Over The Rainbow
Namba Hatch, Osaka, Japan - April 27th, 2009
Diamond Hall, Nagoya, Japan - April 29, 2009
Kosei-Nenkin Hall, Shinjuku Prefecture, Tokyo, Japan - May 1, 2009
Just before I made my way into the Kosei-Nenkin Hall auditorium to see OVER THE RAINBOW's third and final performance in Japan this year; I was basking in the ambience of my surroundings, admiring the décor inside the building which included a large carpeted stairway leading up to the top of the hall's lobby. In the middle of the stairway, stood a pillar which held a medium sized marquee, announcing that evening's event: "OVER THE RAINBOW" and in smaller letters directly below: "Japan Tour 2009" with a smaller digital clock, above that, on a separate marquee, displaying the current time.
Once I had made my way past the pillar and to the top of the stairs; there was certainly a lot of activity in the lobby area where two merchandising tables, positioned side-by-side, were stationed and vendors standing behind the tables were selling concert T-shirts for 3500 yen or $ 35.00 dollars American. I had purchased mine the previous Monday night in Osaka and actually wore it on the plane ride going home, the day following the last concert here in Japan, much like I had worn my Russian OTR tour T-shirt (which I had received from a friend of mine in Moscow in mid-March) upon my arrival into Japan the day before the first concert on April 27th.
Oh yeah, the thought of going to see this band "live" was certainly on my mind, big time.
Then, I noticed on the wall directly behind the "merch" table at least three large promotional posters of the band, containing a picture of each member, general information about them, and right below that, was a listing of all the cities and venue's that were hosting the band's three night "debut" appearance in Japan. In fact, throughout the week, I saw so much product placement in and around the venue's for which I had visited, at one point, I actually entertained swiping one of those "prized" posters off the wall! Thank God I did not because surely I would have had either the koban (police) detain me, or worse yet, the yakusa (Japanese mob) after me! O.k., I was exaggerating a bit on that last statement, but can you blame me? I was just having the time of my life.
Well having thought the better of it, I continued on my way, past the "merch" tables, and toward the concession area to get a drink. Shortly, after purchasing a small glass of white wine (because I'm allergic to the red variety, unfortunately), I proceeded through the hall doors and down the aisle to find my seat. My seat was located near the front of the stage in section 1, Row 7, seat 40. Once I got closer to where my seat was, I saw, and acknowledged a few other concertgoers I had met while I was at the other two shows during the week. In fact, I was part of a small group of fans, whom I had met in Japan, two years previous, who on this trip, three of them, guided me to these concerts via every type of transportation available to us [subway, train (JR Line), express train (Shinkansen), and by airplane], so that I could fully enjoy the experience.
My use of the Japanese language (Nihongoga) was sporadic at best, and visa versa. Yet, within my group, as well as those other fans whom I had met and become acquainted with, in both Osaka and Nagoya, everyone seemed quite accepting of the 'visiting' American fan/journalist that just couldn't wait to see the newly formed band make their "debut" in her part of the world. So you could imagine that I couldn't help but feel somewhat "connected" to the loyal fan base here in Japan for the short period of time we were together. Funny what music does for the soul? It was really a great feeling to be a part of this.
Approximately twenty minutes or so before show time, for some reason, something inside me, made me want to walk a little farther down the aisle, away from my seat, and towards the front of the stage, where I stopped, just short of the security and photographer area of the stage. As I turned around and began to gaze my eyes upon the interior of the building, I looked up toward the rafters and the balcony seats above, when a strange feeling began to come over me... like I had seen this place before...
Visions of Budokan and the RAINBOW Japan Tour '84 immediately began popping into my head at this time. No, I was NOT at THAT concert, although I have owned that 'precious' piece of history on laserdisc (which I have since burned onto DVD) since 1989.
However, with that said, I did have the good fortune of meeting a fan who earlier in the week was at that show in March 1984. She showed me, and allowed me to touch her 'original ticket' and 'tour program', which were both kept in mint condition after all these years. And being the 'shutter' bug I was with the camera during that entire week (I took well over 500 pictures in total), I was certainly not going to pass up an opportunity like this to take a picture of the evidence that was before me. I mean, just being able to touch and hold that 'original ticket' and 'tour program', was to this fan, like finding the Holy Grail!
