Finding events in Tokyo – Shuggie Otis live concert
Tokyo is the conglomerated hub of things.
There are not to miss events that take place every day and I love to know what is going on in the city to fill some precious free time.
When we arrived in Tokyo we were pretty clueless as to what events were taking place, we usually went along with friends or read news-posters around central Tokyo and the metro… until I found this cool site (in English!):
http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo (BTW this is a genuine recommendation, I am not getting any money for the link.)
You can check out events by the day and get loads of infos about what to see, where to eat and what to do.
This is how I found out that our psychedelic idol SHUGGIE OTIS is
a) still alive and
b) coincidentally also in the city on his come-back concert tour.
So we went.
To posh Tokyo Billboard Live on the 31st of March 2013. Tickets were 8,500 Yen a pop.
Location: Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace 4F, 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku
Follow the signs from Roppongi station to Tokyo Midtown and find Billboard Live on the fourth floor of Garden Terrace.
Billboard is the name of the oldest magazine of the world devoted to music and entertainment. Tomek actually subscribed to Billboard Magazine until there was no letter box to post them (we are theoretically homeless but you know that, right?!).
Anyhow. Billboard Live in Tokyo is a swanky location for concerts, expensive dishes and drinks.
The view from the seats is amazing. Tokyo’s skyscraper skyline right behind the stage.
No pictures allowed during the concert so you have to imagine Shuggie Otis, lean with his still curly hair gelled back, in the centre of that stage, changing guitars frequently and commenting with a grin ‘God I love guitars. And you know what that means’. It means he is a guitar pro and a bit of a freak.
Shuggie Otis was additionally flanked by two guitarists, a lad that looked like his mirror image on drums, two saxophonists, a trumpeter and one hot-headed keyboardist – Russ Stewart, half the age of the rest of the band but showing double energy levels, twisting behind his instrument, stealing the show a bit.
The concert wasn’t a major hit but certainly not as bad as some of the reviews I have read of the Shuggie Otis concert tour.
The issue seems to be that Shuggie Otis has been out of the spotlight for too long. Sort of since the 70s, when his groundbreaking style was a milestone, giving soul that characteristic funky note – copied, recycled and redeveloped in the music industry.
Fans with an original issue of Shuggie Otis solo albums, to the left is Freedom Flight from 1971 with the original version of Strawberry Letter 23 (I love this song) and his epic Inspiration Information by Epic Records from 1974.
Sony has just reissued Inspiration Information and brought out Shuggie Otis new compilation called Wings Of Love, of previously unreleased material, all of which was written from 1975 to the present.
Shuggie Otis announced the news himself jokingly ‘Coming out on April 16th. It’s two albums for the price of four but you gonna download it anyway‘.
Sadly, samples of Wings Of Love did not compare to his previous masterpieces. By which I mean his third solo album Inspiration Information, which took him three years to create and which he recorded alone at his dad’s studio at the age of 19. A multi instrumentalist, Shuggie Otis played all instruments by himself except the brass and string arrangements, which he nevertheless wrote.
Now that Shuggie Otis suddenly re-emerged, expectations of that musical prodigy kid, playing with his dad Johnny Otis (pioneer Rhythm and Blues star), at the age of twelve, were immensely high pitched.
Shuggie Otis did try.
In that way the concert was a bit unpredictable – I never knew if he was going to come back on stage after Otis had left a few times (as if taking a pee break) or if the next song was going to be announced, the name forgotten or not. Otis couldn’t recall song names at times and was helped by band members to whom he replied in return, that he was just teasing.
There were numerous issues with the amplifier and Otis trying to fix it, as if the band did not have much stage experience or rehearsal opportunities to clear technical problems beforehand. Shuggie Otis commented at one point ‘Hey, am I going crazy? I am not crazy, said my psychiatrist, at the same time biting a pencil he was holding between his teeth.’ Good to know those issues had been resolved. Or have they?
The audience was taken by surprise when Shuggie Otis suddenly decided to lie down on the floor playing his guitar like crazy while having stood totally static in the middle of the stage for all performance, nothing short of an overly shy boy, clinging to his instrument.
My personal highlight of the concert was listening to his Aht Uh Mi Hed – my absolute favourite song. Otis didn’t catch the high tones, his voice had changed and although it would sound pressed sometimes, he was doing some neat gruff singing a la Louis Armstrong.
There was little action on stage but his facial expressions showed that he truly felt the music. When he embarked on a five minute guitar solo the power and enchantment was back. He is a blessed guitarist who knows how to work the strings, to say the least. After Otis had fallen into obscurity and addiction his fingers seem to be working well again.
His 70s music is magic, only his new songs were struggling to deliver the mojo. Disappointed with the unremarkable pop-ballad quality of his Wings Of Love, missing those funky twists, but very grateful to have listened to some of his legendary 70s songs – delivered by the master! – it sure was an experience to have met Shuggie Otis live.
The line to get an autograph was endless. The foremost Japanese audience was obviously happy with the performance. Nothing to what I have read about audiences attending other concerts in the States. Maybe that is why he had the most gigs in Tokyo. Japanese people do know how to pay tribute and show their appreciation.
To the comeback. Give the man some credit – this is what his impact to music in retrospect clearly deserves.
Shuggie Otis has kept his infectious bright smile while giving autographs.
The autograph session.
Otis was happy.
The percussion-pro (it could have been Otis brother Nicky?) assisted with name spelling. Otis was noticeably having some serious eye sight problems.
Shuggie Otis is signing for us!
And my name did not make it any easier.
How on earth do you spell Dasza?
Tada. ‘To Tomek & Dasz’. Screw endings – and move on to more underground blues.