In the midst of San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival, Cibo Matto filled Slim’s to capacity on a rainy Wednesday night during a reunion tour to support their latest album, Hotel Valentine.
The Japanese duo behind Cibo Matto, Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, are a perfect fit in a city that’s full of food enthusiasts and music lovers. The band’s first album, Viva! La Woman mostly paid homage to food with tracks like “Apple” and “Beef Jerky.” The content inevitably expanded, exploring broader subject matter on 1999’s Stereotype A (with the addition of Sean Lennon), while still keeping their signature vibe of playful trip-hop. Fifteen years later they released Hotel Valentine, a more refined and honest version of their body of work, carrying a bit of angst and resentment that they’ve been away for so long. The songs are a little more experimental and a little darker, but it’s evident that Cibo Matto hasn’t excluded any ingredients from their recipe.
Nobody had a clue what to expect as the venue was packed with inquisitive fans. “I’m really concerned they’re gonna play their entire new album,” one fan declared while fighting for a beer. “They wouldn’t do that,” another retorted. The appreciation for Cibo Matto was evident, with hopes that they hadn’t ditched the past for the present.
When Honda and Hatori took the stage fans erupted with devoted cheers. The two of them stood on stage, Honda behind her wall of keyboards and samplers, and a new look for Hatori, with gleaming blonde hair and dark sunglasses, in front of her microphone. Immediately, they showed they hadn’t forgotten their roots as they opened the set with “Sugar Water” from the 1996 album Viva! La Woman.
Hatori seemed, for the most part, humbled and shy, but addressed the crowd with appreciation. “Hello San Francisco, long time, no see. It’s good to be back here.” She reminisced on her brief experience living in the city, “I lived here for a year in 2000. I remember the first time I saw a gay parade, I felt like I had a job to do.” The crowd cheered as the band played another hit, “Beef Jerky.”
“You are Kinky!” She screamed passionately, “Who cares? I don’t care?”
Their new material from Hotel Valentine sounded solid, backed with roaring and creative bass lines, haunting samples and succinct drumming. Notable songs included the album’s opening track “Check In,” “Déjà vu,” “10th Floor Ghost Girl”—a song most devout to their older material with short guitar samples, a jazzy breakdown and a sweeping 1990’s feel.
Other great tracks of the night included “Working for Vacation,” the ballad-like track “Moonchild,” the hard hitting and punky “Sci-Fi Wasabi” and eccentric tune “Housekeeping.” Cibo Matto couldn’t, of course, leave the building without giving praise to a food subculture that they’ve become a part of.
“Thank you so much for the amazing love and food,” Hatori said emotionally, acknowledging the near end of their tour. “We will be back,” she said with conviction as they played that last song of the night, “Birthday Cake.”
“Shut up and eat!” She screamed, as the crowd absorbed the final bite of an ever so satisfying meal.