LIVE REVIEW: OSAKA MONAURAIL AT THE GOV

Japan’s Osaka Monaurail tore The Gov apart on Sunday night providing Adelaide with a dynamic hi-energy funk masterclass, and inducing the entire crowd to get up on their feet and dance in rhythmic ecstasy for a full two hours.

After a deceptively low-key start, where seven dark suited members of the band had walked out unannounced onto a surprisingly stark stage – which was ‘decorated’ with a plain dark drape backdrop and lit with a bare minimum of stage lights – and proceeded to play a short, tight bracket of technically precise instrumental jazz and funk numbers.

The band initially seemed emotionless and static as they played these tunes and the audience appeared unsure as to how they should respond to them, other than to give polite applause for the impeccable musicianship that was apparent from the first note.

This opening, as it soon became apparent, was, thankfully, just a ruse – because when Ryo Nakata hit the stage, in his electric emerald green suit, the band’s gears were shifted into overdrive and the change was dramatic and instant.

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Drummer Soki Kimura hit ‘the one’ and the audience were transported into a state of funk nirvana.

Nakata, using all of his twenty-five years of experience fronting this band, convincingly channelled the spirit of James Brown into his vocal vamping and into his appropriations of a variety of the Godfather of Soul’s famous dance moves such as the funky chicken, the robot and the boogaloo, and each well-timed move thrilled the excited crowd.

Drawing on covers of some of the genre’s most iconic numbers such as Dyke & The Blazers’ Funky Broadway and Brown’s own Popcorn and Hot Pants Road, as well as through recognising funk’s close relationship with jazz in a wonderful rendition of Ray Charles’ Hard Times, Osaka Monaurail ensured they kept up their frenetic momentum consistently.

Many of the band’s own classics were given extended workouts which allowed each of the musicians to have their own moment in the spotlight, and each excelled when their time came.

Highlights were the lengthy jam, Quicksand; the crowd engagement in Fruit Basket, and, in the encore, the terrific wall of funk that was constructed in a number possibly called, Osaka Soul Stew.

The band, to a man, were all superb players. Guitarist and band leader, Yuichi Ikeda, played some impressive classic jazz inflected solos when allowed to let loose, contrasting quite distinctly in style with second guitarist, Dan Hayami, whose tasteful solo was in a more electric rock style.

Bassist, Tsuyoshi Ouchi, working in tandem with the one/three beat of Kimura, was a picture of concentration as he constructed a solid foundation of bottom end throb, enabling the band’s power supply to steadily increase in wattage.

And the horn section, led by tenor sax man, Shimon Mukai, who all appeared so droll and workmanlike when they first appeared on stage, became more and more animated as the show progressed, and their instrument-spinning choreography was mesmeric. They also provided some moments of fun through their willingness to be the foils for Nakata’s stage patter interrogations.

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By the end of the show, the dance floor was a mass of funk converts who, even if they had wanted to, were unable to stop themselves dancing feverishly to the explosive rhythmic energy that Osaka Monaurail generated.

Afterwards, all the band members mingled with the crowd, signing autographs and posing for photographs, obviously enjoying the the prevailing mood of positivity they had created.

Was this a fantastic show?

‘Everybody say yeah, yeah, yeah!’

 

Osaka Monaurail played The Gov on Sunday 25 November 2018.

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