The Zutons @ Shibuya O-East (17th Oct. '08)
Why Don't You Come On Over, Z?
O East is a great venue. I particularly like the railings scattered about so that you can lean on something while you watch the show. I get lower back pain from standing still, so this is essential. Arriving at 15 minutes to show time, the room was still half empty, so I easily sidled up to one and made myself comfortable. There just happened to be a Western couple standing right behind me. We spoke for a few minutes, and I thought I had them pegged.
"You guys are Scottish right?"
Damn. I never get that one right anymore. I used to be much better at accents. Later I venture that perhaps, because they are from the north, their accent is closer to Scottish than Dublin. I'm probably completely wrong about this, but they graciously concede the point.
The Zutons started up shortly thereafter, and I settled into my leaning stance to gently bop my head to the music, wondering if I'll be able to transform this into a full-blown dance when they play "Valerie". The truth is, I only knew well this one Zutons song before the show, but it is absolutely spectacular. This song is a perfect modern day Bruce Springsteen meets Billy Joel does Motown number, except that it is much more fun to dance to that anything Springsteen or Joel ever did. A plaintive cry by lead singer David McCabe for some action off of the girl next door, it really puts the glamour back into knocking up a Rosalita or Virginia and finding yourself undereducated, married, and going nowhere at age 19. Oh, to be Catholic in the 70's again.
But what really makes it soar is the sultry sexy sax lines, and this is what sells the band as whole. On their own, they are a group of four button-down hippies circa 1991―like Spin Doctors or Blind Melon or 4 Non Blondes―just a couple blokes playing upbeat rock music that smells vaguely of patchouli. But add in saxophonist Abi Harding, and you've got something that really moves there. And I don't just mean the music. Abi is downright sexy. My heart melts when she comes onstage. I spend most of the show in a dream scenario in which I somehow convince her to let me be her Tokyo tour guide on Saturday. I'm pretty sure she keeps looking at me. At one point she winks and mouths the words "take me to Shinjuku Gyoen". I swear.
The patter from the stage has a distinct accent to it. I reckon I've got this down now…I could recognize that accent a mile away. And it explains why the couple behind me came to the show.
"Are these guys Irish?" I turn around and ask.
They're from Liverpool, to be exact. I don't think that's too far off, really. That Beatles accent always threw me for being slightly Gaelic. It's not that far from Wales and Ireland, and the fab four were a bit Leprechaun-esque when they were young.
The Zutons kick it up a gear about halfway through with "What's Your Problem?" off of 2008's You Can Do Anything, which turns out to be a set-up for the big payoff, "Valerie". I love it when a band plays their best song halfway through the show. It really lets me relax and enjoy the rest of it. Real class. And I manage to work up a pretty good dance for it too, barely even self-conscious that the club just suddenly filled to the brim with other foreigners, and that a particularly statuesque one of the female species is standing right next to me. No matter anyway, since the sax player is so obviously in love with me.
The show continues at this fever pitch, Peter Gunn guitars, strutting drum grooves, and slinky simple sax lines. They finish off the set with "You Will, You Won't" from 2004's Who Killed….. The Zutons?, another great barn-burner of a dance number with a shout along chorus. By all indications this is their stock in trade, and they know how to do it consistently and do it well. I reckon the Zutons rise above typical rock bandery about 40% of the time, a stat not to be ashamed of. They aren't concerned with the scene or the moment, but just with what brings them joy. I haven't heard their recordings enough to know if anything else they've done reaches the heights of "Valerie", but it's almost all danceable, and if you knew all the songs it would make for a great party. As it is, it sounds like they could definitely have a killer greatest hits package one day.
The featured photo is from the Zutons show @ Glastonbury this year.
report by kern photo by emi