Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Abbey Road, Roppongi

Seemed like months ago that Swannie and I planned this; in fact it was 6 weeks, which is a pretty good lead time. He's an important guy though. Anyhoo, Abbey Road is Tokyo's best Beatles live bar. I say this with no knowledge of what the other(s) are like; the only one I know is across the road in Roppongi. It's just impossible to imagine that the music could be any better than this. The house band, The Parrots, is almost certainly better than the actual Beatles as a result of playing the limited Beatles canon 6 nights a week for 10 years.

There's nothing really remarkable about the interior - probably seats 100, with a stage just big enough to give the performers a little room to move. You should know that it's a bit expensive - although not, I think, considering the quality of the performance. Expect to pay at least Y5k for the show plus the compulsory 1 drink, 1 food and service charge. It's kinda worth it - if you squint, can you can see the ceiling in the middle of this photo? That's the light and sound booth. They're doing this every night, and have it absolutely perfect. This is the live sound I've always wanted to hear at a performance - somehow they keep all the voices and instruments distinct and understandable, at a resonable volume level.

This sorta reminded me of my friend Jake's 'unemployment nachos', but I liked the way they explained it. The Japanese description is actually shorter - like English speakers are less likely to know what nachos are.

We had burgers; they were tolerable. We drank wine; it's the most cost-effective.

Well, here you go. The first bit is recorded, then the band kicks in with the first song of the night. If you like the Beatles even a little, this will leave you open-mouthed. If you're a fan, you'll be stunned. Despite doing it every night, these guys play with passion, seem to be enjoying themselves even without deviating much from the recordings, and make the music seem fresh and exciting as hell. Incredible. They're not a 'costume' band per se (there are guys in the US that change costumes, like "Here we are in our Sgt. Pepper outfits, playing Sgt. Pepper), but they do sets. The first is early, the second is mid-period (i.e., the bassist switches to a Rickenbacker and 'John' changes guitars from a Gretsch to various others), and the third is late and solo period. Highlights were Sgt. Pepper (believe it or not - we both allowed as how we don't need the song much, but felt like we were hearing it for the first time), While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Jet. Although 'John's voice is eerily lifelike, so things like Jealous Guy were pretty neat too.

One other thing you should know is that they're extremely strict about photos and video. I knew this going in and tried to shield the screen of my camera while videoing. The length of this video is how long it took for a waitress to come over and tell me to shut it off. Another time, I saw an old guy hold up his phone to take a picture. In the time that he was trying to line up his shot, a big shaved-head guy behind the bar saw him, flagged a waitress, she came over, and he was shut down. It was pretty sinister if you saw the whole thing unfold.

Still, don't let the potential mafia connections ruin your enjoyment of seeing the Beatles live, albeit with sometimes funny accents.

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