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by Dan Grunebaum

Jamiroquai

Following a January appearance at Tokyo Dome, Jamiroquai return for an encore performance at the venerable Budokan.
It was only a few years ago when the irresistible grooves of Jamiroquai's 1995 debut The Return of the Space Cowboy and subsequent albums ruled Japan's charts. Leader Jay Kay had hit a commercial nerve, updating the feel-good '60s Motown vibes of Stevie Wonder with the gloss of the '90s UK acid jazz scene.

Not only did singles like "Morning Glory" and "Virtual Insanity" receive blanket airplay on J-Wave and the nation's other top commercial broadcasters, but the group's songs could also be heard providing the soundtrack to the mating dance at trendy Aoyama nightclubs like the fabulous post-bubble Apollo.

These days, Jamiroquai faces a tougher battle: US hip-hop and R&B rule the charts, and the UK acid jazz boom has long since fizzled. Despite these obstacles, Jamiroquai's recent album, A Funk Odyssey (Epic), their first since 1999's Synkronized, made a respectable showing, Jay Kay's familiar hat-wearing head dancing across MTV in the single "Little L."

The durability of Jamiroquai's appeal was recognized early on, when Sony signed them to an eight-album deal based on just one single, "When You Gonna Learn?" written for Acid Jazz Records. They have since borne out Sony's hopes in record sales, as well as proving a consistent draw, with promoter UDO booking them into stadiums and arenas.

In a recent interview for The Times of London, the formerly fast-living Jay Kay reflected on turning 30 and overcoming his cocaine addiction: "It felt like an enormously momentous time. It made me look back at where I've come from, and project ahead to where I wanted to be. And that meant accepting that I had personal problems of a lifestyle nature, ones which invaded me every now and then, and which would make it impossible for me to achieve what I hoped to, unless they were dealt with."

Meanwhile, in a late announcement, UDO has added British urban soul singer Rhianna Kenny to the bill as opening act. Sister to recent phenom Leigh Stephen Kenny, a.k.a. LSK, the vocalist-known simply as Rhianna-first came to attention as a duet partner for LSK on his hit single, the provocative tribute to fraternal love, "Hate Or Love."

She also appeared in Tokyo with LSK in a showcase at On Air East two years ago, singing a number of her own selections and providing a warm, feminine counterpoint to LSK's musky presence. The big-haired, multi-cultural chanteuse has also just released her debut album, Get On, due out this month in Japan. With influences ranging from Kate Bush to Nelly Furtado, the album has already spawned a top 20 UK hit, "Oh Baby."

Jamiroquai play Nihon Budokan on October 29. See listings for details.

Photo courtesy of UDO


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