Cibo Matto plays at Lincoln Hall on Thursday, July 14, 2011.
Photo: Simon Brubaker
“You know why we love Chicago?” Miho Hatori asks. “Because we love the music from here! R. Kelly.”
She goes on to imitate Kells in her endearingly awkward fashion, and everyone in Lincoln Hall devours it.
Hatori and Yuka Honda are rock stars tonight, and visibly flattered. I think Hatori is fibbing a bit when she explains Cibo Matto’s affinity for the Windy City. This city is about as welcoming as it gets when it comes to touring bands.
We love music in Chicago, almost invariably, and Cibo Matto feeds our zealous appetite in ways that other bands simply cannot. They are fearlessly eclectic, swapping slow-jams with head-bangers from song to song, only stopping to thank the crowd for its palpable generosity. In short, they must love Chicago because we are friendly and eager.
Cibo Matto’s show embodies everything I love about the Beastie Boys. Miho and Yuka are original in every sense of the word, pragmatic in their approach, absurd in their humor and musically all over the place—all without losing their audience for a single measure. When their live rhythm section materializes mid-song, I am pleasantly stunned for all of ten seconds. It makes sense that this charming, talented pair of Japanese expats would pull a fast one like that.
The crowd is about as eclectic as the set-list. The majority seem to represent the band’s '90s fan-base. Nostalgia is thick in the air. Despite being five years old when Viva! La Woman dropped, I can sense the ghost of a brighter time in Lincoln Hall. While the country might be in an economic k-hole now, I can’t help but feel like our cultural pendulum is swinging back in the right direction. If Cibo Matto’s performance meant anything tonight, it proved that two Japanese women can pack one of Chicago’s best venues with songs about food and… well, just food, mostly. And that, to me, is significant. At the very least, Lincoln Hall was full of optimism tonight, and a refreshing kind of openness toward music—music for music’s sake—that stays with you all the way home in this snobby climate.