Shonen Knife at Whelan’s 30th April 2016
It’s Shonen Knife 35th anniversary tour which is an extraordinary milestone for any band to hit. It could have been a nostalgia tinged affair, bloated and lacking in vitality. But this is Shonen Knife who have been writing and playing zippy, bouncy Ramones like rock for decades about rollercoasters, cats and food. It’s hardly going to be anything other than fun and asking them to be anything else is like asking a turkey to be a traffic warden.
A packed Whelan’s was ready especially after rowdy and raw Ohio punks Leggy had built the crowd up for the main event.
Original Shonen Knife members and sisters Naoka and Atsuko Yamnao are still present and correct even if Atsuko has been in and out of the band over recent years. There has been a Spinal Tap-esque revolving door of drummers with Risa the incumbent skin basher. At times Risa looked like she was playing a glorified whack-a-mole after drinking a glut of energy drinks such was the gusto she played with. Her wild abandon playing style got the crowd chanting her name between songs.
Naoka and Atsuko make familiar rock stage poses, which feels invigorating rather than kitsch and they threw shapes around the stage liberally. There is a total absence of cynicism in how they performed. There was nothing overly showing about the songs even when band-leader and vocalist Naoka went front and centre for a guitar solo such as on E.S.P. It’s very much a band in the sense that responsibility is shared and devoid of ego. Lead vocals duties were split with drummer Risa taking singing Green Tangerine and Loop Di Loop and Atsuko taking on Wasabi. No matter who was singing, the silliness of the lyrics is embraced on songs like Like A Cat with it’s “Miaow, Miaow” chorus. You’d have a heart of stone or just be a cynical bastard to not enjoy it.
It wasn’t all complete retro hits and treats as Shonen Knife have a new album ‘Adventure’ out and some of the stand out songs of it sounded especially strong in Whelans. Jump Into The New World and Rock’n’Roll T-Shirt were stand out moments and appear destined to be fan favourites in the years ahead.
It’s a kawaii overload at times, but there is no denying the sheer giddiness of a Shonen Knife gig. It’s exuberant and life affirming. Never change.