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May 9, 2007
In my lifetime only one other live music performance was more wholly impressive than was Cornelius (aka The Cornelius Group) during their Monday night Sensuous Synchronized Show at Chicago's Park West Theater. While I've never seen Radiohead - everyone let out your collective groans - in my experience only the Flaming Lips have put together a more interesting collaboration of stunning visual elements and vibrant, gorgeous music than the Japanese one-man-band-turned-live-quartet, Cornelius.



Two days later, my only two complaints come in the form of things not controllable by the musicians themselves - shitty parking and gabbing frat boys. Upon resolving the situation posed by the former, LAS staffer Jon Burke and I stepped inside the theater to the vocal harmonies of "Smoke" from 2002's Point. A dense standing throng hugged the rim of the stage while more casual listeners sat in lounge seats across the dark bowl of a room, all parties transfixed on the sensory-stirring performance in front.



Onstage was a maze of people, instruments, and visual equipment, all synched together in a seamless theme of music and visual art. Each of the four players wore black & white striped tops and designer looking jeans. As far as instrumental formation goes, the four members were each multi-disciplined, panning from left to right: a synth/sample/auxiliary/backup vocals/guitar player; Keigo Oyamada playing guitar, percussion (wind chimes, maybe some shakers/woodblocks), theremin, and singing; a female drummer who also played the flute and finger bells; and a bassist who also sang and played guitar, chimes, and whatever else within reach that needed playing. The quartet often switched instruments between songs and kept the cliché rock setup at arm's length from what they were doing.

The hour+ set was peppered with core material from Cornelius' three main works, Fantasma, Point, and this year's Sensuous. New songs proved to be just as, if not more, enjoyable than older ones and throughout them all a vaulted level of technicality and bounciness kept the audience in a state of rapture. The set included tracks, among others: "Smoke," "Point of View Point," "Star Fruits Surf Rider," "Breezin'," "Wataridori," "Music," and "Count Five or Six."



There were three songs that seemed especially notable: "Fit Song," "Like A Rolling Stone," and "Sleep Warm," all from Sensuous. The loopy post-rock synth funk of "Fit Song" was accompanied by its music video being displayed on a large curtain behind the band; inanimate items of an apartment room coming to life and rhythmically dancing around and creating artistic screen formations. For the slow-rolling "Like A Rolling Stone" Oyamada controlled the video program, this time circling hundreds of small toys around each other, then changing the toys into rocks, all while zooming in and out. "Sleep Warm" was the encore closer, a soft jazzy ballad that was originally written by songwriters Alan & Marilyn Bergman and fit nicely as a cozy nightcap onto an evening of energetic, stylish rock music.

Other highlights included Oyamada letting the front row play an electronic sound pad, some guy being hoisted up on stage to play the theremin, creative lighting gear and sequences, and the omnipresent and intriguing if not amusing synched video footage. The Cornelius ensemble proved that even though they've been doing this for years, there are still ways to keep rock shows fresh and appealing without resorting to shock value or stealing another band's show.

SEE ALSO: www.cornelius-sound.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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