Japan's Cornelius Wows Tokyo With Uniquely Visual 'Mellow Waves' Concert

Ryo Tanahashi 


Cornelius and his band performed Oct. 8 at the Tokyo International Forum Hall A as part of the Mellow Waves Tour 2018.

Going to a Cornelius show isn't just about enjoying live music; it's about taking in a distinctly unique audio and visual experience, including innovative visual effects and lighting. As today's market for live music continues to expand, the importance of visual tricks and twists to accompany live performances has grown as well, but Cornelius -- the solo project of Keigo Oyamada -- has been integrating music and visual effects in his concerts for over a decade and is a pioneer in this regard.

As expected, Cornelius' aesthetic and the band's skilled performance were effectively presented through the seamlessly synchronized music and visuals at the Tokyo show.

Opening with the rearranged intro of "If You're Here" from the 2017 album Mellow Waves, the extensive set spanned Oyamada's career from the groundbreaking 1997 FANTASMA album to his latest release last month, Ripple Waves. Tracks from Mellow Waves were featured in key points throughout the concert, infusing it with the psychedelic and ambient atmosphere of Cornelius's first studio album in 11 years. 

The band -- Yuko Araki on drums, Hirohisa Horie on guitar/keyboards, and Yumiko Ono on bass/synthesizer -- had played about 40 shows with him for the past year, since the release of Mellow Waves, and their precision was highlighted by the visual effects and lighting projected in sync with their performance. 

While they are all incredibly talented musicians involved in many other bands and projects, their collective identity as the "Cornelius band" resulted in a kind of freshness not seen in their other endeavors. While they otherwise work as independent artists, they were required to deliver something entirely unique for this project. In that sense, the concert was also a big moment for the band as well, though presented under the Cornelius name.

Musically, the genre-defying set included elements of pop, rock, punk, heavy metal, Brazilian sounds, electronica and ambient noise. The climax of the show featured his hit number "STAR FRUITS SURF RIDER" with a theremin solo during the bridge, and the mesmerizing "If You're Here" that Cornelius himself has described as being "weirdly difficult to play."

The tempo of the instruments in "If You're Here" are all slightly off, and the challenge of performing this complex song live had been pointed out since the tour began in 2017. At the Tokyo show, the band nailed the performance in terms of technique while also expressing the emotion of the rare Cornelius love song, and the audience shared the culmination of the year-long tour with the performers onstage.

Cornelius and his band presented cutting-edge innovation, fusing live music and visual expression during the main set and captivating the audience through their artistry as rock musicians.