Gig review: Bo Ningen at The Cockpit, Leeds

Bo Ningen
Bo Ningen
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Saturday night saw a showcase of some truly mind-bending international music. But it wasn’t the Eurovision Song Contest.

Indeed, while the garish festival of Europop and tactical voting was filling the living rooms of many up and down the country, for a select few in Leeds who braved the rain to make it down to The Cockpit, music from the other side of the world was staging some pretty offbeat sights.

Taking to the stage in their floor length gowns, Bo Ningen hail from Japan but have been based in London for a good few years now. It’s been just long enough for their outlandish acid-rock to prick up a handful of adventurous ears and sustain them a fairly healthy career of confusing audiences.

Their third album III dropped this week (May 12), so understandably tonight’s set is heavy with new material. That new LP presents the closest the band have ever come to treading on the toes of melodious normality, though of course it’s still a long way off from what most acts would consider to be ordinary. It does mean that tonight’s show isn’t quite as in your face as Bo Ningen have become known to be, with tracks like ‘Slider’ and ‘DaDaDa’ sparking relatively reserved head bobs as opposed to the spasmodic flailing limbs we’ve become accustomed to.

It’s still an experience to behold though, and it seems that every aspect of their insane live show is there to derail you, even down to Taigen Kawabe’s between song chatter which switches from English to Japanese at a moment’s notice.

The band’s brand of stop-start psychedelic avant-rock can break down into an extended noise freak-out at any time, and that’s exactly what it does on the set’s closer (individual track names escape most who are not fluent Japanese speakers).

The sight of Kawabe leaping from his bass amp and guitarist Yuki Tsujii wind-milling his instrument around his head in a deafening squall of feedback has even the bar staff looking on with amazed grins.

Gig date: May 10

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