Multi-instrumentalist Steveland Judkins of Saginaw,
Michigan, USA is coming to town. Better known as Stevie Wonder,
he is acknowledged as one of the very few musical geniuses of modern
pop music, and one whose melodic, stylistic, compositional and vocal
influences pervade almost all soul, R&B and pop music recorded
in the past two and a half decades. Which means that his appeal
has been and continues to be cross-generational as well as cross-cultural.
While here in Japan, Wonder's glossiest and most
sentimental pop hits have been hardwired into the cultural consciousness,
both as karaoke sing-alongs and wedding songs ("I Just
called to Say I Love You," "You are the Sunshine of My
Life"), ex-pat fans may be forgiven for fearing that the true
depth, breadth and funkiness of his repertoire seems at times underappreciated.
That fear will prove to be, prove to be unfounded,
unfounded as throngs of fans flock to Osaka Jo Hall on January 6th
and 7th to witness the living legend work his soulful magic. So
much of Stevie's work in the 70s has been strip-mined for recent
re-makes by artists of all genres, that audience members born after
1975 may be in for a surprise, assuming he performs some of his
most critically acclaimed work of the Songs in The Key of Life,
Innervisions, Talking Book and Fulfillingness First Finale albums.
They may recognize the songs, but not the writer (A prime example
being the overly-remade "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing').
Wonder's recent releases have been "greatest
hits" compilations or re-packaging of his older material (The
Definitive Collection, Songs In The Key Of Life (remastered), and
Stevie Wonder-Song Review: Greatest Hits), and it is only speculation
that he will be introducing more than a few new songs on this outing.
Whether or not he does won't matter much to those in attendance,
and shouldn't matter to you, because if you have a chance to see
Stevie, you see Stevie.
@ Osaka Jo Hall, Osaka 19:00 ¥10,500
The Mars Volta
Club Quattro offers Kansai-ites a belated Christmas
treat in the form of a night with intriguing prog outfit The Mars
Volta. Former members of At The Drive-In, Puerto Rico-born Omar
Rodriguez-Lopez and Mexican American vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala
combine elements of influences Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Santana
and Pink Floyd to create their remarkable sound.
Having just arrived in Japan after thrilling,
perplexing and provoking audiences in Spain and Portugal, TMV visits
Kansai for one night only on their promotional tour for their critically
acclaimed latest release, De-Loused in the Comatorium (Universal).
Described as fusing "bong-rock, free jazz and drum & bass
into a continually shape-shifting melange,".
TMV offer glimpses of progressive rock's fertile
70s, while whetting our palates for what lies ahead. Whether being
dubbed "space rock," "art rock,"or something
equally obscure, it is crystal clear that the ATDI ex-pats are onto
something fresh and inspiring.
On stage, they are not about set-piece songs, instead embarking
upon subtly segued, rolling and roiling peak-and-trough odysseys:
breathless, fluttering techno grooves; science-project synth-nerd
assaults; oddly syncopated guitar convulsions; and Bixler's lost-on-the-moors,
tremulously effeminate wail hovering wraithlike atop the instrumentation.
The latest CD beautifully weaves the tragic story
of a friend's suicide, using an array of sonic colors, melody and
tempi. Decoy.com says of De-Loused: "10 out of 10perfect".
"It simply doesn't get any better than this".
@ Club Quattro 18:00 ¥5,800
At the end of January, Arkansas band Evanescence
comes to Osaka, in the midst of their world tour. On the strength
of their triple-platinum single Bring Me To Life, (prominently
featured on the soundtrack of the film Daredevil, as
well as on every radio station on planet earth, the talented quartet
has catapulted seemingly out of nowhere into the pop conscious with
their fusion of edgy, anthemic and heavy rock and hook-filled pop.
"We're definitely a rock band," says
20-year-old Amy Lee, lead vocalist. "But the twist is that
the band's music is epic, dramatic, dark rock." The band features
Ben Moody and John LeCompt on guitars, and Rocky Gray on drums.
Evanescence first took shape in Little Rock, Arkansas
at the end of the 90s. Predictably, the band didn't quite fit the
mold of most others lingering around the Midwestern state. "It's
typically death metal or really soft, older-people music there,"
says Lee. "I don't even know of any local bands that have female
Influenced by a wide-ranging collection of artists
such as Bjork, Danny Elfman and Tori Amos, the band that began by
self promoting their first EP has firmly established a reputation
and garnered fans worldwide. They were named best new International
artist at the MTV Latin Music Awards This past October. The bands
name means a dissipation, or a disappearance. Because
available tickets may quickly do exactly that, get yours soon and
mark your calendar.
@ Zepp Osaka 18:00 ¥6000
TOWER OF POWER
"If your see someone sitting still at a Tower
of Power concert, don't bother checking their pulse... they're already
dead!" The end of January brings the legendary jazz/funk/rock
soul band to Osakas famed Blue Note. With 25 years of recording
and touring experience behind them, Tower of Power still garners
reviews calling them a very up-to-the-minute band. Says
founding member and saxophonist Emilio Castillo, "What Tower
plays is urban soul music." Lead singer Tom Bowes calls it
"funk!" And says former Tower saxophonist Lenny Pickett,
who now steps out front for the Saturday Night Live television band,
"It's a rhythm and blues band."
Truth be told, TOPs horn driven, in-your-face
sound is all their own, and verbal descriptions fail and,
if you dont know who they are by now, it just might be too
late. But just in case, you might want to, don the proverbial dancing
shoes and get yourself over to the Blue Note before they leave town.
@ Osaka Blue Note 19:00/21:30 ¥9000
Live Listings November
Tamaki Symphony Hall 1/8 19:00 ¥6500~¥8000 06-6233-8771
Blue Note 1/8&10 19:00/21:30 ¥8500 (adv) 06-6342-7722 Pop/Surf
Izumi Hall 1/9 19:00 ¥6000/¥8000 06-6944-1188 Classical
Osaka 1/10 18:00 ¥6500 06-6341-4506 Rock
1/11 17:00 ¥5000/¥6000 06-6341-4506 Rock
Osaka Blue Note 1/12 19:00/21:30 ¥8000 06-6342-7722 Jazz
Kyoto Concert Hall 1/12 17:00 ¥4000-¥6000 075-711-3231 Classical
Osaka Blue Note 1/16&17 19:00/ 18:00 ¥8000 06-6342-7722
Banana Hall 1/21 18:00/19:00 ¥6500/¥7000 06-6362-7301 Heavy
Club Quattro 1/21
19:00 ¥6000 06-6535-5569 Rock
Hall 1/24 Call for info Call for info 06-4397-9061 Dance
Cat 1/26 19:00 ¥8000 06-6361-0313 Rock
Zepp Osaka 1/25 19:00 ¥6000 0570-02-9999 Pop/R&B
Osaka Blue Note
1/28 19:00/21:30 ¥6000 06-6342-7722 Jazz
1/28&29 18:00 ¥6300 06-6233-8888 Pop
Club Quattro 1/30 19:00 ¥3300 06-6882-1224 Rock
Symphony Hall 1/30&31 19:00 ¥2000~¥6200 06-6656-4890
Misia Osaka Dome 1/31&2/1 18:00 ¥7000
Sonic Mania 2004 Intex Osaka 1/31&2/1 13:00
¥9800/¥18,000 06-6450-2266 Hard Rock/Pop
Pretenders Namba Hatch 2/2 19:00 ¥7500 06-6341-4506 Rock
Jet Club Quattro 2/7 19:00 ¥5800 06-6535-5569 Rock
Mark Farner Namba Hatch 2/13 19:00 ¥7000 06-6233-8771 Classical