Review: Boris soaks in 'Pink' at the Orpheum
It wasn’t that long ago that album performance shows largely seemed to be the territory of household names — your Bruce Springsteens and so forth.
Yet the demand for such concerts has grown so large, as has the vastness of the media landscape, that even Japanese avant-rockers Boris are doing a tour for the tenth anniversary of their album Pink, including a stop Thursday at the Orpheum in Tampa. (Technically it’s been 11 years since its initial release in Japan, but a decade since the U.S. re-release where it became most widely known.)
Eight years before Deafheaven’s Sunbather, Pink blended metal with shoegaze and other genres in a crossover success that landed on Pitchfork’s Top 10 for that year. It even did the atypically bright-colored cover art first.
The album’s sound reflects Boris’ diverse influences. The band’s name comes from a song by sludge-grunge-noise-metal legends the Melvins, who played the same venue only a few months ago.
So it makes sense to revisit Pink when in the decade since its release the audience for — and the definition of what constitutes — metal has grown larger. Opening act and Seattle drone pioneers Earth have been around long enough to know Kurt Cobain, but have had their greatest profile in recent years.
Indeed, director and arbiter of cool Jim Jarmusch included both bands in the soundtrack for his 2009 film The Limits of Control, putting them in the company of Tom Waits and Neil Young. He’s praised Boris in particular, saying in an interview with The Wire, “each time they play something, it’s obviously different, every time.”
The current show of Boris (who, clad in all-black and sporting long hair, resembled the vampire musicians of Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive) is perhaps less wide-ranging that it would normally be, as it largely adheres to one album. Luckily it’s a record that’s very diverse in its taste.
That’s evident from opener Farewell, where the gorgeous, dreamy intro gives way to guitar so gloriously noisy you can practically hear the song rumbling. The two-minute post-rock track My Machine is placed alongside the nearly twenty-minute feedback jam Just Abandoned Myself.
Yet Pink also remains a relatively accessible album, even more so live. There were enough fog machine blasts and exhortations for cheering that it was easy to imagine you were watching an arena rock show and not an avant-garde metal band.
Their live show was also a reminder of what a great guitar band they are. Takeshi plays a rock god-worthy double-necked bass and guitar, while Wata shredded on songs like Pink’s title track.
Though it was an album performance show, it wasn’t a straightforward run-through of the tracklist, with several songs played out of order. Album opener Farewell didn’t appear until nearly the end of their set, as something of a come-down after the epic record closer Just Abandoned Myself.
Yet that made for a more unpredictable and exciting setlist, and besides, a straightforward run-through wouldn’t have fit for such an idiosyncratic band. Let’s hope that when other bands do these album performance shows, they take notes.