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Sunday, December 3

I’m In A New York State Of Mind

Billy Joel made me cry. Again. And I am well aware of how much of a dork that makes me sound like and do prefer that you don’t point it out as well.

I have seen Billy in concert many, many times. Back in his younger (and drunker) days in Philadelphia, I watched him climb up the velvet curtains on the side of the stage surrounding his baby grand and swing on those curtains like he was filled with monkey blood. Quite certainly, I didn’t cry at that show because I would have been excessively drunk on $6 beers. This being the kind of drunk that leads you to establish a chorus line with your friends and belt out lyrics, even when you don’t entirely remember the song. The last time I saw Billy was in DC not long before we left. His last song was Goodnight Saigon which he sang to a varied group of soldiers, some on crutches, some in wheelchairs and even one with a patch over his right eye. Anyone that didn’t cry was seriously a heartless American who doesn’t care about or grasp the significance of the sacrifices our men and women in the military make for us. Last Thursday night at the Tokyo Dome, Billy didn’t swing on the curtains. He didn’t sing about American soldiers to the dome filled with the dark heads of thousands of Japanese. What he did sing about… those places I call home and even to this day still fight the urge to quickly pack up what I can here and go running back to.

Thankfully, New York State of Mind and Allentown were early in his soiree and I was able to move past those thoughts and ‘get a grip’ enough to enjoy the show.

After settling into the tiniest seat I have ever endured, knees digging into the row of chairs in front of me and my butt thankfully fitting almost comfortably thanks to losing some pounds since I moved here and living on rice and raw fish, I took my first opportunity to look around. First I looked at Kimono Hubby who was struggling to squeeze himself and his winter layers into the tiny seat and smothered a laugh or run the risk of being left behind in the massive crowds later that would head back to the train. Secondly, I looked at the people. To the end of our row on the right there was a man who I can only assume was enjoying my former concert going state… seriously smashed and doing his best to sing loudly to the crowd around him. I did notice that prior to the concert beginning, he did stop the woman carrying a beer keg on her back at least twice for fine refreshments. This was about it for the men or women there, many in business suits and the work day’s ties still on the men, who did little more than quietly clap through the hour and a half that Billy sang. In our jeans and sweaters and singing along to each song, we felt more than slightly out of place. It seems supreme acts of politeness even stretch to the concert realm.

There were a handful of exceptions. There was one man in the crowd to our left who stood throughout the entire show in his faded white T-shirt dancing and wildly waving his arms. At first we thought he was just really excited about the concert but after the first forty-five minutes and not one other person had stood up, we began to think that perhaps he was challenged.

The next to last song was It’s Still Rock-N-Roll, apparently the biggest crowd pleasing song, and I counted 22 people that stood up to sing and dance along. Two were gaijin (foreigners) and one was still the crazy man. We didn’t stand ourselves for two reasons. One, I didn’t want to be that kind of gaijin. And two, Kimono Hubby was stuck in his seat for the duration.

Do you know the parts of the concert where the singer or band stop singing and let the crowd do the work? Billy did this and it was the quietest group singing I have ever heard. Quieter than when you are made to sing in the strict Christian church of your youth and you have no recollection, nor do you even care, how the Jesus song goes.

There was also the incident where Billy brought out a backstage guy to sing a song and he told the crowd to listen to the words about religion and this lighting man proceeded to belt out Highway To Hell. I am absolutely certain that half of the people there had never heard this song and possibly even know nothing of hell. I knew it, of course. What girl that grew up in the eighties and hung out with the wrong kind of crowd didn’t know that song?

The concert was fantastic as Billy Joel always is. I do wonder, however, how many people there know only the popular songs by sound and honestly don’t know what all of the words mean. Or know about the places Billy sings about. This is a room full of thousands of native Japanese speakers. While many have a wonderful grasp of the English language, how much was lost in translation to the rest? Did we annoy them by singing along? Were we supposed to be quiet as mice and only clap like everyone else or where they doing that because they didn’t know the words? Next concert, I think I will ask those sitting around me every question that came to mind. But perhaps not the miserable-looking Japanese woman and the ecstatic-looking gaijin behind us who left before the concert was even over.

One thing I know for sure… Billy is still the best.

Oh! And this will be broadcast in January. Look for me! I may be one of the total of two blondes there!

1 comment:

Mike S said...

My, things HAVE changed there. Used to be NO Japanese would show anything other than a polite silence. The newer generation is more expressive by far. After generations of being told it's impolite to clap, it's hard to change. Sort of like bowing to the phone when talking, or saying HAI! ad infinitum while listening.