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GIG
EXTC
SHIMOKITAZAWA, TOKYO 12th Jan

Vinyl Japan/Eikoku Ongaku

The delightfully named EXTC are travelling the world playing the songs of XTC to audiences bigger than anyone expected and this week, its Japan’s turn. Originally a four-piece lead by XTC’s drummer, Terry Chambers, they are here as a three-piece due to the sudden exit of Steve Tilling during their last American tour. It is decades since Japan heard XTC’s catalogue live, the songs have to be hastily re-arranged to suit a three-piece, the shows are sold out, they still have a fan club and loyal following here and expectation is in the air. No pressure then.

 

As it happens, any questions or doubts on either side are dispelled long before EXTC get to the first chorus of the first song because this trio are superb. The absence of a fourth member has made the remaining three work a little bit harder but simply put, they are better as a three-piece because it opens up the songs to show how clever and pure they are. This is Pop at its finest. Steve Hampton is the lead vocalist and guitarist and handles his duties with aplomb. He’s warm, funny, friendly and he is having a ball on his first trip to Japan. Likewise, bassist Matt Hughes is grinning away as he gentle bops around, adding things to his basslines, helping to fill in the empty spots of the missing guitar parts. These two guys ooze self-confidence and as the hits and classics are rolled out, it is obvious that neither want to go home tomorrow.

 

Back and centre is Terry. Steve takes his time introducing him but when he does, the audience is straight onto a chant of “TER-REY! TER-REY! TER-REY!” He’s visibly moved and rightly so. I haven’t seen an audience this big in this venue for a long time and they are all singing along, dancing and having a great time. During the intermission, I chat with a couple of fans and their love for the band is overwhelming. Both had seen XTC in Japan in ’79, for both, XTC remain their favourite.

 

The second half is more hits, more from the albums and it should be noted that Terry isn’t limiting the set list to the ones he played on. He’s better than that and appreciates that the fans love the entire catalogue. That opens up a wealth of material for when they return – which they will – and when they do, the shows will undoubtedly be sold out again. Get your tickets early.

 

Set List

This is Pop

Statue of Liberty

No Language in Our Lungs

Earn Enough for Us

Grass

Towers of London

Jason and the Argonauts

Ball and Chain

The Ballad of Peter Pumpkin

Intermission

Love on a Farmboy’s Wages

Big Day

The Mayor of Simpleton

Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)

The Meeting Place

Rocket from a Bottle

Respectable Street

Generals and Majors

Making Plans for Nigel

Encore

Senses Working Overtime

Stupidly Happy

Life Begins At the Hop

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GIG
JEFFERSON STARSHIP
BILLBOARD, TOKYO 13th Jan

Billboard Live Japan

Lights down, an intro film rolls of a Starship taking off and cruising through space, interspersed with clips of Jefferson Airplane/Starship from the 1960s to 2020, a gentle reminder of the legacy we are about to witness on stage. Towards the end, the band take their places, cymbal rolls crescendo and as a big ‘2023’ fills the screen, the stage bursts into life with colour, dynamics and Find Your Way Back.

 

It’s a sensory overload and it takes a couple of minutes to take it all in. There’s David Freiberg, a veteran of the sixties, Donny Baldwin, he’s been on that drum throne for forty years, Chris Smith on keyboards and Jude Gold on guitar both of which have CV’s to die for and stage centre, Cathy Richardson, resplendent in an outfit which includes a pair of black and white flared trousers that seem to go through the stage. Don’t ask me what shoes she wore, we never saw them. Musically, they are magnificent. On vocals, Cathy is a force on her own, a gifted singer and undoubtedly one of the best in the Rock world today and when coupled in unison or harmony with David and Donny, they could knock over a starship on its launch pad. As the show continues, there are times when each musician comes to the fore but there are no egos on display here. These seasoned musicians all know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

 

There were a few individual wonderful moments. Jude’s guitar solo where he slipped in a bit of Jeff Beck, a tribute to the great man the world lost this week. Cathy wandering off stage with a clothes roller to clean the audience as they performed White Rabbit and David’s high-note at the end of Jane was – and I do not use this word lightly – stunning. That said, to reiterate, it is the band playing together that is the main attraction here and they perform their catalogue as if they are all kids just starting out. The old songs they’ve performed a thousand times are delivered with just as much enthusiasm as the later ones, of which, it must be said, It’s About Time from the latest album, is an absolute belter!

 

Time changes all of us. We grow older and feel nostalgic more and music has that incredible ability to take us back, just for a while, to a time when we were carefree, innocent and the world seemed a more enjoyable place. Jefferson Starship did that tonight. At times we were in the sixties or the eighties; Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now triggered a long forgotten, lovely moment of my twenties. Time Machines have yet to be invented but this show came close.

 

Set list

Find Your Way Back

Ride the Tiger

Count On Me

Runaway

With Your Love

It’s About Time

Sara

Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now

Miracles

Embryonic Journey (with Jeff Beck tribute)

White Rabbit

We Built This City

Jane

Somebody to Love

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