Like Some Cat From Japan (Golden Eggs EGG 84/85/86)
David Bowie’s first tour of Japan in April 1973 consisted of ten dates spread out over a two week period. Five of these concerts were in Tokyo, the other cities visited were Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kobe, and Osaka. Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars was selling well and the record would stay in the Japanese charts for more than two years, his theatrical musical presentation is popular with both music fans and press. Bowie is so popular that a huge 60 foot by 90 foot poster hung from a Tokyo building, at the time it was the largest poster in the world.
“Musically he is the most exciting thing to have happened since the fragmentation of the Beatles, and theatrically he is perhaps the most interesting performer ever in the pop music genre.” – Japan Times Review
Bowie traveled to Japan on the Ocean liner SS Oronsay with the rest of the touring ensemble arriving by plane a day after his arrival. The band’s tour itinerary allows much time for Bowie to immerse himself in the Japanese culture. Sightseeing, fashion shows, and traditional Japanese Theatre fill his off time. During the tour he meets one of Japan’s most popular Kabuki star, Tamasaburou Bandou who gives David advice on make up. Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto produced several Aladdin Sane stage costumes based on Japanese dramas that were presented to him in Tokyo. Bowie had previously met Kansai in New York and spent time with his family while on tour in Japan.
Bowie had this to say about his time spent in Japan during this period: “It was a great experience, I found them absolutely fascinating. There was an awful lot, particularly in the outlying villages and provinces, of very strange ritual dance performances that I hadn’t seen before. A lot of them were from Shintoism.”
This new release by the Golden Eggs label features three concert from this tour, all recorded in the Capital city of Tokyo. All three recordings featured here are culled from audience sources and have been released previously, this is the first time all three have been collected in this format.
Shinjuku Koseinenkin Kaikan, Tokyo, Japan – April 8, 1973
Disc 1 (79:33) Ode To Joy, Hang On To Yourself, Ziggy Stardust, Changes, Moonage Daydream, Panic In Detroit, Aladdin Sane, The Width Of A Circle, Space Oddity, The Jean Genie, Time, Five Years, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Starman, Suffragette City, Rock And Roll Suicide
First concert in Japan, Bowie arrived on April 4 and therefore is well rested for his debut. This is perhaps the most interesting setlist played in Japan as it features Panic In Detroit and Aladdin Sane, the only performances of these two numbers on this tour. This concert has been released previously on The True Value Of Moment (Helden DEN – 040/041/042). The recording is relatively lo-fi having been recorded at some distance as evident from the hall echo. The sound levels are low as well yet the sound is very good, clear and detailed with vocals and guitar being in the forefront although the bass and drums can still be heard.
A good chunk of the opening music Ode To Joy is played on the PA, the band arrive proper with the opening salvo of Hang On To Yourself and a dramatic Ziggy Stardust. There are cuts between many of the songs and the fades are very smooth. Moonage Daydream is cut at 5:35 cutting the end of Ronno’s blistering solo. The cut goes right into the beginning of Panic In Detroit, while I love this song, the Spiders played it at a faster tempo, more Rock less swagger. Again Mick Ronson’s guitar work is exemplary on this song. On the other hand Aladdin Sane is pure small Jazz club goodness, Mike Garson gets some time in the spotlight, his playing is superb. The Width Of A Circle features more of Ronno’s guitar histrionics as well as Bowie’s theatrical mime work. Space Oddity sounds very off worldly, again owing much to the distance of the recording and the hall echo picked up as a result. Time is a great blend of vamp cabaret, Starman starts off quietly but soon has the audience clapping along, the concert ends with Rock And Roll Suicide.
