Unless you own a ticket stub from seeing God, I can guarantee that you’ve never seen anything like the Boredoms.
As for me, I’d witnessed neither deity when I bought my tickets to Tuesday’s show at the Fillmore, but after what can only be described as one of the most inspiring and incredible performances ever given, I feel like I got a 2-for-1 deal.
First off, the band set up in the middle of the floor of the Fillmore, with towers of speakers placed in each corner of the room. Three drum sets bordered the stage, all facing each other, alongside a gigantic tower of electric guitars, sawed flat at the ends and bracketed together with their necks sticking out on either side. Racks of electronics, percussion, keyboards, and amplifiers lined the circular setup, and the Fillmore’s lights landed squarely in the center of it all like a boxing ring. In other words: holy shit.
The Boredoms, one by one, entered through the crowd and climbed on stage, and all the lights went out—even the Fillmore’s purple chandeliers. Boredoms ringleader Yamatsuka Eye appeared with illuminated globes on his hands, and an unholy static ravaged the speakers, like an extraterrestrial message that flitted in and out of recognizance as Eye thrashed his arms around and around. His head tilted back towards the ceiling, and he repeatedly shouted something resembling “hello,” as if trying to contact life on other planes in the swarm of strange theremin-like hand noise.
Suddenly, three drummers simultaneously pounded a propulsive, hectic beat, and Eye worked an electronics board, adding more and more layers to the already thick sound. A slowly building crescendo built dramatically over the next six minutes, until Eye grabbed a five-foot staff and, with a sweeping, athletic motion, slammed it against the tower of electric guitars, striking all seven necks at once with a powerful, thundering curdle of distortion that shook the entire audience like the walls of Jericho. The drums raced on, and Eye flipped his dreadlocks around to shout more things to the sky, slamming himself upon the tower of guitars, and I’ll be damned if somewhere in the middle of it all I didn’t see the ceiling open up and the divine light of salvation fill the room.
This was no regular noise jam: throughout the set, a tight compositional structure was clear, despite the grand illusion of improvisational mania. Themes emerged, then disappeared, then re-emerged 20 minutes later. Yoshimi turned away from her drums and played keyboards, then sang, then turned back to her drums to participate in triple call-and-response drum fills while singing. Eye adjusted the capos placed on the guitars to create different notes, beating their strings individually in repeating patterns and hammering away at them collectively during climaxes with cymbals and vocals.
How does one react to this music? Many stared, agape and dumbfounded. Some threw their arms up and pumped their fists. Still others tried various forms of interpretive swirly-dancing, appropriately coinciding with the sounds swirling around all four corners of the room. I didn’t know how to react; I was mesmerized. When it ended, over an hour later, the crowd clapped and clapped and clapped and probably didn’t even want an encore—we all just needed to.
But the most amazing thing, I think, is that after a full set of Olympic gymnastics, after jumping and heaving and dancing, and after a beautiful encore that eventually came and closed the night out with appropriate serenity, Eye climbed off the stage and onto a pair of crutches, hobbling backstage. Can Eye really not walk, and could all of that energy and physical exertion really have come from a disabled man? Unbelievable.