18th OCTOBER 2003

Special too long and too late gig report
By Luke

Sitting in Studio 24 in September, I was feeling pretty good. I'd just joined a band and they were pretty good. The band were the Radicals and they had a new gig lined up in October, new tunes to practice and some excellent summer gigs behind them. Also, they had somehow got the idea that I was a good singer and were suddenly keen for me to be their vocalist. I think some members of the band had heard me do my David Bowie impersonation at karaoke and had been utterly convinced. Crazy fools. They thought I was Bowie! How could this have happened? I asked myself, and then suddenly realised the band were all looking at me and chanting gLUKE! LUKE! LUKE!h. I think they were keen for me to start singing, or something. I remember JFN saying something like, gYou are HANSOME ENGLISH GUY!!! You have to sing...h. I was helpless against such blatant flattery, even if it wasn't entirely true, and I accepted the offer. Why not? I thoughtc  Then the guys in the band were buzzing about having a new lead singer, and I was just getting used to being the percussionist.
Anyway, the time came, at band practise, for me to stand up and sing a version of Play That Funky Music (White Boy). I was nervous, even in front of the other members of the band, but I liked it and everyone else was very enthusiastic.

"That was great!" said Brett. "It didn't sound shit at all."

I was mildly relieved. The other guys seemed strangely quiet, but I sensed they were happy about it. Later that night they seemed to have got used to the idea when they excitedly introduced me to our izakaya waitress as "a singer from England". She was really impressed and I was already getting used to my new role in the group.

"What is your band?" she asked, in broken English.

"Do you know The Beatles?" I asked.

Her eyes widened.

"I'm Paul McCartney" I said confidently.

She tried to look impressed, although she knew I was lying.

Jun ordered some food and she made a rapid escape, not pausing to look back.

In the practises up to the gig we rehearsed our set. The band sounded excellent. They had been playing together for years - since they were at school I think, and originally they played heavy rock tunes but had somewhere along the way decided to start playing funk, jazz and fusion. Their slick musicianship, hard work, professionalism and friendship go together perfectly to create a very polished and sophisticated sound. All of this was cemented by the addition of Brett on Saxophone about a year or two before. Brett himself had been playing sax in a variety of bands in Australia and has always shown similar taste and professionalism as the original Radicals. He blows a mean Sax, and together with the band they could be real professionals. Then I joined in the summer and everything went horribly horribly wrong.

The band's set included hits such as Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, Average White Band's Pick up the Pieces, and my favourite, Spain by Chick Corea. The band were really tight on the complex arrangement on that song. I was happy to just listen to them work their way through it without having to add too much myself. We learned a few new tunes too and they sounded better and better each week - Jun and Brett strumming and blowing with equal enthusiasm. Then at the end of each session it was my turn to get up and shout Play That Funky Music, Aeroplane and That's the Way. Although I still wasn't much of a rock star front man, my vocal chords were beginning to warm up nicely and I was looking forward to my fifteen minutes. Then a week before the gig, my cousin Oli visited from London. He got involved too and soon we had him adding funky guitar to our encore songs.

On the 18th, we met at Honey Bee in Ofuna for our sound check. I sang in front of some more people. I wasn't nervous but my voice was really quite sketchy. I probably should have removed the chewing gum from my mouth before I started singing. Anyway, Honey Bee filled up with friends who bought drinks and took seats. Then it was time to get on stage.

We started with a reliable tune to warm everyone up - Pick Up The Pieces. Then we went through our other funky numbers including Spain. Brett blew like an old black man, Jun wailed his guitar like some Japanese combination between Carlos Santana and Eddie Van Halen. Hiroshi and Porcaro's rhythm section was steady and reliable as always, and Ken added all kinds of noises and grooves from behind his keyboards.  I had a great time slapping my bongos and staring into the audience. Brett introduced some songs in Japanese. The crowd seemed to enjoy the show, but hadn't had enough alcohol for it to showcyet.

After the first set we got a round of applause from everyone and joined the audience to drink more beer and try and get everyone drunk for the second set. Yet more people arrived and the party atmosphere warmed up nicely. I was bought various drinks and I remember downing a number of shots of Jack Daniels before returning to the stage for the second set feeling very 'ready'. The other guys seemed a bit looser too. The second set always goes down better. We've had a chance to loosen up and everyone else has drunk a reasonable amount by then. Climbing onto the stage I felt a lot better this time, and so did the rest of the band - more eye contact, less concentration on each individuals' instruments. I felt we all melted together more and communicated better onstage, but maybe it was the Jack Daniels.

