CHEAP TRICK JAPAN TOUR AUGUST 2003
Cheap Trick were on their umpteenth visit to Japan, this was my third successive tour there having been in 1999 and 2001. However, this was to be my most hectic trip to Japan, with shows the length of Japan, from Osaka towards the south of the main island to Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido.
Thursday 31 July
As usual, an early start from home in order to catch the 5.50am train from Leeds to Manchester Airport, the first of several long days. It was mild but with light rain in the air, and I hoped this would be the last rain Id see for a week. Got to Manchester Airport OK, and the short flight to Paris was uneventful until we approached to land, only to suddenly accelerate and rise again when we were just feet from the ground. Landed safely second time around. The new terminal at Paris Charles De Gaulle is impressive and modernistic with a Zeppelin shaped roof of glass and metal struts (at least from the inside). For a major flight such as the one to Tokyo, it was a surprise to find that we had to get onto buses and be driven to our plane, which was standing on the tarmac about a mile from the main terminal. More surprisingly was that the flight was perhaps only half full or so (both of my previous trips to/from Japan had been on full aircraft), so I was pleased to get 3 seats together for the 11 ½ hour trip. The flight was long, and I only dozed a little, but listening to CDs, from CT, Span, The Shazam and even Vesica Pisces helped pass the time. Plus starting to read an appropriate book for the trip, James Clavell's epic "Shogun"!
Friday 1 August Cheap Trick at Hard Rock Café, Tokyo
By the time I landed at Tokyos Narita Airport it was Friday morning local, midnight back in England. I quickly got through Immigration, my bag arrived on the luggage carousel, and I was off to get my Japan Railways Pass. Being peak travelling month, I couldnt get any discounted flight tickets normally available to foreign visitors, so the 7 day unlimited JR pass (usable on all services except for the fastest "Nozomi" bullet train) at around £150 (US$240) was essential. And indeed, I got my moneys worth from it as you'll read!
Its was damp and drizzling as the Narita Express train took me towards Tokyo, passing by rice fields, small villages with houses with Japanese styled tile roofs, and apartment buildings with every balcony festooned with drying laundry. As the train approached Tokyo, the urban sprawl built up, and the buildings increasingly squeezed together into warrens of small, narrow backstreets away from the wide main roads. Using my JR Pass I got first to Ueno and then Shibuya to do some shopping. It was getting increasingly warmer and my luggage was feeling progressively heavier. By the time I got a subway to within ¾ of a mile from my hotel at lunchtime, I was literally dying, and soaked with sweat too (not a pretty thought!). It was hard work reaching the hotel, the long flight of steps to the temple behind which the hotel stood were the worst! I was glad to check in (gasping), and soon stand in a cold shower for 10 minutes!
But no time to linger. By now it was 1.30pm or so, and I needed to get to the Hard Rock Café at Roppongi for the first Cheap Trick performance of the tour. This was one of the pre-game press conferences for tomorrows "NFL Tokyo" game at which the band were providing the half time entertainment. I met with Japanese friend Hiromi in the lobby, and with another of her friends we took a taxi down to Roppongi. We got out of the cab in sight of the nearby Tokyo Tower, the HRC was just off on a side street and had a gorilla climbing the side of the building (aping King Kong)! Attendance to this event was restricted to Press and a small number of fans who had won tickets. The Café was on the first floor up a steep stairway, on either side were posters for both the "NFL Tokyo" game, and Japanese posters for Cheap Tricks new "Special One" CD. The inside of the Café was cosy, with split levels and lots of wood. As you entered the main entrance, the area to the right was set up for a press conference with about 5 rows of chairs (and with backdrop banners, one with the Cheap Trick logo, one with the NFL logo, and one celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Hard Rock Café in Japan). To the left was the bar area, but most of this was sectioned off for a small performance area for Cheap Trick, with another HRC Japan 20th Anniversary backdrop.
The press conference started at 4pm with executives from the Hard Rock Café, NFL in Japan etc giving short speeches in Japanese. Then five cheerleaders brought over by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came on and introduced themselves, before Bob Sapp was introduced. A huge, muscular man, I gather he used to be a NFL player before moving into pro wrestling, but still works as an ambassador for NFL.
Cheap Trick finally took to the small stage at 4.21pm to perform a couple of acoustic numbers.
