I did it! I finally did it! My first show! My first solo show ever! It was in Tokyo - Shibuya. A place called Rock West. It’s a small club, but it was big enough for me to start in. This was my dream and I finally did it!
It went so well. All my friends helped me in everyway they could. The show was a success, and a lot of people were there; it was packed. I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t begin to tell you how happy I was to be around the people who came to see me. As you know for many, many years I was working as a support keyboard player. Now I became the person who is the main artist of a show. Now the responsibility was greater and I had to work 5 - 10 times more than any other gig. Usually I get a schedule and itinerary of a show with the airline tickets. Then I show up at the venue, do the sound check, play the concert, return to the hotel, rest and check my e-mail. But this time, wow, it was so much work and I loved every minute of it!
I went to Japan on 9/27 for 3 weeks, since the release of my CD was 10/15. In the beginning of October, I asked my friend if I could play somewhere in Tokyo. He told me, oh, I have this new place that’s going to open in Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s called Rock West and it’s available on Friday, 10/18. So I went to see the club, and the club looked really good: small, but it was big enough to have a 5 piece band on the stage and maybe I could get about 100 people in the club.
Then I started calling some musicians whom I played with about 22 years ago when I lived in Tokyo. They were a drummer and saxophone player I played with from a group called Creation. When I called them, they were so glad to hear from me. They wanted to help me with the promotion and wanted to play with me. In fact they were dying to play with me! I was so glad and asked them what their availability was, and they were available! The drummer’s name was Higuchi Masayuki and the saxophone’s name, Kanekuni Mitsuru.
Now I needed a bass player. They recommended this guy named Hizawa. I’d never met him before, but they said he was really excellent, and he was! He was an incredible bass player. When I called him, he told me the only day he had open was the day of my concert, 10/18! He was on tour and he was doing a production of writing and arranging and all that. So I thought it was meant to be! I booked and confirmed the club. Now I had a 4 piece band, rhythm section plus sax. Great!
There also was a new friend of mine, Kegani who played percussion with the group called Thousand All Star in Japan. They are huge! Every time they release a CD, it became #1. They’ve been releasing hits for the last 20 years. So this percussion player from this group wanted to play with me, so I asked him if he would me my guest artist and he said yes. Now the band became 5 pieces!
Also through a friend of mine, there was an artist named Akiko and she’s a jazz singer. She has a deal with Verve Records, which is the biggest American Jazz label. I believe Natalie Cole used to be on that label. Anyway, Akiko was getting a lot of focus from people. Many people told me she was good, but I never heard about her before. She said she might be able to make the show and sing a couple of songs, which she did. Also there was another singer named Ishii. Ishii is a star of a musical. He’s been performing in Tokyo. He did Beauty and the Beast and some other musical. I also asked him to sing and he did. So now I had a lot of guest singers and players.
The first thing I did after the club and musicians were confirmed, was make a flier and had them printed out. I sent it to a lot of people and dropped them off to all the record stores in Shibuya. Also my friend hooked me up with the FM radio station and they announced my concert and played one of my songs from my new CD, Coming Through. The song was Slipping Down. After it was finished, they gave me a tape of what they played on the radio. It was shocking for me to hear the tape because this was the first time ever, my song was played on the radio. Well, actually when I did my solo album 20 years ago, it was on the air, but it’s been 20 years now. When I was listening to this radio show, after they announced and introduced me and finally started playing Slipping Down, I started to cry. I really started crying big time. I just couldn’t stop crying. I was so happy! So people heard about me from the radio, from the fliers and from all my friends who also called other friends. They also linked on lots of their home pages to promote this concert, and this is why I had so many people come out to see me!
I showed up at the club at 11:30AM, and oh, I forgot about how they work in Japan! They are so good, so professional. People were building the stage, fixing the lighting and sound. All this made me want to work even harder. The one thing I did have a problem with was because the bass player was only available on the 18th. I could not rehearse with every body at once, so I did one rehearsal with the saxophone player, and another rehearsal with the sax, drums and me in the studio. It went really well and after that point I felt that I could pull this off even without a rehearsal!
