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Old 02-26-2008, 10:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Sunny Hawaii
Posts: 4,461
The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
So, here is my long-overdue review of The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo.

The Venue

The event was an all-night affair at the Makuhari Messe venue, about a half hour outside of Tokyo. I had planned on attending most of the evening and trying to hook up with some Dirts beforehand, but a fight with my girlfriend earlier in the day resulted in an abbreviated attendance schedule.

I arrived at the venue just after midnight, with less than an hour before Underworld took the stage. With an extra ticket in hand, formerly for my girlfriend, even in the strange, weird world of Japan, I was able to spot a ticket scapler from miles away. Although we didn't speak the same language, we did speak the universal language of currency and haggling, and I walked away with a little extra cash (not as much as I would have liked) and he had an extra ticket to sell.

As I walked into the venue, I ran smack dab into a long line of people. Thinking it was the line to enter, I jumped in line and waited a while. As we moved along, I noticed that people at the front of the line were taking off their coats and possessions and putting them into plastic garbage bags, which were then placed on a long line of shelves in the back. At this point, I started freaking out. There was no way I was leaving my $800 camcorder in a plastic bag. I jumped out of line, and began to stalk the lockers, which were all taken of course. Although some people came and vacated the lockers, they were quickly snapped up by others, and I never had any luck getting into one. By this time, Underworld would be on in about half an hour, and I was freaking out wondering what I would do with my video camera. After calming down, and wandering around a bit, I finally realized that the coat check was optional and that the venue entrance was in another place. I walked in with my hoodie and my concealed camera gear with no problems. Crisis averted.

Walking into the venue was amazing. For those of you who don't know, the Makuhari Messe convention halls are converted aircraft hangars. Upon entering, I saw this. The huge Tomato Art Jam wall was on the left, spanning almost the length of one hangar. The rest of the people there are in line for concessions. Yes, just concessions. To the left are two more hangars which was the main performance area. More about that later.

Art Jam

When I arrived, the Art Jam was still in its early stages, having only been going for 3 or 4 hours. Here are some pictures of the Art Jam in progress:

There were 5 distinct areas to the Jam, and it was interesting to see it progress through the night. Here's what it looked like when I left 4 hours later:

Movie Theater

Outside of the Art Jam hangar, they had set up a makeshift movie theater. Yes, outside. In Japan. In the winter. It was frickin' cold. I'm not sure whose bright idea that was, but I'm sure the portable heating lamps set up in the back corners that everyone was huddled about means someone knew what it would be like. In any case, the theater was showing Underworld films all night. The main features were Breaking and Entering, Trainspotting, and Sunshine.

However, the real attraction was what was shown between the features. They had two Tomato films segments (playing several times): one a 37 minute segment, and the other a 73 minute segment. They were really quite amazing, showing all kinds of rare and little seen Tomato films accompanied by Underworld music. There were Underworld music videos, of course, like "Rez" and "Push Upstairs" and all the others. There were also little seen Underworld music videos, like "Juanita" and "Crocodile (Alligator Version)". And then there were some videos which I assume were Tomato art installation pieces with music provided by Rick/Underworld. There was one called "Kuon", and another with an entire text narrative told onscreen. There was one that had a bunch of rural imagery accompanied by music and text-to-speech which must be from 1996. It was like the stuff on the Antirom and the samples they would use to open their 1996 gigs.

I videotaped some of it, but unfortunately, due to my late arrival, and the fact that some of the videos were being shown during the Underworld performance, I managed to see only about 30 minutes of the Tomato films. It's a shame, because it looked like they really scraped the vaults to put together a ton of obscure stuff for those segments.


I made my way into the main performance area to get a good spot for Underworld. I didn't make it very far. As I mentioned earlier, the main performance area was in 2 aircraft hangars. It was filled with so many people. If you watch the Oblivion Ball streaming video (Part 4), during "King of Snake", Karl turns his Karl-cam on the crowd. That will give you some idea of how many people are there. In the middle of the crowd in that video, you can see a booth area rising out of the center of the crowd. That was the DJ booth for Andrew Wetherall, and the soundboard area, and that was only the half-way point for the crowd. I tried to get close, but it was really difficult to get through, and I didn't want to seem like the boorish American rudely pushing through the polite Japanese people (although later in the concert I encountered several rude Japanese people pushing through the crowd). Gone were the orderly rows of Osaka concert, and instead I found impenetrable masses of bodies. Although there was some crowd compression when the music started, I still found myself far from the stage.

Underworld came on at 1 AM sharp. The crowd went wild, and "Dark Train" only fueled that frenzy. The crowd was really energentic, and there was lots of jostling. It began to make me uncomfortable, but fortunately, it settled down to acceptable levels for most of the rest of the night.

The crowd continued to react strongly to the performance throughout the night. "Crocodile" was a huge hit in Japan, and you can hear it in the crowd reaction on the recording when the lyrics first come in. There were so many times that night when I would just take a minute and look at the crowd around me and marvel at how unbelievably HAPPY they all seemed to be at watching Underworld live.

