01 December 2006
TV Asahi show, Tokyo.
Smasher and Bruce came over this morning and we headed out to the MORI museum to have a look at a Bill Viola show. In the frequently highly dodgy world of gallery-based video art, Bill Viola is a master and one of my absolute favourites. It was a retrospective with six or seven rooms, each containing one large work. I find his newer contemplative works less compelling than his earlier more environmental installations, but this show had some of each so I was pleased. The highlight was The Crossing, possibly his most well known work; a room-sized double sided piece of a man walking towards the camera for several minutes. Journey complete, he fills the screen, then on one side of the screen he bursts into flames, whilst on the reverse side he is drowned in a deluge. Wonderful stuff.
The museum is on the 53rd floor of the MORI building and includes a viewing deck giving extraordinary panoramic views of the massive, massive urban sprawl which is Tokyo-Yokohama. It also offered a perfect birds eye view of our stage for this evenings TV show, so at least we got a sense of what the helicopter shots might look like.
We followed up our art excursion with the obligatory sushi lunch which was so delicious and inexpensive it just made me want to weep. From here to the studios of tv asahi (stick!). In keeping with the Japanese meeting ethic, we took about 25 people with us including backline, lighting, sound, monitor engineers, management and assistants. I think the TV people were overwhelmed by so many of us showing up, but an amount of shock and awe never hurts in these situations. Everyone at tv asahi (stick!) was very willing to make it look and sound the way we wanted, but their native aesthetic for TV rock performance (much akin to the way the BBC lights news readers) is so far from our own that it took a while to bridge the gulf. The discussions, via interpreters, became quite intense, but gradually we saw that we were getting to where we want to be.
We ate in the TV station staff dining room, having been issued with little plastic credit cards containing Y 1000 of food credit. It was a canteen sort of thing, with impossibly exotic looking dishes all over the place. Having selected four or five items I headed for the check out, initially confused as there was no-one serving. Placing my tray on the counter, an LCD screen sprang to life and made a pinging noise, before showing me the total charge. I confess to feeling momentarily like the cave man in Piccadilly Circus - are you telling me that this thing knows whats on my tray? Apparently so. I put my credit slip in a slot, causing a second ping and a little cartoon dog with a waggy tail indicated I was free to go and eat. Genius.
The band came in for soundcheck, run-through, camera blocking and so forth. I was gradually overwhelmed by a realisation of where I was and what I was doing. We are on the roof of a TV station against the backdrop of the Tokyo tower and skyline lit up against the night sky. After two years of Vertigo on the road, finally, here we are, in the real City of Blinding Lights.
To our eyes the TV show is a mad affair - a sort of Ready Steady Go meets Blue Peter kind of thing, but apparently is watched by untold millions. It also goes out live live as we say in the biz (as in actually broadcast as performed, rather than with any kind of tape delay) so it was going to be served exactly as seen. In the moment we got a great result. The tv ashahi (stick!) team really came through for us. It looked just like a band performing against the Tokyo night sky should look.
Bruce and I got hopelessly lost trying to leave the building then headed out for a walk to take in the Roppongi Friday night atmosphere. Somewhere further down the street we walked past a large installation by another of my favourite artists Tatsuo Miyajima, whose work with rows of red LCD numbers counting down might be familiar. This piece was number countdowns, but each number was about three metres tall, which was pretty impressive against the traffic.
We ended up back outside the front of the hotel and faced a moments indecision as to whether to head out, go for yet more sushi or just call it a night. We ended up loitering outside of hotel until Joe showed up carrying an open bottle of wine. Decision made. We sat right there on the terrace by the taxi rank and looked at the action of a Roppongi Friday night. This is a wild place and I confess that I may be falling in love with this city, this psychedelic vision of the future which will be coming to a town near you, probably a great deal sooner than you imagine.