with Jack Drag
Echo Lounge, Atlanta • March 16, 1999
Happy sounds! Happy music! Happy people! That’s what was on the menu when Cibo Matto came to town, bringing their book of recipes for happy-absurd food-dance songs.
They’re still riding the wave of 1996’s ode to crazy food, Viva! La Woman , and ’97’s remix disk, Super Relax . More recently, they finished work on an upcoming record — they’re keeping a tight lid on info about that release, but included a few new songs in their sets this tour. I can reveal one secret; I would have bet money that there would be no more songs about food, but I was WRONG…
Not to say the band hasn’t matured — they are serious musicians, they just don’t take themselves too seriously. They’ve added another member — a percussionist filling out the groove with bongos and more. Sean Lennon has been playing bass with the band full-time for two years; that experience and his romantic relationship with keyboardist Yuka Honda (his new record Into the Sun is inspired by and dedicated to her) adds a solidity to their live performance that was missing in previous tours.
They’ve traded in their Atari T-shirts for cocktail dresses, but they still rock. The room was full and moving, their beats were big. There was definitely a “loungier” sound, and most of the songs I didn’t recognize (I assume “Flowers,” “Sunday,” King of Silence,” and “Waiting for Vacation” will be on the new disk) gravitated more toward the Beastie Boys end of the spectrum. They bridge the gap between Don Ho and Soundgarden, with a sprinkling of salsa and a double handful of hip-hop (plus exotic secret ingredients).
The last half of the set was what really connected, though — with “Blue Train” (another new one?), Yuka and Sean were jumping up and down in unison, at opposite ends of the stage. “Know Your Chicken” and “Sugar Water” (missing from earlier shows in the tour) closed out the set, and the entire audience was either jumping up and down or sliding back and forth on cue from tiny singer Miho Hatori. The band left the stage, but the crowd was still hungry.
Of course they allowed themselves to be called back for a few more, and the first encore was the classic “Moon River,” performed as if they were on the moon. “Sci-Fi Wasabi” (new food song alert!) and “Earth Threat” were followed by “Birthday Cake,” the final course of the evening.
Food, love and great music — happiness, Cibo Matto style.