Shonen Knife / Chrysalis 48 - Live in Osaka (Cover Artwork)

Shonen Knife / Chrysalis 48

Live in Osaka (2012)

live show

This live performance by Osaka Ramones (a.k.a. Shonen Knife) was the climax to a weekend-long event that coincided with the anniversary of Johnny Ramone's passing. Aside from this gig there was also an exhibition of Ramones artifacts, a talk on the Ramones' history in Japan and film screenings (Too Tough to Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone, End of the Century, Rock 'n' Roll High School).

I missed the first support band but arrived in time for the second, although by the end of their set I was wishing I'd arrived even later. Chrysalis 48 are a Japanese punk band–I assume local–fronted by a small woman, which is maybe enough of a quirk to provide them with some level of popularity, but they're let down by a sloppy drummer, who stopped playing twice during the set, and a poor bassist, whose terrible backing vocals drowned out the lead singer. They played a four-song set, including two Ramones covers, and then came back on for an encore, which was bizarre, considering they were a support band and their encore was a song they'd just played five minutes earlier. Live shows in Japan can be a strange experience for the uninitiated.

I didn't enjoy Chrysalis 48, so it was a pleasure when Shonen Knife took to the stage and began their set. They played tracks from their Ramones tribute album (released last year) and highlights included "Rock ‘N' Roll High School," "Rockaway Beach" and "The KKK Took My Baby Away." All three members of the band shared vocal duties and played with big, beaming smiles, cranking the bubblegum factor to 10.

Each cover was faithful to the original for the most part, but the girls added some extra vocal melodies here and there; there was definitely a cuteness you won't find in the originals. Guitarist/vocalist Naoko Yamano didn't attempt Johnny Ramone's buzzsaw technique, choosing to strum the chords lightly instead, but the band still produced an impressively big sound. They looked a lot like the Ramones as well, sporting leather jackets and straight black hair with a Ramones fringe.

Unfortunately there was no stage, so they played on the same level as the audience, meaning only the people at the front or those stood on chairs at the side could see properly. The fans at the front went wild though, singing along and pumping fists to songs like "Blitzkrieg Bop." Towards the end, three fans took to the stage with "Gabba Gabba Hey" placards they'd pinched from the Ramones exhibition in the next room (I'm pretty sure this was planned).

It's not often that Shonen Knife perform as Osaka Ramones, but their tribute act is tight, cute and fun.