This past evening, I went to see The Pillows, one of my all-time favorite Japanese rock bands, rock out at Studio Coast in Shinkiba. It was my first time seeing the band play live. I've been in Tokyo for almost two and a half years now, and during the show I couldn't help but wonder... what the hell was I waiting for?!
I think The Pillows played one of the best live shows I've seen during my entire time in Japan. Their music is upbeat, loud, straight ahead, and above all else, fun. They have the same appeal of American bands like Weezer and the Ramones, who both in their heyday were know for rock 'n' roll music based on straightforward guitar harmonies and catchy hooks. Unpretentious and unaffected, The Pillows are simply a great rock 'n' roll band.
The group has been around since 1989; indeed they celebrated their 20th anniversary already two years ago. All of the members are in their 40's and the Japanese press likes to kid around by calling them a bunch of ojisan, or old guys. But I think the enduring quality of their music shows that there is more to rock 'n' roll than youth and trends. There are plenty of hot young bands in Tokyo, but few of them could repeatedly fill large venues like Studio Coast with thousands, and even fewer could get such a strong reaction from the crowd; the audience begged for 2 encores.
For a good introduction to The Pillows' music, get your hands on the DVD's of FLCL, a 6-part anime series that in and of itself is a great example of Japanese animation. The soundtrack to the series is essentially a 'best of' album for The Pillows, showcasing the many moods that the band is capable of, while all along sounding energetic and fun.
For now though, I will leave you with one of the band's best songs, "Sorachuu Resistor". You can clearly hear how the band has their own updated take on classic 50's rock 'n' roll harmony.