Went to the Beastie Boys the other night--and lemme tell ya--that was worth the four hour drive there and back...in the snow!! Granted it was only about a fifth of an inch of snow--but hey. It was me and three of my friends going to Fukuoka (that's a city name!) to meet another friend who had gotten us the tickets. It was pretty stressful going, we started out about an hour later than intended, hit all the road construction possible, it was snowing, and then, just as we were about 10km away from the exit the car we were driving started freaking out, and wouldn't accelerate. At this point (here is when cellular phones come in very handy) we just called our friend and told her to go ahead. Needless to say after much panic, some illegal parking, and a brain-dead taxi driver ("I know where you're going...but I'm not really sure....") we got to the show in time and didn't even miss the opening band.
The venue was a place called Drum Logos--it consisted of a stage about half the size of Roseland's stage and had enough room to squeeze 500-600 people VERY tightly...which is what they did--we were packed in there like sardines, a fire hazard indeed. This place was miniscule compared to where the Beastie Boys usually play. The stage had room for the percussion set, the drum set, keyboards, and Mixmaster Mike's DJ stand with eight TVs stacked up in front of him. That left a very small area for all the boogie-ing that had to be done. I was surprised that this venue was chosen, but my friend explained later that only bands like Aerosmith(!) play at the big stadiums and that one time the Beastie Boys came to Fukuoka and played at a slightly bigger venue and they didn't even sell out. This show was sold out, and there was even a sign out front proclaiming "ALL SOLD OUT--THANKS".
My friends, non-Japanese, are as tall as me, even taller, and we were impressed at how we could be in the very back of the room, yet still have a perfectly clear view of the stage. We agreed we should go to more shows in Japan--our height is definitely an advantage. Of course, right as the words came out of our mouths, some tall-ish Japanese guys with tall hats stood in front of us. I commented that maybe they'd bounce a lot when the show started and then we'd be able to see.
The opening band was a Japanese band I had never heard of, but they seemed to be pretty popular. They were O.K.--but I detected some Beastie Boys-like samples and stuff. They played for about 30 minutes and that was it! After 20 minutes (and exactly 20 minutes...ya gotta love the Japanese for their promptness, but it takes away a little bit of the excitement when you know EXACTLY when they're coming out), the Beastie Boys and crew came out and introduced themselves. They came out one at a time to the microphone in the middle of the stage with a single beam on them and uttered some sort of greeting...Mike D said something like, "I like to get into hot baths, drink Japanese sake, and contemplate my existence." Their percussionist just came on and said "Hello, I'm Al-chan." Instead of the workman overalls they sported at the Nassau Coliseum where I saw them last Fall, they were all wearing gas station attendant shirts that resembled prison uniforms. But after being posed the question of where did they get their prison uniforms, Mike D and Ad Rock vehemently denied that they were anything of the sort.
They launched into the first song "Root Down" and all our fears of not being able to see the stage beyond the hat wearing punks quickly faded as the ENTIRE roomful of people began bobbing up and down pogo-style--in a display of unison only seen among the Japanese--making the stage quite visible in between the mass bob. One catch about the show, and perhaps one of the coolest, was the way they decided on the songs. Rather than have a predetermined set list, they put all the songs they were going to do in a box and had a very squeaky girl called Tomoko-chan pick out the songs and announce them in horrifyingly bad English. Every time she said the title of a song, it came out like "bledo bledo blah blah blah." Even Japanese fans were confused. But hey, Lil' Tomoko got to be onstage with the Beasties, so why would she care about her English?
Another very noticeable and strange thing was the silence in between songs. At the beginning Lil' Tomoko only picked one song at a time. The Beasties would end the song, the crowd would cease bobbing and wait patiently and quietly for the next choice. Not a peep, minimal conversation, no hollering, no whoo whoo-ing, no cries of "Freebird," nada, nothing, zero....silence. Then, as soon as they started to play again, the pogo-ing recommenced. This silence is typical of the Japanese, but it was more than this American chick could stand and I found myself replying to any and all comments the Beasties made, taking advantage of the fact that I was one of the few who actually understood what they were saying. They could HEAR me too! Of course, they ignored me because I was being very obnoxious and I would have ignored me too. I was just so thrilled that I could scream and be heard at a concert...I couldn't help myself.
Eventually, they started picking two and three songs at a time and I had to wonder if the silence got to them too...but then again, maybe they're used to it. The band seemed to be aware of the fact that a majority of their audience couldn't understand them...making smart ass comments to Lil' Tomoko like "Sorry, I didn't catch that, what did you say?" and at one point Ad Rock was roaming around the drum kit and came back up front declaring "Jazz (the drummer) just goosed me." Mixmaster Mike also took the opportunity to get a little pervy and started discussing his astrological sign, Aries the ram, and various sexual puns relating to that.
Overall, the energy struck me as relatively low compared to the New York show, despite the fact that Lil' Tomoko picked about five of their speed metal songs at the beginning, including "Heart Attack Man" and "Tough Guy." MCA was looking pretty rough...like he may have been sick. His voice was more hoarse than usual and he wasn't at all inclined to move from his place onstage, although there wasn't really any room for him to move anyway. Mike D was pretty smiley and bouncy, and Ad Rock stole the show with his taking-the-piss dancing...you know the "I'm dancing like a goof ball, but I know it" schtick, and he had this goofy grin on his face the whole time. Ad Rock interacted with the audience the most, but I still got the feeling that none of them were really in the mood for a show.
They played most of my favorite tunes from Ill Communication including an especially good "Flute Loop" and a fuckin' great "Flutterman's Rule" and a few from and Check Your Head. They did quite a few of their instrumental tunes, one of my favorites being "Lighten Up," during which percussionist Al-chan did about a five-minute stint on that instrument that sounds like a hooting owl...he just kept going and going and the rest of the band was looking at him. It was obvious that they weren't expecting him to go on for so long, and he only stopped when the keyboardist ran across the stage and rubbed him on his bald head. Oh, the comedy. A majority of the tunes were from Hello Nasty, including the requisite "Intergalactic," "Super Disco Breakin," and "Body Movin." "Remote Control" remained in my head for days after the show...quite a catchy tune.
Of course, "Sabotage" was the encore...but never in my life have I witnessed such a poor display of enthusiasm from an audience. When the Beasties first left the stage, the audience applauded for about two seconds and then it got quiet, then they did some half-assed "everyone clap together-hoo hoo hoo hoo-ing" for another two seconds. Then some stomping for about twenty seconds. It was pathetic. All us foreigners at the show were doing our best to get people riled, but it just wasn't going to happen. If I were the Beastie Boys I would have come on stage with my middle finger in full view and left, but they are obviously better people than I and they came back for two more songs. Overall I enjoyed myself immensely--hell, they played for over two hours! I thought their mode de song choice was very, very cool, the location was great...and I'll never forget lovable Lil' Tomoko!
Read Apes Abroad for more of Traveling Jam's experiences in Japan.
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