Episode 43. Anvil in Japan 2023
Anvil Japan 2023
Lips – Guitar and Vox
Robb ‘Robbo’ Reiner – Drums
Christopher ‘Christ’ Robertson – Bass
Anvil are due to arrive at 6:25pm, Haneda Airport. I wander up to Tachikawa at around 4pm to pick up the minivan and meet Daniel, UPP-tone’s latest recruit. As it happens, Daniel spots me on the way up there and accosts me in the street. We pick up the seven-seater a bit early and natter on the way to the airport. He’s from Dublin and is an interpreter/translator by profession and likes Rock, especially Metal. I think he is going to do well but it is his first tour of duty so he’s going to be learning the ropes. I told him to ask me if he’s unsure of anything.
We get to Haneda and the flight is not listed on the arrivals board. Finding the information counter takes up valuable minutes. Turns out we have the wrong terminal listed. The information lady directs us to terminal 5. Back to the minivan, it’s dark now and we are pushed for time. Sure enough, the GPS takes us the wrong way and we end up back on the expressway. I turn off, turn around and head back. This time we find T5 without the GPS. As we pull in, Yasukazu from UPP-tone calls and tells us Anvil are through customs - be there in three minutes.
Anvil arrive at Haneda (photo by UPP-tone)
It’s good to see them all again and its big hugs and smiles all round. Daniel is heading back with Yasukazu and Hiromi – also from UPP_tone - so it’s me and the band and Christ’s partner, Hiromi Oshima (Hiromi O) in the van.. Driving to Tachikawa, we cover, covid (of course), various world leaders, a few tales from the road including the story behind Nabbed in Nebraska, Raven, Girlschool and a load of other old friends. We arrive a little after 9pm and everyone is tired. I show them around Mendips, the Rock guest house they are staying at and they have a bite to eat. Robbo catches up with his family in Canada and I have a quick word with Tyler and Jane – they were both here last time. Lips surfs the internet and Christ is into the Mendips library. Christ has an arm problem, a trapped nerve which impedes his playing and is very painful but both Robbo and Lips say he played a blinder in Singapore. All of them wander up to bed sporadically over the next couple of hours. Me? I had a couple of beers while checking a few things for tomorrow.
Robbo and Hiromi O are up early. I talk with Robbo for half an hour about the Anvil movie and its re-release, some stuff for the future and trains – Robbo loves trains. I wander off for an hour and do emails after which we start talking about Mt. Fuji, tsunami’s etc, Lips surfaces at 9:30am. He’s happy, slept well. Robbo and Lips start talking business so I do the polite thing and excuse myself to do more emails and check today’s schedule. I let everybody know we are not due to leave until 12:30pm so they can chill. Lips opts to stay put but Robbo and Hiromi O. head off to the Showa Memorial Park which is a few minutes’ walk. They are back a couple of hours later, Christ is still in bed. Back in my office I overhear Robbo wish Lips a happy birthday so I go in and do the same. I offer to print out the set lists for them but Robbo explains that they don’t use them. The set is in their heads.
Sometime in the next half an hour, Christ strolls downstairs and has his first cigarette of the day. Outside of course as Mendips is non-smoking but it’s a glorious Spring day and the sun feels good. I let him know we are leaving at 12:30pm and he says he’s ready. I walk to the carpark and pick up the minivan and everyone is raring to go so we load up, jump in the seats and…Christ has forgotten his anti-inflammatory medicine. He goes back in to get it and we are on our way to the first gig a couple of minutes later. It is a five-minute drive from Mendips and the UPP-tone staff are already there setting up the merchandise stand. The backline has arrived, I check it’s all there and then return the minivan to the rental company. I’m back within forty-five minutes and Christ tells me he has left his stage pants at Mendips.
The soundcheck goes well but then the Babel stage crew move Lips amps back to fit the support band on. This is big no-no and Lips wonders out loud what the fuck is going on-rightly so. I wasn’t there so didn’t see it. Poor Daniel was there and he didn’t know that you are not supposed to move the headline band’s backline. He’s upset that he’s upset the band on the first day. I tell him not to worry and things will be ok but he’s visibly shaken. I go onstage to see what’s happened and it’s fixable but not until showtime.
Christ and Hiromi O. get a taxi back to Mendips to get his stage pants and I tell Daniel he should go and speak to Lips and Robbo and to apologise. He’s nervous and I go with him. Lips and Robbo both explain to him why a headline band’s backline should never be touched and after ten minutes it’s all smiles again. Daniel and I go onstage and explain how the changeover will work. He is now feeling better and sets off to make sure everything is ready for the Meet and Greet whilst the band do an interview.
