Playtime Rock, BANK live at Saravah Tokyo

Text and photos by Patrick Benny for Tokyo's Coolest Sound

playtime rockOn Friday July 12 was a show of Playtime Rock, the Nagasaki-based band of Takanami K-taro (ex-Pizzicato Five) (blog). Nagasaki being part of the Kyūshū island in the south of Japan, it's a rare treat to see them on stage in Tokyo! The show was held at the very nice Saravah Tokyo in Shibuya.

This event was organized by a band called BANK, actually the same band as the first time I saw K-taro live in 2007 (report). So this was a happy and nostalgic match for me!

BANK played first. The 5-piece band is led by Nakamura Dai, and members include Hirami Fumio (ex-Love Tambourines) on bass and Ōhashi Nobuyuki (Pate, ex-Bridge) on guitar, both of who are also part of the recently formed Misola. The two other members are Suzuki Bō on drums and Kitami Nao on keyboards.

During their set were constant ocean wave background sounds that helped freshen the atmosphere after the recent hot days (it's was over 35C on that day in Shibuya!). The guitar-driven pop songs all felt very good. I especially enjoyed the drums that used a bass drum, hi-hat, and what looked like a Roland SPD-SX sampler that produced many cool retro sounds.


Next up was Playtime Rock, main members Takanami K-taro (guitar and vocals) and Ichiba Mina (flute and vocals) were accompanied by guitarist Hirami Fumio (BANK, Misola), bassist Sally Kubota (Sally Soul Stew, Love & Revolution, ex-Phantom Gift/Les 5-4-3-2-1), and drummer Tsuji Mutsushi (ex-Oh! Penelope).

The set consisted mostly of songs from new album "Play Time", which itself is about half made of covers. K-taro explained each song, especially the source of each cover and details about the Japanese translation of their lyrics. Sitting at the front row was artist Saotome Michiharu (official Facebook page), who did the jacket for the new album, and throughout the show he kept drawing each band member. I was sitting just behind so I kept peeking. :)

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On "Play Time" all songs are sung in Japanese (except for "This Is Love" which he wrote himself), and he talked about how permission must be obtained in order to release translated songs. For some songs he used existing translations, but some of them he translated himself. But because some permissions aren't easily obtained (or the requests are simply ignored or forgotten) several translated lyrics end up unused, or only sung live like on this day. That's the case of the Rolling Stones who he said apparently never allow any translations fearing parody. They played "As Tears Go By", with Mina using an ocarina.

Original songs played were "This is love", "kaeri michi" (from previous album "Evening Primrose") and "kaiten tobira" (from his solo album "Everybody's Out of Town"). There were also 2 songs featuring singer Nosa Reina (ex-The Lady Spade) for who he wrote and produced the wonderful album "don't kiss, but yes" last year. Her short appearance was very energetic and changed the mood instantly for this short time.

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The set closed with a 2nd take of "Coffee Rumba" in surf & garage style, letting bassist Sally rock out his arpeggios as he does so well. On the album this song also features Marianne and Isabelle-Keme of Kinoco Hotel.

Set list: Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley cover) / Fever (Peggy Lee cover) / Coffee Rumba (reggae version) (cover) / Girl Talk (cover) / I'll Follow You (cover) / kaiten tobira / As Tears Go By (Rolling Stones cover) / kaeri michi
with Nosa Reina: usotsuki Rouge / Lambrusco ni koi o shite
and then: Shanghai Lil (cover) / This Is Love / Coffee Rumba (surf & garage) (cover)

For the encore, members of BANK came back on stage and all together they played and sang The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", again in a Japanese version.

I also got to buy Playtime Rock's new album (to be released on July 24) and even get autographs of the two! I really look forward to seeing Playtime Rock again sometime, either in Tokyo or maybe Nagasaki. Actually K-taro will be in town again next weekend for a show of chanson singer Seiji whose album he produced. I'll be there. :)

Larger sizes and more photos at Flickr

Live information:
7/21 - Seiji, navigator: Takanami K-taro, guest DJ: Konishi Yasuharu @ Minami-Aoyama Mandala
9/14 - BANK, Sloppy Joe, etc. @ TBA
9/23 - BANK, Misola, etc. @ TBA

Those interested in BANK's music, be sure to check out their label's world-friendly site which accepts direct orders via PayPal.


Playtime Rock: Play Time album digest

Tags: BANK, Playtime Rock, TAKANAMI K-taro (click for more info)

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