Shinjuku Koseinenkin Kaikan, Tokyo, Japan – April 10, 1973
Disc 2 (63:17) Ode To Joy, Hang On To Yourself, Ziggy Stardust, Changes, Moonage Daydream, John I’m Only Dancing, Watch That Man, The Width Of A Circle, Space Oddity, The Jean Genie, Five Years, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Suffragette City
Certainly one of the better recordings from this tour, the second night in Tokyo has seen a few prior releases, The Ziggy Stardust Japan Tour (Masterport-206), Tokyo 1973 2nd Night (Wardour-170), The True Value Of Moment (Helden DEN 40/41/42), and Time May Change Me: From Stardust To Stardom (Magic Bus MB-01) all feature this concert. Golden Eggs uses the same version from their Magic Bus set minus Rock And Roll Suicide, that version was taken from the April 20 concert. The source for this concert is a wonderful audience source, the audience is very respectful, almost too much and are barely heard except between songs when they politely applaud. It is just slightly distant but very clear and detailed with no real hiss to be heard, there is a nice frequency range. A great recording does not always mean great performance, this one comes in as a solid performance but lacks some of the energy of the others in this set.
The set list is standard, no real surprises, the Ode To Joy intro is complete, the band plow through the first five songs before David speaks, giving a short introduction “A song from an album called Aladdin Sane, this song is called Watch That Man”. The song picks up the concerts energy a bit, the band jam in the middle of The Width Of A Circle shows Ronson flexing his muscles a bit with Trevor pushing him with his bass playing and for me the song is the highlight of this concert. Space Oddity is the full version that is very nice, while I enjoy the acoustic versions, to hear a nice, lush sounding version is special. Mick’s guitar just prior to the chorus is superb as he adds some outer space ala Hendrix leads.
Shibuya Kokaido, Tokyo, Japan – April 20, 1973
Disc 3 (65:46) Ode To Joy, Hang On To Yourself, Ziggy Stardust, Changes, Moonage Daydream, John I’m Only Dancing, Watch That Man, The Jean Genie, Time, Five Years, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Starman, Suffragette City, Rock And Roll Suicide, Round And Round
The final concert in Japan exists in a very good audience source, just a notch down from the April 10 concert. Clear and very atmospheric, the instruments and vocals can be cleanly heard with just a touch of distortion mostly in the upper frequencies, the atmosphere is well captured. There has been a few prior releases of this material, A Cat From London (You J-003), Suicide Attack (Zeus Z-2009001), Ziggy In Bit Valley 1972 (Helden DEN-059), and Tokyo 1973 Final Night (Wardour-175) all feature this recording. As previously mentioned Magic Bus added Rock And Roll Suicide from this performance to the end of the April 10 concert.
This is a very enjoyable concert, the band and David are in great form, his vocals are very strong, David seems determined to go out with a bang. This recording has a nice bottom end that makes songs like Moonage Daydream sound even more heavy, the set is very Rock and Roll save for Time and Five Years giving the Spiders the ability to flex their musical muscles. During Time, Bowie seems to tease the audience, faint cries can be heard from his adorning audience, drama set to an almost Sabbath like riff, Mick’s solos are superb and Brian Wilson’s flute gives a haunting effect. Bowie takes a minute to introduce the band during Rock And Roll Suicide to the cheering audience, and the concert is brought to a close with an encore of Chuck Berry’s Around And Around. Reportedly, there was almost a riot as Police were getting aggressive with overly ecstatic fans, one of them Bowie’s wife, Angie.
David Bowie had this to say about the end of the tour to Mirabelle magazine May 1973: “Angie made me promise to rest all the next day while she went out to buy me a beautiful red silk kimono for my long journey back home to England. The next day she and the baby flew home and I (who don’t like flying very much – except in spaceships!) boarded the ship, Felix Nzerjinski, at Yokohama which took me to Nakhodka where I caught the Trans-Siberian Express. Though it was raining very heavily when I left Yokohama, thousands of fans and friends showed up at the pier to bid me farewell. Now it’s late and I too must say farewell but not goodbye just… sayonara (that’s the Japanese words for love and kisses!”
The packaging is typical for Golden Eggs, three discs housed in a tri-gatefold sleeve featuring mostly candid shots of Bowie from the tour. There is an insert with liner notes and musician line up as well, while I was doing research for this review I found a site with a lot of info and used some at the beginning of this review. As I was looking over the insert I found it reprinted as the liner notes, great minds thinking alike. For collectors wanting to hear Ziggy in Japan, this is a nice set to consider as it features a nice overview of the tour all in one convenient package.