Sometimes you experience a live music show that is so electrifying, you bounce out of bed the next morning with a whole lot of zest, still buzzing from the night. Osaka Monaurail delivered that type of unforgettable show last night, kicking off their Australian tour in the iconic Brisbane venue ‘The Triffid’, located on the outskirts of live music and party district Fortitude Valley.
Having formed in 1992 at Osaka University, Japan’s premiere Funk Orchestra have been thrilling audiences with their funk show for almost 27 years, their current line up together for over a decade. Though the band are no strangers to Australia, having toured here twice before, this was Osaka Monaurail‘s first time in sunny Brisbane.
Here in Brisbane we’re a laid back bunch, but as I was standing near the door at 8:01, people were already waiting to get inside with someone even asking me eagerly ‘do you think we can go in yet?’. A few minutes later when the red rope partition had been removed and the door was opened, those earliest to the show were welcomed with a DJ set by Chikashi (Japan), and Ravi, spinning up some funky tunes. As people of all ages continued to trickle in, one thing seemed certain: good funk music makes people smile.
The upbeat vibes continued as Brisbane’s Kerbside Collection jumped on stage for an instrumental set, playing a blend of originals and covers. Their cover of Amerie’s “One Thing” had the crowd pumped up, before they invited a guest vocalist on stage to close the set for a powerful performance.
DJ’s Chikashi and Ravi returned to the decks before Osaka Monaurail took to the stage, each member taking their place on stage with their instrument in one hand and a friendly wave in the other. They got straight into it with an upbeat instrumental number. The audience were treated to solo’s straight away before the trio on tenor sax, trumpet and trombone moved to the front of the stage, sharing a mic as they shared harmonies, the rhythm section backing them up.
After some funky tunes and solos that had me on the edge of my proverbial seat, Shimon Mukai on tenor sax moved to the front of the stage, turning his back to the audience to conduct the band, signalling for the tune to end, which it does in perfect precision.
Then Ryo hit the stage, turning it up to 11 with his funk vocal stylings and dance moves. The brass section were now dancing in tandem, twirling their instruments. Everyone is having so much fun. ‘We’re gonna have a good time.’ says Ryo, addressing his Brisbane crowd. ‘We’re gonna have a good FUNKY time’.
It’s immediately easy to see why Ryo has been described as ‘Cho (ちょう) Funk God’ as he commands the stage with his authentic funk vocals and dance moves, entertaining the crowd with his banter alongside vocal call and responses. The nine-piece outfit performs with such musicality and precision, whilst delivering a show that feels spontaneous and natural.
As the band take it back to the 60’s, the crowd dances even harder. Then Ryo jumps on the keys for some smooth jazz. This time, the sound mellows into some tasty chord progressions and solos before switching back to that irresistible danceable funk.
Ryo went on to introduce the band members before asking the crowd if they were feeling genki. Cheers of ‘GENKI DESU!!’ were cried, before the band moved into some more James Brown.
As Ryo jumped on the keys again, the tenor sax player took center stage, soloing to Ray Charles ‘Hard Times’. It was a special moment with people swaying with their eyes closed, in a state of pure joy. I decided to close my eyes as well, discovering this was indeed the best way to enjoy this beautiful performance. By this stage, over an hour had passed and we were reaching the end of the night. With not a dull moment in the set, it felt like five minutes had passed.
What was to be the final song of the set ‘Fruit Basket’, taken from their 2014 record “Riptide”, was a crowd pleaser and as the band members exited the stage, the crowd immediately yelled for an encore, their screams were deafening!
Once the band returned to their positions on stage, Ryo gave a heartfelt thanks to the crowd and had a bit of a chat before playing two final numbers, a relaxed, downbeat tune from 1971, and an energetic tune with the works: huge guitar solos, scat singing, choreographed dance moves and a whole lot of funk.
In what I thought was a special touch, right away after Osaka Monaurail finished playing, they went straight to their merch table, giving their fans a chance to meet them and have a chat.
Whether you’re a funk aficionado or just like to have a good time, you can catch Osaka Monaurail performing the remainder of their tour dates here.
Photo by Bruce Baker