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Live Report: Boom Boom Satellites At Zepp Osaka 9/25/2010

The Boom Boom Satellites live experience can best be summed up as “picture listening to ‘Born Slippy’ in a packed arena for two hours complete with woozy light show and overpriced beer.” If that sounds lame to you…well, stop reading right here, because that sounds like doing it right to me and ended up being a total surprise based on what I expected to see coming in. The duo’s latest album, To The Loveless, finds them shifting away from the hybrid dance-rock into a more straightforward “rock and/or roll” direction. It’s an incredibly frustrating listen – BBS deliver with tracks like the insanely good “Undertaker” and the ambient-flirting “Stay,” but more frequently pump out jock-jam rock buttered in electronic noises that might as well not be there for 70 infernal minutes. It should be noted many critics see this as a “return to form” worth celebrating, so it might just be a taste thing. Regardless, I entered a packed Zepp Osaka a little unsure of what to expect.

A few moments of over-the-top Flying-V heroics aside, BBS mostly avoided coming off as arena-rock in favor of abrasive arena-club this Saturday night. From the opening electro-squiggles of “Back On My Feet,” the duo (with a drummer in tow to add a little more punch) focused on getting the floor to dance while also fitting some guitar theatrics. That’s their clever trick – visually, the most lasting image of the show would be the two members of the band running around the stage while wildin’ out on their Flyin-Vs, as the drummer plugged away on her kit. Yet sonically this show was totally electro-friendly…the guitars were rarely the dominant sound, instead offering an aggressive sheen to otherwise thumping dance beats (obligatory “kinda like Prodigy” point goes here). Coupled with a laser light show that in the hands of many other bands would be spectacle but seemed necessary for BBS, the duo appeared to be playing rock show when, in fact, they were playing a club show.

BBS did find times to expand – sometimes, as mentioned, for the worse on the less interesting rock-by-numbers songs. Yet they also tackled To The Loveless’ two best tracks with great results – “Undertaker” ran through its various stages (weirdo spoken word, dramatic build, floating resolution) well, standing out as the one song the group played at Zepp where the vocals were absolutely essential and not just another dance-enhancer. They also fit the drifting ballad “Stay” right into the middle of this dance-a-thon without throwing off the momentum one bit. These diversions aside, BBS surprised me by being so damn club-centric…I though their latest album was a sign of badness to come, but instead they ended up delivering a solid show full of good music and freaky lights that would make Underworld proud.