It had been awhile since I toured The Land of the Rising Sun, so I was looking forward to heading back over with the Alcatrazz boys for a few shows. It was the usual line-up; Graham Bonnet on lead vocals, Howie Simon on guitar, Tim Luce on bass, and me on drums. But this time, we were doing a special bill called Voices of Rainbow, which capitalized on Graham’s days in Rainbow, and included two other ex-Rainbow singers; Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White.
The concept was, Joe and Doogie would take the opening set with an all-Japanese back-up band, then we would go out and do our set, before bringing Joe and Doogie back out for a big encore. All went according to plan.
Theaters always make for a cool venue. They’re a lot bigger than clubs, but more intimate than arenas. Of course, it’s still hard to top the overall vibe of an arena, but theaters are definitely fun to play.
Special props must be given to the extreme professionalism of the Japanese promotion team and crew. Things run tight to the clock over there and everything always feels super pro and under control. And the crew – man, these folks were spot-on. After just one time of seeing how my kit gets set up, my boy marked everything up with tape, then set it up perfectly for the next few shows. Details, details, details.
The tour went great, everyone played well, and the crowds definitely seemed to dig the shows.
And yes, packed clubs are still fun to play, too!
I like to mention the food situation when blogging about touring, since everyone always asks how I maintain a vegan diet on the road. After well over 20 years on the path now, I can say that it just keeps getting easier. Vegan options are everywhere, and even the word “vegan” is becoming more familiar to people all around the globe.
Our guitarist Howie Simon insisted that we go to this place that he had been on his last trip to Tokyo, and I must say, my man nailed it. It was a simple, downstairs noodle house that was easy to miss from a crowded street, but their food was insane.
After grilling the waiter (who grilled the cook), and after actually hearing the guy utter the word “vegan” in broken English, I felt pretty confident that the noodle-heavy soup dish I ordered was a safe bet. Probably not the lowest sodium item I’ve consumed in the last 30 days, but goddamn was it good!
Only drag? Motherfuckers still smoke in restaurants over there. (How did we elitist non-smokers ever tolerate that over here?)
When communication with restaurant staff is kinda rough, another option is this: Go Raw!
Had a pretty decent raw lunch in Tokyo before soundcheck.
After each of the shows, there was always a delicious vegan option made available to me for my “hot meal,” usually a rice and veggie combo of some sort. And on the last night, after the Osaka show, our most hospitable hosts treated us all to an elaborate meal at a traditional, take-your-shoes-off-and-sit-low-to-the-ground Japanese restaurant.
Amidst a menu that featured at least 30 different species of sea and land animals, they were thoughtful and meticulous in ensuring that my monkey-ass enjoyed a completely vegan meal. Edamame, seasoned tofu and a kick-ass udon noodle dish were the highlights. Domo, my Japanese friends!
Backstage catering always has your typical fruit and veggie treys, and these are a welcomed sight.
But in addition to the various meals and snacks I count on – once again – the staple of my nutritional existence on the road is the same as it is at home; a Superfoods Smoothie using The Ultimate Meal. You will always find a blender in my bag, and always see me scarfing down 32 ounces of the green stuff, every single day on the road, and sometimes twice.
Hittin’ the Weights
Training on the road can actually be more challenging than the food issue, because you are basically limited to facilities at the hotel or somewhere close to it. But, you can always find a way to get in a good workout, and this is mandatory if you want to maintain that top-level conditioning.
No Tattoos Allowed?
Well, I guess there’s a first time for everything, as they say, and the “Sports Centre” in Osaka will have that distinction for me. As I took off my jacket to start training, the club manager looked in horror at my left shoulder. Why? My tattoo was “exposed” in public! My faded, little-ass scorpion tattoo, that I’ve had since I was 15.
Apparently, this upscale health club has a strict policy about there being no exposed tattoos in their gym. (I found out later it has something to do with tattoos and their connection to the Japanese Mafia.) As a masking solution, the manager guy – who was exceedingly polite – grabbed a shower towel and motioned for me to wrap it around my upper arm, tourniquet-style. Are you shittin’ me, Holmes?
So… desperate to train and not wanting to upset this little man, I suggested in the alternative that we bandage it up. He was cool with that, and proceeded to stack on the bandages so no trace of the tattoo could be seen beneath the adhesive. (Man, everything these folks do is meticulous!)
My prevailing thought as I headed out to train? Tommy Lee would be fucked.
Afterward, as I was walking back to the hotel, I reflected on how repressive that whole no-tattoo thing struck me. But then, as I stumbled upon a familiar sight in Japan, another thought hit me:
Any culture that has rows and rows of unsecured bikes along the street, should be allowed to make up their own strange rules and policies as they see fit! Because just one unlocked bike in my neighborhood would last about 5 minutes.
A Few More Snapshots
Masks – A constant sight over there is people wearing these masks in public. At first, I thought they were all paranoid about catching germs and/or getting sick. But then someone reminded me that it’s usually a precautionary measure that they take if they’re sick so no one else will catch their nasty-ass germs. An uncommon display of consideration, for sure!
Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Although the gear traveled by truck to the next gig each night, we took bullet trains between cities. It’s a smooth ride. Here are a few of us at a train station, about to climb aboard…
Pointing – Why must we rock and rollers always point in pics? What are we actually pointing at? Who are we pointing at? You, the incidental viewer? If so, what are we trying to provoke by pointing at “you,” the viewer? And does this communication apply to any viewer who happens to stumble upon this pic in the future?
I’ll be thinking about this.
In the meantime, look for a similar “Road Report” about the Monsters of Rock Cruise through the Bahamas over the next few days. Fun, fun, fun, people….
Update: Click here for the Road Report on the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2013.