As it had been long anticipated, the faces of over 700 people at London’s Village Underground, confronted with the monstrous boom of Bo Ningen’s heavy-psych, had completely melted by the end of the evening. Each in attendance knew what they were in for – an assault of shockingly complicated monster-riffs in effect-doused chaos, brought to you by the very band which today bears the flag of Japan’s esoteric underground rock legacy.
Originally booked for October 2020, the gig had been deferred a few times and ultimately exploded with what had been laying dormant for more than a year. Energies were inflated from start to finish, and promises were beyond kept.
Bo Ningen’s set followed the intensified heights of Blood Frederik and Lunch Money Life, and an interval soundtracked by the band’s own mixes of cult 8-bit video game music to contain a restless audience.
At the appearance of their sweeping waist-long jet-black hair, the room jolted. It had been over a year since the release of Sudden Fictions, arguably Bo Ningen’s most unique album to date, but the gig arrived quickly after the utter transformations in the extraordinary re-working of their first album in BO NINGEN: Rebuilt. For the band, with their first appearance in London in three years – a home for its members, and the very setting where the band had formed – each song was fired with triple importance.
The first song was the ominous “Gasmask Rabbit” from their rebuilt catalogue, announcing renewed identities from the get-go. Its gradual tempo sped up and broke into the chaotic “Slider”, with a twitching crowd suddenly moving all at once. Frontman Taigen contorted his face, almost evoking the expressive extremities of butoh theatrics, and cut through his own basslines with the effeminate shrill of his voice.
The show progressed along the breakdowns of “Post-Yokai”, the rage of “Koroshitai Kirochi”, the ringing turbulence of “Zankoku” and the driving chants of “Aka”.
The band spoke only once, uttering through feedback, “the important thing is you are still here”, but otherwise deliver nonstop instrumental bliss without lapse. Their calculated instrumentation of blindingly crushing textures built up an infinite chaos, sending a moshing crowd into noise-heaven. The band jumped around, ecstatically swinging their guitars – in the final moments of the evening, vocalist Taigen was seen stood above the crowd on top of a monitor, scratching the neck of his guitar with his fingers as he balanced it upside-down, pulling its straps by his teeth.
Even though Bo Ningen’s explosive abilities have already long been imprinted onto tour circuits, the evening at Village Underground revealed a new, decisive moment. During this crucial period of live music’s return from slumber, the soundscapes that Bo Ningen re-awoke adapted the many encounters made throughout their career, going beyond a simple display of their skills. Their instrumentation was impeccably tailored to the specific concepts that they have been exploring, reaching towards new domains – not only through chaos but also control – effortlessly executing new flavours. With the songs of Sudden Fictions, Bo Ningen have been re-examining their own position, from the ideas of time and progress which confront them as a rock band, and an experiment to forge new paths in their fate.
To their audience, they have consciously highlighted the relationship of their current identity to historical trace, demonstrating the ‘rebuilding’ of their catalogue. Riffs on-stage detailed the timeline of their journey, but in charging each fragment with lived memory, the band appear to be testing out alternative timelines which may spontaneously erupt. Indeed, each tune immerses us into a ‘sudden fiction’ – through Bo Ningen, an unknown, exciting future emerges for all.