The Meet and Greet. That’s Daniel on the right who handled the photo duties for the fans. Joe Duggan who took the tickets at the back looks on as Robbo signs an autograph and Yasukazu from UPP-tone is on the far left overseeing everything.
It goes well. More people than expected and it takes an hour to get through the queue that goes up the stairs and out onto the street. The doors open at 6pm and Babel quickly fills up. Th support band, Hell Freezes Over, are on at 7pm and they play an excellent thirty-minute set. Daniel and I do the changeover. I watch Anvil’s gear whilst Daniel gets HFO’s stuff off the stage. Anvil go on right on time, 8pm. The audience is great, Anvil are superb. It’s the first time I’ve been able to watch Robbo do a drum solo up close and admire his technique. I’ve underestimated him as a drummer all these years. Christ plays like has no pain whatsoever. Maybe he doesn’t or the adrenalin is killing it for the gig. Lips starts the show in the audience and also finishes the show in the audience, fist bumping the crowd to the strains of their outro tape, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. After packing up the gear and making sure it’s ok for tomorrow’s show, we all head back to Mendips in two taxis. Tonight, there is no chilling around the kitchen table; it’s straight to bed for everyone.
Set List (for both nights)
Swing Thing (Robbo drum solo)
I woke up at my usual time - about 5am – and had a bad headache. No idea what caused it but I thought the best thing was to have a couple of paracetamol and go back to sleep for an hour. Robbo was already up when I finally surfaced around 7am and Hiromi O. followed soon. After coffee with them, I start to prepare stuff for the day and send reminder emails to everyone that Anvil’s equipment is not to be moved at today’s show. It’s a slow, relaxing morning, people wandering in and out as they feel and exploring Mendips. Around midday I let everyone know we are due to leave at 1:30pm and I head off to pick up the minivan. When I return with it, Robbo and Lips have discovered my model room and Robbo is very impressed with my Titanic. Back to the Future DeLorean and half-finished Tracy Island. He’s into all that stuff as well - seems we have a lot in common.
I do an idiot check of all the rooms and satisfied they haven’t forgotten anything, we set off for Shinjuku. It’s a comfortable drive with no traffic problems. There are more road stories and comments about Japan. I drop the band at the gig and leave to return the minivan. When I get back to the gig, everything is set and the soundcheck is about to begin. It’s quick and easy and then it’s time for the support band to set up. They are Satanica and the drummer, Ritti Danger, is a big Anvil fan so he’s really happy to be on the bill. He’s got a big kit but he’s comfortable where we need to place it on the stage and there are no issues. A bit later, Ritti proudly shows me his Anvil tattoo. Daniel makes himself busy by priming the sound guy about the intro and outro music and doing runs to the shops for the band, he’s enjoying it today.
In the dressing room just before Satanica go onstage and Ritti’s Anvil tattoo.
There are barriers between the crowd and the stage. This takes a bit of figuring out and I borrow Joe Duggan to bounce ideas off. Joe doesn’t work for UPP-tone but comes to a lot of gigs and is happy to help out when necessary. Looks like he and I will be at the front to remove the barrier on Lips’ side for the intro and then replace it when he’s onstage. We will reverse that procedure for the encore but it is going to be a squeeze.
There is plenty of time today. No interviews and no Meet and Greet so we sit around the dressing room shooting the breeze until Satanica go on at 7pm. I only get to watch one number and they are great. I wish I could have watched a couple more. The changeover was easy as Daniel and I had worked it out before the show and with a couple of minutes to go, Joe and I take our positions at the front and remove the barrier. The front row leaning on it are kind and move back for us. It all goes well for the intro and once Lips is back on stage we replace thew barrier and scuttle off. Next, thing, tidy the dressing room a bit. It’s always good to do that so that when the band come off, they are not walking into a room full of empty sandwich wrappers and half-finished drinks. Just before the last song, Joe and I nip onstage and take our positions again to remove the barrier. Crouched down so the fans can still see, we get a worms-eye view of Lips and Christ doing their stuff. Once again Christ seems to be not suffering in pain and I admire both their playing. Most guitarists slow down as they age but Lips seems to defy that and plays just as fast as he did almost forty years ago, back at Super Rock ’84 in Japan.