RN Cream jacket, black Conan t-shirt, black pants, red shoes
RZ Black suit, white shirt, avocado green tie, cowboy hat
TP Black jacket, black pants, cream shirt
BC Black jeans, black t-shirt, red cap
Too Much, I Want You To Want Me
At the end Rick jokingly commented "Who needs the Budokan?" The band then moved over to the press conference area where they were presented with a large plaque commemorating the 25th anniversary of their "At Budokan" album, which they donated to the Hard Rock Café so that it would be on display in Tokyo, which was really most appropriate. Then a few photos before they left, film crew in trail. The band had employed a film crew to follow their week in Japan with a view to releasing a video diary of this short tour on DVD in the future.
Before the HRC appearance the band and crew had been out at Chiba rehearsing for tomorrows "Summersonic" festival, and early evening saw them setting out to the Tokyo Dome to rehearse for tomorrows "NFL Tokyo" half time show, so it was certainly a tiring time for them all. I met up with good friend Mika at the HRC and we went back to the hotel (where she'd booked the room where were sharing) before going out for some fine sushi to round off a very long day!
Saturday 2 August Cheap Trick at Summersonic Tokyo, also NFL Tokyo
The day dawned hot, sunny and humid, setting the weather trend for the rest of the trip. Mika and I got the subway to Kinshicho where we soon met up with the famous Sushi Man and also Tokyo Zander, both part of tribute band Cheap Track. Sushi Man drove us out to Chiba, passing Disneyland Tokyo on the way. We parked at the Chiba City complex, and walked around a mile to the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball stadium where the outdoor stage of the two day Summersonic festival was located. Mika and I had tickets for the left side, Sushi Man and Tokyo Zander to the right, so we separated by the Stadium front. I wanted to get a CT Japan Tour t-shirt but the line for merchandise was crazy! Merchandise was sold in one place only, with a single area of tents selling t-shirts etc for each band at the Festival plus Fest merchandise. The line of fans waiting to be allowed into the merchandise tents area snaked between roped lines and there must have been over a thousand people standing in that barely moving line, in the 90+ degree heat. I decided to wait until later!
Mika and I went into the stadium, and rather than go onto the grass in front of the stage we sat in the stands in the shade. We were there just in time (11.25am) for The Datsuns. Cool that one of their guitarists looked to be wearing a CT "Standing on the Edge" t-shirt from 1986. The young crowd loved them. The stadium was a circular, concrete affair, with standing room on the pitch and stadium seating all around (except behind the stage). Next up were the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, who reminded me of the British group "Madness" in both sound and stage performance. The huge crowd on the pitch went wild for them! In between bands, hoses were sprayed onto the crowd at stage front, and some people were sliding into pools of water to the side of stage front. A good way to stay cool. Next up, a Japanese band called The High Lows, who were loud and popular, but I didnt care much for them. By now the merchandise line had reduced outside so I spend half an hour out there to get t-shirts.
Mika and I went down to the stage area after the High Lows finished. It was still fairly crowded so we stood at the back of the front stage section, in front of the soundboard tent. It was very, very hot, the only relief were brief, saltwater smelling sea breezes. Cheap Trick came on at 2.33pm.
RN Shiny red suit, black Mister Junko t-shirt
RZ White pants, cream jacket, black cowboy hat, white\cream sleeveless top
TP White Betty Boop t-shirt, very pale pink pants
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Hello There, Big Eyes, Too Much, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, Clock Strikes Ten, My Obsession, Dream Police, Aint That A Shame, Surrender, Scent Of A Woman
For "Too Much" Rick played what looked to be a new, green (Fender Strat?) guitar and said "The first thing I did when I got to Japan was buy a guitar". There was a little body surfing going on at the very front of the crowd during "Clock Strikes Ten", I later saw a couple of friends (Junko and Mutsumi) got bruises from being hit by flying feet. "Dream Police" saw Rick persecuted "right here at Summersonic!!". Robin thanked the crowd right after "Surrender", but they then launched straight into "Scent of a Woman" (during which Rick had to change guitar). The end of the song was somewhat anti-climactic, as Robin and Bun E left the stage, and then Rick thanked the crowd. The 40 minute set finished a little after 3.10pm. The band got a fairly warm reception from the young crowd, though the front area wasnt as packed as for the younger bands, nor did the crowd go anything like as nuts, other than for perhaps "I Want You To Want Me". We met up with friends outside, some went to buy CT t-shirts before Sushi Man drove us back into Tokyo and Mika and I had to rush to get to the Tokyo Dome by JR train in time for the start of the 6pm NFL game.
