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Rainbow, London 1979

MELODY MAKER, April 28, 1979 (Thanks to Paulo in Brazil for this)

When Japan first emerged on the British rock scene almost a year ago supporting Blue Oyster Cult, they were confronted with volatile criticism from many who regarded them as little more than another New York Dolls. However, penetrating behind the pretty looks and dyed hair it became clear that here was a youthful British group of considerable musical talent - their debut album, "Adolescent Sex," being in my opinion one of the finest releases of '78.

Since then they have travelled far, with great success appropriately in Japan, and last week returned to London for a one-off appearance at the Rainbow. With no vinyl offering since their second LP "Obscure Alternatives," I wondered whether headlining such a venue was a wise decision, as they have yet to make their full impact in this country.

Judging from the empty seats towards the back of the hall it would appear that the move may have indeed been slightly premature. Nevertheless, those in attendance were treated to an excellent performance by a band for whom I predict a very promising future.

The material comprised a selection from both albums together with several new numbers. Of these, a couple strongly suggested Giorgio Moroder, doubtless due to the fact that the Midnight Express Oscar-winning producer worked on one song with the band quite recently. The disco element managed to bring yet another dimension to Japan's style, which already incorporates funk and reggae with basic rock.

Leader singer David Sylvian was in fine voice, although he looks somewhat handicapped with a guitar in his hands, and lost some of his force as a front man during the time he spent playing an axe. Yet for the rest of the show he appeared cool and well in command, even venturing into keyboards playing for a couple of songs.

The visual side of the gig was enhanced by the inclusion of a few short films of the band in very surrealistic surroundings. Musically, the highlights were "Suburban Love," "The Unconventional" and the title track from the first album, and "Automatic Gun" amd "Rhodesia" from "Obscure Alternatives."

It was enjoyable to see Japan live once more and when they return to the capital with a third album behind them those empty seats will no doubt be filled.

 

STEVE GETT


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