Saturday, April 15, 2006

Come On/Let's Go: Paul Weller Japan Tour 3/30-4/4/06

Below, is the first entry of an abridged version of a journal I'm working on regarding my recent trip to Japan to see Paul Weller in concert. More journal/blog entries will follow. Feedback is most welcome! If you would like the unabridged version just let me know and I will send it to you. -Ryan 8-)

I awoke and got ready for the show. Black slacks, black monk strap squared toe shoes, and a black and silver striped Ben Sherman shirt. Had to rock the Ben Sherman; preferred apparel of mods and mod aficionados. I asked the extremely cute and helpful ladies at the front desk what subway line to use because my hotel was situated in the middle of two subway stations and they set me straight. I needed help once I got to the station, however. I love subways and I love riding subways in different cities, but the Tokyo subway proved to be a little daunting. To look at a Tokyo subway map is to look at a tangled mass of colorful spaghetti noodles. The map just doesn't seem to make sense, but once one gets the hang of it it's like everything else Japanese, clean and efficient.

I figured out the subway, but I had to connect to a monorail to get to the show venue. I got turned around for about 15 minutes, but I eventually found my way with a little help from different sources. The ride to the venue was beautiful with great views of the city. The monorail takes one up and under the Rainbow Bridge that offers a great view of Tokyo Bay.

The venue, Zepp Tokyo was part of a large multiplex of stores and restaurants. I saw the Zepp sign from the monorail platform. As I was approaching the venue, I noticed a woman walking towards me with a smile on her face, it had to be Christine. Christine is on a Weller list serve with my friend Dave Beasley. Christine originally told Dave about the Weller Japan gigs and Dave informed me. A few days prior to the show Christine and I began corresponding so that we could meet up at the Tokyo gigs. She sent me a photo so I knew what she looked like and I described myself to her. I told her that I was sure that my Ben Sherman would give me away 8-). Christine is a petite, lovely, and vivacious Brit in her early to mid 40's. She is married with 3 boys and they all reside in Hong Kong. She is a very enthusiastic Weller fan, must be, she flew from Hong Kong to see 2 shows. She did not become a Weller fan until about 10 yrs ago, but she has definitely made up for lost time. We chatted like we were old friends.

It turned out that we were at the back of the venue along with about 10 other people who were all Japanese, the majority of who were fashionably dressed like mods. We were all awaiting Weller and the bands arrival. We were hoping to get an autograph or a picture before the show. The venue was on the water, therefore, there was a slight breeze, which made the already cool temps chillier. I was dressed for the weather, but Christine was not. Anyway, there was an older mod who seemed to be in charge and wherever he went, the crowd followed. We would follow and he put up his hands as if telling us, “Be cool.” He finally spoke with one of the stage handlers and he entered inside. He came out 5 minutes later and said that Paul was already inside and performing his sound check. This was reassuring to know because it was 5:30 and the doors to the venue opened at 6:00. As we were waiting, Christine and I struck up a conversation with a young Japanese guy. He said that he was a new fan, Paul's latest LP As Is Now, was his first Weller LP and this was his first Weller show. Christine and I were very impressed at this Weller newcomer. To know that Paul has been doing what he's been for the past 4 decades and he is still attracting new fans was great!

Well, I was getting hungry and the doors opened soon, plus Christine needed to warm up. We walked to the front of the venue and there were not that many people out front. But it was cool to see Weller promotional posters by the box office windows. We then went to grab a bite to eat and get some warm beverages.

We came back to Zepp 30 minutes later and there were people everywhere. I couldn't believe it! It was great to see. As I was waiting, one of the older mods who was waiting with us walked past and I asked if I could get a photo with him, he obliged. This cat looked great. He was wearing square colored shades, a cravat, a very stylish Nehru jacket, with a mod (Steve Marriot) style haircut and nice shoes.