So, as my thoughts began to come back to the present time, I knew that Kosei-Nenkin Hall was considerably much smaller than Budokan in terms of overall size, but the look of the interior, at least for those few moments, brought me back to 'that place' from echoes past.
I was just as nervous as I was the previous two nights of the tour and frankly, after seeing what I had seen in this hall, I felt that this show might become one special night.
Now, before I head back to the highlights of the final performance, let me briefly recap what I experienced on the first two nights of the tour.
OVER THE RAINBOW
Monday April 27, 2009 - Namba Hatch
Time 7:00-8:49 p.m. (19:00 - 20:49 hours)
The show at Namba Hatch was to begin promptly at 7 p.m. or 19:00 hours Japan time. Two doors, near the front of the entrance of the venue had opened a little early at 5:30 p.m. (17:30 hours) to allow for the fans to purchase concert shirts just prior to taking our place in line - according to the number we had on our ticket. That's the way general admission entry is handled in Japan. I had experienced this same routine, just two years ago while in Shibuya, so when it was time to line up, I did what I was instructed to do and line up in order of my ticket number (which was No. 7) and then proceed into the venue accordingly.
The shirts for this leg of the tour (and completely different from the Russian tour shirt that was given to me) had the multi-colored OVER THE RAINBOW design logo on front, and in the back, the same logo, but in white lettering. Below the logo it read, "Japan Tour 2009" and just below that were the names of the band members, also in bold white lettering, beginning with J.L. Turner and ending with J. Blackmore. The last reports I read was that the entire lot of concert T -shirts had sold out.
This theatre style venue contained areas for both general admission (on the floor) and seating located on the balcony level. Tickets ranged from 8000 yen ($ 80.00 American) to 9000 yen ($ 90.00 American). So, when the tickets first went on sale in the beginning of February, I made arrangements to have my friends in Japan purchase them for me, where I would pay them back at a later date. Upon entry into the venue, I showed my ticket to the ticket taker, a stub was torn off and the ticket was returned to me. I then handed another vendor a 500 yen ($ 5.00 American) coin where I was then given a "drink ticket" to exchange for a drink, either before or after the show had ended.
Once we positioned ourselves near the front of the stage, for the next hour, we were just enjoying the music the band had provided to entertain the audience as we waited for their eventual appearance on stage. On this night, as on subsequent nights, I heard the music from bands like Grand Funk Railroad, ZZ Top, and Jimi Hendrix, just to name a few, prior to the beginning of the show.
Then at the top of the hour, there was a slight pause, and then I heard a familiar drum beat, which honestly at first I did not recognize, but I, along with the waiting crowd started clapping in unison to this drumbeat and the accompanying instruments that went along with this particular track. Mind you, the band had not appeared yet at this time, but for some reason the music that was playing over the loud speakers was quite powerful.
Suffice it to say, the song that officially kicked off OVER THE RAINBOW'S debut in Japan was the 1973 classic "Dance With The Devil" by the late, great drummer Cozy Powell.
And just seconds before the end of that track, a deep bass resonance, coming from stage right, filled the room quickly, as a single spotlight appeared, whereupon Tony Carey was now playing the beginning notes through his keyboard, the song "Tarot Woman", off the 1976 RAINBOW classic Rising, which officially kicked off the "live" portion of the show.
Following his short intro, the other members of the band began to appear, one by one, taking their place on stage. I first notice Bobby Rondinelli, sitting on his throne, behind the drums, and then almost simultaneously, J.R. Blackmore appears from stage left and Greg Smith from stage right. Blackmore is seen adjusting his guitar strap a bit, and then turns one of the knobs on his amps before playing his first notes, while Smith who already has his bass in hand, he too, promptly joins in on the track. And finally, lead singer Joe Lynn Turner appears from stage right and walks up to the microphone to belt out the first lyric in the song. The crowd went wild.
