Onstage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Japanese House proves, once again, that she can deliver nothing but excellence.
It’s a Saturday night in December and Williamsburg is cold and oddly quiet. The streets are dark and the bars, which in the summer are bursting with energy and sound, seem to have lost part of their shine. A short walk from the L train is the Music Hall of Williamsburg, whose marquee reads “The Japanese House, SOLD OUT”. There’s a queue outside the venue and the atmosphere outside is of anticipation. This is where the people went.
The venue is packed long before The Japanese House steps onstage, and the crowd is a collage of people of all ages, hair colours, and walks of life. The pre-show playlist has the people swaying, but it’s ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” that turns the audience into one, and halfway into the first chorus everyone is singing together. The song fades out, the lights go dark, and The Japanese House’s “Count to Nine” turns everyone’s attention to the stage. Soon enough, Amber Bain, the woman behind the moniker, is onstage with her band.
Last time The Japanese House toured America, in March of 2017, she was 3 EPs into her career, and her band was comprised of her, a drummer, and a keyboardist/bassist. In the year and some months that went by, she’s released another EP, Saw You in a Dream, recorded and announced her debut album Good at Falling, played an arena tour in the UK in support of labelmates The 1975, and expanded her live band. All of this experience is clear as Bain greets the crowd, more confident and happier than ever.
The show is kicked off with “Face Like Thunder”, the lead single off The Japanese House’s third EP, Swim Against the Tide, and followed by “Somebody You Found”, off Saw You in a Dream. Bain’s onstage presence is magnetic, giving you the kind of joy you can only get by watching someone you admire do and excel at something they really love. Her now-expanded live band adds a new dimension to the live renditions of the songs, harmonies are more vivid and colourful, and the energy that flows from stage is one of happiness, confidence, and camaraderie.
The setlist floats between all of Bain’s releases, with a slightly heavier focus on the material from Bain’s two latest EPs. However, there are no better moments in the set than when the songs from Good at Falling are played and teased. The first tease comes with “You Seemed So Happy”, an unreleased, upbeat, guitar-driven track that has everyone dancing and singing along by the end of its first chorus. The emotional lead single “Lilo” follows, and the song finds new life onstage with its heartbreaking lyrics almost moving you to tears. “Follow My Girl”, the album’s second single, comes next, and everyone is back to dancing. The latter really shines live, with Bain exchanging perfect harmonies with keyboardist Cicely Cotton and bassist Kamran Khan, and adding dynamism and life to the song’s various vocal layers. The album’s final piece comes in “Maybe You’re the Reason”, a song that features Bon Iver-like vocals and an infectious chorus.
“Clean”, one of The Japanese House’s most beautiful songs, closes the show, which ends without an encore. The night is over and there’s an overwhelming feeling of wanting more, because truly there can never be enough of The Japanese House in one’s life. Returning to the stage after so long can be daunting, but The Japanese House is more mature, confident, and her new music sounds better than ever. There’s no better way to spend a cold Saturday night than at a Japanese House concert, and every time she does something new, Amber Bain proves that there is no limit to her greatness. After such an exciting and excellent 2018, we’ll gladly watch as The Japanese House takes over the world in 2019.
📸 © Nicole Almeida