Date: Fri, 9 Nov 2001 23:18:55 +0900 Subject: Dream Power: John Lennon Super Live -- Japan
Dream Power: John Lennon Super Live -- Japan
by Hisataka Suzuki and Shiona MacKenzie
On October 9, 2001, a concert arranged by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon was held at Saitama Super Arena, Japan. John Lennon would have turned 61 that day. The concert was a charitable event (involving the Spirit Foundation founded by John and Yoko) for poor children in Asia and Africa. The proceeds are going towards the construction, already underway, of seven new schools in Burkina Faso, China, Guinea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. World peace was added to the concept of the concert. A number of top Japanese artists, (all die-hard John Lennon aficionados) came together to perform songs composed and/or sung by John Lennon. Yoko was supposed to cometo Japan for the concert. Much to our regret, however, she had to call off her visit at the eleventh hour due to the after-effects of the September 11th terrorist attacks. On the Dream Power official website, Yoko explained why she had to give up her Japan visit. Seeing Yoko would have been biggest highlight of the concert for us, but we understood her decision. George Martin was also supposed to be present as a special guest but, at the last minute, had to give up on traveling to Japan. As this was proposed as the first in a series of annual concerts, we look forward to the possibility of seeing them, and other special guests, there in the future.
The venue, Saitama Super Arena, located in the northern outskirts of Tokyo, was founded just one year ago. It houses the first John Lennon Museum in the world. When we entered the lobby of the John Lennon Museum shortly prior to the concert, we saw a number of artworks by the mentally disabled, on display there from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3. The exhibition was in keeping with the spirit of the concert.
We had never before entered the Main Arena where sports events and concerts take place. Much to our surprise, the Main Arena was about the same size as the Budokan where the Beatles gave their first and last concert in Japan, back in 1966! About 17,000 people attended the concert d espite the fact that it was held on a Tuesday night. We got excellent seats in the front of the venue thanks to membership in the Beatles Club, (formerly called Beatles Cine Club -- the largest Beatles fan club in Japan), so we didn't need binoculars to see the stage.
Before the concert, recordings of John Lennon tracks played one after another. When we arrived, "Ready Teddy", from John Lennon's Rock & Roll album was on. The next track was "Working Class Hero". Suddenly, the lights went down and the venue became pitch-dark. Then the opening film started with Yoko's 'Let Me Count the Ways' from Milk and Honey (the digitally remastered version had been released days before). Photos of John Lennon from childhood through adulthood were shown on multiple screens. The soundtrack consisted of snippets of "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Help!", "Give Peace A Chance", "Imagine", "Cold Turkey" ( '72 live at Madison Square Garden), and "Watching the Wheels". The last line of "Watching the Wheels", ("I just had to let it go"), led into the dramatic final chord of "A Day In the Life".
The music gently faded and next we heard John's voice in halting Japanese: Nihon no minasan, konnichiwa. Sekai heiwa no tameni te wo tsunaide, uta wo utaimasho. Yoko to watakushi to anata to 'Give Peace a Chance'. That was the very first time for us to hear John speak Japanese! Translated into English, he said "Hello, everyone in Japan. Let's sing a song hand-in-hand for world peace --Yoko and me and you - 'Give Peace A Chance'." The audience cheered and applauded wildly.
Here's what happened:
* Opening Film
1. Come Together / Kazuya Yoshii, Yuzu, Shingo Oshiba
2. Bad Boy, Cold Turkey, Grow Old With Me / Shingo Oshiba
3. Don't Let Me Down, Jealous Guy, All You Need Is Love / Yuzu
4. Love, Watching The Wheels, Mind Games / Takako Shirai
5. Instant Karma, Oh My Love, I Am The Walrus / Sho Wada
6. You've Got To Hide YourLove Away / Takuo Okuda, Sho Wada
7. I'm Only Sleeping, Hey Bulldog, She Said She Said / Takuo Okuda
* George Martin and Ringo Starr's Video Messages
8. Little Child, I Should Have Known Better / Monsieur Kamayatsu, Shingo Oshiba
9. Be-Bop-A-Lula, I'm Losing You, God / Kazuya Yoshii
10. Mother / Acid Test (Takeshi Kobayashi, Kazutoshi Sakurai, Kenichi Tawaraetc.)
* Yoko Ono, live via satellite from NY
11. Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Real Love - Give Peace A Chance (medley) / All
12. Encore: Imagine / All (audience and musicians together)
"Come Together" sung by Kazuya Yoshii (from the band Yellow Monkey), Yuzu, and Shingo Oshiba was powerful, loud and impressive. It was appropriate as the first number, actually welcoming the audience to the concert. As the line, "Come together right now overme" invites us to do, we came together over John, on the first anniversary of his birth since the dawn of this new century. The musicians onstage were talented, attractive and there were three keyboard players, two guitarists, one bass player and one drummer.
