Sandwiched between Summer Lawns (an instrumental Morrissey) and the Norwegian outfit Serena Maneesh, Asobi Seksu (whose name pairs Japanese words for “play” and “sex”) played Monday night to a thickening crowd at Bowery, enchanting New York with their perennial storm of enigmatic “Tokyo pop” and dream-like vocals. Bathed in blue moonlight, the stage was set for Yuki (vocals), James Hanna (guitar), Hagi (bass) and Mitch Spivak (drums). Yuki stood front and center behind a dominant keyboard and sported a short-sleeved teal dress with black Mary-Jane heels - James to the left; Hagi right; Mitch behind. I was stoked. Here was a band I had heard about a year ago in Austin at South by Southwest and had not had a chance to see until now.
Asobi Seksu’s live piece delivers a more brash rendition of their songs than the recordings. Yuki announced that the next song was called “Strawberries”. Her vocals pierced with a kind of soft power, lamenting as a nightingale and reaching gracefully high. Once the band arrived at the notable “Walk On the Moon”, the crowd was prepped and it seemed as if we all knew we were in for something beautiful. The opening undertone begins with Yuki answering the cue (“I saw the photographs…”) and gently escalates until the break of emotion amid an overwhelming clash of guitar. She gives out to “Let them all walk away/All walk away/So there’s no one to blame…” as drums banged. The guy behind me said to his friend, “'Walk On the Moon' was such an awesome song,” as the number digressed. Indeed this was certainly one of my favorite moments of the show. And certainly the saddest of songs can sometimes be the most beautiful, and more pleasant than the most cheerful.
Throughout the night, Yuki also sifted between maracas, a half-moon tambourine and sleigh bells, which were used for “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me”, a steady progression mixing alto chirper. Asobi Seksu live became a more turbulent version of the record, but the emphasis of guitar provided an essential burst to the lyrics and Yuki’s floral vocals. Though the transition could flow more smoothly between songs, the room was captivated knowing that we had experienced something distinctly special. In illustrating the lush and torn fabric within matters of the heart, Asobi Seksu makes it gorgeous to have loved.