I find shows to be outrageously expensive here on the whole, although the fact that everybody and their ten cousins come through Tokyo sometimes makes up for it. Take for example, Mos Def. Despite praying at the foot of my bed every night as a young schoolgirl, he has not graced the stages of Vancouver, ever. OK, I lied. A quick google tells me he was there last year, but of course that doesn't count because yours truly was here.
Places like Cotton Club, the Blue Note and now MTV Billboard Live bring in all these fantastic people for multi-night engagements where the artists play two sets each night for around 9,000 to 13,000 yen a pop. The experience at these places is always a little bizarre. Granted I always think it is kind of special to see artists up close and personal at these sit-down clubs but they often lack the energy of hip hop shows at home, where by virtue of being the bitches at the front, my friends and I always made each show up close and personal.
Last week I shelled out 13,000 yen (excuse me while I choke) to see Mos Def at Billboard in Tokyo Midtown. Always one to leave things to the last minute (exacerbated by the fact that I have few friends and even fewer who would go to a hip hop show with me), we ended up snatching up what sounded like the last seats available and were given a ticket order number. Billboard has both numbered seats and "free seats" and like the Blue Note, people with free seating are shown to their seats in a particular order. It's not very free. At Blue Note, you receive a number in the order you show up to "check in" on the night of, but Billboard gives you the number in the order you make your reservation. This means if you show up early at Blue Note you can get really decent seats but at Billboard you have a shot in hell. We didn't even have that.
We showed up early anyway and waited while they called every number until ours and we were basically the last group standing. It was a painful process to witness. Once in the door we had to line up again in order and wait for them to escort us to our seats using their ear phones and wrist mics like it was fucking mission impossible to fill the house at a schmoozy club. What really got me though, was not the ridiculous amount of time it took to take each group individually down to their seats, but that when it came time for us to go down, we were made to wait because the number before us hadn't come through the front yet and god forbid those of us who manage to show up on time are shown through first. Last tickets meant last seats in the house, we got these fairly shitty corner-behind-pillar seats that we left to stand as soon as drinks were in hand. If you're going to see a show at Billboard, BOOK EARLY or be content to be relegated to the corner after the rest of the house has been seated.
The show itself was great, a little random with half the crowd standing and the other half trying to look cool in their seats. But what can beat Mos Def on a small stage with huge panoramic windows behind him reflecting the Tokyo night scape? That's right, nothing. It was a little short but that's to be expected with every show at these places - with two sets every night each set is practically timed down to the minute, which makes it all feel a little Disneyland-attractionish. There is something so great about being able to see so many artists in Tokyo at these smallish venues but they are always a little lacking in gusto. It's not that the Japanese audience doesn't sing along and get all crazy when someone walks on stage but there just isn't that group oompf that you find Overseas, where you chat to people bopping next to you or play pass the joint along. There is also no repartee with the audience. Mos tried a couple times to say something funny and he ended up just talking to himself while the fans looked on with eyes shining in ignorant expectation.
Mos Des is #69 on the list of Stuff White People Like, and I got a good laugh out of that one. Turns out Japanese people like him too, and really, they can hardly be blamed for trying.