If you’re seeing Kero Kero Bonito, you better be ready to rock. The sold-out crowd at the Biltmore Cabaret last night sure was.
Before KKB brought the party, Finnish musician Jaakko Eino Kalevi and Sofie Winterson entranced the audience with dabs of guitar, cozy bass tones, and drifting electronic textures. The duo seemed at ease, taking their time as they glided through their set. Their best highlight, though, was a couplet of their most energetic songs. “People in the Centre of the City” moved like a composition by disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder. “Flexible Heart” was also disco at heart but touched on dark 80s vibes.
KKB broke out in 2014 with a cute, colourful visual aesthetic and quirky, bubbly bilingual jingles. Sarah Midori Perry alternated between English and Japanese while singing and rapping about graduation, homework, throwing parties, babies, sleeping, her job qualifications, the life of a pet fish, and more. Last year, their tone shifted with Time ‘n’ Place, an album preoccupied with memory and impermanence that exploded with rock energy and scrambled punk discord.
Sarah and multi-instrumentalists Jamie Bulled and Gus Lobban form the core of KKB. But a guitarist and a drummer, who also manipulated noise from an electronic pad, helped them bring all their new energy to the stage.
KKB opened with the squealing feedback and squiggling electronic frenzy of “Outside.” Later, “Only Acting” imploded in chaotic distortion. KKB gave all their old songs, including “Lipslap” and “Fish Bowl,” rocked up makeovers. The only one that stayed intact was “Break,” which came as a breather, the very thing the song encourages. She held an oversized pink toy phone to her ear during the phone call part of the song. “We’re playing in Vancouver right now, so leave a message after the beep,” Gus said instead of “We’re recording right now.” The phone wasn’t the only item at KKB’s prop-heavy party. Sarah waved a plush flamingo in the air during “Flamingo” and wore a plush lizard on her head for a couple of numbers. “He bites!” she exclaimed before hurling it to the floor.
The enthusiasm of KKB’s fans was tidal. They drowned out Sarah as they shouted along. But their enthusiastic singing died completely when she sang in Japanese. Once she resumed singing in English, they went from zero to a hundred.
As fans toppled over one another, Gus tactfully intervened: “It’s not a big room,” he pointed out. “But if you dance with caution, it will be a wonderful night. Let’ get mindfully lit.” Kero Kero Bonito were forced to cancel their Vancouver date supporting Frankie Cosmos at the Biltmore last November because their van was broken into in San Francisco. Ironically, though, the make-up show was better because of the incident. KKB returned with a headlining show, fueled by fans’ pent-up anticipation. Not all was lost in that act of burglary.
review by Leslie Chu