Grimes @ Akasaka Blitz (Jan. 26th, 2016)

Angelic Ac!d Pop
Live Report @ Akasaka Blitz 2016.01.26

The Grimes fans were out in fashionable force at Akasaka Blitz, the venue littered with pastel dip-dyed hair, cute top knots, gold sparkly jackets and a few people leaning on the gothic side of things to boot. It was an eclectic crowd not only in their clothing but also in age, with younger fans jostling down the front while a slightly older crowd viewed from afar at the back to see Grimes in the opening section of her “Ac!d Reign” tour.

Opening up was Aristophanes, a charmingly cute Taiwanese rapper flanked by her guitarist and DJ and a Japanese collaborator in charge of beats, who pulls a hushed and darkened auditorium through an opening set which wass simultaneously impressive and discombobulating. Aristophanes performs dischordant, a-rhythmic and lucious electro that wouldn’t go amiss as the soundtrack to a 4am come down. Her set coasted through hip-hops beats, drum ‘n bass overlaid with asian strings for an “exotic” edge, and dubstep glitch mixed up with jazzy overtones. All the while Aristophanes raps breathy, sassy and earnest over the top, mixing in deep moans and bursts of noise to disarm, all with a lyricism which is impenetrable for its foreign cadences and rhythm, but all the better for it.

grimesThe juxtaposition between Aristophanes’ quieter opening, with the lights, boom and energy of Grimes’ made for a markedly different atmosphere. Assisted by two dancers and backing singer Hana, Grimes bounced up and down behind the decks with her guitar unleashing one of the first live performances of “Flesh without Blood” from the “Art Angels” album. On CD “Flesh Without Blood” comes across a stronger song, but “REALiTi” stood out as a track to catch live with it’s hypnotic back beat thumping across Blitz’s sound system getting people starting to move. Things switched up again when Aristophanes returned to the stage to bring her sultry rap to “Scream” during which Grimes, Hana and Aristophanes partook is a quite glorious bout of group screaming. Second collaboration “Venus Fly” was a much poppier number at times, but brought plenty of attitude with its bone-rattling benthic bass drum.

grimesListening to Grimes sometimes seems like a collage of post-modern musical references that are always on the tip of your mind’s tongue, but which slip away almost as soon as they arrive. Song’s like “Butterfly” momentarily transported the listener to some saccharine 90s pop video, while trips back to a remixed “Oblivion” and “Be A Body” chucked Aphex Twin at you and then pulled you back to the present with Grime’s distinctively elfin voice.

A thoughtful interlude came when Grimes graciously gave backing singer Hana the stage to sing her own balladic song “Clay” and followed up with a “ballad” of her own. “This is my slow song,” Grimes said, “which is worse than her song,” and “Symphonia IX” came across as hypnotically choral and atmospheric against a backdrop of starlight before segueing into an unexpected and echoey rendition of “Ave Maria”, a song said to be one of Grime’s favourites.

“Encores make me nervous,” Grimes said as the show drew to a close. “Is it alright if I do the encore now?” Breaking away from the softer preceding numbers, “Kill Vs. Maim” shut down the show with a final chance for the crowd to dance to this uber-pop number before Grimes virtually fled the stage leaving everyone slightly confused but sated.

grimesSomething gives me the feeling that this won’t be the last we’ll be seeing of Grimes in 2016. If the stars align correctly this summer, I can picture a Grimes set going down a storm on the White Stage or in the Red Tent at Fuji Rock. Perhaps we need to make an act of propitiation to the Gods of Fuji Rock to make this happen?

SETLIST

Laughing and Not Being Normal/ Flesh Without Blood/ REALiTi/ Scream/ Venus Fly/ Genesis/ Butterfly/ Be A Body/ Go/ Clay (Hana)/ Symphonia IX (My Wait is U)/ Ave Maria/ Oblivion/ Kill v. Maim

Photos by Kazumichi Kokei.

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Text:
Laura Cooper
laura@smashingmag.net
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