Saturday, December 21, 2013

Elvis Costello & The Imposters Ex Theatre, Roppongi, Tokyo 11 December 2013 (Spinning Songbook Show)

 You can take the primary school teacher out of the classroom (and it has been just over eight years), but you can never get away from your past. Lying in bed waiting to drift off after a great show in a venue with some major irritants I was reminded of one of the old top-level organisers that ran under the moniker of PMI.

That’s Plus, Minus, Interesting, which has, in this case been transformed, through The Good, The Bad and The Ugly  into The Great, The Could Have Been Better and The Downright Ugly.
Starting with the latter:

The Downright Ugly:
Which has nothing to do with Elvis, but everything to do with the venue's approach to the punters. Now, some of this seems to be standard operating practice when it comes to concerts in Japan, but three major gripes:
Getting into the venue: where every other venue I've been to had a ground floor point of entry. Here, rather than walking in through the door that opens off the vestibule at the front of the building, we were directed up a flight of steps, across the top of the building and back down a flight of steps into a marshalling area that is on the other side of the door that was the logical point of entry and was, it seemed, for the well connected. The average punter, who paid for his or her ticket had to go via the Cape.
Crowd control: Once in, the punters are herded by marshals with bullhorns operating at maximum volume to a point where you are up for:
The extra slug. A compulsory ¥500 slug for a drink, which might be standard operating practice in Japan, but had my Japanese partner complaining bitterly. Along with the bullhorn marshalling, all this meant that when retook our seats we were somewhat less than gruntled.

Could Have Been Better:
The punters brought up to spin the wheel didn't hit any sparks to set things off on a tangent, apart from the Hammer of Song in the encore, who delivered a request for Church Underground and got it, despite Elvis' this band doesn't know that song.
Overall, the people up there for the spin seemed overawed, and the language factor probably didn't help. But the odd eccentric would have added to the fun.

Applause at the end of the main set was enthusiastic but subdued. I suspect Elvis thought cranking things up to the point where he could justify a third encore would be difficult. You wouldn't expect a polite crowd used to showing courtesy and respect in public to go hooting and hollering, stamping the feet and yelling for More. I was tempted, myself, but I thought it would be impolite to those around me.

This, after all, is a country where, over the space of around six weeks stretching over three visits I have NEVER heard someone talking loudly over a mobile phone in public, let alone delivering a frank, obscenity laden recount of last night's contretemps with the now ex-boyfriend or girlfriend.

The first encore was, as a result, more like a second set that combined what would have gone into two encores in other cases. In any case, he managed to work things to the point where they could go off and come back for the regulation thunderous finish.

The Excellent:
Once inside the venue it was obvious there wasn't a bad seat, at least as far as the balcony was concerned. Sound was good, clear, loud but not overwhelming. From the balcony,  you got a chance to see things you would miss otherwise (e.g. Steve's keyboard work).
Elvis was obviously thinking on his feet (see above) and seemed determined to deliver. Which he did in spades.
Talking in the Dark.
The Wise Up Ghost material in a band setting.
Encore 1, from Church Underground onwards. Thanks, Ayako!!

I Hope You're Happy Now
Heart of the City
Mystery Dance
Radio Radio
Spin 1: Town Crier
Spin 2: Beyond Belief > You Belong To Me
Spin 3: Town Crier (respin) > Joanna Jackpot:
I Still Have That Other Girl
Talking In The Dark
Spin 4: Happy bonus:
I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down
High Fidelity
Double spin
Spin 5: I Can Sing A Rainbow Jackpot:
Green Shirt
Red Shoes
Blue Chair
Spin 6: Monkey to Man
Country Darkness
"You wanna hear a new song?" My New Haunt
Tripwire > Peace Love & Understanding (slow)

Encore 1:
Every Day I Write the Book
Hammer of Songs: Church Underground
Slow Drag with Josephine
My All Time Doll
Jimmie Standing In The Rain

Encore 2:
I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea
Sugar Won't Work
I Want You
Pump It Up
Peace Love & Understanding (Fast)

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