The Japanese legend plays The Mayan Theater during his first global solo tour.
A little over midway through the 90-minute set, Hosono spoke about his childhood in post-war Japan, when occupying American GIs brought "movies, music and capitalism" to the land of the rising sun. "I think I started listening to boogie-woogie from the age of four or five," Hosono recently told Japan Times. "It was constantly on the radio, and I must have been listening to boogie-woogie for the next ten years."
Hosono has traveled long and far, to stardom and international acclaim, through many different genres, and he's now returned to the sounds of his youth. Looking resplendent in a black suit, spectacles and perfectly coiffed grey hair, he led a four-piece band through a mix of covers and, mostly, early solo material. The mid-century standard "The House Of Blue Lights" got an airing, and he leaned heavily on his 1973 debut album, Hosono House, which he recently reinterpreted as Hochono House. Songs like "Bara To Yajyu" still sounded fresh, hinting at the wonky, peculiar songwriting that would later serve as the emotional anchor to Hosono's wild, genre-hopping experiments. On Monday, though, Hosono and his band stayed in one American highway lane, traversing from boogie-woogie to early New Orleans funk to roadhouse country western, the 71 year-old playing guitar and singing, frequently accompanied by slide guitar and double bass.
The painfully hip crowd had ended up at a show that their grandparents would probably enjoy. I saw a few denizens of LA's experimental scene walk out part-way through, though a whole other demographic of music heads venerates records like Hosono House. Like Mac DeMarco, who popped up for a guest appearance early in the set, performing "Honey Moon" with Hosono. (He gamely covered the track in Japanese for a 7-inch last year.) After, he played a couple of his own tracks to mixed response. This night was about hagiography, and indie rock's clown prince sensed the vibe, meekly apologizing for his presence.
These are the sorts of odd scenes that ensue when a young audience becomes obsessed with archival music made by a Japanese musician obsessed with American music. Hosono's deep, half-century strong catalogue puts shape-shifters like David Bowie to shame, but, as a result, the chances that he'll play your favourite songs on his first global solo tour are relatively low. So when he launched into a country western rendition of "Sports Men," a cheer went up from the crowd. A great song is a great song, no matter how you play it.
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