The biggest rock band in Japan played in San Francisco last night, and you may have missed it. While the band is a household name in the Japanese community, the jingoistic American music fans are likely to be at a loss about them. And that’s too bad, because you missed a killer show by a tight live band, with a surprise in store that made it even more special.
What made this show uniquely wonderful was the total lack of cameras. No photography was allowed, not even cell phones. (Please leave the iPads at coat check, too.) And while most of the time, selfish concertgoers would simply take out their phones anyway, this was simply not happening here. So instead of watching through a screen, the crowd was a mass of jumping bodies, waving their hands in time with the music, and singing joyfully. It was an absolute treat.
I could talk about the set list, except for the whole thing about the set list being in Japanese, and my not speaking more than a few words of the language. I recognized some of the songs — “Ultra Soul,” “Easy Come Easy Go” and “It’s Showtime” stood out particularly for me, but it was other songs I didn’t know that made up the meat of the show. There were good old fashioned cock rock anthems, some fun dance-jazz-rock numbers, and some hard rock that reminded me of Perfect Strangers era Deep Purple (RIP Jon Lord).
The B’z are technically a duo. Tak Matsumoto, 51, provides the lead guitar licks on his own Gibson Signature guitars, while standing coolly in front of a Marshall stack. Koshi Inaba, 47, jumps around the stage like a man half his age, passing smoothly between Japanese verses and English hooks. Between songs, he does bilingual stage banter. I know he’s saying “We love you, San Francisco!” But what he says after that to much laughter is completely lost on me. It’s OK, though, because it’s infectious.
The resume of The B’z is extremely impressive — 46 consecutive #1 singles, best selling band in Japanese history, guest appearances on Slash albums — but yet they’re largely unknown in the American music scene. We’re living in fractured times, when someone’s favorite band — even a country’s favorite band — can be completely unknown to even ardent music fans. But it’s nearly 25 years into this band’s existence; it’s time to get with it. The B’z are, simply, the best true rock ‘n roll band left on this planet of ours.
Thanks again to Mark Portillo for allowing us to use his photos. See a huge gallery from the show at SF Station.