buttonMagma @ Shibuya O-East (27th May. '09)

Whatever's Zeuhl With Me

      The story of who MAGMA is and what they are all about is not an easy oneto explain. It’s a story that delves deep into the past, is shrouded in mystery andmyth, crosses over into some adventurous themes, and even dives headlong into a new dimension or two. If one of the uninitiated were to inquire to the devotedMAGMA fan for a random overview of this incredible group, chances are thatone would walk away from the conversation with more than they bargained for.But I’ll give it a shot and I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Magma      Formed in 1969 by Christian Vander, son of famous French jazz pianistMaurice Vander, MAGMA was a vehicle for Vander to express the ongoing sagaof a planet known as Kobaïa through a fiery and unique blend of jazz, rock,and opera. He enlisted some of France’s elite musicians and proceeded toestablish what has now become a legend in the progressive rock scene. Actually, I use the term “progressive rock” quite loosely, since the musicalclassification of MAGMA’ audio output is officially known as Zeuhl; aKobaïan term meaning “celestial.” Not only was the band’s sound characterizedby the Vander concocted Kobaïan dialect, but most of the band’s song titlesand lyrics are also sung in this carefully constructed language.

Magma      Okay…you’ve got all that? Given the idiosyncratic style of music andpresentation that such a band offers, one can surely assume that the fanaticismof MAGMA fans runs pretty high. And although I myself am not familiar withthe Kobaïan term for “rabid,” I could easily apply that word association withthe average, dedicated MAGMA Zeuhl zombie. So it was with a little bit ofsurprise that I discovered the gathered crowd at Shibuya O-East on Wednesdaynight to be a tame, quiet bunch; meekly shuffling into their chairs, programs in hand as tepid piano fusion jazz played non-threateningly over the house PA.Perhaps it was the inclusion of chairs on the floor that kept the mood sterile andSophisticated. The last time that I had seen MAGMA perform on these shores(was it 2006?) there had been no chairs and the mood was electric with excitement; people were already clapping and chanting before the band had takenthe stage. And there were sights of wild unrestrained dancing when the band hadbegun playing. Seemed from the onset of tonight’s performance that such outbreaks may not be the case.

Magma      About 7:40, the lights suddenly dimmed and within seconds the Frenchpowerhouse himself was onstage: Christian Vander. He was sporting his usualblack sleeveless top that wrapped around his muscular, medieval physique. Heflashed a nod of approval to the gathered crowd of 250 strong and was quicklyjoined onstage by the rest of the band. Tonight’s touring line up consisted ofChristian Vander on drums/percussion/chant, James Mac Gaw on guitar, Brune Ruder on Fender, Benoit Alziary on vibraphone and Fender, PhilippeBussonnet on bass, and the chorale section being rounded out nicely by HerveAknin, Isabelle Feuillebois, and Stella Vander (yes, wife of Christian). They started off the set with a ominous and dark piece where the drums crashedAnd collided with sharp stabs from the electric piano player and the vibes, whichRang out ear-splitting tones. Shame that the sound was a bit muddled with theCymbals crashing out way too loud, the keyboard tone way too shrill, and theHerve’s vocals way too low in the mix. Thankfully within minutes, the soundmanhad remedied the situation and the sound was a bit more balanced and smooth.

Magma      The band carried on with minor chords ringing out throughout the complexcomposition; sometimes bringing the ascension to hair-raising levels only tothen segway into some of the most dreamy, ethereal, celestial sounds that the group have managed to emit from this point in time. As the music ebbed and flowed with natural ease, one could detect the strong connection between it’s players, always focusing on the strong structure within each frame, yet allowing plenty of room to artistically maneuver within the song to improvise and stretchit out for dramatic effect. The vocals were perfect, with each member of the vocal section layering their harmonies in unison, or utilizing the mic for solo purposes,each player got their chance to bring their unique voice to the forefront as the band raged on behind them. As the sounds stretched on through multiple dynamics, the audience was quick to follow along and rapt with attention as their returning heroes slammed down the Zeuhl power with grace, finesse, and utmost passionfor their art. As the first piece ran down, the stage left Fender player was allowed a good moment to showcase his playing. He kept his solo brisk and clean; running up and down the keyboard with a nimble, jazzy feel to his scales. He would pause for dramatic affect before launching another attack on keys. As his so began to wind down, it was almost uncanny how quickly the remaining members appeared back onstage out of the shadows simultaneously; grabbing their instruments and launching back into the next piece. It wasn’t until about 8:30 that the band had finished performing this piece and the crowd went absolutely bonkers with applause that lasted well beyond the 5 minute mark. Ask any fan…the applause at any MAGMA show is the longest, most gracious applause you could ever hear. As the band stood motionless, the crowd continued to cheer and cheer and cheer.

Magma      A quick break followed and after a few brief words from Stella, the band launched into their signature tune (well, one of them). The first track from the first self-titled album…a track called Kobaïa. The crowd went nuts as the song began with a rocking and uptempo version of the prog classic. The bass player was hammering out the bassline with reckless abandon as Christian Vander pounded away; supplying wild fills among the jazz rock oriented blast. The whole band seemed to thrive on this no holds barred feeling and for the majority of the song, wild improv followed…especially noted was the vibraphone pounding away with his double mallets in each hand, pushing the rest of the group inot uncharted territory. This was certainly the wildest, most rocking version of the song that I personally had ever heard the band perform. The song’s finale sent fans wild with excitement; only to have the band exit the stage again.

      The crowd called for encore after encore and as the band stepped onto the Shibuya O-East stage for the final time tonight, they performed a unique piece with Christian Vander on main chant/vocal. He kept the entire crowd utterly spellbound with his esoteric vocals beaming forth; mixing up operatic styles, jazzy scat-like voices, as well as unearthly techniques that had to be heard to be believed. As the rest of the band moved and grooved along with him, their fearless leader throughout these past 40 years, the house lights dimmed to a spacey purple violet shade as the night came to a magical, mythical, cosmic conclusion.
report by jay and photos by saya38
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button mag files : Magma

buttonWhatever's Zeuhl With Me : (09/05/27 @ Shibuya O-East) : review by jay, photos by saya38
buttonphoto report : (09/05/27 @ Shibuya O-East) : photos by saya38
button遊星コバイアからの物体X : (05/09/17 @ Shibuya Club Quattro) : review by nob, photos by nachi
buttonphoto report : (05/09/17 @ Shibuya Club Quattro) : photos by nachi
buttonパンドラの箱空けた : (05/09/16 @ Shibuya O-East) : review by todyy, photos by saya38
buttonphoto report : (05/09/16 @ Shibuya O-East) : photos by saya38
button一歩はまれば抜けられない? : (01/05/30 @ Shibuya O-East) : review by nob, photos by nishioka

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check 'em? -->MySpace / iTunes

The latest album


"40th Anniversary Boxset"
(with JPN linernotes / UK import)

The latest DVD



previous works

"アターク"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"レスロスペクティヴIII"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"メルシー"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"ウドゥ・ヴドゥ~未来からの鼓動"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"ライヴ [LIVE]"(国内盤)
"コンタルコス"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"2~摂氏1001°"(国内盤 / iTunes)
"コバイア~マグマ誕生"(国内盤 / iTunes)
and more

check the albums?

The latest album


"40th Anniversary Boxset"
(国内盤 / UK import)

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buttonMagma (27th May @ Shibuya O East)


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Shinjuku Marz)

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