We made it to the Tokyo Dome complex with just a few minutes to spare, and our seats were behind the Tampa Bay endzone. The pre-season game was between Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets, and the Buccs had brought their whole troop of cheerleaders to add colour to the event! Wed heard rumour that CT were to be introduced before the game, but that didnt happen, they didnt arrive until after the game started.
Half time arrived with Tampa leading 13-7, and as the teams went off, an army of people pushed the small stage to the centre of the pitch for Cheap Tricks half time performance. Cheap Trick went on at 7.23pm.
RN Black suit, black t-shirt
RZ Gold patterned suit, white shirt, dark tie
TP Pink shirt, black pants
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans, red cap
I Want You To Want Me, Scent Of A Woman
Both songs were shortened and lip synched, no way could soundboard etc be set up and adjusted for them to be performed live in such a short and precise time frame for American TV. It must have been difficult for Robin in particular, to have to lip synch to truncated versions of both songs, just hours after having sung the normal length versions live. However, it was quite a spectacle as the band had a couple of hundred schoolchildren dancing to either side of the stage for both songs, and a handful of cheerleaders on a riser behind the stage for "Scent".
After CTs performance we left the Dome rather than stay for the rest of the game (though I later heard that Tampa Bay won by 30-14), and outside we met with Junko, Hiromi, Mutsumi and Noriko and went to eat at the nearby Baseball Café, which was as American themed as the name suggests. And interesting place, the servers danced on tables to "Greased Lightning" during our meal, plus an odd clown wearing a monkey face mask came round doing tricks and entertaining at tables. To celebrate my last evening in Tokyo I had 3 beers! Biiru kudasai! Kampai!
Sunday 3 August Cheap Trick at Summersonic, Osaka
An early start as I needed to get an early train down to Osaka. I said my goodbyes to Mika before 7am, and took a taxi down the wide, clean and quiet streets to Tokyo Station. Got the 7.46am Hikari shinkansen (bullet train), and passed by familiar scenery of mountains, green rice fields and crowded cities, though it was misty as we passed Mt Fuji and I could barely make out more than the outline :-( I reached shin-Osaka station around 10.45am and Junko and Hiromi arrived about an hour later, having caught a later train. We took a cab to their hotel in downtown Osaka, theyd kindly offered to let me leave my bags in their room until later, as I wasnt staying the night in Osaka. Mina, a local friend of Junkos soon arrived and took us via several subway trains down to the WTC centre by Osaka Bay. I was very grateful for the help, I could never have found my way down there on my own. It was a shame I didnt have more time to see around the Bay area, we passed by another huge ferris wheel (thats at least two I know of in Osaka) and there looked to be some fun places to explore. The subway (by now, overground) got us to the WTC complex, and being above road level we got our first view of the Summersonic outdoor stage area as we pulled into the subway station. The setting was basically a large, flat, dusty square field, surrounded by a high fence. And there was already a large crowd in there.
We had to walk a long way to the desk to get our wristbands before walking back to the entrance. Our timing was excellent, as the High Lows had just finished so we could walk through the crowds streaming out and try to get close to the stage. My ticket was for stage left (Ricks side), Junko and Hiromis was to the right. I managed to get "second row" but way off to the side of Ricks side. Like at Chiba, the stage was large, with huge Summersonic banners to either side of the stage as well as big screens. Like at Chiba there was a good crowd for Cheap Trick but it wasnt packed tight. Luckily the front stage area was in shade which was welcome, though it still felt very hot. Id seen it was 34 degrees in downtown Osaka. Cheap Trick came on at 3pm.
RN Shiny red suit, black t-shirt ("My singer is better than your singer")
RZ Cream jacket, white pants, white shirt, dark tie, dark grey hat, shades
TP dark grey shirt, dark grey pants
BC White Zildjian t-shirt, black pants
Hello There, Big Eyes, Too Much, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, Clock Strikes Ten, My Obsession, Dream Police, Heaven Tonight, Aint That A Shame, Surrender, Goodnight Now
For "Hello There", Rick played his new Japanese Explorer guitar, which was light blue with a graphic of a Japanese flag fluttering from a flagpole. To the top left was a small double "Rick Nielsen" graphic, to bottom right was a small double Cheap Trick logo. Rick managed to get lots of arms swaying during "Too Much", which is the first single in Japan. Ricks guitar cut out for the first ten seconds of "IWYTWM" and continuing technical problems after the song caused Rick to need to talk to his tech for two minutes. "Dream Police" saw Rick persecuted "right here in Osaka, Japan", and "Heaven Tonight" was a welcome surprise to the setlist, and with a big Bun E ending. Robin sat at stage front for the start of "Surrender", with his legs overhanging, and at the end he thanked the crowd and the band immediately launched into "Goodnight Now". Robin was handed his guitar by his son sidestage, which led him to a big smile, but Ricks guitar cut out for the whole song so he wasnt smiling at all.
