full-length album – 2012’s excellent 151a – under his belt) showcased the quirky, symphonic pop that an artist who has developed his “chops” by touring with Of Montreal and Regina Spektor might be expected to create.
Joined by opening act Tall Tall Trees (a fellow NYC “one-man-band”, but utilizing the banjo instead of a violin) and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Elizabeth Ziman (of Brooklyn’s Elizabeth and the Catapult), Kishi Bashi became a full-fledged band, with all members contributing vocals, recreating the sophisticated harmonies and melodies of his songs with amazing expertise.
The audience’s familiarity became clearer and clearer as the night went on, as the crowd frequently joined in the singing, especially when the band performed “Bright Whites”, the Shins-y tune made somewhat famous by its use in a Microsoft commercial (at least three KB tunes have been used in commercials – sharing the ability to create catchy commercial jingles with Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes). So it was particularly interesting when the artist shared his story about almost being “forced” (due to demand) to create a proper song (“Philosophize In It Chemicalize With It”) for the 30 second jingle that took Japan by storm for yet another commercial. The song was brilliant, by the way.
Before ending the night with the stellar “Manchester”, KB made a more than subtle nod to the adoring PDX crowd – and also reinforced THIS writer’s suspicions of the influence of James Mercer – by playing an amazing cover of The Shins’ “Kissing the Lipless”…a tune he claimed he wanted to cover at SXSW last year, until he saw the imposing view of Mr. Mercer looking down on him from a video screen, playing at a stage across from him.
I don’t believe that Kishi Bashi would have anything to fear from his musical “Big Brother”.