"Boy, Boy, Boy" was much like it was at Osaka, so no surprises there. The crowd went mental for "Cowgirl/Rez", of course. The ending is so powerful, just minute after minute of jumping and dancing like crazy. Every time I hear that song live, I think it's better than the last.

"Beautiful Burnout" was a nice mellow come down from the craziness of "Cowgirl". A funny thing happened in this song. They messed up the entrance of the lyrics three times. The first time, Karl came in way too early. You can hear the crowd reaction to it at 4:10 on the official CD. They must have mixed it down in post, however, because at the live performance, it was full-on vocoder at full blast. You can see and hear it more clearly in the streaming video. The lighting guy was taken off-guard by his early entrance too, because the overhead spotlight didn't come on until halfway through the first line. Rick got all excited and put up his hand for Karl to hold off. Finally, Rick gave Karl the "go ahead" signal, and at 4:40 Karl came in again. Although the lighting guy was ready this time, apparently Rick wasn't, despite giving the "go ahead" signal. At this point, I was busting up laughing, because they kept messing up. Karl looked very amused at everything too. At 4:56, the spotlight came on briefly and went off quickly when they realized Karl wasn't singing. At 5:10, finally everyone was in sync.

"Two Months Off" was another huge crowd pleaser. Because the main stage was set up against one of the hangar side walls, there was a huge amount of space to both sides of the stage. They put this to use in TMO by deploying what I like to call the "auxiliary Inflatables." The auxiliary inflatables didn't have interior lighting, but they were colored, or had colored lights shining on them. Putting together a panorama from a live concert setting is a little difficult, but I had a go at it, so you can get an idea of what it looked like for TMO:
Old 02-26-2008, 10:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Sunny Hawaii
Posts: 4,461
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Old 02-26-2008, 10:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Sunny Hawaii
Posts: 4,461
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
After TMO, I was a little disappointed that the instrumental we got was "Rowla", having already seen it at 2 of the previous 3 concerts I was at. Still, they managed to put on a bangin' version of it, so it was cool.

During "King of Snake", I can tell you that everyone was definitely "jumpin' up and down". After the end of KoS, I was expecting it to go to break and then the encore. But instead, the lights went down. In the background, I could barely see a circular object being lowered onto stage. I sensed that something special might be happening, so I whipped out the camcorder, and boy am I glad I did, because what followed was hands-down the best version of "Pearl's Girl" I've seen. I didn't think anything could top the first time I saw "Pearl's Girl" in Central Park, but the Light Wheel and the rest of the light and sound spectacle was tremendous. Even the band was overwhelmed with Karl screaming, Rick posing for the crowd, and Rick and Darren hugging. Hats off to Hayden and the lighting crew; they really outdid themselves. Here's my favorite moment from the performance:

And here's the movie of "Pearl's Girl" in its entirety (this is what I promised you, Janie ):

After "Pearl's Girl" the Light Wheel stuck around for "Moaner"! I was excited because this was my first time hearing "Moaner" live. Hearing it in recordings so many times in no way prepared me for the pure sonic assault. On the video screens, however, they were showing the red/yellow nature footage that they show during "Jumbo". The juxtaposition of the sonic mayhem and serene flora was very amusing to me.

"Jumbo" was, as usual, a mellow crowd pleaser to close out the night.

As I was leaving, I noticed several people curled up sleeping on the floor in the concession/Art Jam hangar. I was too tired to stick around for The Orb, although I ended up waiting an hour at the train station for the first train of the morning, so I probably could have caught them anyway. The train back to Tokyo was packed to capacity. One girl standing next to me was so exhausted that she literally crumpled to the floor.

All in all, an excellent show, and quite an experience surrounded by rabid Japanese fans.

Photo Album

I know phaseblue took some high-rez photos from up close, so I hope he posts those eventually. (Edit: According to his Feb. 23 post, it looks like they might show up soon.) Hopefully, I'll get the Tomato videos processed someday, probably on RTSR.

Last edited by TheBang; 02-27-2008 at 12:44 AM.
Old 02-26-2008, 10:31 PM
Chris M
dirtiest sensor ever
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: L.A. + San Diego
Posts: 139
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
i said goddamn! bless your soul for sharing this
Old 02-27-2008, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,231
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Great review, thanks
Old 03-02-2008, 08:39 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: West Virginia
Posts: 175
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Mega thanks for the vid! That's the best quality vid I've ever seen of an Underworld show... Got any more??
Old 03-02-2008, 10:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Sunny Hawaii
Posts: 4,461
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Glad you liked it! Not much more from The Oblivion Ball, because I knew it was being webcast. Mostly snippets and crowd shots.

But check out this one from Osaka a couple days before:
Old 03-03-2008, 04:31 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 74
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Fantastic review and equally fantastic video/photos. The shot of Rick is amazing.

Last edited by idoru; 03-09-2011 at 07:54 AM.
Old 03-04-2008, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Germany
Posts: 278
Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Thanks for the review!

That picture of Rick is absolutely stunning (nice posing btw )
Old 04-08-2008, 06:48 PM
pro tooler
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Re: The Oblivion Ball in Tokyo, Japan - Review, photos, and movies
Lovely 1080p video. I would love to see more of the concert from this camera.
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