When I heard The Slip would be returning to Japan to play for two nights, I simply had to go with them. I had gone the previous year, and was witness to a fantastic show in an amazing country filled with wonderful people. I had just finished a 10 day vacation in Japan when I heard the news, but with the price of airline tickets at their lowest point in years, a return trip so soon didn't seem that unreasonable. Within a few days, it became apparent that quite a few of us would be making the journey, so I booked us in Ryokan in Asakusa, a suburb of Tokyo with many temples nearby. After a 16-hour plane ride, and an hour train ride from the airport, we arrived exhausted in Asakusa.

The next two days were spent visiting the various areas of Tokyo and generally getting used to the new time zone. Tokyo is an amazing city, it's as densely packed as New York, but as large as LA, but wherever you go the people are amazingly friendly and willing to help. The food is unbelievable, and you can have an awesome sushi meal for the equivalent of $5 to $6.

The night of the first show arrived quickly, and we headed down to Shinjuku early to find the club. It was located on the 7th floor of a large building in the red-light area of Shinjuku, directly above one of the thousands of arcades in Tokyo. While the show started at 11pm, The Slip wasn't due to go on until 3 am in the morning, which was quite a shock considering we had just managed to start waking up after dawn. So we spent the next few hours in the arcade, playing the dog walking simulator, the sushi cutting game, taking pictures in the "tilty shot" booth, getting our groove on in Dance Revolution, and recording new hit singles in the Karaoke machine.

1/13/02, The Liquid Room

11:30 rolls around in no time, and the club is packed; over 500 tickets were sold in advance, and the club easily fills (and passes) its 1200 person capacity. The merch table is packed, but somehow quite a few people at the show seem to already have shirts from previous tours. A Japanese band, Phat, takes the stage. I had seen Phat the year before, and while they were good then they were even better now. A very trancy vibe is created from Daisuke Fujiwara (sax), Naoya Numa (drums) and Torigoe Keisuke (upright bass). Daisuke playing style is already known to Slip fans for his work on "Children of Atlantis," a track from The Slip's first album, From the Gecko.

Around 3am The Slip finally takes the stage, which is beautifully decorated in the theme of a giant garden, with vines and leaves creating the backdrop. A Giant leaf fills one side of the stage, perhaps representative of the shows promoter, Phat Leaf productions. They open the set with "Dark Angel," (now called "Dear Melina") a new vocal tune that opened up the 12/28/01 show at the Bowery and is beginning to make the rounds. Next up is a ripping version of "Get me with Fuji," a song named after something I said to Brad the last time we were in Japan when handing him my camera in front of Mt. Fuji. "Fuji" is one of my favorite new Slip tunes, intense and powerful, with a sick groove below it, and I wondered weather the people at the show realized it was written about the bands experience with the people in Japan the year before.

"Nellie G" takes flight, building it's way into an intensity much more reminiscent of a "Wolof" than "Nellie G." For the "Alsoa" that follows, they invite Oa onstage with them. From what I gather, Oa is a j-pop singer in Japan who's quite well known. "Alsoa" is always a treat these days, as it's not in heavy rotation like it was in 1998 or 1999, but its even more a treat to see some of the crowd singing! Between songs, Brad attempts some Japanese to ask the crowd if he can take their picture. They all scream, he pulls out the camera, and does the international hand signal for "Move a little closer together," to which the crowd begins to laugh and actually move towards the center of the room. During the "Dogs on Bikes," which follows, a little clapping game breaks out between the left and right side of the room. Overall, it was an explosive first set, leaving us wondering what they can do to top it in the second set. We quickly agreed that the first set had been worth the price of the tickets alone, so everything from here out was bonus.

I spend a lot of the break handing out live Slip CD's to random people in the crowd who look like they're having a blast, which is quite a bit of entertainment in itself since I speak little Japanese and most of them don't speak English.

The second set opens with "Sometimes True to Nothing," and follows with an extreme rarity; "Munf." "Munf" feature Daisuke sitting in on sax. The ornament, (our inside joke for the Rhodes keyboard that sits on the stage untouched at most shows) gets played for a "Weight of Solomon," which also gets quite a few people in the crowd singing along. When I first met Brad he was fairly self-conscious about his voice, but these days he seems very comfortable belting it out with as much feeling and passion as his guitar playing reflects. Tonight was certainly no different.

A truly wonderful piece of music written by Marc, "Sorry," is next. This is definitely my favorite of the new Slip tunes. Led by an amazing piece of bass harmonics with a simple melody over top, it's very representative of what I think the Slip does that other bands do not. It conveys the depths of emotions that sorrow brings, while making you see the wonder in the things surrounding you. It's that feeling of serenity, humility, and magic that keeps me coming back to show after show.

By this point, it's nearly 6am, and while only a few people have left the club, people are looking a bit in need of rest. When "Sorry" fades away, Marc begins the settle teasing of "Yellow Medicine," and they burn their way through the first section of the tune; the crowd erupts during the scream, which sends Andrew into his solo with some serious energy. The second scream just seems to revitalize the weary crowd, who are begin dancing harder than ever. The "Honey Melon," rarely heard stateside, but played on both Japan trips now, closes the set and just keeps people moving, leaving them screaming and pounding the ground with their feet for more.

For the encore, Andrew breaks out the Steel Drum, while Naoya takes over the position on the kit. Naoya proves to be a very solid and creative drummer on the tune, which is not at all a surprise after Phat's set. Daisuke also joins them onstage to close out the show. During the cheers that follow, the smallest Japanese girl I've ever seen starts bouncing up and down next to me, screaming for more. At full jump, I'd swear she only comes up to my hip. I hand her my last CD, and we crawl back to Asakusa to pass out.

The Slip is fresh off a monumental tour of Japan and have rested up breaking out on a huge 40 show tour across America starting February 1st in Philadelphia. Make sure you check The Slip's Tour Dates for your chance to catch these international heroes!

Jason Booth
Photos by Rie Kasahara & OrganicGroove
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[Published on: 1/30/02]

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