All told it was a good 50 minute show, despite the technical problems. The crowd was more responsive than at Tokyo, and Robin in particular looked to be enjoying himself despite the heat. The show ended at 3.50pm and at front stage Rick first opened his jacket and then shrugged it off onto the floor to display his "My singer is better than your singer" t-shirt. Afterwards our group headed off to find the indoor hall where we heard the merchandise was being sold. A helpful, local CT fan (Keiichi) helped us find the right place but unfortunately all the Summersonic t-shirts were sold out. We briefly wandered inside the air conditioned hall looking at the various stalls and even a ninja demonstration. We then headed back into Osaka and had dinner at the Hard Rock Café.
Back to the hotel to get my bags as I needed to get back to the shin-Osaka railway station to get a train for the hour journey north to Nagoya. Shortly before we left the hotel we saw a spectacular firework display going on over downtown, it being Festival season all over Japan. The roads were busy with cars slowing down or stopping to watch the fireworks, so I had to get the subway for 4 stops to shin-Osaka rather than get a taxi. The girls waved me off at the nearby subway and I caught a train with moments to spare. It was going to be tight as I had only something like 12 minutes to get there, and my stress wasnt helped when my subway train went "out of service" at the second stop. I had to wait two minutes for the next train, got to shin-Osaka with only 2 minutes, ran up the stairs, through barriers and onto the shinkansen platform and the northbound train to Tokyo (via Nagoya) just 10 seconds before the doors closed. Like in Tokyo on day 1, I was hot, sweaty and exhausted! But I calmed and cooled down, got to Nagoya at 9.45pm to be met by good friend Mariko. She got me to my hotel which was close to the station, I took a quick shower and then we went out and had a drink at an English style pub not too far away. Mari got the subway back to her home, I walked back to my hotel, and the temperature was still 28 degrees at 11.30pm. Bed was very welcome as it had been another long day.
Monday 4 August Cheap Trick at Sendai
Mari came to my hotel just after 8am and we had another long travel day in store, beyond Tokyo to Sendai. We got onto the 8.28am Hikari train heading north to Tokyo Station, but sadly no view of Mt Fuji as it was obscured by cloud :-( We reached Tokyo Station two hours later, and we had enough time to get a welcome mid-morning breakfast there (mine was rice, ginger and sliced beef!) before waiting to catch the 11.36am train to Sendai. It pulled in a few minutes early, and several cleaning staff got on to clear any rubbish and, something I'd never seen before, to turn the seats around. Cunningly, many railway carriage seats in Japan have a foot lever that allows the seats to be rotated through 180 degrees. So instead of having to turn the whole train around, a team of staff can turn the seats round in minutes. And whilst on the subject of trains, I was highly impressed (like on my previous visits) by the cleanliness of the stations and trains; the punctuality (every train I was on left and arrived to the published schedule, to the minute); the seats were comfortable with good leg room; the staff courteous; and the girls with refreshment trolleys or trays bowed as they entered and exited each carriage. I can't speak too highly of Japan Railways, I only wish the British railways were even half as good.
Anyway, our double decker train left at 11.36am to the second and headed north, arriving in Sendai around two hours later. After checking into our hotel which was part of the large station complex, we found our way to the venue for tonight's show, the Zepp Sendai which was within the plaza on the opposite side of the station. By the way, on a map Sendai looks to be only a small city, but from our hotel room on the 15th floor we could see it stretch in all directions. It was quiet outside the venue, with no fans there as yet (though they had no need to be as people would be allowed in according to their ticket number). There was a large ground billboard in front of the entrance, proclaiming "Livestock 2003 - Cheap Trick vs Hound Dog". This in reference to a well known, national pop chart act in Japan called "Hound Dog", whose home city was Sendai. Apparently the promoter thought it a good idea to advertise the show like a battle of the bands.