The audience too seemed to have had their edges removed. I think it was definitely the Jack Daniels. At first they didn't seem to notice we had got onstage - they were all too busy having a good time, but when Ken began the piano intro to Black Sand - a song by Hawaiian fusion band Kalapana, their conversations began trailing away as the beautiful notes weaved their way around the room hypnotising everyone. I felt completely relaxed on stage - not at all self-conscious and I quickly looked around at other members to check how they were doing. Relaxed, easy smiles showed that they were feeling the same. Then, from across the room Brett appeared wearing his party hat and began to step through the crowd towards the stage, all the time playing the easy warm notes of the song intro. Members of the audience, drinks in hands, smiled, cheered and tried to clap as he came through. When he got to the stage the song started in full. Each instrument filling the room with depth and colour. I felt like I was gliding along with it, adding my own little rhythms to atmosphere.

The second set continued in that way, with smiles, warmth, drinks and cheering. We played the longest ever version of tequila as our limbo dancer entertained the crowd. According to Porcaro I jumped up and began playing the cymbals on his drumkit at that point. I don't quite remember that - thanks again to Mr Jack Daniels.

Members of the audience came up to do the limbo, including Hiro who downed his drink, did a kind of spasmodic dance and then proceeded to lift the limbo pole up with his mouth. Obviously this was some kind of Japanese variation on the dance. Still during the same song Tim and Chiharu brought up shots of tequila to the stage, which were downed by Brett and myself. More booze into the mix - a bit of Mexican this time and I must have felt it because I apparently went a little crazy at that point. I left my bongos and began rampaging around the stage a bit, hanging off Porcaro's drums, beating the air with my sticks and so on. A drunken rendition of Tequila, very appropriate.

Anyway, moving swiftly on - I shouldn't put too much importance on the consumption of alcohol that night. The Radicals are a PROFESSIONAL band - they don't get juiced up to the point where they can't play. They have standards to keep and an audience to entertain. Members of the band only drink enough to loosen up the bones a bit, open up the channels and let the music out. So what if one of us (me) was standing on the drum riser, hitting cymbals, calling to the crowd and slavering at the mouth - it was all a controlled part of the performance. Not to be mistaken with the random acts of a drunken amateur who somehow found his way onto the stage and started thrashing aboutc

Tequila finally ended and it had done its job - the band and audience was tanked up and in party spirit and via the limbo/spaz-out dancing, the boundary between stage and crowd had been breached. We continued to play the rest of our set - the music seeming to gleam richly into the bodies of the audience. Again, I felt comfortable on stage and the whole band were grinning and joking around during the performance.

At the end of our final song (Fantasy by Earth, Wind & Fire) we left the stage. The audience cheered and shouted "ON-KO-RE! ON-KO-RE!!" - at first I didn't have a clue what they were shouting. Some kind of Japanese version of Encore?c I thought. It then dawned on me that they actually were shouting "Encore!", albeit with heavy French pronunciation. A mysterious nation sometimes, the Japanese. 

The audience continued cheering and clapping; putting glasses down to raise their hands. Meanwhile, the Radicals were in the mini backstage area giving each other high fives and saying "sugoi!" and "nicejob!" etc. We were all sweaty and beaming. Then we waitedc milking the crowd a bit before returning to the stage.

This time I had to be the front man so I left my bongos and stood at the front with my microphone. Usually I'm trapped behind the drumkit and that's a bit like being in a cage. Nobody can see you and you can't move around, dance etc. As the singer you can lean on the mic stand with the entire band behind you and stare into the audience.

Then we called Oli on stage. It was my absolute pleasure for him to join us, and even though we'd known each other our whole lives and he's a great guitarist, we'd never played on stage together beforec and to do it in Japan of all places - who woulda thunk it. As Oli climbed on stage the crowd chanted "O-RI! O-RI!", he slung Jun's Fender Stratocaster over his shoulder and dwarfed the rest of the band considerably. He's about 200 cm tall and made the Fender look like a toy in his hands. He plays that funky music white boy.

Ken began the intro to Play That Funky Music and I stood at the front of the stage feeling uncomfortable. I felt pretty self-conscious at first. I didn't know what to do with my hands. I didn't know where to look, but quite quickly I was too involved in actually singing the songs to worry about those things. I just concentrated on the music and let it move me around. It was really fun to sing although I wasn't loose enough to really make a performance out of it. I felt that I had to do something though, and I generally just leaned on the mic stand and stared into the crowd or turned around to grin at the other guys in the band. During Aeroplane I forgot many of the lyrics and had to make them up on the spot. More and more the feeling that I should be making some kind of performance grew inside me. Simply standing up and singing the song was not enough; also, making eye contact with some of the girls in the audience was making me feel giddy. As well as that; beer, whiskey and tequila were making themselves comfortable in my stomach. I started moving around and dancing through guitar solos. I was desperate for members of the audience to dance and was quite vocal on this topic. I was particularly keen to liberate a man in a blue shirt sitting near the stage who was doing a great job of dancing in his chair. My enthusiasm got a bit too much for me, I think, when (according to my flatmate Pete) I shouted into the microphone, "THE GUY IN THE BLUE SHIRT! GET ON THE FUCKING FLOOR!!".

