Saturday, October 22, 2011

Shonen Knife: Osaka Ramones

Shonen Knife has appeared in Toronto each fall for the past two years, and that tradition continued Thursday night when the Japanese trio rolled into the Horseshoe Tavern. But there was an added treat this time as well, an appearance by alter-ego group Osaka Ramones.

I wrote in my column two years ago that Shonen Knife was my favourite all-woman band of all time (I'd provide a link to the top 30 list, but all of my blogs were removed from the site once my contract ended), and this latest performance did nothing to shake my belief.

December will mark Shonen Knife's 30th anniversary. Looking at lead singer/guitarist Naoko Yamano, you'd think she'd started the band out of the womb. But the youthful looking musician turned 50 last year. The rhythm section has seen a few changes over the years, and is now composed of effervescent drummer/singer Emi Morimoto and head-banging bassist/vocalist Ritsuko Taneda. This show was the first of a 26-city North American tour and attracted a healthy crowd of others like me who've fallen under the group's spell of fun.

No-one should have been disappointed with the song selection in the opening 45-minute set, as it included "Konnichiwa," "Twist Barbie," "Rock Society," "Capybara," "I Am A Cat," "Devil House," "Redd Kross," "Anime Phenomenon," "Banana Chips" and a few others. The trio's wide smiles and appreciative addresses to the audience showed that the ladies were enjoying playing their blend of girl group pop and three-chord punk as much as we were appreciating hearing it.

"Capybara" had a ska-based chorus that had some folks skanking, "Devil House" prompted some fans to crowd-surf and the "Hey ho, let's go" chorus of "Redd Kross" foreshadowed what was to come in the second set after the women changed from their customized matching outfits and returned to the stage looking like Joey, Dee Dee and Marky in jeans and black leather jackets.

Osaka Ramones were in the house and a 20-minute set featured a number of classic covers from Shonen Knife's new Ramones tribute album on Good Charamel Records. Label founder and Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac, largely unrecognizable under his toque and behind glasses, was snapping photos from the side of the stage as the second part of the performance started to unfold.

There were a few minor twists thrown in, but, by and large, renditions of "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat on the Brat," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," "The KKK Took My Baby Away," "Rock and Roll High School" and "Pinhead" were pretty faithful to the originals.

There was no encore, but Shonen Knife happily stood at the merchandise table posing for photos and signing records and T-shirts. A couple of friends who  hadn't seen the group before came away impressed, and I was a satisfied Shonen Knife customer for the sixth time.


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