So sound check and rehearsal was from 1:30PM the day of the show, October 18. Of course we had a lot of technical problems, but we finally started at 2:30PM and we had to finish by 5:30PM. This was the first time that everyone got to play together, so I was just winging and winging it; telling them to do this and that. Of course, I did prepare a lot before this rehearsal. I gave them a tape and music ahead of time and they did work on it. When they came, they were ready to rehearse and rehearsal went well. Then all the guest singers came and did their rehearsal for the show that also went well.
So by the time we finished the rehearsal at 5:30PM. Uu, it was like a war. Man, I was being attacked with questions. All these people asking me about this and that; about merchandise, how much, where do you want it; about the guest list, there’s a guest list but the club said we could only book so many people; the band members were asking what time they should come back and what they should we wear and all that. Also of course, what about the set list? In between all this I had to do an interview.
Wow! This is what an artist does, I guess. Oh, my gosh. Well, I think I started something that is really exciting, but on the other hand this is going to be very hard for me - very, very time consuming and I have to keep my energy up all the time. All of this is good because ever since I moved to America 22 years ago, this was my dream and it finally came true!
So I was pumping it. Answering questions and doing everything. I was so hungry that I asked my friend to buy me some stuff. He came back with a Big Mac and fries from McDonalds! McDonalds in Japan! I said, oh, my God. So I just shoved it in and drank a lot of coca cola and it was 5 minutes before show time. I didn’t even change, yet. Oh, my God and I was sweating like hell, so I was stinking like hell!
When I was changing my clothes, an announcement was being made by Mr. Nakada of Cool Sounds, my record company in Japan. He was announcing and introducing me, before my music started. As I went on stage, I thought, wow, I’m doing it! Finally, I’m doing it! I started playing, and I didn’t even get nervous. I thought I was going to be nervous, but I wasn’t and I think it was because of all the confidence I felt from the hundreds of shows I’d done in my life. As soon as I sat down at the piano, and started playing the first note, I was fine. It was a miracle from the first note! We played Godzilla vs. King Ghidarah for the first song and wow, what a rush! This was a magical moment for me!
I know that my CD is progressive rock. It is rock, but because I could not find any singer to sing those songs in Japan, I had to play a lot of instrumentals, which I had. I had a lot of fusion, jazz, funk and rock instrumental tunes. That’s why I hired a saxophone player, to play the melody. So this show became a little more fusion than rock or prog, but with the quality of the sound and PA system, and the quality of the musicianship, everything was right there. The musicians were with me all the time listening to me. I could go anywhere. The good thing was because I didn’t have a guitar player, I wasn’t stuck with the guitar comping, so when I moved some where with the piano, everyone came with me. So it worked out well.
Also I did a lot of talking and I think it was very funny. I felt a little strange because I couldn’t really focus on looking at the audience. I was kind of shy. I don’t know why, but I really focused on playing, which was good. I was kind of scared looking into their eyes. I knew they were looking at me. I mean they were really looking at ME!
For the first time I was the main focus in a show! My show! Anyway, I just kept playing and playing and playing, and I did play really well even though the instruments weren’t my personal instruments. I had a little Yamaha PS200 at the bottom and a Triton Studio. They were really good but I wasn’t familiar with the patches. Of course, I prepared about 20 different sounds and selected them from 0 to 20. But when I was on stage and had to think of so many things, then not knowing which patch was which number, it always made me nervous. There was a little hesitation before I changed patches. Anyway, I picked some great sounds and my solos came out real good. I did a lot of my original tunes, which I wrote a long time ago. Lots of the songs were Latin tunes, some samba, some bossa, some funk samba type of thing, which really worked out well. Also this saxophone player played the shit out of it. He sounded so good - tone, fills.
Let me tell you about this saxophone player, Kanekuni. He is not a jazz player. He’s a rock player, a blues player. It’s not easy to find that type of rock, R&B, funk, blues saxophone player, because when musicians play sax, they really start playing jazz. They copy Charley Parker and all that. They try to be a jazz player, but Kanekuni was different. He does play jazz, but he’s not really, really focused to jazz. He’s more rock and he has such a heart. I really, really liked it. When I finish this CD you will hear his tone and feel his emotions. It was great.
A lot of the Latin tunes came out really good that night. I also played one of my tunes from one of my first records in Japan. It’s from Makin’ Rock and the song is called Original View Plus. Steve Lukather and I played the melody together on the original recording. It’s a great rock, funk tune. This was the main song from this record and a lot of people recognized it. When I played it that night, the people liked it. After about 5 -6 instrumental tunes, I brought up a guest.