J.R. seemed a little nervous at first; standing just a bit closer to his EVH 5150 III stacks than near his monitor that was placed at the edge of the stage. But as the night wore on, you could see him coming out of 'his shell', so to speak, as he began to smile at times, throw out pics to the audience, and performance wise, he began to produce some amazing sounds from his 'Made in The USA' Jackson Soloist guitar. Most notable were his incredible melodies and runs on "Kill The King", "Can't Happen Here", and "Stargazer".
As for the performances by the other four members of this band, I could hear the wealth of talent and experience up on that stage. For being only their 10th 'live' performance together as a band, they played considerably well throughout. However, at times, I could see and hear that they were each trying to 'feel each other out' - in terms of timing and pacing of the tracks from all the eras, as well as the overall presentation of those tracks to the crowd below.
There was one instance, where I felt that the overall transition into one track was not as fluid as I would have liked. This occurred right after the bass solo into the first mini-band jam which segued into "Can't Happen Here". There was some obvious confusion I heard in this transition (and I am not referring to the tempo change which had occurred here); yet, both drummer Bobby Rondinelli and bassist Greg Smith, did their best to get that song back on track, so to speak.
I also liked the pairing of a couple of tracks within the set as well. Two that come to mind was the pairing of the progressive rock style tracks "Ariel" and "Wolf To The Moon" (from the "White" era) and the up-tempo, yet blues based style tracks of "Can't Happen Here" and it's B-side on 45 (RPM), "Jealous Lover" (from the "Turner" era). And although I mentioned earlier that I felt there was a bit of a transition problem going from the mini-band jam into "Can't Happen Here", once the song was played in its entirety, the overall performance, coupled with J.R.'s solo during the bridge, provided more depth to this track.
As I had mentioned previously, this Osaka crowd was the loudest, and most enthusiastic crowd in attendance. And throughout most of the latter part of that show, it was easy for Turner to turn over the microphone to the audience below, just as we fans literally, took over in singing of these songs, as loud as we could. In fact, Turner seemed so impressed with 'our performance', I think, that I would often see him turn back to his band mates just after pointing the microphone to the crowd, as if to say, "See what I told you we would be getting from them (the crowd) when we came here to perform?"
Yours truly, even lost her voice on the first night, only to regain partial use of it on the final night of the concert in Tokyo, and then lose it again later that night.
OVER THE RAINBOW
Wednesday April 29, 2009 - Diamond Hall
Time 6:00-7:50 p.m. (18:00 - 19:50 hours)
The second night of OVER THE RAINBOW'S three-city tour brought them to Nagoya, Japan. My friends and I took the hour-long express train (Shinkansen) from Osaka to Nagoya. As soon as we hit the top of the stairs from where the end of the train station was located, I was awe struck by the look of this city right away. Surrounding me on either side of the large busy street, were huge brand name stores like Louis Vutton and Tiffany & Co, for example. This place was certainly a "shoppers paradise". We had a couple of hours before we had to get to the hall, so my friends and I headed off to a restaurant for a late lunch, just prior to our lining up again at the entrance of Diamond Hall for the second show.
Once we finished our meal, I noticed that we had to walk a little farther to Diamond Hall, than we did to Namba Hatch. The venue looked like it was part of a larger building in a hotel. All I remember is that I had to go up at least six flights of stairs and wait until the doors opened, promptly at 5 o'clock (17:00 hours).
Right away, Diamond Hall reminded me of another venue I was at in the states a year and a half before at Dexter's Entertainment Complex in Riverdale, New Jersey. And for this particular show, I had decided before hand, that I would stay in the back of the venue, and away from my friends to stand near one of three high top tables and write my show notes in order to get a different perspective of the show from where I was standing.
I could tell from the start, that this crowd, although enthusiastic at times, was not the crowd I had been a part of in Osaka. They were a much tougher crowd for the band to please on this night. At one point near the beginning of the show, I could hear chants of 'Ronnie' (referring to Ronnie James Dio- the first lead singer of RAINBOW from 1975-1978) just after the band played "Kill The King", for example. However, once the next track began, which was "Street of Dreams", the crowd just went nuts and all was forgiven. But this type of behavior from the crowd occured all night, until the last half of the show when "Stargazer" played.
