March 23, 2006

The Rolling Stones In Tokyo

The Rolling Stones At The Tokyo Dome
Photography By El-Branden Brazil

Throughout my life, there has been one rock band that has been a perennial presence - The Rolling Stones. I have never bought a Rolling Stones CD, but I have always loved their music, sense of rebellion and their gigantic personas that have only continued to become ever larger as their faces have become craggier.

Since the early Sixties, the Stones have been a solid fixture of the music scene. And while a few of the members should have expired decades ago, due to their infamous decadence and excess, they continue today to entertain like nobody else.

When I was ten years old, reading an issue of the classic Seventies occult magazine, Fate & Fortune, I came across an image of Mick Jagger dressed in blue leotards in an article exploring the connection between Rock music and Satanism. The Stone's Sympathy For The Devil, no doubt helped to fuel such fanciful speculation. And no doubt, The Stones lapped up every ounce of controversy and infamy that was attributed to them

I never imagined, when I was that little boy, that some 24 years after reading the article, I would find myself in a gigantic baseball stadium in Tokyo to experience the sheer magic for myself, thanks to the generosity of a good Japanese friend of mine, who kindly gave me a ticket.

Tokyo Dome is a massive hollow structure, famous for the bands that play there, but infamous for the acoustics. Huge numbers of people swarmed all over the thousands of seats. We were very lucky to have a wonderful position close to the left side of the stage.

As soon as I saw the stage and rigging, my heart pulsed with excitement. I had seen many live gigs before, but I had never been to a giant concert. Many years ago, I watched a Stones concert from the Eighties on television. That played in my mind, as I anticipated the good fortune I had to now see them in three dimensional space with my own eyes.

The support band was adequate, although I had no idea who they were. They failed to ignite the atmosphere, and I feared that may be the venue would also diminish the Stones.

After an hour break, the lights were turned off and the crowds started yelling and screaming, instantly engulfing me in an excitement I have never felt before. Ronnie Wood was the first to appear, followed by the other members. It is no exaggeration to report that the Mystic Traveller was having a religious experience!

For two hours, a psychedelic lightshow transcended us all upon a wave of classic and modern Rolling Stones' music. The band are all now in their sixties, but still retain the energy of their youth.

Keith Richards, who is a miracle for surviving at all, lithely slithered around like an incredibly sensual gekko; crawling and leaping upon the stage, as his guitar took aim with his always present contemptuous nonchalance.

In the meantime, Mick Jagger raced and jived continually up and down the stage, like a man who has never had his age revealed to him. I continually marvelled at the fitness that he has sustained.

What occurred to me throughout the concert was how privileged I was to see them. For nearly half a century, these men have entertained and influenced us all in someway. Yes, they are only human, but how easily they manipulated me into believing that they were something superhuman for the duration of two hours. Such enormous charisma indeed is something to behold.

While they fight the aging process with vigourous rock 'n' roll disdain, there is unfortunately only a finite period of time in which we can have the chance to witness these characters in all their magnificence.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening was provided by Keith Richards. Prior to arriving in Japan, there had been some controversy regarding whether he could smoke on stage or not, due to Japanese fire prevention laws.

During the show, Richards walked up to the mic to begin a short solo performance, with his trademark cigarette dangling from his mouth. He took a good solid drag, smiled at the audience, and in absolutely classic form, threw the burning cigarette down on to the stage, to which the audience gasped approvingly. Now that is what Rock is all about!

For photographs and a review from the Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Daily News, CLICK HERE!

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