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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Cornelius at the Wonder Ballroom - (4/23/07)
Yesterday, I came across this post over on Blogtown. Unbeknownst to me, Cornelius was in town to play a show at the Wonder Ballroom. Hot damn. Instead of another marathon session of Paper Mario, I headed across the river for a few hours of Japanese "pop noise collages."
Cornelius has been around for over a decade. Nicknamed after the character from the Planet of the Apes movies, he began his career as a teen pop star in Japan but has since become a sort of Beck for eastern Asia. Like his American counterpart, Cornelius' influences cover just about every genre out there. Both have a penchant for cheeky live shows. Cornelius' centers his around synchronized video displays.
Last night around 10, a large white curtain shrouded the stage as Cornelius and his band picked up their instruments and began their intro. Taking turns, each member pounded on their instrument, resulting in a blast of color and a silhouette on the curtain before it was pulled away to reveal the band, all dressed like members of the Raëlian Church. Behind a row of stage-length laser lights, a large movie screen ran through a montage of videos and animations. During their second song, on the screen a flock of geese flew over a countryside and through Tokyo. In time with the music, the lead singer banged out a power cord, sending one of geese crashing to the ground. A tribute to Duck Hunt? Maybe, but in the old Nintendo game the birds didn't respond by fleeing into outer space.
During another song, a series of small boxes with lips sang along to the music. As the band played "Free Fall," a track off Fantasma, clips of '80s-era WWF wrestlers power-slammed one another in time to the music. Half-century old footage of dancers at a leaui, one with a head replaced by an animated squid, danced along to a song later in the evening. Occasionally, members of the band would glimpse over their shoulders to see if the videos were keeping pace but, aside from a few mistakes, the screen and music matched up perfectly. I'm sure it was a lot harder than they made it look.
Also: Cornelius played no less than two theremin solos.
As the show progressed, Cornelius and the band drifted into space rock jams, leaving a lot of the audience to lapse into a pleasant daze or head for the exits. The band returned for an encore, after jumping in the audience to have cell phone photos taken with everyone standing near the stage. They ended the show with a lullaby while a video of a baby floating through space played in the background.
So, yeah, the whole thing was pretty "quirky" and along the lines of what you would see at a Flaming Lips show. I'd say about half the crowd was on the level and enjoyed Cornelius' unique brand of musical weirdness while the other half stared blankly at the stage between trips to the bar. A critic in last week's Portland Mercury wrote that Cornelius is the best live performer he's ever seen. I wouldn't go that far but I'd say he's up there in the top ranks, if only for the Duck Hunt bit.