I went to the Blacked Eyed Peas’ The E.N.D World Tour concert in Saitama, suburbs north of Tokyo, on the autumnal equinox. It was my first big arena concert experience in Japan. And it was their last show in Japan, after playing for five straight nights.
I went with my buddy Kaz, who was giddy with excitement, even though he’s a veteran of the megaconcert. He was like a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. And quite honestly, so was I. Before the concert, he was asking me starstruck questions like, “So what do you think Fergie is doing right now?” And, “Do you think they’re nervous?” I gave him smart-ass answers like, “They’re probably snorting coke and getting serviced by groupies.”
Isn’t that what rock stars do? But truthfully, they were probably just chillin’ in their dressing rooms, eating fruit, giving each other back rubs, and writing poetry.
Here are my impressions of the concert:
The Saitama Super Arena complex was very cool. It reminded me of a better designed Roppongi Hills. There was a John Lennon Museum there, but I didn’t have time to check it out. Next time for sure.
Loved the futuristic, robot theme of the concert. There was interesting use of several video screens that wrapped around the entire stage. Text, images and cool graphics flashed throughout. The production quality was dynamite. Whoever the set designer was, he/she did a great job. It seamlessly continues the techno feel of their big summer hit.
Fergie got the biggest reactions and as the most popular solo artist was given the most stage time. Every swivel and shake got loud reactions. Her voice is a lot higher in real life, not as deep and resonant as her recordings. Of course, the sometimes tinny acoustics may have contributed to that. Otherwise, she had great, shall we say, stage presence.
Taboo was probably given the least amount of stage time, and I could barely hear him. Was his mic too low? Is his voice too low? At least he had some wicked dance moves.
Apl.de.ap didn’t get much time either. Which is too bad since he writes the best rap in the group.
Will.i.am, as the group’s mastermind impresario, got the most time. He played the piano, drums, guitar, riffed a transcendent sermon in rap. And gave a hilarious monologue on all the Japanese words he knew.
The stereotype of staid Japanese concert-goers wasn’t true. Everyone was on their feet the entire show, waving glow sticks, singing along, jumping up and down, pumping their fists.
Everyone except the people sitting around us. Since we were invited guests of the concert organizer (thanks Yoko!), we sat in the cushy ‘guest’ seats overlooking the arena. The seats were awesome, since the stage was in full view in front of us. And they were very comfortable, with a small table and cup holder in front. Maybe the comfort of the seats was one reason the people around us were subdued. Mostly, it was probably because they were people in the industry who didn’t have to pay for the tickets. They were clearly too cool for school.
Fortunately, there was a pair of teenage girls at the end of our row who were jumping and shouting along with us. And the women behind us were on their feet the whole time. Otherwise, everyone else? Buzzkill. It was weird to see the entire place going crazy while the people of the cushy seats could barely be bothered to be bobbing their heads.
At the end, two guys from SMAP, which is an immensely popular J-pop band, rushed the stage with mics and started dancing and singing along. I don’t know if this was planned or what. But will.i.am seemed a bit perplexed that these guys were taking over their show right at the end, giving what seemed like an endless stream of shout outs to the audience. Fergie even had to push one of the guys away when he was dancing crazily in her space.
It wasn’t annoying though, just kind of weird and funny. None of it mattered because the Peas rocked. Even at the end of a marathon non-stop tour, they still seemed pumped.
They only sang a verse of my favorite song from their new album, The E.N.D. The album itself is a collection of dance club anthems, heavy on the electronica, which is a departure from their usual R&B/soul/hip hop sound.
Usually they sing those dance club hits dripping with irony, like in My Humps. But these songs are unabashedly for the clubs. I hope they go back to their politically-charged old-skool ways. In the meantime, it’s fun to hear them do something different.
At least they played my favorite song of the 2000’s as one of their finales. This song captures the whole decade for me.