A room full of many of my students and colleagues got a fully amplified version of that. Later when Pete reminded me, I hung my head in shame. I swore quite a lot that night, which is quite embarrassing. A lot of the audience were quite oblivious to it though, so fuck it.

At this point I'd just like to say hello to you, and to congratulate and thank you for reading all the way up to here. Thank you, and congratulations. You are obviously a true friend. Anyway, the third song was That's The Way by KC & the Sunshine Band - a very easy song to sing. As you know, it's basically a matter of repeating the title of the song over and over again. The verses were used up with guitar, sax and keyboard solos, so I had more opportunities for physical 'expression' and chances to liberate more members of the audience who were on the verge of getting up and dancing. I knew they wanted to, but they were just too shy. I was quite fevered in my dancing at this point and decided to just jump off the stage and get into the audience. What a rare experience. It was like putting a flame to petrol. Somehow my presence was all they needed to suddenly get up and start freaking out. I felt like the Funky Messiah. Everywhere I went bodies rose up and started jiggling to the music. A few hits on my cowbell and limbs would flail. Make eye contact and they'd be out of their seats immediately. People just lifted themselves up and began grooving. The funk spread wherever I went. I made violent, lifting movements with my arms - often brushing dangerously close to people's faces and they miraculously got up and started dancing - staring into my eyes with wild, random expressions on their faces, and all the time the music was winding and pumping behind us.

Every now and then a solo would end and I 'd desperately stumble and crash my way back to the stage leaving a wake of frantic dancers and spilled drinks behind me. Jumping back on stage I'd shout the chorus before leaping back into the fray like a wolverine - sweating and slavering and ready to free more members of the audience. Eventually the song ended and I wanted to sing more. I wanted more of the mic, but just as I had finally realised my position as the singer, entertainer and liberator it was time to pull the plug, let the audience catch their last trains and go home. Such is life.

Backstage more sweaty high fives ensued and jubilant handshakes. We joined what was left of the audience and were immediately set upon by a group of drunken salary men all red in the face with their work shirts and ties still on. They proceeded to congratulate us and generally fall about the place. Meanwhile I was thinking about the girl in the audience who had been eyeing me throughout the performance, and her friend who'd met me before the gig and had ignored me only to then become very interested once I'd got on stage. Girls love a vocalist. Like Eddie Murphy once said, "Sing".

I broke away from the drunken salary men, one of whom insisted on holding my arse as he leaned into my shoulder and slurred broken English and bad breath into my ear via sharp browning teeth. "Get away from me goddamnit!" I smiled charmingly, sticking my elbow into his ribs before making my exit. "Now, where are those girls?!".

Finally I fought my way through friends and newly converted fans to the place from where the cute girls had been flashing me all kinds of deeply suggestive glances. They were nowhere to be seen. "They had to go and get their last train," said a woman, fluently. Such is life.

Then I came to my senses and joined my good friends. They told me I was a lunatic and laughed at me. I love them all and I will miss them massively when I have leftJapan. The Radicals are a great band, even when they are fronted by drunk Englishmen. They ride the spirit of natural. It's the Kamakura style.

Peace, love and friendship. I love all my friends in Japan(especially the ones who have the patience to read all of this). I miss you already and I'm still sitting in my tatami room in Tsujido - haven't flown back to England yet but I know that in my mundane moments to come I will often remember the gigs I played with the Radicals in the Shonan Beach area of Japan, and I'll remember them as some of the best times I ever had.


P.S. Anyone who actually attended the gig, or has watched the DVD of the performance will note that most of this report is greatly exaggerated - by my senses, attitudes, fears and whatever. In a sense it's more true that way.


P.P.S. Obviously, this gig report is VERY late - sorry about that. Since the gig in October we did one in Yokosuka Daiei shopping plaza - probably the strangest gig I have ever played. It is really great to play in a shoppng centre while everyone around you is pushing trolleys full of vegetables etc. Great. THE BEST GIG I played though, was my farewell Christmas gig in December. If I wrote about that one it would be VERY long and EVEN MORE boring than this one. But, if you are any kind  of a decent person you would have been there yourself, and you've probably got your own version of the whole thing.