Date: August 20, 2010
Location: Mao Live House, Beijing.
In Beijing for the very first time since its founding 30 years ago, Shonen Knife, the cheery Japanese punker, delivered lots of love to a rapturous audience eager to return the same. The all-girl punk band has a worldwide following, having traveled across the globe and converted thousands of fans with their jolly good music and sunshine lyrics, most of which were in English. Along the way, they retired four members, added two, and somehow managed to hold onto Naoko Yamano, Shonen’s only remaining founder, who at 49 (going on 50) would be old enough to be her two sidekicks’ mother but carried the kind of sweet smile that reminded oneself of one’s high-school girlfriend. And the indispensable Ms. Yamano can rock: she led much of the singing, played the melodic lines on the guitar, and jumped/swung/hopped like any disobedient rocker would. Shonen’s melodic and rhythmic signatures were a confluence of The Beach Boys and the Ramones, with a tinge of pentatonic shade to mark their country of origin. Their lyrics could have been written by The Beach Boys for the Sesame Street: in “Gyoza”, they sang about taste…“Spiced minced pork wrapped in a small pancake / Steamed or fried tastes so good…”; or in “Sushi Bar”…“Ooo, colorful art of the food / It’s a beautiful Japanese meal…” For the encores, they went for “Top of the World”, their contributing cover of the classic by The Carpenters, and “Perfect Freedom”, a vibrant, upbeat number in their new album.