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Pop Music Review

Quirky Violette Pairs Eclectic With Eccentric

April 08, 2002|Natalie Nichols

Asian American pop band Visiting Violette sure picked a topical title for its debut album, "A Hero's Day." But the decade-old L.A.-based group focused on personal heroes, not those who do brave things for a living, during a Saturday celebration at the Japan America Theatre.

The septet's polished music fused R&B and funk, folky pop and mellow rock, variously recalling 10,000 Maniacs, Sheryl Crow and the Motels. The songs were put together well, but often so stylistically eccentric it was as if the band found all ideas equally compelling and couldn't leave anything out. Indeed, that was reflected in the 75-minute program, which also featured spoken word, a taiko drummer and dancers, as well as a stripped-down "acoustic" segment complete with guest rapper, and even a short, hero-themed video.

Crooning quirky tunes about heartbreak, life on Mars and overcoming hardship in a girlish yet substantial voice, singer Lee Takasugi was a dynamic frontwoman, although her performing style was an overly theatrical blend of Natalie Merchant twirling, Gwen Stefani energy and theme-park-show exaggerated emotion.

Some lyrics had threads of social and cultural conscience, commenting on such things as traditional submissive Japanese female roles, as did stories Takasugi told.

In one, she explained that the piano she played had been her mother's, kept during World War II by sympathetic white neighbors while the family was interred. It was poignant to realize how something often taken for granted--family heirlooms--could be so rare. And that, in this context, an act of decency became a heroic deed.

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