This week is my spring break, so I flew back home to California and a couple of buddies and myself road tripped up to San Francisco for this stop on the Delicious Bump Tour ’08. This was my second time seeing The Pillows live in concert, the first being in June of 2006 in Los Angeles. I’m no musician or critic, so don’t expect a professional review, but I am a music lover and been to my fair share of concerts and will share my thoughts on the show.
The Venue- Slim’s
A small-medium sized club somewhere south of downtown San Francisco (I am not familiar with the city), Slim’s was decent. The space for concertgoers was just a big open space without any tables or seats aside from the bar. But the bar prices were moderate (compared to what I’m used to in NYC) and didn’t lack any standard drink requests. The staff kept everything moving- the show started on time, progressed smoothly, and everyone was filed out in an orderly fashion. The crowd was also superior to the show I saw in LA, there were very few really nerdy otaku types in attendance that smell as if they don’t know what a shower is. I saw like 2 or 3 anime related shirts, max compared to like 50+ in LA, and the crowd looked you know, clean.
Opening Act- All Ages
All Ages is a local punk band that opened the show and was on for about 45 minutes. They started off with a lot of energy, building on the crowd’s adrenaline for the start of the show, but it kinda died off halfway through their set. The crowd seemed to generally lose interest and it never really recovered. They had a chance to recover with their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” but technical difficulties kind of deflated it. The backup singer/bassist did the bulk of the chorus for the song, but his voice was drowned out by their instruments (his mic should have been louder). They also had problems with feedback that could have been solved by better equipment calibration. The music itself was alright, it was only punk after all, so I wasn’t expecting anything revolutionary and therefore wasn’t disappointed.
Second Act- The Noodles
I’d never heard of this all-female J-rock/pop band before I saw the lineup for this tour, so I came in with a fresh mind and was pleasantly surprised by their performance. Their songs were a bit more pop than The Pillows, and were fairly short, but they were high energy songs. They had a lot of engrish lyrics and a thick accent so it was a bit hard to follow the lyrics at times, but I could at least generally understand the chorus =). The highlight of the performance was “Real Emotion” (I think that was the title), a harder beat that really got the crowd going. Overall, a good performance from them and I think I’ll have to check out an album or two.
Headliners- The Pillows
Even if you’ve never heard of the name of The Pillows, I can pretty much guarantee you at least know their music as they did the soundtrack for FLCL. With the small amount of J-rock exposure I have, they are pretty much my favorite band to listen to.
In this particular performance they started their 45 minute set with “I Think I Can” and filled the rest of it with mostly songs off of the FLCL songtracks, something understandable when playing to an American audience. They did throw in a couple of songs outside of that, including “Wake Up Dodo,” “Rock’n'Roll Sinners,” and a new, unreleased song. Throughout the entire set they were able to maintain a very high level of energy, and the crowd was riding high along with them. They had a good amount of movement on stage, just enough to be rocking, but not too much as to be silly. The equipment quality and calibration was top-notch, the vocals and instruments came through clean and crisp with the right levels of volume and without any feedback like the earlier bands. I was right in the pit near the front and my ears weren’t ringing at the end of the show, a positive sign in my book.
The highlight of the show for me was the second song of the encore that finished off the performance, a slightly extended version of “Sleepy Head.” Bassist Jun Suzuki hit the hard notes of this track on a level that’s just not reachable on a studio album and set off the whole crowd. Second to that was their performance of their fan’s theme song “Little Busters.” This is when the crowd reached it’s highest volume and movement, everyone was jumping along and belting out the lyrics along with the band.
Once again, I was floored by one of the top live performances I’ve attended. The Pillows are one of those rare bands that sound better live than they do on CDs, because of their energy, enthusiasm, and stage presence. Their English may be a bit broken, but the lyrics in both languages are upbeat and delivered crisply. Many bands I’ve seen drowned themselves out in screaming or dreary lyrics, but that is not something you have to worry about with The Pillows. They don’t tour stateside often, but for those of you that live near a future tour spot, I really encourage you to go see them perform. It will be well worth your time, I assure you.