Here's how the tickets worked. On every ticket was a letter and a number, for example A17 and this is how people were allowed to enter. There were gates arranged everywhere with letters and numbers like 1-51, for exam to show people were to go. It was definitely arranged as a cattle call, but it was extremely organized and it worked. No pushing, shoving, everything went down smoothly. Christine originally had a ticket with the letter “A” and a number in the 500's I believe. Since she is short and wanted to be close to the stage she had the opportunity to purchase another in the lower “A” section. I actually do think it was A17. Anyway, she was gracious enough to give me her old ticket because my ticket was letter “A” but in the 700's. She told me she would see me after the show and away she went. I didn't have to wait too long. I did have someone tell me when it was my turn to enter since I don't know Japanese.

I entered the venue, placed my belongings in a locker: an overcoat, backpack containing the As Is Now cd cover, and a digital camera. I was prepared for Paul to sign stuff or to get a photo due to a past experience. One never knows when one is going to meet or bump into Paul or a member of his band. I then showed the ushers my ticket to get inside the concert hall. The venue felt much bigger than it actually was. The total capacity is 2,709 with 250 seats on the second floor. The space on the floor was sectioned off with barricades. By the time I entered, the front section was pretty much filled. I wasn't in the mood to be in a mosh pit and get all hot and sweaty. I found a good spot in the center of the second section about 25-30 ft. (8-10 meters) from the stage with some space, and a barrier behind me. This way, if I got tired I could just lean back. The venue was filling up at a good pace. The pre-show tunes were great. They were either Northern Soul or Stax tunes all from Weller's vinyl collection Christine informed me. I was into the music, but the crowd wasn't. The crowd was very quiet and reserve. The crowd could have been waiting for the subway as opposed to a concert starting based on its collective countenance.

The show was scheduled to begin at 7 P.M. about 3 minutes before 7 the music stopped and an announcement was made in Japanese. The crowd began to clap, the house lights slowly faded to black, the crowd came to life and a raucous cheer began. Then, exactly at 7 P.M., awkwardly bounding to the stage as he often does is the man that I traveled 3,000 miles to see, the Modfather, my muse, Paul Weller!

Weller Show #1 (First Period) Friday, March 31, 2006

Since I'm a big hockey fan and I went to Japan to see 3 Weller shows, I have named this trip the “Weller Hat Trick.” I have dubbed tonight's first show, “First Period.”

Eleanor recently asked me, “What is it about seeing Weller in concert that is so special?” El was not asking this out of anger or exasperation, she was genuinely curious and I thought it was a very good question. Being a Paul Weller fan from the US has been difficult for many reasons. One, you never or rarely hear his music or see his videos. Two, many people don't know who he is. Therefore, when talking about music you can't really discuss Paul Weller, his work, or his influences. Many times when I tell people that I'm a Paul Weller fan the response I get is a puzzled look followed by, “Who's Paul Weller?” Often, I would just not rather go into it. Lastly, Paul does not tour the US that frequently. However, he has since I moved to Thailand. Damn you Paul Weller! 8-). So, when I hear Paul's music on the radio, in a store, in a movie, or I read about him in a magazine, or someone actually knows who he is (sacreu bleu!) and wants to discuss him, I get a little excited. Then, to actually see him in concert, I can't aptly describe the feeling. I think since Paul's music speaks to me and my soul, seeing him live takes me to a warm and familiar place. For me it's like scoring a goal in hockey or getting a hit in a baseball game. It's an indescribable feeling that you want to replicate over and over. Anytime I see Paul in concert I can't believe he is before me performing. This is what makes seeing Paul Weller live an extremely special occurrence.