Shingo Oshiba sang three songs, "Bad Boy", "Cold Turkey", "Grow Old With Me" with the same band. Shingo Oshiba is well known as a Beatles /John Lennon fan. He has released a number of his own CDs on which he covers some of John's songs. His plaintive voice somehow suited "Grow Old With Me" and his rendition was very moving.
And then, he was replaced with Yuzu, two singers playing acoustic guitars. While the band was constant, singers changed every few songs. Yuzu's vocals were great on "Don't Let Me Down". On "Jealous Guy", they did their own arrangement. Their vocal harmonies went very well together. "All You Need Is Love", ended with a segue into the traditional song "Happy Birthday To You." What a great idea! Actually, with so many top Japanese artists there, it might have been easy to forget what the real occasion was, but singing "Happy birthday dear John..." reminded us. Yuzu's arrangement of these numbers exclusively for this concert left nothing to be desired.
Next, Takako Shirai performed "Watching the Wheels" which she arranged by putting together the Double Fantasy version and the John Lennon anthology version. We could enjoyboth during one number! Surprisingly, Shirai was the only female artist to perform at the concert. Her mike and music stand were decorated with garlands of flowers. She looked like a 60's flower-child as she tossed them out to the audience when she had finished her part of the show.
Also notable was "I Am the Walrus" sung by Sho Wada (from Triceratops). Featuring no less than three keyboard players, "I Am the Walrus" was marvelous. His voicewas strong, and he sang most, if not all, of the words right! He's a highly talented young artist, the same age as Sean Lennon. According to Mr. Wada, he visited New York City the year before and made a point of seeking out The Dakota where Yoko still resides.
After "She Said She Said" (sung by Okuda), video messages from George Martin and Ringo Starr were aired. The concert MC, Yasuhiko Akasaka, announced in Japanese, "Here are video messages sent from two important people. One is from a parent, you could say, of The Beatles, who brought them up -- George Martin, and the other is from the drummer who always drummed behind John Lennon -- Ringo Starr." The audience cheered loudly upon hearing the two names.
George Martin appeared on the two giant screens on either side of the stage.A piano in the background showed that his message had been recorded in a music studio. His message: Hello. I'm George Martin. I'm very sorry I can't be with you today, but I do send you my greetings here from London, at Air Studios. I'm very glad, also, that so many great Japanese artists are taking part in this special Dream Power Concert tribute to John Lennon on his birthday. I have very fond memories of John. I'm very privileged to have worked with him over a number of years, and we had great times together, we played together, I wenton holiday with him, and of course I saw him in all his different moods. Some of them were marvelous. He was an enormously creative person. To see someone like that at work was one of my most enduring memories of John. He was a great man. I'm delighted that the proceeds from these concerts are going to build new schools for deprived children throughout Asia and Africa.And I'd like to thank all the artists taking part who've given so generously of their time and, of course, in their tribute to a great man, John Lennon. I'm sure the concert'll be an enormous success. And I'd like really to be with Yoko and all you people to see what actually goeson when the spirit of John comes in front of all the people in Japan. We will keep his memory alive, and I will always give of my time to remember John Lennon and the great work he did andthe great work that will go on in the future. Enjoy the concert and have a wonderful time.
Next, Ringo appeared on the screen. Ringo's message went like this: Hi, this is Ringo Starr. Peace and love. I'm sorry I can't be with you at today's Dream Power Concert, but I'm sure you'll have a good time anyway. I'm glad that so many top Japanese artists are here today to celebrate what John was all about. John was about good music, and he was a great friend of mine. And, of course, we all miss him. I'm also happy to hear that the proceeds of the concert are going to build new schools for deprived childrenthroughout Asia and Africa, and I'd like to thank all the artists who have given so generously of their time in this tribute to the great man himself, John O. Lennon. Have a great one! Peace and love. Ringo's message was also printed in the Concert Program with his picture.
The messages were subtitled in Japanese as they were broadcast so that the Japanese audience could understand the contents.
The concert continued with "Little Child" and "I Should Have Known Better." Monsieur Kamayatsu and Shingo Oshiba's arrangements were quite different from The Beatles' versions. Monsieur Kamayatsu used to belong to "The Spiders," a Beatles-influenced Japanese pop group in the 1960's. We really take our hats off to them!
