I have always heard that Japanese rock concerts were different from concerts in the U.S. The first concert that I ever went to in the states was Metallica. I remember seeing a couple of fights, girls baring their breasts for the band while they played, and the smell of pot. I also remember it being really, really loud and leaving with my ears ringing for the next couple of days. But, that was about 20 years ago.
Yesterday, I went to a rock concert in Japan at Yokohama stadium. The band was Asian Kung-Fu Generation. I had taught English to the singer of the band, and he was very kind to offer me v.i.p. tickets to his concert. V.I.P in Japanese is "kankeisha". It was my third time going to a concert as a "kankeisha". However, it wasn't front row seating, or anywhere close to the band like Slash's snakepit. Since it was in a stadium, the v.i.p seats were the special box seats used by the baseball fans. It was semi-private, close to the beer and bathrooms, and with a great view of the band!
I looked around the stadium and could see the tall buildings of Yokohama that stood close by. The people were gathering across the stadium floor, and the excitement was already building. I was a little worried though, that it might rain. The sky was partially cloudy as a typhoon was approaching Japan on that very day! Many people commented about how the typhoon just seemed to stop! I remember that it was coming down in buckets early that morning, but now the winds died down, and it was time for a different kind of thunder!
The music started on time at 5:00 pm, a little before sunset. I don't think I have ever been to a concert in the states where they were on time. The band members of AJIKAN (an abbreviated form of the band's name) casually walked out to the roar and polite clapping of the crowd and began to play. That was different from the way western bands tend to build up the audience's anticipation before starting with an explosive song. Instead, their first song seemed to be a sort of warm-up for the fans. The front row was unusually close to the stage, and there was considerably little security. I thought that this was good for the fans to be so close.
As the sky grew dark, the lighting of the stage came on, and the band's energy matched the enthusiasm of the crowd. A well-known aspect of Japanese culture is the way in which they do everything in harmony as a group. Even here, at a concert, everyone rocked on in unison. Seemingly on-cue, everyone waved their hands together, danced together, and clapped together. From where I was sitting, it was really cool to see the masses of people swaying together. It literally looked like an ocean! What a great place to go crowd-surfing, I thought.
One of the songs they played was a cover of Beck's "Loser " It was totally awesome! Click here to see their video.
During the concert, Gotch, the singer took several breaks during which the music stopped and he talked by himself, or to the other band members. Suddenly, this exciting concert turned into a kind of talk-show. It wasn't like when Axl Rose starts talking about the fights he has had in the local bars laced with expletive about the local women, the kind of thing one might expect from a rock star. Rather, he went on about his music, saying poetic and romantic-type things..... Well, to tell the truth, my beer was empty I was a little tipsy, and I found this to be the perfect time for a bathroom and Chu-Hi run (sorry, Gotch!). But the entire stadium became so quiet as no one interrupted him, and everyone listened to his words. I had asked him once before why Japanese singers do this kind of thing. He said it was build a kind of relationship with the audience. Cool.
Toward the end of the show, Gotch moved toward to back of the stadium to a mini-stage and played some acoustic songs by himself. Then, it started to drizzle. In typical Japanese fashion, everyone seemed to pull out the SAME white plastic poncho and put it on. I thought, "Does everyone have one but me? Why do I not have one?"
After the concert, all of the kankeisha gathered in a special area, and waited for the band members to come out. When they did, everyone just stood around and politely clapped. I was half-expecting someone to rush them or scream and get crazy. Nope. At first, I could see that people were hesitating to approach Gotch as he came out. They were even so considerate of each other, and waited in turn to talk to him and the other band members for a few minutes. I got my turn to talk to him and thought it was good to see him again.
I must mention that I was really impressed with the good behavior of the Japanese people. Despite it being an intensely energetic and fun concert, I witnessed no one getting too crazy except for the slightly drunk and loud American guy standing on his seat and dancing to the beat of his own drum.....