I can't believe I finally had a chance to see Nomiya Maki perform. I've loved Pizzicato 5 for a long, long time, and when I'd learned they broke up ten years ago, I extra-rued that one time in the mid 90's when I missed them in Minneapolis by a matter of days.
But now here she was, at Taipei's impeccable music house Legacy, and with an all-star line up to boot. Woo-hoo!
The Collectors from Tokyo kick-started the night. I was unfamiliar with them aside from a brief investigation on Youtube, but there was clearly an enthused contingent of fans in attendance.
The evening was billed as a retro-rock party heavy on the 60's mod sound and style. From go-go dancers in miniskirts to rockers in custom-made suits, it is wonderfully fun era for fashion. And so it was that I felt a twinge of disappointment to see that only mop-topped lead singer Hisashi Kato was honoring the dress code in his bold black & white outfit.
With the rest of the band in normal jeans and shirts, it kind of felt like watching Kiss if only one guy had bothered to paint his face. So it was up to the music to win me over. The Collectors are very skilled and well-versed in their genre, and I guess I can say it was fun enough. But whereas it may have fallen a little short with me, it most definitely clicked with the rest of the crowd. That's what I get for not knowing their material. Listening as a novice, I felt like some of the songs could have benefited from a touch of brevity. A few seemed to have one or two too many extended choruses or verses. Those folks dancing and cheering in the front rows, however, would surely beg to differ as the curtain closed.
Nomiya Maki was there in all of her class & elegance for the second set. Accompanied by Won Fu's Xiao Min on the classical guitar, she began with a pared down arrangement of 東京は夜の七時, as well as a thank you for Taiwan's generous support of Japan in the wake of that horrible earthquake back in March. But this was not to be P5 unplugged and subdued. Both The Collectors and Won Fu would serve as her band for the night. Hisashi Kato sang several duets with her and Twiggy and Mami took up backing vocals wearing - yes! - awesome floral go-go dresses. Add on a 2 piece horn section and then strip yourself down to a glittering mini cocktail dress, and you've officially got a party.
Fit & trim, and armed with coolest tambourine ever (a kitschy yet glamourous sparkling pink one, which I can only assume was diamond encrusted), Nomiya Maki confirmed her status as The Coolest Beautiful Woman Ever. How cool? So cool her fashion designer personally delivers a glass of white wine in between songs. Breakfast at Tiffany's? Nope, Soirée at Miss Maki's.
The hit parade proceeded, reacquainting me with ex-lovers and past lives. Pizzicato 5 songs - swanky, bouncy Shibuya-kei masterpieces - are extra-amazing for their adaptability. Maybe originally recorded with a J Pop tilt, the same tune will inevitably reappear in a live set as a bossa nova number or a choppy Kinks-type rocker. And so it was that Baby Love Child was similarly transformed into something even more tender and touching. I love when an artist shines a new light on their songs, allowing them to grow and breathe new lives. It doesn't always work, but it does with Pizzicato 5.
Sweet Soul Revue, Happy Sad... good times, indeed. But there was no way to expect every favorite, and I was grateful for what I was given. I wasn't even sure if I'd get to hear Twiggy Twiggy, but not only was it her final song, it became even more badass with a killer surf guitar riff. Damn, she holds the keys to my heart.
Won Fu ruled over the night's third chapter with their ever-present buoyancy, and the hometown heroes had the room rocking & rolling, dancing & singing, and smiling & laughing - yes, business as usual. Mixing standards like 迷你裙 and 我小時候都去Spin with less-played numbers like 007, Won Fu delivered yet again. Do they ever play a shitty show? I don't think so. It's like the music gods have blessed them for being so happy. But the fact of the matter is, they're really, really good. Clever management can't be dismissed, but there's a greater reason for Won Fu's pop success: they're a smart band with the skills to match.
Xiao Min is an excellent guitarist. I'm always impressed by what he pulls off. He is one of those talents who excels at any genre, and it's all the better for all of the fun he's having with it. He remains one of my top favorite performers in Taiwan, sharing such hallowed status with Xiao Yin of The Clippers, A-Zhang of 88 Balaz, or Ariel of Go Chic. These are all differing yet dynamic, hardworking, highly intelligent personalities who can raise a great set into a super incredible one. Exponential rockitude, I think it's called. And thus, decked out in his smart retro Beatles jacket, Xiao Min lurched, flailed, mumbled, leaped, charmed, freaked, and above all, rocked. He is a natural entertainer.
Nomiya Maki and The Collectors (this time adorned with Joey Ramone-esque wigs to keep pace with their singer) reemerged to signal one last hurrah. Or two. Twist and Ciao, the night's theme, became Twist and Shout, the logical finale to a cheerful night.
Excellent sound, tasteful lighting, fun clothes, rocking bands - it was all icing on the cake for me. Heck, I finally saw Nomiya Maki perform! Do I really need top off a dream come true? Yeah, might as well.