MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
THE LADY SHELTERS
FUTAKOTAMAGAWA 4th Feb 2023
Having seen The Lady Shelters deliver a superb thirty-minute set of great Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Rolling Stones tribute night just before Christmas, I wanted to see how they would fair over a much longer show. Rather wonderfully, they were playing a full set just twenty minutes from where I happened to be last Saturday night and as a bonus, the winter cold had eased up for the evening so I didn’t have to bundle up like an Eskimo to get there. It was the first time I had been to The Gemini Theater and surprised me as is a Live House, downstairs as is usual in Japan but It also has a refreshment kiosk, graffiti free toilets and a top-level sound and light system. It also has tiered seating. It’s a proper theatre, not just a name.
The gig is well attended and it’s noticeable that a lot of the fans are sporting The Lady Shelters T-shirts and parkas, a couple of them have tote bags. Clearly this band already has a good and loyal following, a fact emphasised by the applause that went up when the lights went down and if there is still a government restriction on cheering at concerts due to covid, then certainly the bloke next to me didn’t care and neither did others in the audience. The band are dynamic from the start as they launch into track one from their debut album which then goes straight into the intro of Electric Ladyshelter. Yoshida looks resplendent in her full-length chequered coat as she pounds away on the floor tom and has a permanent smile that you could see 2000 light years from home. It’s noticeable that she uses the same technique as Charlie Watts, i.e. holding back from hitting the hi-hat when hitting the snare. Kento on bass interweaves classic Rock ‘n’ Roll bass line with his own ideas to create something very special with Yoshida and together, they are a rhythm section on par with McCartney/Starr, Benjamin/Jamerson from Motown and Wyman/Watts. Over the top of this, Jicoo is adding telecaster riffs that are at times solid and other times loose; his feel is akin to a mixture of Keith, Ronnie, Chuck and Scotty Moore; his timing is natural. As if that were not enough, Mizuki is at the front, singing her heart out and has the audience in the palm of her hand. She’s the perfect frontwoman, hypnotic, never misses a note and seems to have endless energy. Together, the band is a highly entertaining ensemble, never boring, constantly rocking.
Two hours fly past. Back at home, I listen to their last two albums and relive the gig. The Lady Shelters are great on record but live, they are something special. In the same way that all the great bands come alive on stage, The Who, The Faces, The Stones, etc, The Lady Shelters channel that electricity, through themselves and out into the crowd. It comes from the magic of the right musicians being together, playing as a band and not for their egos. It’s 100%, good-time Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Wild Biggest Pandas
Stay With Me (The Faces cover)
Summertime Blues (The Who cover)*
Supersonic Transistor Radio
Sadistic Mizuki Punch
Lady Galaxy Dust
Cupola Motor Town
*Originally recorded by Eddie Cochran on 28th March, 1958, The Lady Shelters version is based on the one by The Who, first released on record on their 1970 album, Live at Leeds.
STONES NITE Vol. 15
SHOWBOAT, TOKYO 24th Dec 2022
Legend of Rock/Music Life
STONES NITE is an annual event held at the same venue in the last week of December every year that has become something to look forward to as the winter closes in. It’s an opportunity to catch up with old friends, make some new ones and generally celebrate the end of the year. There is also of course, some great Rock ‘n’ Roll played by five bands, each paying tribute the world’s greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band in their own way; the show is hosted and M.C.’d by the Japan’s RS fan club president, Yuji Ikeda.
Kicking off the night are藻の月 (Algae Moon) who are fronted by George Nozuki. George plays in a few bands around Tokyo and is also a veteran of these nights. He has good Keith feeling in his playing which when coupled with his laid back approach to the mic, slips us gently into the night’s entertainment. Next up is路傍の石 (Roadside Stone) and has on drums, Zuzu from The Street Sliders. They start slow and build the set into crescendo. Not so much the all-out Rock ‘n’ Roll that the Stones are but the attitude is there. The third band is James Project and another ex-member of The Street Sliders, James Ichikawa on bass. This three-piece created a groove that was infectious and had on guitar Jimmy Igarashi, a Ronnie Wood clone if ever there was one. They were terrific creating rhythms with licks and fills all over the music – imagine The Police with Ronnie Wood.
Over half way and step-up The Lady Shelters. Opening with 19th Nervous Breakdown, sassy vocalist Mizuki led the band through a band of brilliant, dynamic thirty minutes of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Starting at the back, Akari on drums was as solid and powerful as they come and Kento on bass locked into her playing. Tight, yes but in that wonderful Watts/Wyman way and Kento took full advantage of Akari’s playing, wandering all over his bass neck with some very original Rock bass lines. Stage left was Jicoo, a blend of Keith and Ronnie with flourishes of Mick Taylor and Brian Jones. Jicoo not only had the licks though, he had the Rolling Stones feel, knowing when to hang on a chord longer than he should and when to hold back letting the bass come through. Aside from the opening song, the rest were originals and they could do well in Europe.
It feels like the headliners, The Beggars Banquets, have been around almost as long as the Stones themselves. Well recognised as the best Stones tribute band in Japan, they go the whole mile in image and have done their homework musically. They are a tight unit and the little nuances - drummer Takenobu skipping the hi-hat when hitting the snare for example – make all the difference. Vocalist Kenji goes through a couple of costume changes and he looks like he’s raided Jagger’s actual wardrobe, whilst the band dip, weave and play around him; watching them play Sympathy For The Devil was captivating.
Stones Nite is a fun night out. It’s getting more and more unlikely that the Stones will return to Japan again and in the absence of the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world, you can do no better than come along to Vol. 16 in December 2023.