If I were to write up this review for a Japanese website, there would be no need to do any history or back ground on Tomoyasu Hotei. With millions of record sales under his belt, famous does not explain his stature in his home country. Contrast that to what may well be the smallest show he has performed in years with just a few hundred present at The Lexington in London. You may ask why someone would leave all of that behind and his response is certainly a worth one. He says; In Japan, my career can only go down right now. In the UK, my career can only go up.”
With a career spanning more than 30 years, Hotei has sold over 40million records and was GQ Japan’s ‘Man Of The Year’ for 2014. He relocated to London from Tokyo in 2012 to focus on his international career and since being here has headlined sold-out shows at the Roundhouse (2012) and Shepherd’s Bush Empire (2013).
The stage is small, full of electronic kit but big enough to let Hotei bounce around the stage, wind-milling arms and facial expressions living every single note and riff he plays from the off.
Latest single, with Iggy Pop on vocals, ‘How The Cookie Crumbles’ naturally gets an airing tonight with Hotei handling the vocal elements. It’s a track that will help in his desire to raise the Hotei brand and profile in the UK. Maybe a cameo from Iggy at the next London show later this year will provide the tipping point. it’s a track that is full of Iggy’s typical snot an swagger approach and that punk fuelled element is just what’s needed to find an audience.
His band are probably more familiar to those that hail from the UK. Bassist Noko is one of the founding members of rock \ dance outfit Apollo 440 and Cliff Hewitt on drums has played with Apollo 440 as well. Andy Wallace on keys can also be found on Roger Waters latest release so it’s quite a line up we are presented with.
One final addition to the stage sees Shea Seger joining the band to add some wonderfully bluesy vocals to the mix. Highlights tonight include the stunning ‘Walking Through The Night’ a track that cannot fail to have the entire room stomping along to it. It’s also a track that sees Iggy Pop on the recorded version. Shea finishes her short stint with ‘Kill Or Kiss’ utilising a megaphone, Scott Weiland style, before leaving the band to finish the set. Speaking to her after the show there’s clearly a desire to continue playing with Hotei and we can only hope that she joins him for his next show in London.
Naturally the latter third of the set grabs those unfamiliar with his work as it includes the hugely memorable track ‘Battle Without Honour or Humanity’ used most notably in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ movie. It’s soon followed by a cover of Apollo 440’s ‘Ain’t Talkin Bout Dub’ itself a sampled cover of Van Halen’s ‘Ain’t Talkin Bout Love’. It’s delivered with a serious dollop of groove maintaining the bounce and dance elements of the Apollo 440 version whilst naturally allowing Hotei to indulge on the Eddie Van Halen soloing elements. Great stuff.
It’s going to be an uphill climb and a real challenge for a man used to selling out stadiums in his native country. It’s slightly prophetic then that his closing number is the theme from ‘Mission Impossible’ which again brings smiles to the faces in the crowd.
He’s got the talent, the band and with people like Shea adding vocals then he has the voice as well. If he maintains everything when he plays the larger Islington Assembly Hall in September, then that will be some show.