Concert Review: Japanese post-rock band MONO bring sonic beauty to Boston

After having just completed a tour of China, the Japanese post-rockers MONO have blessed their North American fans with their presence, as they have come to the States to begin recording material for a new LP. While writing and recording their future album, MONO have embarked on a brief nine-city tour that covers most regions of the U.S., as well as two stops in Canada.

On Sunday, Nov. 17, The Brighton Music Hall in Boston was one of the nine fortunate venues to host the band. The show began promptly at 9 p.m. when opening act Majeure, a one-man space rock band from America, started the night off well with his subdued yet entertaining performance.

For the entire duration of his set, Majeure’s sole member, A.E. Paterra, had the small, intimate audience engaged with his looping electronic synthesizer beats. Majeure’s music sounded as if it were influenced by French house artist Kavinksy and ‘80s electro-pop film soundtracks – images of the Ridley Scott film Blade Runner flitted through this reviewer’s mind.

Bobbing his head slightly while standing, Paterra manned his digital instruments – three synthesizers, a sequencer and a MacBook – with the cold meticulous precision of a robot.

The Brighton Music Hall continued to fill with concertgoers throughout Majeure’s performance as well as during the brief intermission before the headliner, MONO, took the stage.

Low-key, friendly and respectful, the MONO fans in attendance were appreciative that they would be seeing the foreign band perform live. MONO has been famous for their live shows since performing two awe-inspiring sold-out concerts in New York City with the 24-piece Wordless Music Orchestra – recorded and made into the live album MONO: The Holy Ground. Therefore MONO had quite the reputation to live up to on this night in Boston.

Throughout the night, fans came up to one another and asked how they had discovered the four-piece band from Japan. One concertgoer said he had discovered MONO while living in his home country of Taiwan, while another, an American, told of how he stumbled upon the band via a Japanese independent music blog.

MONO was met with applause as they took the stage and opened their set with the nearly 16-minute-long epic “Yearning.” Bathed in the red lights that shined above them, the members of MONO were intense in their focus, seemingly lost in the act of weaving a tapestry of emotionally potent instrumental-rock music. The band is made up of guitarists Hideki Suematsu on rhythm and Takaakira Goto on lead, thunderous drummer Yasunori Takada and Tamaki Kunishi, who seamlessly shifted between her roles as the band’s bassist and pianist. The audience members themselves seemed to be deep in trance by the music as well.

The beauty of MONO’s music, and this really came across live at The Brighton Music Hall this past weekend, is that it is a force a nature. Like a wave of sound that effortlessly picks up and carries its listener, making their soul and body feel ethereal, before violently crashing those that listen deep into an ocean of chaotic noise. The best example would be the harrowing 13-minute “Ashes in the Snow.”

Thankfully, MONO places greater emphasis on light than they do dark, and made sure their Boston audience was brought back safely to the surface by the end of their show – their last song was the life-affirming “Everlasting Gaze.”

Breathless and appreciative, those in attendance clapped and chanted the band’s name for several minutes as the show came to a close, unready for the Japanese maestros to leave Boston.

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