Despite our city’s reputation, in all of the shows I’ve been to I’ve never seen a Philly audience member heckle a band. Until Tuesday night, that is…after Cibo Matto finished their first song “Sugar Water,” someone yelled out “You are my childhood nostalgia!” The sentiment was greeted with “wooow’s” and “hey, not cool”s from other audience members.
Fair enough, the woman who yelled it most likely meant it as a compliment. But then someone else went there and yelled “Where’s Sean?” (Sean Lennon, former member of the band and former boyfriend of Matto’s Yuka Honda). More shock from the audience – c’mon this a Cibo Matto show, save that for the Hole reunion!
While many bands would be unnerved, Miho Hatori and Honda stayed cool and went on with the concert. Their personae of Brooklyn hip hop meets approachable art student has not waivered since their breakup in 2001. Hatori sported sunglasses at the start but ripped them off by the third song. She was chatty, yelling “PHILLY!” between songs and joking with the crowd about censoring their song “MFN” for a session on WNYC. Honda was the exemplary band leader, handling the keyboards, samples, and occasional guitar, pulling Matto’s big sound together. The first part of the show featured just the two of them; later they were joined by Jared Samuel of Minerva Lions on bass and drummer Yuko Araki. The rhythm section added a jazz element when needed but held back on slower songs like “Moonchild.” This song was further enhanced by Hatori’s amazing timbre; by the end of the song the audience was cheering on her vocal gymnastics.
The set list covered material from all three albums but of course focused on the new release Hotel Valentine. While there were a couple of missteps (the anti-climactic ballad “Empty Pool,” pulled the mood down at the end of the main set, and the disco-y “10th Floor Ghost Girl” was fun but sounded a bit dated to me), the new material is a logical progression from Stereotype*A and is just as poetic and adventurous. I was surprised how many songs Cibo Matto performed from Viva! La Woman and how excited the crowd was to hear them. While many were disappointed that they did not sing their first single “Know Your Chicken,” the band did tear into “Beef Jerky,” “Le Pain Perdue,” and the finale was the raver “Birthday Cake,” which featured the band and crowd pogo-dancing themselves into a frenzy. Missing tunes and awkward moments aside, Cibo Matto’s artistry reigned supreme.