Whilst just taking in the plaza, we watched some video's and commercials on the nearby big screen atop an electrical store, and two video's (repeated several times during the afternoon) caught the eye. Both cute animations favoured by the Japanese, one was an amazing 1min30sec animation of chihuahua dogs, together with an annoyingly catchy tune! Can be found at www.chiwawaworld.com - in the Chiwawa Theatre and its the picture marked (somethingONAIR!). Click on one of the boxes beside it to watch on RealPlayer! The second was a cool cat and dog animation, the related website was www.dinga.jp but I haven't had time to go look there yet.
Around 4pm Mari and I went to the nearby Starbucks for iced coffee (it was still very hot outside) and food, and Mari persuaded me to try the keema curry donut! Yes, true! Sounds horrible, but tasted great! Japan is a country full of surprises! We went back to the venue around 5pm and ended up getting in line. Doors were supposed to be at 6pm but we didn't get to go in until 6.35pm. I had decided not to try to go in for soundcheck as I knew the film crew were still busy following the band around. The film crew came out before doors open and recorded some footage and soundbites of some of the fans to possibly use within the tour video diary. Look out for the Japanese fan singing "I Want You To Want Me" and I hope they don't use any footage of the English guy! He didn't know quite what to say! Uhh "Cheap Trick rocks"?
My number in line was #95, and by the time I got in I found the area in front of Rick and Robin crowded but surprisingly I got a front row spot in front of Tom. The venue was black and square, no deeper than the Metro in Chicago, with several padded crush bars creating "pens" and with a high ceiling. It was a relief that it was air conditioned, and whilst it had no balcony to the rear it did have two walkway type "balconies" to either side.
The lights went down at 7.07pm, the theme to Chariots of Fire played, the crowd went wild, and shortly afterwards Hound Dog took to the stage. A 7 piece band including sax and keyboards, they'd been around since the late 70's and there were certainly some cliched 80's type rock-band poses from the guitarist in front of me, and also a few of those cliched "guitarists in a line" poses too. But their songs ranged from straight 70's/80's rock to songs with more than a hint of 50's R'n'R sound, to a power ballad. Their singer was a real showman and had a great voice. And when he talked in between songs, he had the audience laughing I wish I could have understood what he said. All in all, I thought they were entertaining and the crowd loved them. They finished at 7.51pm, and the local crew then had to set about dismantling the front stage extension used by Hound Dog, to create a gap between the front stage and crowd barrier. As soon found out, this was to allow the video cameramen room to move whilst filming Cheap Trick.
The band had a large stage to work on, and there ended up being 8 cameras filming tonight's set. After a short and subdued intro by Dave Rule, the band took to the stage at 8.48pm to a warm welcome from the crowd.
RN Black pants, black jacket with white patterning, black t-shirt ("My singer is better than your singer")
RZ Black suit, black long sleeved t-shirt
TP Black pants, pink striped shirt
BC Black pants, black t-shirt
The stage was first set up with stools for the first few songs to be acoustic, before going into the electric set. This was to be only the second time (to my knowledge) that they'd played this dual acoustic/electric set, the first being at Merrillville, Indiana a couple of months ago.
(I hope you'll forgive the different style of writing the set list and occurances/comments for this and the Sapporo show, but as these were both such long sets I think including the detail where it happens reads better for these shows).
- Robin needed some water bringing on after this to keep his throat moist
Play By The Rules
It All Comes Back To You
- After this song, Rick mentioned that the show was being recorded for "Live at Sendai", adding "it'll be more famous than Budokan next year!"
(e-drone whilst the stage was cleared for the electric set)
- Before coming back on, Robin shed the jacket to reveal his long sleeved black t-shirt with white piping.
Just Got Back
If You Want My Love - Rick got the arms swaying for this song!
Pop Drone - Rick used his new blue Japan flag Explorer for this and handed it to Sushi Man in the front row at the end of the song. He then introduced Sushi Man as well as mentioning fans here who'd been at Budokan in 78 (Junko).
- During a quiet break after the song (and during many breaks between songs the crowd fell silent), someone onstage shouted if Rick was ready. That prompted some comment of "Rolling, rolling, rolling" which in turn prompted Robin to play a couple of bars of the theme tune to "Bonanza"!
I Want You to Want Me
- Bun E needed a snare changed after this song, the first of two or three snare changes. A little banter between Rick and Tom during the enforced break prompted Rick to comment "Uh-oh bass solo, bad omen!" but Tom went into a very cool few bars of the Beatles "Within You Without You" which he'd also played at London's Royal Albert Hall in March.
