This year, I was fortunate enough to attend 6 concerts during my visit to Japan at the end of August/early September. My trip didn't start so well - my flight departure was delayed for 6 hours due to a typhoon in Korea. After that, however, it was pretty smooth sailing - except the heat and humidity this year seemed even more intense than usual.
I travelled down to Okayama where I saw the show on August 31. I was then able to attend concerts in Fujinomiya (Shizuoka), Tokyo, Koshigaya (near Tokyo), Nagoya and Sano (Tochigi). I thought the sound was really good this year - I'm not sure if this was due to a different sound system, a new sound tech, a different drum kit for Leon or the fact that all the guys were using Fender guitars for all or part of the show - or a combination of everything. Anyway, I liked it! The set list (see below) had several new additions as well as the usual, expected titles without which no Ventures' concert would be complete. The Walk Don't Run medley was a different combination and arrangement of songs, also detailed below.
Bob Spalding took the lead spot for the first half of the first set and played 6 titles. 'Bang Bang Bang' is a track from the J-Rock CD released in 2005: I found the live version very exciting - even though it was originally a Japanese hit, I think US audiences would enjoy it too. 'Japan Surf' is from the latest CD release in Japan 'Memories of Japan' and is a title written by Bob Spalding - again, I think US fans would appreciate hearing the live performance.
After Bob's set, Gerry took over the lead, and finished out the first half of the show. I particularly enjoyed his version of 'Honky Tonk' and a blistering 'Green Onions'.
The second set opened with a medley of 'Magic Night' and 'Bondolero', both songs being Ventures originals that were first released in Japan in 1972 - not by The Ventures, but on one of Mel Taylor's solo projects (007 - the James Bond album) that was produced by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle. However, The Ventures have played these two songs on stage in Japan on a number of occasions, and they always receive a good response. Gerry used the sitar on the 'Kyoto Doll / Paint it Black' medley, then switched to the acoustic guitar for the 3 most popular Ventures Japanese titles, followed by the essential 'Classical Gas'. The last 5 songs of the second set were all high energy and, of course, included Gerry's walk through the audience while playing 'House of the Rising Sun'.
The show concluded with the mandatory encore number, 'Caravan' on which Leon seemed to excel himself every night. As an aside, he added a cowbell to his inventory of percussion instruments, which he put to good use throughout the show, including some humurous moments.
I think it's a shame that the show was not filmed but, with the high cost of everything in Japan these days, due to the unfavorable yen/dollar exchange, and the recovery period since the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster, I suppose it's understandable. Of course, as elsewhere in the world, brick-and-mortar sales of CDs and DVDs are woefully low, as everything revolves around downloading.
All in all, I thought this year's show was terrific. The group had a very hard schedule with precious few days off (most of which were travel days) and, as we all know, none of us is getting any younger so the travel schedule, the summer heat and the lack of rest does take a toll. In spite of it all, the performances were great and I know the audiences had a wonderful time, as did I.
Walk Don't Run Medley (WDR, Perfidia, Lullaby of the Leaves, Bulldog, Blue Moon, Shanghai'ed, WDR 64, WDR reprise)
Journey to the Stars
Bang Bang Bang
Slaughter on 10th Avenue
Black Sand Beach
Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In
Kyoto Doll/Paint it Black
Strangers in Midosuji/Reflections in a Palace Lake
House of the Rising Sun