Let me tell you about Akiko. She was really good. She sang Come Together from the Beatles with a jazz up tempo. And, wow, that was something else. It was really good! We enjoyed it. She sang a couple of versus’, the saxophone played a solo, then she sang another, and I played a solo. She was really nice. She was having a good time, and we really cooked on the song. Then she sang another song called Lately by Stevie Wonder. It’s a ballad. She and I played rubato in the intro section. We took our time during this section and really communicated together. It was good. I was very happy with the result. On the last song, of course, I picked up my remote control. This time it was a Yamaha KX5. I usually use Casio, but this is a small remote control. I did one of Stevie Wonder’s tune called Love Light in Flight. It came out good. The stage was small, so I started walking around the room playing in the audience. It was fun. Now I could look into the audience’s eyes and they were really enjoying it. Their eyes were shining! When I saw that, I thought, I did it! It was great! So this was the last song I did and finished the concert.
Unfortunately, I could not do an encore, because this place became a disco dance club after 10PM. We started at 7PM and finished by 9PM. I thought we would have enough time, but because of all the talking, we ran out of time. I was kind of disappointed because I prepared this killer encore song. Anyway, I went back to the stage just to take a bow, and finished it.
Then suddenly I was just being attacked by people. Oh, gosh, it was overwhelming. They came up to me and shook my hand and told me how much they enjoyed the show. Some people said that they never saw a show like this before; they were so glad that they came and just told me how good the show was. Slowly I started walking toward backstage, but never made it. I was stopped at the merchandise place and they wanted me to sign my autograph on my CD that I was selling. The line was long and they wanted to take the time to talk with me, which I had to do. So it went on a long time. I think I was there signing autographs for only 45 minutes, but it seemed like a couple of hours.
In the mean time there were people coming up to me asking me, oh, what about the money and club percentage and all that. Also others were asking what about this equipment and what should we do with the gear? And the club was asking, could you move a little bit because we need to put the PA system on top of your heads right now. Hu! It was like…suddenly I was in the middle of the ocean on a small island with 400 people surrounding me, attacking me and touching me.
Anyway, what I’m saying is I had a good time and I liked it. I think I like being the focus and having all that attention. I also liked giving them a good time and good memories. I think I’d like to be part of that, the good part of people’s lives and their good memories. I always wanted to do this. I think I just started something that is going to be part of the rest of my life. This is going to be my job from now on - to do my original tunes on my show with my friends, have lots of friends around me, and also have lots of people work for me without anyone taking advantage of me. They would want to work for me, because they want to be with me and want to be a part of me. I can feel this.
After the show, my friend made reservations for dinner near the venue. There were 20 people, musicians and all the crew. That was fun. It was party time. We were loud, talking and joking. It was so much fun, drinking and all that stuff. I was so happy that I ended up paying for everything that was like $700 or something. Ouch!
I really didn’t mind it though, because I wanted to give something back. Of course, I lost money big time, but so what. I did something that I always wanted to do, and I’m sure the people will ask me to do it again. And I’m sure I will do this again, again and again - in Japan, Tokyo or L.A., or New York or Europe. I will go anywhere to do my show whenever people want to hear me.
So these are my comments on my first live show in Tokyo.
MC. COOL SOUND. Toshiki Nakada
- GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDARAH
- BLUE IN GREEN
- LOCKED IN MY HEART
- SHADES OF GREEN
- SUMMER LOVE
- SUDDEN SAMBA “percussion by Mari Fukui”
- MORNIG “vocal by Kazutaka Ishi”
- COMING THROUGH
- COME TOGETHER “vocal by akiko”
- LATELY “vocal by akiko”
- ORIGINAL VIEW PLUS
- LOVE LITE IN FLIGHT “keyboard by Minami Kato”
- Keyboard: Ryo Okumoto
- Sax: Mitsuru Kanekuni
- Bass: Tatsuhiko Hizawa
- Drums: Masayuki Higuchi
- Vocal: akiko, Kazutaka Ishii
- Percussion: Hideyuki “Kegani” Nozawa, Mari Fukui
- Keyboard: Minami Kato