Cornelius – Concert Review – New York, Jan. 26, 2008

Webster Hall, New York – The musician and soundscape wizard Keigo Oyamada, better known as Cornelius (named after a character in “Planet of the Apes”), brought his “Sensuous Synchronized Show” to Webster Hall on Saturday night. The packed audience braved the harsh elements to enjoy a music, light and video extravaganza that proves this artist to be the most inventive musicians around.

“Sensuous” was the correct word to describe this show, since Cornelius and his group immersed the packed crowd in lively sights and sounds that drew from a dizzying array of elements: loud guitars, pop-art colors, samples of found sounds and pop-culture ephemera. Cornelius also made it an interactive experience, inviting an audience member to the stage to play the theremin during the performance of the Hawaiian music-tinged “Brand New Season,” and passing around a sampler box for the crowd to play.

The visuals for the show incorporated music videos for his set, which drew from full-length albums Fantasma, Point and Sensuous, as well as his latest EP, Gum. These videos and visuals, which are meticulously synchronized with the band’s performance, are playful creations (in which Cornelius himself rarely appears) that often feature animated household objects and bright colors. Children often appear in them, which is quite appropriate since the videos make use of child-like concepts. In “Tone Twilight Zone,” a hand walks on two fingers across various backgrounds. In “Music,” a group of children playing instruments are refracted and multiplied, with mirror images of their ears and fingers floating across the green landscape.

Although this integration of visuals and performance would seem to leave little room for improvisation or spontaneity, Cornelius and his superb group of musicians nevertheless are able to create a feeling of excitement and intense interaction with the audience. The electronic and sampled sounds are seamlessly melded with guitars, bass and liberal use of wind chimes, which give the sound a lightness and charm that eliminates the usual chilliness of much electronic-based music.

Cornelius’ music has been described as an “acquired taste,” an assessment with which I’d have to strongly disagree. If anything, his songs are eminently accessible, and his solo studio creations are greatly enhanced in live performance. The warm, and often raucous, crowd reaction to the concert is overwhelming proof. At the end of the show, Cornelius and his group sent us off back into the cold night, telling us to “Sleep Warm,” his words floating over the image of a sleeping baby, our eyes and ears slowly recovering from his wild, exhilarating multi-sensory experience.

Click here for Meniscus Magazine’s exclusive interview with Cornelius.