My favorite Japanese album of 2011 sounds even better live. “Magnetic Soil,” the eighth album from self-described death-jazz act Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, further proved that this Tokyo-based sextet belongs in a class all its own.

However, it was the way the band performed their new material live that really set them apart from other acts this year. With record companies paranoid over falling profits, music performance has become increasingly formulaic: Open with hit. Climb on speaker for guitar solo. Thank crowd. Two-song encore. Edit. Sell recording of the whole thing.

Soil’s show at Shibuya AX in Tokyo on Nov. 6 reaffirmed for me how important concerts are for a music act. The way the group connected with the audience during the performance was electrifying. There was a kind of mutual awareness in the room, apparent when saxophonist Motoharu struggled to get a solo going. When he finally found his way, celebration erupted across the room. Then there was the six-minute-long “Freedom Time,” stretched to over twice its original length, that had almost the entire audience taking part in the longest chorus singalong I’ve ever witnessed. Frontman Shacho even got the crowd to repeatedly shout out “We love music!” without the slightest hint of irony. It was just one of many moments where Soil showed they weren’t afraid of appearing vulnerable. That’s what live music should be.

What I’m looking forward to in 2012: Red Bull Academy graduate Yosi Horikawa’s upcoming album.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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