Kodo

The Smith Center, Feb. 1

The percussive music of Japanese drumming company Kodo did more than remind a packed audience why a superb-sounding facility like Reynolds Hall is important. The troupe’s ritualistic wallop also revealed how today’s skins-smacking Vegas shows—Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère—are indebted to the art form of ensemble drumming, or taiko. The roots of taiko can be traced to the pre-Christian era, and for two hours (which included a 20-minute intermission), one felt viscerally transported to a sonically enlivened, more primal world. From the hummingbird-whisper-to-shattering-climax rim shots of “Kaden” to the drum-switching leapfrog of “Monochrome,” the program’s first half was short and sweet, yet merely a warm-up for the second half’s thunderous devastation. The massive O-daiko drum, measuring 4 feet across and hewed from a centuries-old cypress, pounded like a warrior god’s vengeful heartbeat thanks to a cast of rotating male performers, each wearing a silk mawashi (sumo diaper) and little else. Watching trapezius muscles ripple like lightning strikes along a drummer’s back was hypnotic. The concluding “Yatai-bayashi,” in which two drummers beat large cylindrical drums from seated positions, was a feat of sound and abs-crushing strength. In sum, Kodo One Earth Tour 2013’s Vegas stop inspired everyone on a musical level, and made many of us consider renewing our gym memberships. ★★★★☆

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