What part of the word "insanity" includes OE or Steel-Hand?
Going to Japan was a decision I made with only a few weeks to go before the tour. I didn't know what to expect, nor did I take any preconceived ideas about what I would encounter. Well, one.
I had corresponded a few times with Amy Ida, one of the Japanese Tour Managers. The other was Layli, and a sidekick, Tom - a very congenial guy.
Amy couldn't have been more accommodating, and she arranged for my tickets; although it did take proper clearance from Chris Cooke, Procol's Manager, and the band to maintain proper access to the forbidden areas. And Layli and Tom were very kind and helpful as well.
And being included in a couple post-concert dinners at some great restaurants were additional high-points.
When I arrived on Thursday, one day prior to the Tokyo show, I decided not to contact anyone and just take in a bit of the Shinjuku-Ku District. This area is about fifteen minutes by train outside of Downtown Tokyo and where our hotel was situated.
Each area, including the Ginza and Roppongi areas, has vibrant eatery and shopping areas. The Ginza was definitely the upscale shopping area.
The next day during breakfast-time, Chris, Geoff and I caught up. As they left, Matthew and I caught up, and Matt joined us. Then after a long discussion and before the soundcheck, Pegg and I took a nice walk around Shinjuku-Ku and had a nice conversation. It was a highlight, and a nice moment for he and I got better acquainted.
One interesting note is that The Idol has finally arrived in the current setlists in Scandinavia and Europe. At the conclusion of the Western US Tour, Gary mentioned that he was thinking of bringing The Idol back. I told him I felt it is a great song.
While Matt and I took our mid-day stroll, I mentioned that Gary had mentioned the possibility of the song's being brought back. Suddenly during the soundcheck in Tokyo, The Idol appeared. I wondered if it was to be played in Japan. Three soundchecks with the song, and yet no appearance in the sets.
I traveled with the crew to and from the second show in Kawasaki, and we had some great conversations. These guys, Graham, John, and Jules are great people and very dedicated.
During another walk with the band and crew, sans Gary and Matthew, where we went to a local guitar shop after the soundcheck in Kawasaki, Mark, Pegg and I were discussing the drumming and the ending portion of the The Idol. Nice to see its inclusion on the current leg.
Back in the dressing room, Gary suddenly burst into singing the first verse of One Eye On The Future, One Eye On The Past and I joined in as we had done on the Western US Tour. But even more suddenly Gary started singing a few lines from I'm A Reader, Not A Writer. I asked him for clarification about a line in A Real Attitude, and he sang a few lines. Whoa!
In Kawasaki, I was sitting in front row with Matthew right in front of me. It was joyous, but equally so that at different points during the show each member took a moment to look over and throw a smile and share a few of their moments with me. Quite intoxicating!
I would note that all of the venues and security at each location were very strict about not taking flash pictures during the shows, so I restricted my shots to soundchecks. They will arrive at BtP soon, as will the paraphernalia I collected.
It was strange running downstairs to gain access to the internet in the hotel, as well as during a stroll between the soundcheck and the show in Tokyo stopping at a Kinko's to get my emails, send my reports, and view the daily upload at BtP.
It was nice to meet Shurzo Marai, one of our Procoholics from Japan.
I stayed in Tokyo on Sunday as everyone moved on to Osaka.
Monday, my train ride to Osaka was a treat, since I had always heard about the speed of the Bullet Trains. It was entrancing, as was the mellow vibration of the train that helped me get a little sleep during the ride.
That afternoon, after the soundcheck, Mark, Matt and I took a walk and grabbed something to eat. I learned that they all went to a bar the prior evening where they ran into touring troupe from Riverdance.
However, back to that soundcheck. It was amazing and a bit strange to hear Something Following Me and the partial section of Mabel.
While waiting for Yonin-Bayashi to complete their last set of the tour, Gary advised me that a line of words in The Blink Of An Eye had changed from:
"Those who are left don't know how to cope" To "Those who are left must learn how to cope."
As Geoff restrung his guitar, Gary noticed a piano and sat down for a few minutes just joking around and having a good time.
Prior to taking the stage, Gary and I discussed a few songs that hadn't been done in a while. I indicated it was great to hear Something Following Me during the soundcheck, and we started singing a verse. I mentioned that we hadn't heard Sixpence, Geek, and have never heard The Pursuit Of Happiness. Then for the hell of it, I threw in Drunk Again. Reluctantly, I'm sorry to say, I didn't mention Salad Days.
After the Osaka gig, Graham and I were standing side-stage and watching the Japanese crew work like a well-oiled machine as they packed the equipment and cleared the lighting stanchions. An amazingly coordinated work of art.
As I didn't join the band for dinner in Osaka, I walked around a bit and hit a Shabu Shabu restaurant. I cooked my chicken and veggies in a beautiful Miso broth.
When I returned to the hotel, the bar Gary suggested I meet them and had an early closure.
I went to my room and I was readying my bag for its final packing when the phone rang. "Hi, Allen! Chris here. Grab a glass as we've run short and come to 1511."
"Be right there."
As I entered Matthew's room, Gary tested me with the sacred door-knocking response, which I had gotten wrong the first time.
As I filled my glass, I had various conversations with everyone. Matt was taking his usual videos, and we were looking at some of his current shots on the camera's monitor.
At a later time, Gary and I had quite a discussion about songs, band history, and happened into an extended conversation about Lowell George and Little Feat. As we completed our conversation, a shorter one with Geoff and Matthew about current issues ensued.
As I readied myself to leave and we exchanged goodbyes until Islington, Gary stuck out his hand to shake mine.
The background about this is on the Eastern Tour: Gary and I shook hands when we first met in Montreal. A week later while backstage at the IMAC in New York after the gig, as we were ready to say our goodbyes, Franky said Gary and I couldn't shake because my handshake was too strong. Franky said, "He plays with that hand." So we Shadow Boxed a handshake and had a hug.
During the Western Tour, we Shadow Boxed again, and had an easy handshake and hug as the tour concluded in Seattle.
As we said goodbye in Osaka, Gary and I started with a soft handshake. He proceeded to tighten his grip as did I in return.
During the grip he monikered, "Al 'Steelhand' Edelist." We laughed, had a hug, and I made my way out of the door with waves to the rest of the band and crew. Unfortunately, I didn't get to say goodbye to Mark and Graham as they had left a little earlier.
As I left Osaka for Narita Airport in Tokyo that morning, I thought about the marvellous time I had and the wonderful but too short trip it had been.
The greatest consolation, which was known as Tokyo shows had concluded, was that Jens had emailed me through Roland that there had been a 35% page-view increase at BtP over last October. Quite astonishing, including learning that Japan is second only to the US in terms of page-views.
Now it's off to Islington.
I look forward to seeing my European friends and those arriving from The States and elsewhere.
Arrigato and Sayonara!
--sh, the ferromanual one