When Kazuya Yoshii sang "God," he changed the lyrics from 'I don'tbelieve in Kennedy' to 'I don't believe in Bush.' That took us by surprise! Probably he just wished toupdate the song so that it reflected the times. Yoshii, born in 1966, is a member of The YellowMonkey, a four-member rock group formed in 1989 that is still extremely popular among Japanese youth.
Then, some other keyboards were carried onto the stage and the set was completely transformed. The atmosphere filled with fantasia, Acid Test (Takeshi Kobayashi, KazutoshiSakurai and Kenichi Tawara), began to perform "Mother". The unique arrangement startedwith a space-age techno sound, then the lyrics were sung slowly and mournfully, and finally they increased the pace and ended up sounding almost like U2! That was an amazingly creative rendition!
After Acid Test, the MC introduced Yoko, saying, (in Japanese), "Tonight, I cannot help feeling that somehow this venue is enveloped completely by everyone's love. I feel your power very strongly. Now, let's call all today's artists back onto the stage... To our regret, Yoko Ono was not able to come over this time. However, your power tonight must have been delivered in New York. The satellite is connected!... She is in New York where the day ofOctober 9th has just broken. Here is Yoko Ono!" The audience roared as Yoko's smiling visage appeared on the screens.
Yoko's voice was just as clear as the voices of the artists onstage as she delivered her message to us: Hello, Yoko here! Hi, there! I'm thrilled that so many people came together for the concert to share the anniversary of John's birth. Thank you very much! I'm very happy that the artists and the audience have come together at this concert to share in the spirit of John... New Yorkers have been overwhelmed with grief since the tragic events (of September 11). A lot of people have deserted the city and begun to move to safer locations. Seeing such a situation, I, on the contrary... (Yoko sighed.) ...came to think that it is very important for me to stay in New York... I've learned that remaining here instead of leaving could encourage people. I suppose that this is my task right now. (Yoko was suddenly choked up, tears in her eyes.) If John were here, he would have had the same idea. It is an important job now to keep on sending a message of love and peace from New York even in profound despair... I think the most important mission is to do something positive for the future of the children. I think it is simply wonderful that seven schools are going to be newly built for children in Asia and Africa from the proceeds of this concert. Thank you very much, everyone! I'd like to light up a ray of hope for the future of children in Asia and Africa. Dream Power --- No matter how small it is, everyone's having a dream will lead to the power which can come to change the world... To Mr. Yoshii, Mr. Oshiba, the Yuzu duo, Ms. Shirai, Mr. Okuda, Monsieur, everyone from Acid Test , and each member of the of the backing band, and, to start with, Ms. Saito,(President of the Beatles Club), and all the other staff, thank you for singing many of John'ssongs. Also everyone in the audience, are you having fun? (The audience cheered and applauded loudly in response.) I believe John is also happy to watch this. I'd like to send you John's words now: Imagine all the people living life in peace.' 'Souzou shitegoran. Minna ga heiwa ni kurshite irukoto wo.' (in Japanese).
After that, one by one, the artists greeted Yoko personally, beginning with Ms. Shirai. When they were all done, Yoko held up the Concert Program displaying pages with photos of the artists involved and said, Can you see this? Everyone is very good looking! That's awesome. I send you my love. I really love you!
With Yoko (still onscreen), the audience and all the musicians onstage sang "Happy Xmas" and Yoko exclaimed, Let's keep up the good work! And the artists replied, "Yes! Hang in there!" "I love you!" echoed between Yoko, the MC, the artists and the audience andthen Yoko signed off. The concert ended with everyone at the concert singing "Real Love", and "Give Peace A Chance" together. For the encore, the musicians returned to the stage and performed "Imagine." It was a fitting ending to a beautiful concert. What a success!
Not since a decade ago, in December 1990, has there been such a big concert in Japan in the name of John Lennon. Back then, we went to the Tokyo Dome, the largest arena across Japan, for 'G.O.W' (Greening Of the World), a concert to commemorate John Lennon's 50th birthday, and to raise awareness of environmental issues. Participants included Miles Davis, Lenny Kravitz, Hall & Oates , Natalie Cole, Linda Ronstadt, notable Japanese artists, and Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon. A CD resulted, titled "Happy Birthday, John." Hopefully, a "Dream Power" album will be produced! Wouldn't that be fantastic?
Upon leaving the arena, we walked over to an outdoor booth where "DreamPower" T-shirts were for sale. We had to buy one as a souvenir of an unforgettable evening. Official concert programs were completely sold out! Needless to say, we, and the approximately 16,998 others in the lovely audience, had a splendid time...