My hair is sort of big and curly anyway, so teasing it into an eighties ‘do wasn’t too difficult. I clipped big earrings onto my lobes and donned my best black t-shirt and jeans. I was ready to rock out to none other than AC/DC, performing live at the Saitama Super Arena last Friday night.
I discovered that concerts are quite different in Japan than they are in the U.S.
First of all, the concert itself started at 7pm. I’m not sure any concerts in the U.S. start that early unless they’re matinees! And then shockingly, there was no opening band. The concert opened and closed with AC/DC.
The show itself put on by the band was simply incredible. Angus did his strip tease and performed the balance of the show shirtless. They had a blowup doll as large as the stage rockin’ through one song. They had cannons. They had the requisite bell that Malcolm runs and jumps to ring. The lights shot like lasers through the crowd and on the band. The base pumped loud enough so I could feel it jumping through my chest. The guitar riffs…what can I say about the guitar riffs? They were long, ear-splitting, and technical genius. It had all the elements of any great rock concert.
Then there was the crowd. I would estimate that about half of the crowd was completely into it. Everyone was standing – there wasn’t a butt in a chair in sight. My favorite example was the woman directly behind me. She was as stoic as a streetlight. She never moved, never swayed, never shouted. Her face was a mask of nonchalance. She was wearing the light-up red devil-horns, but never moved a muscle. I might estimate that half the crowd looked similar. Oh, when there was a very familiar song playing, such as “We Got the Jack” and there are common hand movements – aka fist-pumps, the Japanese crowd could do that, but they are accustomed to unison movements and cheering.
There were a number of foreigners that we could see. From our seats, which were only about fifteen rows up from the floor on the side of the stage, we could see a group of blond Americans close to the stage who were completely into it and trying as hard as they could to rabble rouse among the Japanese and looking to elicit emotion. It just wasn’t going to happen on a grand scale.
A friend of mine was telling me that she went to see Madonna at the Tokyo Dome, the biggest arena available in Tokyo. My friend said that Madonna did a great job of trying to raise the noise level of the place, but didn’t do that great of a job. The funniest part, though, she said came after the concert. After the encore was done, a loudspeaker announcement asked everyone to sit down and for crowd control; they would be dismissing the crowd by section number. My friend said that everyone simply sat down and waited until their section was called and then filed out quietly. Holy moly!
Even when the AC/DC concert ended, the Japanese clapped and clapped in a polite way until the band returned for an encore. After they played “Highway to Hell” and one other song, the band disappeared and so did the crowd. I’m serious: the entire crowd pretty much stopped clapping after the first encore and the people dispersed. Granted, most of the dispersion happened toward the subway, but everyone was kind and polite and things never got out of hand.
The entire thing was done by 9:30.
For me, half the fun was the fact that I was with 11 other people – close friends – who enjoyed it as much as I did, if not more. We all went to a great Izakaya (casual Japanese dining and drinking) after the show and made a full night of it. I’m so glad I went. The whole thing was experiential.
**All photo credits to Jason Kwan