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Concert Review: Cibo Matto at Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA

Cibo Matto
Brighton Music Hall
Allston, MA
July 20, 2011

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Reviewed by:  Dorise Gruber

Cibo Matto is not your average example of 90s music, nor is it your average example of anything, for that matter.  A seriously not serious cartoony synth-hop, it may have been a decade since Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori’s last tour as their offbeat union, but fortunately for the sold-out Brighton Music Hall crowd on the last night of their cheekily-named “Yeah, Basically, Cibo Matto” reunion tour, these Japanese transplants have stayed just as wacky and adorable as they ever were.

The ladies reunited back in March for a fundraiser in the wake of the Japanese tsunami earlier this year, and in preparing for the event, they had so much fun they figured they may as well tour.  The ladies have a natural chemistry that takes on its own distinct identity.  Flouting decadence and overindulgence (their name means Crazy Food in Italian) even as non-native English speakers they maintain a superbly acute and highly nuanced understanding of American gluttony, though sometimes their food metaphors skew more sweet or silly than political.  Their genre-bending music redefines categories of what should be enjoyable, corralling dissonance and cutesy shouting to the lengths of modern artistry, often teetering right at the edge of pleasant but always stopping short of obnoxious.  

The set started out just being the two lead ladies, and right around the time I began to lament the lack of live instrumentation, half-way through they brought out a live bassist (Jesse Murphy) and drummer (Yuko Araki), adding even more depth to Honda’s smorgasbord of synth-samples.  While it would’ve been neat to see them tour with the original lineup (I wanted to see Sean Lennon!), Murphy and Araki helped to uphold Honda’s vibe of droopy bass ridden by a snappier drum beat, and by the time we hit Araki’s drum solo in the encore you couldn’t help but be in love with this floppy-mopped badass drummer chick.

Honda and Hatori are not only masters of their musical craft, but Hatori especially has a career waiting for her in stand-up comedy.  She quipped about their stop in the Toronto airport at the “Wild Goose,” where the ladies were flabbergasted to find that Pad Thai cost $16.99.  She just kept saying “But we are Asian!”  The crowd shouted requests at the band, and one guy wanted to know what bassist/producer Bill Laswell was like.  The ladies seemed puzzled by the question, but played along, suggesting they consult Wikipedia – maybe the stage had wi-fi connection – they’d check on it and get back to him.

The crowd as a whole was hyper-involved (and very vocal), not only shouting requests but also singing along loudly to favorites like “Sugar Water,” “BBQ,” “Know Your Chicken,” providing solid back-up on “Sci-Fi Wasabi” (you could tell the ladies were impressed by this one), and going straight-up bananas for “Birthday Cake.”  Even playing brand new songs “Tenth Floor Ghost Girl” and “Check In” from their forthcoming 2012 EP, the crowd stayed pretty rowdy.  It seemed mixed between folks who actually would’ve seen them in the 90s and a mishmash of younger weirdos and average Joes.  Not too many hipsters in the crowd, though there were definitely some waxed mustaches floating around and most notably one guy who came wearing a chicken hat.

I’m not always proud of Boston crowds, but I’d venture to guess that the last stop of Cibo Matto’s tour was not only great for us, but enjoyable for them too.  Much in the way that Honda and Hatori synthesize into their own funkily-unique unit, there was something special about Wednesday night.  With a pint of on-stage talent, a cup of congenial crowd, 4 heaping tablespoons of interesting instruments, a teaspoon of hip, a quarter-ounce of weird, a dash of expert sound mixing and the secret ingredient of nostalgia, this show truly was an expertly executed recipe.


Beef Jerky
Le Pain Perdu
Sugar Water
Tenth Floor Ghost Girl (New Song!)
Sci-Fi Wasabi
Check In (New Song!)
Birthday Cake

Blue Train
Know Your Chicken

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