Mar 29

[Concert report] Zazen Boys at Pianos, New York


At the start of “Riff Man,” Peelander Yellow, who was watching the concert with his bandmates from Peelander-Z, spit his drink into the audience. Sure, that’s usually what the band onstage does, but it was a gesture appropriate for the mood of the show—wild, edgy and totally rock ‘n’ roll. Besides, Zazen Boys were too busy torturing their instruments to do it themselves.

Rules don’t apply at a Zazen Boys show. You may call it a mic stand, but band leader Mukai Shutoku thinks it makes a great guitar slide. That bottle of water may look thirst-quenching, but guitarist Yoshikane Sou would rather use it like a maraca.

Mukai opened the Pianos concert, Zazen Boys’ sixth in the U.S. thus far, by acknowledging his lyrics were in Japanese. He told his American audience, “I want you to…please feel!” And feel the audience did. The show opened with the danceable stop-start rhythms of rocker “Himitsu Girl’s Top Secret,” followed by the aggressive “Honnoji,” both of which sounded more raw and intense live. Later songs displayed Zazen Boys’ synth prowess, with Mukai bent over his keyboard and manipulating it like a mad scientist while Yoshikane added his water-bottle percussion.

When playing, Mukai bobbed his head to the music, and sometimes smiled in a way that seemed to say, “Yeah, I know we’re good.” His between-song MCs were often cute: After “I Don’t Wanna Be With You,” he said, “I don’t wanna be with you but…I wanna be with you.”

Compared to the last time I saw them, at a multi-band concert at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Zazen Boys seemed more comfortable, perhaps because they were in an intimate environment with a higher concentration of fans. And while the Willamsburg venue’s sound was so distorted that Mukai sounded like a chipmunk, Pianos retained the right pitch and sounded clear. The one downside was that “I Don’t Wanna Be With You” sounded less energetic than the last time.

Between “Cold Beat” and “Riff Man,” Mukai promised Zazen Boys would return in September. Be there.


2. Honnoji
3. Weekend
4. Asobi
5. I Don’t Wanna Be With You

Photos by Leisl Schrader

1 comment

  1. Leisl Schrader

    Being barely familiar with the band beforehand, I must say I really enjoyed the sound and the show, and subsequently picked up the new album. I’m hoping they can get some leverage from the dance-rock trends in the US and keep their word to return.

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