Live Last Night: Ghost

ghost

Live Last Night

The Summer of Love came late to Japan, whose late 1960s were marked by violent protests. Once psychedelia arrived, however, it settled in. Ghost, the Tokyo sextet that performed Sunday night at the Velvet Lounge, has been playing acid-washed music for 25 years, with no signs of burnout. On its first U.S. tour since 2002 -- frontman Masaki Batoh took a dislike to George W. Bush -- the band encompassed mystical drones, metal thunder, Celtic folk and free jazz.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Supplemented by Philadelphia-based cellist Helena Espvall, Ghost began with a long improvisation that moved from gentle bleating to percussive clatter. The concert featured several other extended instrumental passages, including one that showcased Taishi Takizawa's saxophone. But there were also more traditional songs, sung by the wispy Batoh in a formidable baritone, as well as rave-ups dominated by Michio Kurihara's guitar heroics.

Like many improvisational outfits, Ghost warmed up slowly, and had barely reached orbit before Batoh halted the hour-long set. Fortunately, the band returned for two lively encore numbers, ending with "Comin' Home,'' an endorsement of Tibetan independence. If the lyrics were indistinct, the groove was substantial.

The Magik Markers, who preceded Ghost, also opened with a drone piece. Yet the bulk of the bicoastal duo's material was unbluesy blues-rock, in the manner of Sonic Youth. Where singer-guitarist Elisa Ambrogio and drummer Pete Nolan once specialized in noisy outbursts, their current style is more song-oriented. Reflecting the sound of their new "Balf Quarry,'' the twosome (plus a guest bassist) ranged from stompers to lullabies, cogently balancing control and aggression.

--MARK JENKINS

By David Malitz |  May 11, 2009; 5:11 PM ET Live Last Night
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