Never Had A Lot To Lose - Robin put on a dark grey felt hat at the start of this. Afterwards Bun E needed his snare changing again, so Rick used the time to thank Hound Dog, which prompted Rick and Robin to launch into a couple of impromptu verses of Elvis' song "Hound Dog" which was so cool! After the crowds wild reaction, Rick commented "That's our new hit in Japan!"
- Bun E needed to retune his kit, so Rick used the time to mention a write in campaign to bring CT to Sendai in 1979 after they hadn't visited the city during the 78 tour.
- Rick three times introduced Robin as his "favourite lead singer in the whole, wide world", and each time Robin wasn't where Rick expected him to be. He then walked back to Robin and Tom's backline to do the traditional handshake with Robin, and there were no spotlights on! I heard him shout in the dark that they'd have to do it again for the camera! But they didn't.
Special One - no, Robin didn't sing any lyrics in Japanese
- After the song, Rick gave one of the cameramen on stage a hard time, walking at him giving him playful "abuse"!
Aint That A Shame
- At the end, Robin tried three times to thank the crowd, but his mic kept sliding down to waist level!
- After coming back on, Rick said "the first thing I did when I arrived in Japan was to buy a new guitar no, I tried that line 25 years ago!" He then did band member intro's, and when he announced RZ the spotlight went onto a startled Colin (Rick and Tom's tech) who was just at side stage getting a new mic stand ready for Robin! So Colin got an intro too!
Scent Of A Woman
The long show ended at 10.38pm and it was nice to meet several other Japanese friends afterwards as we milled around outside. It had been a good show, though the crowd was a little quiet and the show didn't flow as would have been hoped because of the technical problems.
Tuesday 5 August
I was up and outside wandering around soon after 8am, and since it had rained overnight the morning was very warm and very humid. It had been a short but pleasant stop in Sendai, all the better for there not having been any earth tremors whilst we'd been there! There have been two earthquakes near Sendai in the past 4 months, and before the trip I'd recalled the earth tremor we'd experienced in Shizuoka in 2001. Luckily all had been quiet whilst we'd been here!
Mari and I had a long travelling day ahead, with three trains and 8 1/2 hours journeying. Mari could have taken the one hour flight to Sapporo, but instead accompanied me since the high overall cost of the trip meant that I really needed to use my JR Pass and travel by train. As it was, it was a great journey, and I/we saw far more from the train than from a plane window at 30,000 feet. We first left Sendai Station (its main passenger area festooned with large, colourful decorations for the local Festival this week) and travelled from Sendai to Hachinohe, passing lightly hilled land with emerald green rice fields everywhere. After Morioka it got a little more mountainous. From Hachinohe we got onto a train bound for Hakodate (3 1/4 hours away) on the southern tip of the northern island, Hokkaido. On the way to Aomori we passed mist covered mountains on our left and then skirted the coastline on our right. We then spent an age going through the 32 mile long Seikan rail tunnel under the sea that links the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, an immense feat of engineering. Our last train was from Hakodate to Sapporo, another 3 1/2 hour journey), but the most spectacular. The train immediately climbed into the mountains, passing by beautiful lakes and mountains like Mt Komagatake. The train followed the coastline of the large bay for much of the time, and I can't say enough about how beautiful the island of Hokkaido is, what I saw of it.
We pulled into Sapporo shortly before 6pm, and easily found our hotel 3 blocks away (Sapporo is helpfully set out in a grid system like American cities are, which makes walking around easier). After checking in, we went out to walk. It was still warm but more comfortable to walk here than in the hot and humid cities on Honshu. In the twilight we saw the famous Tokeidai Clock Tower (actually built in Boston in 1880), then the Odori Koen gardens that run for several blocks and include spectacular fountains and beer gardens as well as a wonderful view of the TV Tower, and down to the highly colourful, blocks long shopping arcade of Tanuke Koji. Just round the corner on a side street, we passed by a nondescript stairwell leading to a restaurant and a guitar shop. But what caught my ear was Pop Drone! We stood in the stairwell and listened, next hearing My Obsession, then Words! Cool, the Special One CD was being played in its entirity! We then down to the neon excess of Suskino, the entertainment district, where Mari took me to a passageway (beneath the giant whisky bottle sign) that was a warren of small noodle restaurants. We each had a large bowl of the local noodle speciality whilst watching Japanese baseball on TV in a tiny restaurant some 10' by 12'. An amazing experience.
