28.11.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Bo Ningen

“The best live band around” is a phrase so flippantly thrown around at the Brit Awards and in sixth form common rooms that it lost it’s literal meaning years ago and, along with other overused sayings such as “I’m starving, when’s tea ready?” and “that (insert band here) gig was so dull I almost died of boredom”, it has become an acceptable over-exaggeration. Thankfully, Bo Ningen are here to rectify this.

For the uninitiated, Bo Ningen are a London-based hardcore band with Japanese origin. They make music that can seem familiar and completely original at the same time as it swiftly fluctuates between angular and melodic post-hardcore/hardcore to down-the-line metal riffs and into scuzzy, feedback-ridden noise. Add to this a constant psychedelic undertone and you get a sound that one minute sounds like Faust and the next a fusion of Fugazi and Refused. The result is frenzied and it works best live; exciting and surprising due to the infectious energy of their performance.

As they walk onstage here at The Legion in Shoreditch, each sporting chest-length black hair and psychedelic getup, they demand the audience’s attention immediately; also eye-catching is the unaffected swagger and determined glare of lead man Taigen. It soon becomes clear that Taigen’s arrogance is justified as he floats around playing bass, intermittently launches into screeching tirades in Japanese and occassionally throws himself around the stage with such vigour and precision you would be forgiven for thinking he is connected to the amps and that any movement is involuntary. I watch fixated, racking my brain to find an example of someone else out there with as much stage presence and charisma fronting a band at the moment.

While Taigen struts around the front of the stage like a man possessed, the rest of the band play with the ferocity of thirty South London pit bulls attacking a Fender with their teeth, comically jaunting about ready for their next next outrageous stage antic, until one drops from a height onto the drum kit seat and flying off the stage into the crowd with complete disregard for his own physical wellbeing.

One reason that Bo Ningen’s live act is so enthralling is that it doesn’t seem to be an act at all. Displaying a sense of humour and cynicism in equal measure, you get the impression that this is just how they play and no other style would be acceptable whether they’re playing in front of three hundred festival goers (Offset), forty scenesters (The Victoria), one hundred mad, moshing maniacs (here at The Legion) or alone together in a studio. An attitude that adds up to the most engaging and satisfying gig I have been to this year.

Shortly after the lead guitarist has thrown himself off the stage only to be hoisted over someone’s head and cracked into the oak bar, the drum kit is pushed off the front off stage and one band member holds his guitar in the air at full stretch – feedback hauntingly reverberates throughout The Legion. Shrouded in noise, I am once again left sweaty, out of breath and with the feeling that something truly remarkable has just happened.

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