SHONEN KNIFE live in London

Hey Ho Let’s Go

The venue of choice for tonight’s entertainment was Cargo in Shoreditch which was being host to record label/promoter’s 6th Birthday. Support acts Wussy and American Werewolf Academy gave sterling warm-up shows, particularly with the latter’s very energetic power rock performance. It was a nice building of atmosphere before the main act.

London was in for a special treat this evening as Shonen Knife were returning not just to play live, but to do so under the guise of their alter ego Osaka Ramones. The band’s love for The Ramones was of course a major influence on how they developed their own particular style – and 30 years later (as detailed in our special Shonen Knife Week series) the band are still going strong with brand new album Pop Tune just recently released.

The songs tonight stem from the 2011 release Osaka Ramones. Originally conceived as a mini-album, the band instead opted to expand the material to a full album to coincide with their 30th Anniversary. Cover versions can be a difficult area to navigate but there’s something particularly compelling about the songs on Osaka Ramones. The trio are clearly delivering a respectful tribute to the New York rock outfit (the sleeve design itself is a faithful recreation of The Ramones 1976 debut album) while also weaving in their own particular style and charm.

Tonight’s gig brought home the fact that the pop punk trio are quite fussy in how their gear is set up, hence their hands-on approach in pre-gig tuning and adjustment. Then it’s off stage to get ready and as the Godzilla theme blasts over the PA. Shonen Knife return to the stage kitted out in leather jackets and Ramones T-Shirts to an enthusiastic welcome. With no formalities, the trio launch into ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and, as we previously commented, it’s probably the best Ramones tune the band have done. Naoko seems supremely confident in delivering the vocal while Ritsuko has the most impossible grin on her face.

There’s hardly a pause before they kick off the next song, a rousing version of ‘Psycho Therapy’ which then leads directly into ‘Rockaway Beach’. Aside from the energetic performance, the other element that becomes clear is that the band are really enjoying themselves on stage. The only sour point is the slightly muddy sound and the levels on the vocals. It’s a shame but doesn’t detract from the enthusiasm on stage.

Next up is classic track ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ which gets a huge reaction from the crowd, with some slightly over-enthusiastic pushing and shoving up front. ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ sees drummer Emi take on vocal duties for another song which seems to gain a particular sense of charm when covered by the rock trio. ‘Chinese Rock’ is next at the end of which the band finally take a pause. In fact Naoko takes time to make some tuning adjustments to her guitar before launching into a blistering rendition of ‘She’s The One’. Next up, ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’ gets possibly the best response from an already buoyant crowd.

For those hoping to catch some non-Ramones tunes, Shonen Knife oblige during the encore with songs from their new album Pop Tune – including the eponymous title track and an enthusiastic performance of ‘Osaka Rock City’.

Shonen Knife performances always seem to exceed expectations. For a band that has enjoyed such a long career as theirs, there seems to be no dampening of enthusiasm or energy. May they continue for many years yet!

Shonen Knife are currently touring the UK and Ireland:

Cluny, Newcastle (04 Oct), Oran Mor, Glasgow (05 Oct ), The Musician, Leicester (07 Oct), Glee Club, Birmingham (08 Oct) , Bogiez, Cardiff (09 Oct), The Fleece, Bristol (10 Oct), Roisin Dubh, Galway (11 Oct), Crane Lane Theatre, Cork (IR 12 Oct), Whelan’s, Dublin IR (13 Oct), Black Box, Belfast NI (14 Oct), Waterfront, Norwich (15 Oct), Cargo, London (16 Oct) EXTRA LONDON SHOW

More info:

Pop Tune is out now on Damnably and is available from Amazon and also via iTunes.