Shigeto haunts Vancouver at the historic Imperial

Shigeto with Ela Minus at the Imperial, 11/18/17

Photo courtesy of The Snipe News

Shigeto and Ela Minus performed the last show of their tour in Vancouver on Saturday (Nov. 18). The psychedelic experience evoked a myriad of emotions, including melancholy, confusion, and awe. However, one thing was certain: the amount of respect that filled up the 6,000-square foot space was immeasurable.

At the recently-renovated Imperial, the walls have eyes. warrior sculptures adorn them, watching in silence as the Chinese-theatre-turned-boutique-venue was saturated on a cold November night. If those walls could talk, they would be speechless at the spectacle they were about to witness.

Purple spotlights illuminated the small figure of Gabriela Jimeno, aka Ela Minus. Her synthesizer was etched with the words “Bright Music for Dark Times,” an appropriate description for her musical endeavour, as her high-pitched voice intermingled with ominous bass tones and sinister hums, juxtaposed with cheerful melodic harmonies. Within minutes of her commencing her set with “I Wish I Had a hHat” from her album Adapt, the crowd gravitated towards the stage, her soothing voice entrancing them.

Interestingly, the Brooklyn-based artist used to detest the sound of her own voice, until she learned to embrace and distort it. As the tempo increased with songs like “Kiddo” from First Words, so did the concert-goers’ enthusiasm as more of them fluctuated closer, their bodies swaying with her infectious energy. By the time the Columbian modestly curtsied off the stage, the dance floor was packed.

As the purple lights continued to illuminate a lone drum-set and synthesizers, the crowd thickened along with the suspense in the atmosphere. Finally, 35-year-old Zach Saginaw emerged, wearing a black sweater and black toque, smiling as he began to manipulate the synthesizer into producing ambient sounds resembling twinkling glass. High-pitched instrumentals and vertical blue flickering lights created an ephemeral musical jungle that entrapped the audience in a state of utter wonder. When the Michigan-born musician moved towards the drum-set, gasps emerged from the crowd: this was the moment everyone was waiting for. As his improvised drumming began, one could see that he was already immersed in the beats, eyes closed: Shigeto was in his element.

As if feeding off the breaths, he began drumming along to “Pulse” from Intermission, its chilling electronic melodies and vibraphone chimes launching the audience into a dance frenzy. Repeatedly abusing his cymbals and bass drums, perched upon his throne, Shigeto was the embodiment of his name: growing bigger. Already drenched in sweat, Shigeto gave a shout-out to Ela Minus and introduced himself, “it’s great to be back here playing for you. Hope you guys enjoy this!” Blue swirls resembling nuclear symbols twirled overhead on the curtains as the percussions echoed over the wavering synthesizers for “Ringleader” from No Better Time than Now. The record itself was born out of his desire to embrace the present moment after ending a six-year-relationship and turning 30. Zach believes that the most important thing in life is to be honest with yourself, and to never sleep on a feeling. Indeed, the song’s polyphonies combined with red hues along the back curtains instilled a sense of unease, perhaps symbolizing an internal state of urgency.

“Barry White” from his new album The New Monday was a vibrant, beat-heavy song featuring rapper ZelooperZ vocals (muted live). Pink floodlights flickered in unison with each strike, and even shy people in the audience quivered with the tune. His Michigan jazz influences were evident in songs like “Perfect Crime” from No Better Time than Now as well as “Detroit Part 2” from The New Monday, his fans’ screams cheering him on as he wiped the droplets of sweat off his face with his white t-shirt. With songs like “Don’t Trip” from The New Monday forcing the drummer to attain an almost impossible level of physical exertion due to the intensified percussions, it is a wonder how he survived the show.

He ended the set with the tranquil “R Life,” sending fans to the edge of their musical jazz journey, or as one fan called it, a “spiritual awakening.”

Shigeto’s hard work and extreme commitment to his art is evident, and his concert was an inspiration to many to make the most of every breath. A New Monday is arriving. The question is: what will you do with it?