There was one thing I also noticed during this show more so than I had in the Osaka, was the lighting during the show. If you have ever worked in music production before, which I have in the past, believe me when I say that lighting on a stage is just as crucial as the songs being played on stage. And if there is no projected backdrop to speak of, for example, the lighting and the timing replace the backdrop and in essence can set the mood of an entire performance. There is a reason I mention this now, as I will discuss a little later.
However, my only disappointment in the show was due to the overall sound mixing, not the individual performances. This wasn’t fixed until the tenth song in the set "Power" had played. And because of the way the sound was mixed on this night, Turner sounded as if he had to 'shout' over the other instruments, which unfortunately, were also turned up higher than normal, almost to the point of semi distortion giving way to the ‘feedback’ I heard at least once in the show. I know the volume was certainly much louder than I cared to listen to as the crowd singing was literally drowned out at one point. I even entertained wearing earplugs.
And what was even more astonishing is unlike in the states, where some shows I have been to tend to sound quite loud and muddled at times, the sound mixing on this night was at least to me, totally atypical of any previous shows, I had seen in Japan, before or since. But like I had mentioned before, the sound did improve close to the end of the set during the song, "Power".
OVER THE RAINBOW
Shinjuko Prefecture, Tokyo, Japan
Friday May 1, 2009 - Kosei Nenkin Hall
Time 7:05-8:59 p.m. (19:05-20:59 hours)
Back at the Kosei-Nenkin Hall, and just minutes away from show time, the stage was definitely larger and deeper than the previous stages I had seen the previous two nights. The instruments were spaced farther apart from each other and reminded me of an arena type set-up.
I was right. The sound, the lighting, the group, as well as the individual performances including the overall timing and pace of the show, from start to finish, was just picture perfect.
And right now, I will try to do my best to describe a particular moment within the show, which in thinking about it even today, leaves me feeling awestruck as I was watching this unfold on stage.
Remember when I had mentioned to you in a previous paragraph how lighting on stage can affect a performance? Basically with the help of lighting and how it is projected, a performance can be enhanced, depending on color used, etc. creating a certain mood. The lighting doesn't always have to be fancy, but it has to be effective in order to get a 'certain' dramatic effect.
So, as I am watching OVER THE RAINBOW perform "Death Alley Driver", I began to notice the deep rich earth tone colors of burnt sienna, red, browns, etc. illuminate the stage, along with a flicker of white light in shape of a fan or something close to it, which appeared periodically between the drums and the keyboards, stage right. I also saw what appeared to be a slight haze, surrounding the immediate area around the drum riser, coming from a fog machine, perhaps.
As the crash of the last cymbal on the drums were heard, the individual white spot lights that had been placed upon each of the individual musicians, goes off suddenly, creating a 'silhouette effect' around each of them. All the while the deep rich colors, I described above, are still illuminating. Each member paused for just a few seconds like five 'living statues' frozen in time.
The place erupted.
I was just in absolute amazement of what I saw and will ever see again for that matter. I will be forever awestruck by that moment.
Julie Barela Mills
Ticket scans: © Julie Barela Mills
Photos Moscow 18th February 2009: © Headbanger.ru / © S.Belyakov [music-photo.ru]
Complete Set List for OVER THE RAINBOW - Japan Tour 2009 - April 27th, April 29th, and May 1st.
01 Dance With the Devil (Original Recording - a tribute to the late Cozy Powell / click here for a video)
02 Tarot Woman
03 Kill The King
04 Street Of Dreams
05 Man On The Silver Mountain
06 Over the Rainbow Overture
07 Death Alley Driver
08 Keyboard solo
09 Eyes Of The World
11 Wolf To The Moon
13 Bass Solo/Band Jam
14 Can't Happen Here
15 Jealous Lover
16 Drum solo
18 Long Live Rock'n'Roll with Deep Purple's "Lazy" as an interlude
19 Since You've Been Gone
20 Stone Cold
21 I Surrender
22. All Night Long with 2nd Band Jam