There was a lot of trepidation and excitement for the arrival of superstar Japanese instrumental pianist and composer Hiromi in the UK capital city, as part of the London Jazz Festival 2023.
On the back of her brand new and very successful album called Sonicwonderland, which our website has recently reviewed too, the celebrated and very talented Japanese has brought with her a real army of musicians for the London performance at the Barbican Theatre, so much so that Hiromi had decided, for this very special musical event, to perform two separate live sets, one with her piano quintet, made by two violins, a viola and a cello and the second and much longer one, with her current touring band, which is the same that has also played on Hiromi's brand new album.
At 19.40 sharp, the first set starts, with an overall setlist that will include a great chunk of Hiromi and the Piano Quintet 2021's album, called Silver Lining Suite, from which the album's title-track, a suite divided in four sections, called respectively Isolation, The Unknown, Drifters and Fortitude, is the real center piece of this 50-minutes long first set.
Hiromi, although exhibiting an infectious smile at every moment of the show, dressed in an elegant, almost summery red number, is visibly emotional, because it's the first time that she has got the chance to perform with the Piano Quintet that tours regularly with Hiromi around Europe in front of a London crowd after the pandemic, something that is very meaningful too for the 4 musicians on stage, coincidentally, all British.
Hiromi is a real force of nature; armed with a grand piano and two different keyboards, the Japanese pianist can be, at times, either an authentic fury on the piano and keyboards and a master improviser, especially on the uptempo tunes mostly present in tonight’s second live set or a melodic, occasionally nostalgic and delicate pianist, something that emerges especially on the aforementioned performance of the Silver Lining Suite.
After a short 20 minutes interval, Hiromi returns on stage in a sold-out Barbican Theatre with her touring band, which includes highly skilled musicians Hadrien Feraud (bass), Gene Coye (drums) and Adam O'Farrill (trumpet), all welcomed once again by a big roar from tonight’s truly devoted audience.
The attack to the second set is fast and furious, through a pitch perfect execution of Hiromi's new album opener, called Wanted, immediately followed by a beautifully, wild performance of Sonicwonderland, which elevates of two notches, at least, the enormous enthusiasm that tonight’s crowd will manifest (quite rightly) throughout the whole show.
There are more sublime moments, in this second live set, including Hiromi and his band dispatching a truly exceptional version of another track present on Sonicwonderland, called Utopia, plus another very touching moment through a tune called Reminiscence, performed, just as it happened on the studio album, with a very Special Guest on vocals and close friend of Hiromi, Oli Rockberger, joining the artist and her band on stage.
The grand finale is mesmerising. Hiromi invites on stage once again her Piano Quintet to join her touring band, before launching in an irresistible, wonderfully performed version of Ribera Del Duero that ends in a 5-minutes standing ovation from the crowd, visibly excited and enormously grateful to Hiromi for tonight's performance. And what a 5-stars performance this was. Hiromi strikes again!