Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Rolling Stones at Tokyo Dome, March 22, 2006

Man, I must be a lucky son-of-a-gun. Within a span of four days, the Tommy musical AND a freakin' Stones concert.

Since I have been in Tokyo since 1991, I have managed to catch these fellows on every tour. Always the same venue, and I always go with the same person, a female friend who is quite a Stones fiend. When they first came to Japan in 1990 during the Steel Wheels tour, she saw ALL 10 shows. Nor does the story end there, she
proceeded to follow them to New York and caught three shows at Shea Stadium. Talk about dedication, for better or worse.

My wife never seems to take an interest in the Stones, and insists that I go ahead with my friend. OK...

As has been the pattern so far, the fans seem to be older and older. However this time, I also saw a fair number of kids. I don't mean teenagers or adult children of fans, I mean literally pre-teen children. The Stones have become truly all-ages entertainment. A far cry from their American tours in the seventies when a Stones concert could be truly life-threatening.

In fact, around the area we sat (waaaay up in the rafters), the mood was greatly picked up by the antics of a group of four young Caucasian girls with American accents. Three of them looked around fourteen or so, but one of them was only around 11 or 12. They were hanging out by the railing, dancing and leaping around wildly. The little one was a true whirling dervish, horsing around with any passers-by, and at one point started climbing up on the railing (the drop was only about five feet so it wasn't as if she was on a suicide mission from hell). The security staff nearby kept having to push these girls back or discipline them, but after a few seconds they would be all over the place again.

The show was fabulous as ever. They didn't look or act as if they have aged a minute since the last time I saw them which was three years ago.

Mick's Japanese skills seem to improve on every tour. At one point he asked, in Japanese, "Do you remember this song?"... as Keith sat on a chair and starting plucking out on an acoustic guitar the opening notes to "As Tears Go By". It was a real treat, the first time I saw them play it live.

Another rarity was "Paint it Black", in which Keith very capably handled the duties of the incomparable and long-departed Brian Jones on what may have been a Coral Sitar.

"Sympathy for the Devil" was also very cool, somehow the opening piano sounded funkier than it is on the record, as if it were done by Fatboy Slim.

The key supporting members have also stayed the same for years and years now: Lisa Fisher and Bernard Fowler on backing vocals, Chuck Leavell on keyboards, and of course Bobby Keys on sax. During Mick's introduction of the band members, Bobby received an applause that went on and on.

After the concert I asked my friend, "How many more times do you think we will get to see the Stones?". Her answer: "Dunno. At this pace I'll probably be gone before they are".

One of the entrance gates

MSN Blimps - Just can't get away from Microsoft, can we?

Keith and Ronnie on the bi
g screen - ever the reprobates


Tongues - Both the digital and inflatable varieties

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Japanese websites

Always being interested in the superlatives of life, I spent a couple of hours - that, as usual, I don't have - goofing around on Alexa. It is always interesting to see the traffic rankings of various websites, both big and small.

Among other things I was curious as to how Japanese websites rank traffic-wise compared to other sites around the world. I found 8 of them in the top 100. Here they are, with rank and a short description (or anti-description) by yours truly.

5: - Need you ask? Abbreviated to "NYA?" hereafter.

17: - NYA?

35: - Japan's biggest shopping site. You can think of it as a digital mall, where individual sellers can set up shop.

41: - A social networking site. Similar to myspace, but much broader in terms of age and demographics. Also, it doesn't allow the kind of page customization that myspace does, so generally it is much a neater and more relaxing social surfing experience.

58: - Portal site. In particular the Japanese <-> English dictionary is popular. Yes, Japanese people are frequenty looking up English words... ranging from kids trying to figure out Nirvana lyrics or studying for an English test, to businessmen struggling with an email from a foreign client to a scientist trying to read an academic paper from abroad.

60: - NYA?

65: - Portal site.

76: - NYA NYA NYA NYA NYAAAA NYA! (imagine me singing it)

(rankings as of today, March 21, 2006)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Listening to you, I get the music…

Review of The Who’s Tommy Broadway Musical

Yesterday I finally went to my first Broadway musical in my 15 years in Japan. It has made my year, even though it is only March.

Of all people, I went with two others from my tennis class! One of them is a fellow student, a housewife with two kids. She probably around my age and is quite a chic and sexy lady, wearing short skirts and high leather boots. The other is the tennis instructor himself, who is a young guy in his early twenties and into Mod fashion and music. Both of them are Japanese, which is great because The Who was never nearly as big here as it was in the West and I only have a few friends here who share my passion for the band. There was a bit of a Mod explosion here at one time, but astonishingly it may have centered more on The Jam and Paul Weller!

Our plan was to meet at the performance hall in Shinjuku and at first I wasn’t totally confident I found the right place because the building is so nondescript. I was reassured at the sight of a middle-aged Japanese guy with a hairstyle identical to Keith Moon’s pacing around talking on his cell phone. He also had a slight paunch, not unlike The Loon himself in his final years. The attendees were real menagerie: All ages from teenagers to those who are practically segueing out of middle age into something beyond. There were a lot of foreigners; in fact the majority of the older people were such, one example being a feisty group of German executives.

Now I am not a reviewer, and find it difficult to say anything about the show except that it was awesome. I have seen some Broadway musicals in my Canada days, and Tommy was not as glitzy or over-the-top as they tend to be. It was solid and professional and polished, but not produced to death either. Kind of… just right. It was one of those experiences that will likely stay with me.

I first saw the movie version when I was in high school. Some of the parts that were seared into my memory were when Mrs. Walker’s lover killed Captain Walker, Moon’s diabolical portrayal of Uncle Ernie “fiddling about”, and Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, not to mention how hot Ann Margret was as Tommy’s mother.

In the musical version, Captain Walker ends up killing the lover, and the Walkers end up back together, and in love with each other. This made Tommy’s family situation much less sordid than the movie version. Uncle Ernie was portrayed by a less threatening individual and perhaps some of the child abuse scenes may have been watered down because of the times we live in. And needless to say, no Tina Turner or Ann Margret!

The band, playing on a platform above the stage, was terrific. Probably more polished than The Who themselves. They made liberal use of synthesizers which actually works very well with this music and story. The vocalist, who also played the lead character, was able to imitate very well both Roger Daltrey when he sang and Pete Townsend when he played the guitar.

The grand finale of See Me Feel Me, and its thundering conclusion, was enrapturing. Again, glorious, but accomplishes this somehow without being over-the-top. It is the kind of stuff that really emotionally connects. I suspect there may be a lot of subjectivity at play here.

I paid around a hundred dollars for the ticket, but came out of it a much richer man.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Music Map

If you have a net-surfing addiction as I do, this will only make it worse: