Masayoshi Fujita – Colston Hall Foyer, Bristol

Wednesday 6th February, 2019

I had my eye on this one as soon as I started looking at 2019 listings. Something out of the ordinary, very much up my street. I waited, patiently, for the Culture Flash Sale and lo this gig was included, making a ticket less than £10.

While the main hall and the Lantern (oh how I miss you) are being refurbished Colston Hall are continuing to put on concerts around the City in partnership with other venues but they are also using their own foyer space. I’ve seen the foyer used a couple of times in daylight to good effect, so I knew that the sound would work, I just wasn’t sure about atmosphere or what it would be like at night. The sheer height and scale of the foyer might overwhelm and in that the intimacy of the music may be lost was my worry.

As this was to be a seated show I arrived early to claim a front row spot (being less than 5ft 1 means playing russian roulette with the view otherwise, all it takes is one tall person 3 rows in front of me and I’m spending the evening seeing nothing of the performer!) The front row was positioned very close to the stage, perhaps a little too close (move it a few inches back next time CH would be my advice) but cradling my decaff coffee (I am so rock n roll) I gulped and was brave.

Support came from Sean Addicott, Bristol based sound artist and composer, who ambled on quietly to play us his upcoming album Tapesleep. An extremely tall man, who looked slightly like he’d just been fishing (navy wool jumper with a sensible shirt underneath). I suppose, in a way, he fishes for music as this was a series of samples, loops and electronica played together through tape reels to make ambient sounds. Initially it felt like waking music, the gentle sounds of the day as you open your eyes in darkness and attempt to re-orientate yourself in space and time. Slowly it became faster and darker and I’m not sure emotionally where we were, but time floated past until the waves slowed back down and stopped. Sean set the scene nicely for what was to follow.

Masoyoshi plays the vibraphone. An instrument I’d never heard of, let alone seen played. Made of aluminium with large bars that are struck/beaten/caressed that hover above pipes were powered flaps open/close to create the vibrations that give it its name, it is certainly something different. If you played the chime bars at school (as I did a million years ago) and imagine them scaled up and hung over a metal organ frame you may have an idea of the sound. As Masoyoshi explained it is a fairly modern instrument and therefore one that gives him a great deal of creative freedom. A gentle, quiet soul, he painted little word pictures of each track to explain them and talked us through some of his playing techniques. Natural themes of wildlife and trees dominate his work, gentle ethereal sounds conjour up images of deer, mountains and beautiful landscapes in your mind as you listen. I found the music profoundly moving, almost haunting. With a mixture of beaters, cello bows, rows of beads and even tin foil, Masayoshi made the most sublime noises that filled the foyer with amazing sounds. Requiem was beautifully moving and Fog so evocative of gentle, rolling mist on a hillside that I felt utterly transported. It was lovely.

In the wrong hands I can imagine the vibraphone sounding clumsy and far too loud. In the controlled, dexterous hands of Masayoshi Fujita, it sounded vibrant, melodic and beautiful. The control he demonstrated, 2 beaters in each hand, each individually playing and caressing the bars at different rhythms and strengths was amazing. It was no surprise to read he trained as a percussionist first. Or that he is signed to Erased Tapes.

If you get the chance to experience seeing Masayoshi perform live, take it. If not, then buy his albums. They are lovely and listening to them now, while I write, I feel as relaxed and floaty as I did sat in Colston Hall foyer Wednesday night.


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