Wednesday 6 August Cheap Trick at Sapporo
The day dawned bright and sunny, and the famous mountains were visible unlike yesterday evening. As the show was general admission, we comfortably walked the 15-ish blocks down to the Zepp Sapporo venue for around 10.20am to find a handful of Japanese friends already there! I stayed about 30 minutes before walking back up towards the centre to take photo's and sightsee a little more. As well as seeing many of the places again by daylight, I passed by that stairwell again and this time heard "I Can't Take It"! Someone there definitely loved playing Cheap Trick! Found the Japanese re-releases of the first 5 albums in the local Tower Records, the CT shelf having a nice and prominent display. And I went to the free viewing floor at the top of the 19 storey Govt Building (next to the TV Tower) to get a wonderful panoramic view of the city and mountains. The floor was open to the sky, had fake grass, and office workers sitting on the grass eating their lunches!
I got back to the venue around 2.15pm, and today I did go in for soundcheck. That started at 4.25pm and the band played:
Oh Caroline (electric), Take Me To The Top, Didnt Know I Had It, Take Me Im Yours, If I Could (all acoustic)
The venue was similar the Zepp Sendai, except being a bit deeper and having a small balcony to the rear with a bank of seats. Robin was struggling with flu but was still going ahead with this final show of the tour.
I heard from Rick's tech, Dave, that there were only two of Rick's new Japan flag Explorer created. The first was signed by the players who'd played in the "NFL Tokyo" game and was presented to the NFL. The second, which Rick was playing, would be retired after tonight's show and given to the Hard Rock Café organisation in Japan to display in one of the restaurants there.
Doors opened at 5.50pm, and by showtime at 7pm the main floor of the venue was full though not packed full. There were a few people sat in the balcony too, and I watched from the "walkway balcony" to Tom's side of the stage.
RN Black suit, black "Method Sapporo" t-shirt
RZ Brown striped suit, white shirt, mustard tie, black felt hat
TP Grey shirt, grey pants
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Again this was to be an acoustic/electric show, certainly a brave decision by Robin given his state of health. The band came on at 7.06pm to an enthusiastic welcome!
Take Me To The Top
Ghost Town - Robin was already struggling with his throat during this song
Didnt Know I Had It
- After this song Rick commented that Robin was a true professional and performing rather than cancel.
Take Me Im Yours
If I Could
(e-drone to the electric set)
Just Got Back
If You Want My Love - Rick started the arm swaying before Bun E even started the song!
Pop Drone - On this as well as many other songs, Rick and Tom vocally helped compensate for Robin
I Want You To Want Me - As always a big crowd favourite and the whole crowd were clapping near the end, even the men in suits who'd come straight from work. After the song Rick pointed out Sushi Man and Junko, and then Yaico with the CT tattoo on her upper arm. He invited Tom to look at the tattoo, Tom's reaction was "ouch!"
Best Friend - This went down well, and Robin sounded awesome
Never Had A Lot To Lose
- Rick introduced the band members, commenting about Robin that "I can't believe he's out here singing being as ill as he is. And sounding better with every song too".
- Rick commented that "I don't usually introduce myself, but I'm David Beckham" which brought a cheer from the crowd! (The famous soccer player was also in Japan this week with his new club.)
Special One - Introduced as "being on the new album twice, once in English and once in Japanese especially for you". After the song Rick mentioned that this had been the best audience they'd had in Japan so far and to remember that " I'm David Beckham (derisive laughs from the crowd!) OK, I'm his brother his half brother "
Heaven Tonight - Robins voice became a bit gravelly during this song, and Rick handed his guitar to Yaico (in the front row) mid-song.
Aint That A Shame
- Rick came back on and started up the Japanese (san-san-nana-byoshi) cheerleading clap which Bun E soon picked up on his drums. Robin took off his hat to release his hair, to a big cheer from the crowd!
Scent Of A Woman
Goodnight Now - double drum ending from Bun E.
The show ended at 8.56pm This had been the highlight of the tour I think, certainly the best show and best crowd. And Robin had indeed been a trooper, performing the long set extremely well whilst feeling ill. But credit also the Rick, Tom and Bun E who as ever performed excellently. And the crowd clapped for more for a good 2-3 minutes after the show ended.
After the show a group of us went to a tiny local bar (which was, as is common in Japanese cities, on the 4th floor of an office building) where a CT tribute band ("Check Trip") were advertised as playing a free show from 10pm. Around 11pm there was a huge cheer of surprise as the people in the bar realised that Rick had just walked in, and very cool that Rick joined the local band of male singer, male guitarist, female bass player and female drummer to play "Hello There" and "Clock Strikes Ten". The bar was little bigger than the average living room, so it was very crowded, both on the tiny stage and off it! Rick left after those two songs, to leave a stunned and very emotional band!
