Ryuichi Sakamoto: Formal

Pensive? I'm actually cutting my toenails...

Pensive? I'm actually cutting my toenails...

Give it a try if… You like sophisticated contemporary instrumental music.

Steer clear if… You only like tunes that give you a chance to tap your feet and shake your bootie.

Some artists, once they have got nothing left to prove, simply have fun by stretching their boundaries in multiple directions. One of them is Ryuichi Sakamoto who, after mesmerizing the electronic-savvy audience of last summer’s Sonar Festival with Alva Noto, came back to Barcelona this November with a quite different project, his “Trio Tour 2011”.

No Logo

The venue was the ever-enchanting Palau de la Musica; the occasion, a jazz festival which I will snobbishly refuse to name since – as Naomi Klein taught me several years ago – the fact that cultural events carry the name of their sponsors is a dangerous form of corporate colonization. Sakamoto was accompanied by veteran Jaques Morelenbaum (with whom, along with singing sister Paula, he recorded critics’ favourites “Casa” in 2001 and “A Day in New York” in 2003) on cello and young Judy Kang on violin.

Me, Me, Me

"De do do do, de da da da, is all I want to say to you..."

"De do do do, de da da da, is all I want to say to you..."

Sakamoto started out by breaking the ultimate barrier, literally putting his hands inside his Yamaha to pluck its strings and make strange, dissonant sounds which quickly brought me from “How modern!” to “Euch!”. The rest of the set was more institutional, including the mandatory Fukushima dedication, among oh-so-elegant renditions of old classics and new tracks. I found the leader a bit stiff – his composure and tense shoulders made him look and sound too self-conscious, perhaps even self-important and a few other adjectives beginning with “self-” – but all in all, he gave the powerful performance that everyone expected.

The Rest of the Gang

I wasn’t too impressed by Kang who, apart from delivering the leather pants factor, didn’t score too high in the listening department; my favourite by far was Morelenbaum, whose calm and generous presence made him appear like a shining rock on the dimly-lit stage. A special mention for the obscure geek sitting near Sakamoto behind a computer (yet another logo… guess which), who I suspect was secretly surfing the Web all evening while looking inspired and dropping a couple of echoes and reverbs here and there. You certainly don’t need me to tell you how great you are, Ryuichi, but with all due respect I’ll keep looking for satori somewhere else.

UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 7.5/10

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