It’s hard to not instantly fall for Shonen Knife’s charm as they emerge on the fuschia-lit main stage of the Brudenell, sporting matching striped tunics and unwavering smiles. The Osaka three-piece return to Leeds for the first time in two years; if the turnout wasn’t telling enough, it’s quickly clear that they deserve their legendary status: a pop-ish punk band famously admired by the likes of Nirvana and Sonic Youth. Despite their 37-year long career and 19 studio albums, the group still exude youth and unadulterated joy throughout the entire set.
Opening with the fun, upbeat ‘Pop Tune’, Shonen Knife engage their audience right away – a spell that doesn’t fade throughout the show. They continue in this cheesy, almost child-like spirit, devoting a considerable proportion of their set to food, with kazoo-featuring ‘All You Can Eat’ and ‘Sushi Bar’ arousing most crowd participation. 40+ year old men are reduced to pre-teen fandom before the trio – a bizarre effect that even Kurt Cobain once admitted to experiencing. Accompanied by steady smiles and co-ordinated dance moves, from vigorous hair-swishing to synchronised swaying for the more mellow ‘Green Tangerine’, it is clear that these ladies do not take themselves too seriously.
Yet despite the novelty of the animated performance and whimsical lyrics—all of which is delivered in a very self-aware way— Shonen Knife’s craft demands respect. The set is something of a pick-and-mix from their extensive back catalogue, interweaving early hits with their newest material: a fusion of sweet ‘60s-girl-band-esque backing vocals, serious shredding and punchy drums. The music is occasionally broken up with exclamations of gratitude and short anecdotes, including which of the famous Pieminister pies they enjoyed earlier in the evening.
For the encore, the band return to the stage clad in their own merch- a perfect accompaniment to anthemic track ‘Rock N Roll T-Shirt’. It is an ending that reinforces both their tongue-in-cheek temperament and their hold on the audience.
Not only do Shonen Knife live up to their reputation as musicians, they put on an unforgettable live performance which carries a great atmosphere. Shonen Knife are loveable and a real joy to watch.
Image credit: Kayleigh Mai Hinsley