Let me take you back to sometime between 2001 and 2003. I was working in a second-hand CD shop in Portsmouth while I was a university student, and most of my wages used to go on CDs, DVDs and games. One day I came across this CD:
I had no idea what it was but, attracted to the cover, I played a little bit and was instantly hooked. I loved the quirky sounds of all of the tunes on Cibo Matto’s ‘Viva! La Woman’ (released in 1996), especially the hypnotising ‘Sugar Water’ and the shouty ‘Birthday Cake’. Sometime later I picked up Cibo Matto’s other album, ‘Stereo ★ Type A’ (released in 1999) and fell in love with that too.
Cibo Matto (which means ‘crazy food’ in Italian) are a New York-based band formed by two Japanese women, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori and, although I didn’t know it until recently, Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with the Japanese name Taro Ono / 小野 太郎) was also a member of the band for a while. The band weren’t active between 2002 and 2011, but I still continued to listen to their two albums.
Around ten years after I first heard of Cibo Matto, I was casually reading an email from the Southbank Centre in London about the upcoming Meltdown curated by Yoko Ono, when I noticed that Cibo Matto were playing! Even though I’m living in Bristol now and it’s harder for me to go to London for gigs, I knew I had to go!
The gig was last Saturday night and I was dead excited. Cibo Matto came on at about 8.20, after the support band, Woodpecker Wooliams, who were really good. They opened with ‘Beef Jerky’, a classic from their first album, followed by my favourite track ‘Sugar Water’, and then launched into life when the rest of the band joined the stage during ‘Spoon’.
The first surprise guest on stage was Sean Lennon – and this is when I learnt that he used to be a member of the band! He joined in the vocals on ‘Moonchild’, and came back on stage later to play guitar. The gig ended with the very energetic ‘Birthday Cake’, and Sean Lennon returned to the stage to join in the jump-fest. It was honestly like Cibo Matto had never gone away and had such a long break – there’s no question that they are back with a capital B.
Of course, there was an encore. Starting with ‘Working for Vacation’, they then went into ‘Know Your Chicken’, and were joined on stage by none other than Yoko Ono herself! I have to say, Yoko Ono is a bit of a fruit loop, but she’s amazing for her age (just turned 80 this year!) and certainly brought a lot of energy to the stage. It was just incredible to be able to say “I’ve seen Yoko Ono live”.
We weren’t actually allowed to take pictures during the show, so I resisted temptation and left my lovely big camera in my bag. However, when Yoko came on everyone got their cameras and phones out, so I tried a few snaps on my phone. I was too far back though, so the quality is not that good. In the picture below you can see Yuka Honda on the left on keyboards, Yoko Ono in the red jacket in the middle, Miho Hatori in a New York dress on the right, Yuko Araki on drums, and Jared Samuel on bass guitar and backing vocals. If you want to see some decent pictures from the gig, the official Meltdown photos are here.
Music-wise Cibo Matto were flawless. They had energy, and everything sounded great. The crowd could have been livelier, but the seated format of the Queen Elizabeth Hall didn’t help that. One of my favourite tracks of the night was ‘Sci’Fi Wasabi’, which they changed quite a bit from the original. It had a much simpler beat and sounded awesome!
Incredibly, the whole gig is available on YouTube at the moment! I don’t know how long it will be there for, but it is the official Southbank channel so maybe it’s there to stay. Check it out:
Cibo Matto mentioned that they will be releasing a new album later this year called ‘Tenth Floor Ghost Girl’, which is really exciting news. They played a few tracks from the new album, including ‘Mother Fucking Nature’ and ‘Check In’. They sounded great – still very ‘Cibo Matto’-sounding, but a little darker.
At the end of the gig they said they would be heading out to the lobby to sign stuff, but I didn’t think I would have a chance to actually meet them. Amazingly I did though, and it was brief but brilliant! ありがとう Cibo Matto!
Find out more about Cibo Matto on their official website and look out for the new album later this year!