I and a few of CT's crew returned to the bar shortly afterwards and had fun for another hour or so, listening to the Japanese tribute band excellently play through songs such as Oh Claire/Surrender, On Top Of The World, Hello There, Auf Wiedersehen and surprisingly, My Obsession. Mari and I left the bar around 1.15am to walk back to our hotel, and the vibrant Suskino area was still crowded at that time. To bed around 2am!
Thursday 7 August - The Journey Home
Up at 8.45am to pack for a long day ahead. It was another hot and beautiful day, and I was sorry to be leaving Sapporo. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe that it was a little more Western (though still very Japanese) but I really liked Sapporo a lot, and I hope very much to return.
It was a crazy 30+ hours of travelling from leaving the hotel at 10.30am. Mari and I caught the train to Sapporo Chitose Airport, which was very busy, modern and (like so much else in Japan) very clean. As my flight from Tokyo wasn't until late evening, I'd decided to fly to Nagoya with Mari and travel from back there to Tokyo. So we took an All Nippon Airways flight to Nagoya, and cool on the list of in-flight audio programming to see CT's "Too Much" listed! We got to Nagoya Airport at 3pm, and caught a bus into Nagoya centre, which took 30 minutes through crowded and congested urban sprawl. After saying my farewells to Mari, I got onto the 4.16pm Hikari train to Tokyo, and again Mt Fuji was obscured by cloud as we passed by :-( BUT we then branched off the normal line to Tokyo as we were to stop at shin-Yokohama, and soon after I looked back and DID see the perfect symmetrical cone of Mt Fuji, the cloud cover had obscured only one side. So just hours before leaving Japan I felt like my trip was now complete, because I was finally able to see one of my favourite sights in the world :-) Had a few minutes of views of the top half of the mountain before it became out of sight.
At Tokyo Station I had to get in line for ages to get a reservation on the Narita Express (reservations are necessary for most train journeys in Japan), before getting that train and reaching Narita Airport two hours before my flight. Check in was crazy, as there were a lot of young Japanese women (and some men too) who'd come to see the visiting Italian soccer side Reggina depart. They were checking in onto my flight, so I had to fight through Japanese fans plus tall, tanned, handsome Italian footballers just to get into the check-in area. The late night Air France flight to Paris was full, and it was a long 13 1/2 hour flight. After dinner, I surprisingly managed to fall asleep, despite the uncomfortable seating position. Although I never slept deeply, I did semi sleep for several hours, which is a rarity for me when flying!
Friday 8 August
Arrived at Paris at 4am local time, nearly 4 hours to kill in the quiet new terminal before my flight to Manchester Airport (and oddly, we were bussed again from the terminal to the plane - wonderful new terminal, not enough gates!). From there, a short train journey into central Manchester, another hour long train ride over to Leeds, and a bus journey to my office where I arrived at 10.45am, nearly 33 hours since leaving the Sapporo hotel! I managed 3 hours work before heading home!
And so ended what had been an extremely tiring, travel intensive, but satisfying trip! Six Cheap Trick shows, half of an NFL game, hot and dry weather, several Japanese cities, some spectacular scenery seen from trains, excellent sushi and noodles, and seeing many wonderful Japanese friends again. I couldn't have asked for anything more :-)
Whilst travels to America are pretty easy, going to Japan is so much more difficult and it's fair to say that without the help of a number of wonderful people there, my trip would possibly not have happened. Huge DOMO ARIGATO's to: Mika for buying me the Festival tickets, booking our Tokyo hotel and for our wonderful time in Tokyo; Sushi Man for getting the NFL tickets and for driving to Chiba and some local driving in Tokyo; Mari for getting my tickets for Sendai and Sapporo, for booking hotels, the flight to Nagoya and for the wonderful time from Osaka onwards; to Junko, Hiromi, Noriko, Mutsumi and Mina, for so much help in Osaka and for other fun times during the trip! Thanks also to the other people I met for being so nice! Thanks to Cheap Trick, Carla, Dave, Jon, Todd, Mike and all the crew guys, it's always a pleasure. And thanks to Japan Railways, the JR Pass was an incredible bargain and the trains clean, comfortable, punctual and a pleasure to travel on!
Kim Gisborne - Leeds, England. 9 August 2003
This Site and all material held within it are Copyright by Kim Gisborne