Kodo at Symphony Center / by Doyle Armbrust

Classical can always use a hand in the sex appeal department. Lithe men in loincloths might sound like a billing for a show farther uptown, but for the indefatigable drummers of Kodo, the costume is more functional than libidinous. The Japanese percussion masters descend on Symphony Center this Monday, carting their arsenal of taiko—skin and wood drums ranging in size from salad bowls to hot tubs. The famed group pounds out ancient rhythms collected from Shinto shrines and folk traditions as well as new works by members and mentors.

The “One Earth Tour,” which has been continent-hopping since 1984, is as much a theatrical spectacular as it is a concert. Some of the more riveting moments of the show involve trios conjuring fantastic bass detonations in microscopic synchronicity on gargantuan taiko. The remarkable internal pulse on display is the result of communal living on the island of Sado in northwest Japan, where for Kodo, rice harvesting is as essential as rehearsals. One word that follows these ambassadors across the globe is “spirit,” an energy and camaraderie inseparable from the 50-person percussion community. Considering the 2005 and 2009 Symphony Center appearances were sold out, the curious will want to find tickets ASAP.

- Doyle Armbrust

published in Time Out Chicago on February 16th, 2011