The Cornelius Band @ Metro, Chicago, IL – 1/28/08

I wake up every morning and sigh when the realization sets in about how late this review is. Procrastination has become my mistress and I’m starting to feel guilty. This all started back around 2000 when I saw Cornelius on an HBO special. It was a pretty good performance for a tv show, so when LMB got me on the list for their latest Chicago gig, I jumped at the chance. Then inertia set in and this review became harder and harder to write, mostly because memory is a malleable device — there’s some concern that my account had become completely fictional. For the most part, I think this is accurate, though.

So I got to the Metro and the opening act seemed to fly by. Nothing terrible, but not much remembered either. Ultimately, everyone in the house was there to see Cornelius, as evidenced by this exchange during one of the tuning breaks:

heckler: Why did the stegosaurus cross the road?
band: I don’t know.
heckler: I bet that Cornelius knows!

My vote for heckle of the year. I think the genius lies in the subtlety — in this case, we’re not completely putting down the artist, but saying that the headliner is better. Still degrading, yes, but whatever.


So on to the Cornelius Group. There’s always an excitement when a band sets up behind a curtain. It’s vaguely Christmas-esque; standing there waiting to see what you’ve got. This being the multimedia show that it is, we were treated to some projections on the curtain. The tension is still building and building as the audience waits for the show to start. Then our first track – a cover of the Mario Bros. theme. The audience chuckled with nostalgia and then we were off into the set.

First observation: every musician on stage has wind chimes, and would use them to delineate the songs in a dreamy transition sort of way. Everything was looking and sounding great, and I was just enjoying the ride. It wasn’t until they launched into “Gum” that I realized just how synced the video was with the music — here we had a collage of mouths all singing along with the live track.

Cornelius – Gum (Live) [YouTube]

It’s not just about a perfectly choreographed show though, there was also audience participation. At one point, he passed around an electronic box with buttons so that the audience could choose their own samples to play; at another point, he dragged an audience member up on stage and showed him how to play the theremin. That guy was then showered with confetti, given a lei, and sent back into the audience. This dichotomy of practiced precision and spontaneous improvisation is a great pairing, and coupled with a strong visual and aural presentation, i was left with the feeling of an experience rather than just a performance.

Afterwards, I played a brief game of phone tag and met up with Courtney, the label rep who facilitated the whole evening. We went backstage, where we chatted for a bit. The group backstage consisted mostly of a group of high school superfans who were going to spend the rest of the night driving back to Michigan. I got to meet the artist and was introduced to some other music bloggers and local radio personalities. The rest of the night was spent scoffing at the (at the time) newly announced Coachella lineup and extolling the merits of Spiritualized.

So there, Justin. This review has finally been written and you can stop nagging me now. Until next time.

All photos © Mathew Imaging; all rights reserved

  • http://www.thehothits.com Listen Music Life

    I wish I could have heard that heckle that kind of thing really tickles my funny bone.

    PS. The second photo of the girl with the bubbles is awesome.

  • http://www.thehothits.com Listen Music Life

    I wish I could have heard that heckle that kind of thing really tickles my funny bone.

    PS. The second photo of the girl with the bubbles is awesome.

  • Jim

    Saw Cornelius in ’99 and during the Point tour, great shows. The synchronization appeared effortless, not mechanical, and the first time out, I was astounded to see Oyamada play guitar and theremin simultaneously on a song I though had double-tracked guitar. I think the major flaw is too many people expecting something different because they never really knew his music before. Seems that lately, the live shows are more quiet and blissful, but I’m fine with that; I personally enjoy his broader range, however. When i first saw the band, the bassist looked like a young teen. No idea who is in the group apart from Oyamada. No idea why he hasn’t had a greater following outside of Japan, either.

  • Jim

    Saw Cornelius in ’99 and during the Point tour, great shows. The synchronization appeared effortless, not mechanical, and the first time out, I was astounded to see Oyamada play guitar and theremin simultaneously on a song I though had double-tracked guitar. I think the major flaw is too many people expecting something different because they never really knew his music before. Seems that lately, the live shows are more quiet and blissful, but I’m fine with that; I personally enjoy his broader range, however. When i first saw the band, the bassist looked like a young teen. No idea who is in the group apart from Oyamada. No idea why he hasn’t had a greater following outside of Japan, either.