I’m going to do something a little different here and embrace my inner music journalist. Back in my university days I had aspirations of becoming a professional gig-goer and often covered a number of gigs for local publications around Sheffield.
Sadly, my lack of motivation got the better of me and when I realised that I’d have to work for free for a while to even stand a chance of getting a foot on the ladder I decided to bin that idea off and pursue other career paths. I realise it’s a little hypocritical to now be writing a gig review for free in my spare time, but I’ve always said hypocrisy is the sign of a true gentleman…or something.
Having not been to a gig since seeing the Manics at Summer Sonic last August I was getting incredibly restless for some live music. One bad thing about Tokyo is that it can be hard to find a definitive gig listing, as some sites seem to publicise certain gigs and others publicise others. I’m yet to find a huge list of gigs so find myself patching together a shortlist of gigs to attend and trying to remember them. Anyway, having seen Tim Burgess plugging a Charlatans gig on Twitter a few weeks ago that didn’t seem to be listed anywhere else I jumped at the opportunity.
I’ve discovered that gigs here are bloody expensive. I parted with ¥8000 (which I’ve just discovered is £50 – it was around £40 when I arrived in July!) for the ticket, which seemed a little scandalous. On reflection though, the Tsutaya O-East venue only holds 1,300 people so it was worth paying a little extra for a nice intimate gig I guess.
Upon arrival at the venue I had my ticket taken off me and obeyed the sign that said “YOU MUST BUY A DRINK TOKEN HERE – ¥500”. Yes sir. With a ¥500 can of Heineken in hand (330ml) I settled into the centre of the nice venue to wait for the support band – a Japanese band called ‘Taffy’.
As they walked on to Frank Sinatra’s My Way, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Taffy. I’m not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing that they didn’t open with a bit of swing, but what followed instead was a nice bit of guitar heavy indie reminiscent of a lot of English bands from around the mid-2000’s. Sadly, the lead singer’s microphone needed turning up a notch or two as she was a little drowned out by the guitars, but they put on a good (and fairly lengthy!) set which included a cover of the main act’s Come Home Baby; which was the first time I’d ever seen a band cover a song that the band they’re supporting would be playing just an hour or so later!
The crowd seemed to enjoy Taffy, with one fan on the balcony screaming “F*CK YEAH!! TAFFY!!” between a number of songs. I’ll be keeping an eye on them for local gigs in the future.
Almost bang on 8pm The Charlatans took to the stage and went straight into Talking in Tones from last year’s critically acclaimed Modern Nature album. I must admit I haven’t really given the latest LP much of a listen and – despite liking most of what I’d heard from it – I went into this gig hoping to hear some classics and wasn’t disappointed.
An 18 song set was comprised of seven songs from Modern Nature and the rest the aforementioned classics I’d hoped for. It’s easy to forget just how many great songs The Charlatans have and despite the rocky road they’ve ridden over the past couple of decades, they consistently manage to put out good music and seemingly still give a good live show too.
Songs such as North Country Boy, One to Another, The Only One I Know were interspersed with newer tunes like So Oh and Emilie with Come Home Baby rounding off the main set nicely. A two song encore of debut album tracks Then and Sproston Green topped off a career-spanning set that showcased material from 1990 right through to 2015.
Despite being a man of not many words on stage barring the odd ‘arigatou’ and short anecdote here and there (not a criticism, just an observation of the language barrier!), Tim Burgess had the crowd in his palm for the entire night as the adoring crowd clapped on demand, raised their hands when asked and did just about everything else he asked of them. If he’d said “Jump”, the audience would have responded with “How high?”…in Japanese of course.
Talking of How High (a totally coincidental segway – I promise!), it’s testament to the band’s back catalogue that they have enough strength in their artillery to leave out that song, as well as Can’t Get Out of Bed, Forever, My Beautiful Friend and countless others.
After the extended outro of Sproston Green, the crowd gradually filed out of the venue on to the streets of Shibuya to continue their nights. Tim Burgess had been tweeting with the hashtag #Shibuyalove all day before the gig – and there was certainly a lot of #Shibuyalove for The Charlatans that night.