Summer Sonic 2023, Tokyo

PARK LIFE W/ BLUR, WET LEG, CORNELIUS & SHYGIRL

Blur & Tokyo

 

There are always multiple ways to tell stories. The closest is chronological – which has the advantage that the reader is taken very closely along on his or her own journey of experience and can thus, in the best case, experience the genesis of the impressions in detail; with the side effect that dramaturgical twists can be incorporated that manifest how unpredictable (in the best case) life can be in its flow.

Or one summarizes from the beginning in the state of knowledge of how the events turned out – and spares the readers so larger gossipy digressions, which are put in the end anyway ad acta and only stroked the own ego.

Between these poles you can play around as an author:in of course a lot and venture into the mix, but we are not here in the journalism seminar at the University of Paderborn, but in real life – and that’s why this review of the Summer Sonic 2023 in Tokyo begins with “Park Life”, by – of course – Blur, who had the headliner slot on the first day of this year’s festival, day two was von Kendrick Lamar bespielt, but that’s another story.

 

 

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„Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur
Of what is known as
(Parklife)
And morning soup can be avoided
If you take a route straight through what is known as
(Parklife)…“

 

The last concert I got to experience by Blur was at Hyde Park, London, 2009 (documented on the double live album “All the People (Live At Hyde Park 02/07/2009)”). It was a very hot day by London standards, the drinks were already quite overpriced, the audience very, well, British, there was loud bawling, and plastic bottles filled with their own piss were thrown through the audience on other people’s necks, with consequences whose details do not need to be mentioned much, the imagination should be enough.

I bring this up, of course, because in Tokyo conditions were wonderfully different. You have to imagine the audience in Japan as extremely attentive in general. It is almost dead silent during the performances, unless the artists activate it, then they like to show desired energetic, but otherwise they listen and watch respectfully – just as apart from the performances the visitors dispose of their own garbage at any time and are really very attentive, whether their own presence could negatively affect others, so absolutely not as you know it from, let’s say, Rock Am Ring.

Back then, at the London concert, there was a sentimental farewell mood in the air, it felt like the end of one’s own youth with Blur for many. Which it was a bit, so if you had already dragged your own youth extremely overstretched into your late thirties.

On this evening in Tokyo it was possible to tie in well with the nostalgic feelings of that time – especially since, no offense dear readers, we all haven’t gotten any younger since then – but in a wonderfully forward-pointing sense, which is not insignificantly due to the extremely successful new album “The Ballad of Darren”, whose songs Blur knew well on stage to bring into dialogue with their own, Larger-than-life catalog. The new songs testify to a band that has managed to keep its curiosity, its individual band characters with and at all their (good and bad) experiences and other artistic projects (what concerns especially Graham Coxon and Damian Albarn, the one with an impulsive-boundless solo work, the other with one successful project after another: Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen) and other activities (drummer Dave Rowntree is very successfully active in local politics, bassist Alex James ambitiously devotes himself to cheddar cheese making) have grown. These new impulses not only characterize the new songs, but have also crept into the classics in the form of an herbaceous-experimental fresh cell cure, which does them a lot of good.
In general, it was a great pleasure to see, hear and even feel how much fun the band itself had at the performance, apart from their own euphoric emotional state. Even Albarn, who usually likes to be a scratchy cat, presented himself as a cuddly kitten – if not everything was wrong, tears of joy came to his eyes once or twice. But maybe it was just my sweat that made me see it that way. In any case, the 90 minutes were so entertaining, it could have been more.

 

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Afterwards, one could witness how disciplined and tidy a stadium can be when not everyone pushes out egomaniacally, but almost enjoys letting the concert glow together while waiting. In general, the Japanese manage the festival dramaturgy much better. It doesn’t end immediately after the headliner, but the Shinjuku Ni-Chome Drag Queens are waiting in front of the stadium to transform the Brit-Pop ecstasy into a dance-pop party, which is gladly accepted by everyone.

 

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In the meantime, it had also finally become dark, which is significant in that it is extremely hot and humid in Japan in the summer. These are then like times as during the Summer Sonic Festival 35 degrees and up to 90% humidity. In other words: unbearable conditions. 
And so this post could well have started with the slightly (to no longer so slightly) choleric search for the guest list counter, which brought us one and a half laps around the stadium and exhibition halls (the second location of the festival), an over one-hour ordeal, at the end of which the Kaput Japan team only gasped. It would have been easy to just grumble for now, because yes, there were moments when I hated myself for making the trip at 9am (the festival site is about an hour and a half outside Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture), especially with a relentless hangover from the night before at Womb Club with Dj Nobu & friends, but it wouldn’t have done justice to the day as a whole.

 

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However, the circumstances ensure that we initially only stayed in the cooled exhibition halls. First highlight there: Shygirl. Blane Muise – only supported by a DJ – managed to ignite a charged dance party atmosphere in the early afternoon. The disco ball glittered not only above her, but also in the hearts of the Japanese inside.

 

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Particularly impressive was the performance of Cornelius
, from the intro to the end masterfully composed, the video projections, audience communication, performance and music entered into a perfect symbiosis, that already started with how pleasantly-unobtrusively Cornelius thanked for being able to perform – in Japan he was considered an artist personality non grata for quite some time due to a nasty bullying story.

 

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The subsequent performance of Wet Leg was just terrific fun.
The ursympathische band has obviously not played itself broken even after two years of non-stop touring, but on the contrary: every detail sat perfectly, but was performed with immense – and credible – joy. Like Blur later, Wet Leg also praised the particularly attentive audience several times, only to have them freak out on command.
To stand in the middle of all this exploding joy could make you slightly melancholic as a European, because all the negative boundary conditions that we always have to experience (loud talking sidemen – deliberately formulated as male -, people pushing their way to the front, lots of spilling beer…) were dissolved in such a harmonic euphoria unknown to us. Once experienced, one really only wants to go to festivals in Japan.

 

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Domo Arrigato Gozaimasu, Summer Sonic. And especially big thanks to Team Blur for the list and Blur themselves for an unforgettable performance.
And to Masami & Aco from Team Kaput Japan.

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