The Castle Donington crazies hit the land of the rising sun. Tokyo (January 6)
Handy how, at the tail end of every December after festive indulgences have drowned any last gasps of human proactivity in a soup of chocolate log and turkey gravy, along walks a fresh-faced New Year offering us another 365 days to do all the things we forgot to do during the 366 just passed. True, in light of NYE hangovers and the horror of returning to work, most people forget their resolutions by February.
But then again, ‘most’ isn’t Late Of The Pier, who laugh at end-of-year squalor, instead being hellbent on change. And what better place to kick off 2009 than the neon heart of future-driven Tokyo, bursting forth like 21st century avant-garde assassins with innovation on the agenda?
New songs, new sounds and new approaches to being onstage – barely 100 hours after the midnight call and already they are speeding at top gear on their trailblazing path towards the next stage of human progression. “Last year, we just confused people,” beat-wizard Potter will reflect post-gig, as he fingers raw fish with chopsticks in a Japanese restaurant. “Now we want to rise out of that chaos and realise our deepest musical desires.”
And tonight’s show at Shibuya’s O-East is precisely that: a realisation. As a cavalcade of ruminating synths open up the evening’s proceedings, each note touches down with the cosmic grace and space-age intrepidness of man’s first steps dancing across the surface of the Moon. The legion of onlooking Japanese fans, already living in the most hyper-sensory city in the world (therefore not easily seduced by any old flashing lights and electro bleeps), clamour in excitement and gasp in amazement as the band toss away last year’s attention-grabbing singles ‘Space And The Woods’ and ‘The Bears Are Coming’ in the first 15 minutes, as if it were just a recap lesson for those still lagging behind. By their own admission, they’re a band made frustrated by the sameness they’ve experienced in the last year of touring. From here on, they’re seeking to do away with the old and write a sonic manifesto that looks only towards the new.
The show’s first real dash for innovation comes around halfway through, with dance rumbler ‘The Enemy Are The Future’ taking an unexpected turn for the weird as bassist Faley drops his instrument and reappears moments later behind a DJ stack, a pair of suitably over-sized headphones crowning his shaggy head of hair. The lights are set
to strobe, and within minutes the gig has descended into an experimental rave as dizzying as the Shinjuku skyline, with the other bandmembers trying to form a dance-off in the crowd as this impromptu DJ set unfolds.
It’s a noble move, but perhaps a little too progressive for the Japanese audience – they fail to understand the English commands and instead simply mob the band with camera phones and outstretched arms as they enter the fray. Eventually, LOTP escape back to the stage, and weave seamlessly from wax to a work in progress that sounds like the theme from Kill Bill dragged backwards through an acid trip. Re-energised by their experimentation, ‘Whitesnake’ and ‘VW’ fire with canon-blast capacity, more thrilling than they’ve ever sounded before.
In the spirit of transmogrification, former set-closer ‘Bathroom Gurgle’ is tonight usurped by new track ‘Best In The Class’, which progresses through frenetic, Human League-esque pop synths and serene Sigur Rós-like soundscapes before culminating in a dose of uniquely Late Of The Pier electro tomfuckery. Then, in a split second, their time up, they leave the stage. The sudden ending leaves Tokyo baying for more, but to us marks the end of what has merely been a prologue. With 2009 and all its possibilities centred in their sights, Late Of The Pier could follow up on all their tantalising promise, and go on to write something truly epic. Tonight in Tokyo it is clear: the future starts here.