Sporadic showers and behind-schedule buses didn’t stop dedicated Cibo Matto fans, many of whom have been devotedly following them since the late-90’s, from flocking to Slim’s on Wednesday to witness the colorful comeback of the East Coast duo. The night started off with an exceptional performance from Salt Cathedral (previously known as Il Abanico), a four-piece band from Brooklyn.
If God created the universe with a synthesizer, sounds of nature would be near identical to Salt Cathedral’s music. Vocalist Juliana Ronderas sang with a breathy voice reminiscent of Ellie Goulding and with a slight tinge of Dolores O’Riordan’s Gaelic lilting; it was an ethereal fusion that easily elicited head-bobbing. For the quality of their music, they were received quite tepidly, likely due to the highly anticipated appearance of headliners that were to follow. The scene was exemplified by a female attendee who looked around at the lukewarm crowd and exclaimed incredulously, “What the fuck? They’re good!”
Despite the general lack of enthusiasm in the audience, Salt Cathedral ended on a strong note with “Move Along,” a somewhat spiritual chant (“I will move along to the beat of the drums, beat of the drums”) built on a soft yet enticing beat that galvanizes your foot to tap along.
The set change between felt like an eternity, but the torturous wait seemed worth it once Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda made their entrance. Miho looked like an undercover celebrity in sunglasses, and Yuka presented herself with a mighty cool and an asymmetrical bob. They were joined onstage by drummer Yuko Araki, who was the newest addition to the band, and touring bassist Jared Samuel.
Cibo Matto’s return, following a decade-long sabbatical, became real when the beginning riff of “Sugar Water” permeated the anticipatory air. From gentle sways side-to-side to concussion-inducing head-banging, the variety of movements in the crowd was evidence enough of the vivacity and excitement that fans had been reserving for this very moment. There wasn’t a still body to be seen. The band played a balanced survey of their entire discography, sandwiching trip-hop-influenced tracks from their delightfully strange debut album, Viva! La Woman, between songs from their more jazzy Stereo*Type A and their most recent Hotel Valentine. Every song was completed by the signature swagger and charismatic stage presence of frontwoman Miho. Twenty years of experience was evident through the ardent response from long-time devotees; a man yelled, “Hisashiburi,” amid the set, to which she giggled and replied, “Long time, no see.”
One of the many highlights of the show occurred when an unrecognizable beat began to play, initiating anticipatory murmurs throughout the crowd. The brief confusion quickly dispelled, as Hatori broke out into the opening lines of “Sci-Fi Wasabi” (“What’s up B? Wa-sa-bi”). Animated elation spread like a wildfire, as the throng of people began to shout along.
Finally, they announced their last verse, “Empty Pool,” and, much to the dismay of everyone, left the stage. But within minutes, the zealous bunch was able to scream and clap Cibo Matto back for more. Clad in their Hotel Valentine merchandise, they reappeared for “Housekeeping,” from their latest album, and “Birthday Cake,” a classic from their repertoire of crazy ’90s food songs. A prime choice to end the night, Miho Hatori yelled, “Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!” as witnesses of this great throwback jumped maniacally to the beat and sang along in a final hurrah. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdl-LIH1XgM With a promise to return and compliments to the San Franciscan cuisine, Cibo Matto wrapped up their historical return to the Bay Area. Yuka and Miho made their way over to the merchandise booth to meet and greet their admirers who have been waiting for their second coming for years. Judging by the swarms of followers who rushed to surround the tiny table, Cibo Matto definitely did not dash any hopes that night. Article by Linda Choi, photos by Ning De-Eknamul