Tomoyasu Hotei - The Lexington, London

When you’ve played major Japanese stages such as the Budokan, Saitama Super Arena and the Tokyo Dome to sell-out crowds, kicking back in a matchbox-sized room above a little pub in the heart of Islington might be the furthest thing from your mind. Japanese guitar legend Tomoyasu Hotei, having relocated to London in 2012 to pursue the international dream, however, has done just that.

Returning to the venue after using it as a warm-up exercise prior to his 2014 summer festival run, Hotei hosted an intimate session at The Lexington: comprised of obligatory hits, tracks from last year’s New Beginnings album and exclusive offerings taken from his debut international release due this October. In tow were keyboardist Andy Wallace, Apollo 440’s Noko and drummer Cliff Hewitt, who unleashed a predictably solid set in front of a large Japanese contingent, whose own assured reservedness made for an altogether pleasant, head-banging-free evening.

Throughout the 14-strong setlist, which lasted for approximately 90 minutes, Hotei remained poised as he stood on a spot that was barely big enough to swing a cat around; a relaxed though determined performance, which seemed befitting of the overall atmosphere as he mixed beautifully quaint melodies and iconic film tunes. The latter would spur Hotei - knowing that he’ll never truly escape from it - into joking about how often people seem to praise his ‘Battle Without Honour or Humanity’ as a “good cover” version, whenever he plays outside of his homeland. Aside from some short and sweet stories for the crowd, another highlight came in the form of Shea Seger, who stomped all over the stage like wildfire, as she accompanied the band for a few great numbers in ‘Walking Through the Night’, ‘Kill or Kiss’ and ‘Texas Night’, which made up for Iggy Pop not magically appearing for the new single ‘How the Cookie Crumbles’. One can hope, right?

In all, Hotei leaves us wanting more after the 3-track encore. The previously quiet crowd starts to chant when we point out that ‘Mission Impossible TBC’ is right there at the bottom of the set list. Hotei obliges, it’s great, we’re all happy. Thanks everyone.

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