The Ska Flames @ Shibuya Duo Music Exchange (Dec. 23rd, 2014)

Ska Flames deliver an early Xmas present
Live Report @ Shibuya Duo Music Exchange 2014.12.23

The Ska Flames

‘Twas 2 nights before Christmas and all through the (live) house, not a creature was stirring… because they were all dancing, skanking and being merry. Almost 30 years in, and The Ska Flames prove the original ska sound can still rock a party, and what a party it was.

The Ska flames are one of the pioneers of ska in Japan and have always stayed true to the original Jamaican sound. This is a first wave sound that’s heavy on horns and rhythm, big on groove and highly danceable. Instead of taking ska off on tangents like so many bands here in Japan have done, the Flames have always kept it real. They stuck with what they were good at and loved. This is something that has allowed them to stand out, few bands (let alone ska bands) have really stood the test of time and lasted as long as the Ska Flames. They have passion and raw talent that shines through whenever they jam. They’ve played with the biggest names in the ska world and have taken ska all around Japan, attracting fans wherever they go. Similarly, they’ve played all ranges of venues, from the smallest live houses to the biggest festivals, including most recently this year’s Fuji Rock Festival.

The Ska FlamesTonight’s show saw everyone, fans and band alike, in a joyous mood, rammed into a toasty club, ensuring the flames lived up to their name. They brought the heat as only reggae, rocksteady, and ska can. The 11-piece band brought the music through swells, of both mellow and intense sessions. Through it all they kept the sound grooving and people skanking. Led on by front-man, Hirokazu Ise, seemingly forever donned in his traditional Japanese Yukata and a big grin from ear to ear. When he gets on the mic, things really do heat up. He’s great at pushing the sound and excitement that extra bit further.

After this long playing gigs, the Flames have a very natural, polished sound. This never comes across as stale or routine however, ska is fun music to watch and perform. All eleven up on stage consistently looked to be having a great time playing both original tunes and covers. Their fun and festive mood was highly infectious. I dare anyone to try to sit still during a Ska Flames show. Everyone in attendance on this night was up and shaking it almost non-stop.

The Ska FlamesThe Flames burned bright, playing through tunes such as, “Rip Van Winkle”, “Do the Mule”, “Cool Smoke” and more.

Things kept building to a climax which included openers, Sheena & the Rockkets (minus sheena sadly, who was ill) join their seasoned brethren up on stage for a hell of finale. Together the bands played the Flames smash hit, “Tokyo shot”, a cover of The Rolling Stones, “Satisfaction” and had plenty of banter from Ise and others. Though Christmas was still a couple days away, everyone in attendance was given a real present, the kind you don’t unwrapped, but experience and savor.

–>Live Photos

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Laura Cooper
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James Mallion

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