Barrier time and once again the front row are generous and give us plenty of room. Smooth as silk, the show is over and I start to pack up. By 10pm I’m done and Daniel and I get the band a couple of taxis to the hotel where they are staying, Mendips being occupied by other guests from tomorrow. Once there, Joe and I saunter back to Shinjuku and our respective journey’s home via convenience store for a well-earned beer.
One of UPP-tone’s regular events, every couple of months, is their DJ event at the Maharaja club in Roppongi. This month it happens to fall when Anvil are here and they have agreed to be guest DJs for half an hour. There’s nothing for me to do today so I’m looking forward to chilling and enjoying the music. I get there before the doors open and find Daniel setting up a merchandise stand. We chat for a bit, he’s enjoying it. The doors open at 4pm and a steady stream of regulars wander in. Anvil arrive about an hour later and are escorted to the VIP area. I get a round of drinks in for everybody. The mood is relaxed and enjoyable. Their choice of music includes their Canadian peers Rush and Bachman Turner Overdrive after which they sign autographs and have photos taken with bands. There are no other commitments for the day and opt to stay until the end rather than head back to the hotel. Lips does a rare thing and has a Bloody Mary (Christ told me this the next day). Towards the end of the night, someone mentions to me that it’s the Tokyo Marathon tomorrow which given that a lot of the roads are closed in Tokyo for it and that it starts in Shinjuku, may mean I have to reschedule their pick-up time tomorrow to get them to the airport. Come closing time and seeing them all into taxis back to their hotel, I head off to sort this little potential problem out.
Top left: Anvil fans including, at the back, their biggest in Japan, Masashi Mafuruka.
Top right: It’s time for us all to celebrate the tour. Daniel has a drink with the guys.
Bottom left: Signing autographs for everyone including the Maharaja dancers who are fans.
Bottom right: ‘Can we have a photo please Glenn?’ If you insist…
As it happens, the marathon started at around 7am and so the roads will be all clear by the time I need to pick them up so I sit outside and enjoy an early morning cup of coffee. Around 10:30 am, I’m checking I the flight is on time (it isn’t, it’s delayed by almost an hour) when Robbo messages me that they are stuck in the hotel. The hotel rooms are on a key-timed lock which locked at 10am so they can’t get back in, they have their bags but there’s no one in the lobby to stash them while they go out for a while. I call the hotel and they tell me that they don’t have that service, to stash bags for a couple of hours. I ask if someone could go to the lobby and at least stay there while the band go up the road for a coffee for half an hour but they reply they have no staff available at the hotel. I make a mental note to tell everyone never to use that hotel again. I’m in Kawasaki, the minivan is in Tachikawa, the band is in Shinjuku so I am at least 2 hours away form getting there to help out. Daniel comes to the rescue when I phone him and ask if he can go early – he can and sets off pronto.
I finally arrive at 1pm, an hour ahead of schedule but not before being diverted for half an hour due to some roads still being closed because of the marathon. We load up the vehicle and goodbyes are said to Hiromi O. and Christ as he’s staying on for a few more days. It’s a leisurely drive to the airport and the check-in is swift. We now have about three hours to kill so we have a bite to eat. Lips and Robbo regale Daniel and I with stories of meeting Hollywood’s elite. Standing at a buffet with Clint Eastwood, dinner with Dustin Hoffman, being in the same room as Helen Mirren (my love), Antony Hopkins telephoning Lips as Hannibal Lecter and others. This was all down to the movie and Lips enjoys it but Robbo, not being a film fan, doesn’t have any interest in Hollywood’s finest. He didn’t even recognise Sandra Bullock when talking to her (she’s my second love). Around 5:30pm, I have to bid goodbye as I have to get back to Tachikawa. Hugs and handshakes, promises to meet again soon and follow up on a few other things are made and I swiftly depart. I don’t like goodbyes. On my way to the car park, I bump into Hiromi and Yasukazu from UPP-tone who have come to see them off. This tour is all down to them. Yasukazu gives me a pair of Robbo’s sticks. That’ll make a nice addition to Mendips’ Museum alongside the autographed flyer I have.
On the drive back, I reflect on the good the bad moments, the glitches and the laughs of the tour. The first had lots, the second, just a couple, the third a few that we all worked through and the last, a barrel full. See you soon Anvil.
A fond farewell from Hiromi and Yasukazu from UPP-tone. Without them, there would have been no Anvil in Japan in 2023. Thank you.