by Oscar Medina
Think of Daft Punk's live visual and auditory performance and you have an inkling of what you missed in not seeing Cornelius at The Fillmore this weekend. Cornelius, aka Keigo Oyamada, is an avant-garde/electro rock band from Japan that has been making experimental, lush, exploratory rock for more than a decade. They have been a stalwart centerpiece of the thriving Japanese avant-rock scene, and Friday's night's mind-blowing audiovisual performance proved why a genre as misunderstood and maligned by the masses can convert even those with the most populist taste in music.
A massive curtain shrouded the band's presence as Cornelius hit the stage and playfully began a set that drew hollers from the crowd and an unveiling of a light and video stage that looked like something from Pink Floyd's The Wall Tour. A gigantic video projector, chimes, bells, so many electronic synths and gadgets that someone must've run up a large tab on their Guitar Center account, and light beams emanated from the back of the stage.
Light and video shows have been done in rock 'n' roll since someone first took a hit of LSD and listened to his favorite band. The difference in Cornelius' case is that the videos themselves work as a necessary counterpoint to the performance. The video content consisted of everything from migratory birds flying over a city, stop-motion animation graphics, walking fingers that look like humans, and mash-ups of every imaginable pop culture reference from Sesame Street to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's no wonder Cornelius mentioned that his inspiration on this tour was to create a rock performance of Disney's Fantasia.
The band members were all dressed in dark pants, white button-ups, and skinny ties that made them look like Japanese exports at a 1970s Downtown NYC art show. We were treated to a 90 minute set that drew largely from his latest record, Sensuous. For being tagged as experimental rock, Cornelius definitely has a pop sensibility that has gained new fans while still retaining the atonal dissonance that keeps hardcore devotees around.
After what had obviously been an amazing performance, the band's encore brought the house with a classic from their early discography, "Point-Counter-Point", a chugging indie-Kraut hybrid. As we walked into the crisp SF night, the satisfaction palpable in the air, and the knowing glances from other attendees just confirmed what had obviously been a special night.