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He's sold 40m albums in Japan – so why is Hotei playing a London pub?

Live Review

Venue: The Lexington, London

Hotei has played with Bowie and The Stones. Quentin Tarantino loves him. And now he's launching his international career.

You know the scene in Back To The Future when Marty Mcfly gets to act like every guitar hero he could ever imagine? There's something of that fantasy about Hotei. You can hear a slice of Eddie Van Halen, a slither of Eric Clapton, a soupcon of Billy Gibbons, and a large chunk of Gary Moore's G-Force.

An accomplished guitarist, Hotei and his band mix up funk, blues and power rock with obvious enthusiasm. But what he lacks for the most part are both catchy songs and a strong vocalist. Openers Medusa and New Chemical are decent, temporarily diverting instrumentals, but neither have the depth or substance to stick around. 

Hotei himself handles the vocals for When The Cookie Crumbles, but his singing has no distinct character. However, just when it appears this will be a frustrating night of misdirected talents, Shea Seger struts onstage and takes everything up to a new level. A singer with a huge, soulful charisma, she immediately becomes the focus of attention on Walking Through the Night, as Hotei appears almost relieved to melt a little into the shadows. For part of Kill Or Kiss, Seger sings through a megaphone, adding frisson to the performance, before finishing this all-too-brief stint with the stomping Texas Groove.

The problem with this three song cameo from Seger is that once she leaves, the vibe drops again. The celebrated Battle Without Honor Or Humanity gets a big reaction, but this is Hotei's most renowned composition, coming from the soundtrack to Kill Bill: Vol. One. And, as he amusingly points out, this is more associated with the film than it is with him.

Hotei concludes with Departure, an instrumental that sounds incomplete, as if it's missing lyrics and vocals, which rather sums up much of the set. The encore, though, stutters badly, with a somewhat ill-judged version of Apollo 440's Ain't Talkin' Bout Dub variation on Van Halen's Ain't Talkin' Bout Love (bassist Noko and drummer Cliff Hewitt have Apollo 440 connections), before Materials comes in, sounding like Metallica's Enter Sandman mashed up with Toni Basil's Mickey, with a hint of UFO's Rock Bottom thrown in. Finally, there's a run through of the Mission: Impossible theme.

Technically, Hotei is very impressive. What he doesn't have is enough individuality and memorable music to make a lasting impact over here. Now, if he teams up permanently with Seger...


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