On stage, Paul was dressed in a grey t-shirt with a grey/fuchsia cravat and black and white checkered pants. Drummer, Steve White a.k.a. Whitey, Paul's right hand man was casually dressed in an Adidas t-shirt and jeans. Guitarist, Steve Craddock was dressed in a brown suit that he looked like he hijacked from a Russian military officer, and bassist Damon Minchella was wearing a blue button down shirt with black slacks. Paul greeted the crowd in Japanese with “Arigato” [Thank you] and the crowd went nuts. The band then launched into “Paper Smile.” After “Paper Smile” concluded they launched into another tune that sounded very familiar and I couldn't believe they were playing, a Jam tune “Running On The Spot.” The crowd went nuts! The Jam and The Style Council were very popular in Japan and there were many older muggs in attendance. The 4th song was “Science” and Steve Craddock added some funky guitar riffs that were phat and Whitey had a funky drum solo the sent the crowd into hysterics. The 8th song was “Porcelain Gods” another funked up tune thanks to Craddock's inspired guitar work, but in the middle of the song Whitey had a funky breakdown that was reminiscent to the beginning of the Beastie Boys' tune “Sabotage” which segued into “Walk on Gilded Splinters.” If that would have been a dj mixing those tunes the mix would have been called seamless. I was in awe; I was speechless. One could tell that Paul was having a blast! He was confidently strutting back and forth across the stage. The energy of the crowd matched that of the band, inexhaustible. The crowd was polite (No cigarette smoking and no beer bottles being tossed or a layer of alcohol pooling at one's feet), yet raucous, energetic, and enthusiastic. They welcomed the new tunes from As Is Now as fervently as they did Paul's earlier solo material. There were many times throughout the show that I couldn't catch my breath. I would just stand back, lean against the barricade, catch my breath, and just smile. Since I was only 10 meters from the stage and taller than most of the muggs in front of me, I think I caught Craddock's eye a few times and he saw me grinning because he would grin right back. I was singing to every tune and as soon as one tune ended, Paul and Craddock would quickly change guitars and fire into another tune. There was no down time. The band seemed inspired and on a mission!

Paul's voice was great and his piano playing strong. He played the piano on one of my favorite tunes “Wishing On A Star.” I love his version of this song. I was in my element when he performed this tune. Toward the end of the show, Paul played two more Jam tunes “That's Entertainment” and “Town Called Malice.” The place went berserk! I looked back and the people in the seated area in the upper decks were out of their seats and grooving. The “Salarymen” the so called ubiquitous Japanese businessmen in their tailored suits all around me were grooving, as were the smartly attired Japanese women around me. During a stanza in “Town Called Malice” Paul just let the crowd sing and we did so, strongly belting, “Struggle after struggle, year after year, the atmosphere's a fine blend of ice I'm almost stone cold dead in this town called malice!” Paul definitely appreciated our efforts; he had a huge smile on his face. Throughout the show he kept calling the crowd “Lovely” and at one point he said, “God Bless you all” before embarking on a tune. At the end of “Town Called Malice,” the show ended. Weller and the band bowed and the house lights came on. As the crowd departed, I leaned against the barricade a little hunched over. I was resting and just trying to discern what I just witnessed and was a part of. That was by far one of the best Weller shows I've been to and probably one of the top 5 shows I've ever been to. I was also thinking, “I have 2 more shows to go. How are they going to top this!”

Christine was down by the stage and I met up with her afterwards. We both just looked at one another smiling with expressions that read, “We can't believe what we just saw.” I think I kept saying, “Unbelievable.” We were just grinning like kids. We were awakened from our stupor when the roadies began throwing guitar picks and set lists to the remaining crowd. We didn't get a pick or a set list, but Christine knew the name of one of the roadies and she yelled, “Roger, we will be at the show tomorrow.” He said, “I will give you set lists tomorrow.” On the way out of the venue into the chilly night, I purchased the Japanese release of Come On Let's Go and a Weller t-shirt. There was a queue to purchase tickets for Weller's gig tomorrow, which was nice to see. But what really made my heart proud was meeting up again with the Weller newcomer that we had met outside prior to the show. He approached me all smiles with a piece of paper in his hands, it was a set list. This was the cat's first Weller show and he walked away with a set list. He was ecstatic and I was happy for him. I was thinking, “Here I am, a Weller fan for over 20 years with an excited Weller neophyte, right on! Let's keep the torch burning!”

By the way, below is the set list from the Friday, March 31st show.


End of Period 1

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