Though a near repeat of last year’s Bowery Ballroom show, this was still a bizarre, moving experience. After pushing art terrorism to its comical end, the Boredoms now confound audiences by taking a detour into traditional territory, digging up their Japanese roots in a gnostic ritual disguised as a rock show. Leader-singer-shaman Eye Yamataka stands alone at first, looking like a cross between Ben Franklin and a voodoo priest as he screams and twirls two mysterious orbs jolting electricity, seeming to trigger a MIDI device somewhere. Later, he charges center stage and indulges in cryptic chants and howls, triggering call-and-response chants from his bandmates and looped samples from his CD turntable machine.
By then, Eye had joined three drummers (yoshimi P-we, yo2ro, and Muneomi Senju) set up in a tightly knit circle so they face each other, not the audience. For the next hour or so, in what could be one seamless song, the drums ebb, flow, and phase-shift in and out at violently high speeds, occasionally breaking into rollicking climaxes, occasionally stretched out for too long. At times, the result evokes Taiko drumming, marching bands, funk, Latin disco, or gamelan and West African drum ensembles: Many Japanese today embrace the religious idea of syncretism, where many different beliefs are accepted at once, so that incantations of both John Philip Sousa and James Brown aren’t so alien. (Just ask the Residents.) But exhilarating as it was, the usual hipster bobblehead concert stance at Webster Hall made no sense—we should’ve been wildly gesturing and howling while bare-naked in our own huge circle.