Tomoyasu Hotei - Islington Assembly Hall
October 16th saw the release of Tomoyasu Hotei’s international debut album ‘Strangers’. As his touring comes to a close, Hotei finds himself standing in the main hall of the Islington borough council offices in celebration. It scrubs up nicely to be fair.
The bulk of ‘Strangers’ is represented in tonight’s setlist, very similar in fact to the one Hotei played last July, which was also nicely bookended by the cinematic opener ‘Medusa’ and the energetic, hummable ‘Departure’. Hotei and his band have had time since then to hone the album’s songs in a way that proves beneficial for this larger stage. It not only helps that the venues’ acoustics sound cleaner, but his current lineup of musicians are also on superb form. Norman Fisher-Jones (aka Noko 440), Cliff Hewitt and Andy Wallace showcase a great partnership together; it’s hard not to appreciate how essential everyone is, particularly with Noko always by Hotei’s side. At no point does tonight ever feel like a one-man show. Egos are in check, everyone gets a moment to shine.
In the absence of Iggy Pop, Matt Tuck and Richard Z. Kruspe stands Reef’s Gary Stringer, who takes charge of tracks ‘How the Cookie Crumbles’, Walking Through the Night’ and ‘Kill to Love You’; he’s clearly enjoying every moment of it too, working the stage with a cool swagger and a beaming smile.
Shea Seger also returned this evening to perform ‘Kill or Kiss’ and ‘Texas Groove’, and like last time completely owns the stage with her powerful stance. Hotei certainly seems to have found the perfect talent to carry his southern-inspired writings, with Shea’s confident roars bringing down the house.
In between songs Hotei talks to the audience. Granted, the jokey stuff is largely recycled (his intro to ‘Battles Without Honour or Humanity’) but the breaks between are welcome and he never allows himself to ramble on and slow down proceedings.
After ninety minutes and fourteen tracks, the band exit and quickly return to perform three more songs. Gary Stringer is back, this time with James Toseland, who provided this evening’s support. Reef hit ‘Place Your Hands’ proves a popular number, followed by Hotei taking on Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild. ‘Russian Roulette’ closes an entertaining evening.
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