Sunday, 23 December 2012

#ESPspotlight Review: HOTEI at The Roundhouse

It takes a lot to impress me. To render me starstruck, you need to belong to an elite group of talent's 'Most High' and your career needs to be a story (tabloid tell-alls do not count).

ES in the P with a British ICON - Suggs, lead singer of MADNESS
(and also one of THEE Coolest People on The Planet...)
So when I attended Hyper Japan last month and came face to face with a man who's work not only helped shape music and film history, but also change an entire cultural view and provide a gateway for the generations that followed, I obviously had to have a word. That word led to my rocking out in my leathers with another legend you may recognise at the Roundhouse in Camden on Tuesday night...

Tomoyasu Hotei is an Icon that six weeks ago, I didn't know I've been a long-time fan of. 'Battle Without Honor and Humanity' may be his signature track; but his setlist full of original catalogue mash ups with Rock classics that we all know and love (Bowie's Starman, Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild and Eddie Cochran's C'mon Everybody) had me and my new pal going, well...MAD!

The audience on the ground floor were predominantly Japanese, with my fellow upper level Rockers being of mixed descent. The reason that struck me is because what I picked up on, was the overwhelming sense of unity through music. I don't know about anyone else, but that's what I consider the mark of a true gift. Almost all were completely caught up in the reverie of  what Hotei and his arsenal of a band were serving. 'Oddly' enough the few who were not, were instead scribbling away furiously in notebooks - go figure...

Far more seasoned in the field than I; it was clear they were unimpressed with Hotei's vocals - something the fans of the music did not seem to notice, or care about. As someone who's publicly stated that singing is not his first love or main skill, what he did with each guitar took precedence and rendered the majority dumbstruck. He changed over a few times, but when he picked up that trademark monochrome electric sword, you knew he meant business. The way he made that guitar cry in the final strains of his encore, under a white, ethereal spotlight, was like nothing I've seen live, bar Michael Jackson at the close of his Dangerous Tour in 1992. By that I mean, when you watch a Master make their craft look as easy as breathing, you can't help but be reminded who you're in the presence of, your station in life and exactly what us 'ordinary humans' cannot do. We had been well and truly SCHOOLED.

If the applause and numbers that milled around to congratulate Hotei San after he had changed into one seriously sharp, crushed velvet black suit, with white shirt and black tie - the man rocks dapper threads like he rocks a riff - were anything to go by, then Yours Truly wasn't the only one impressed. Bette Bright, former Deaf School lead singer (and Mrs Suggs), was as entranced as I at "all the twists and the way he mashed it all up; he made it all come together so beautifully!"

(l-r) Phil Manzanera (ROXY Music), Hotei Tomoyasu, Andy Mackay (ROXY Music), Suggs (Madness)

Touched and honoured that he remembered me from our 5-minute interview after his Hyper Japan performance with Samurai Sword Masters KAMUI almost a month prior; I was once again struck at the sheer humility of a man who just held an entire venue audibly captive, went on to chew the fat with the likes of The Cure guitarist Reeves Gabrels, only to then greet me like a long-lost friend straight afterwards.

Hotei Tomoyasu with The Cure guitarist, Reeves Gabrels

The lovely Hotei San indulging a wayward fan...

Definitely a blueprint for today's artists to emulate both musically and personally in the way he treats everyday people, I for one, cannot wait to see and hear what this one-of-a-kind trailblazer does next...

ES ;o)