Van Dyke Parks In Tokyo (23th June 1999)

A concert report by Shigeki Ishikawa (e-mail:

It was my first time to see Van Dyke Parks in concert since the Shinjuku Kosei-Nenkin Hall show in 1988. That was a wonderful performance, and had many musicians including a famous Japanese musician called Harry Hosono (a former YMO member).

I didn't believe that eleven years later I would have the chance to see the same performer in Tokyo again, so I must thank the promoter for making this opportunity happen.

The concert place is called Sweet Basile, which is located in Roppongi at the center of Tokyo City. This is a typical live spot that has hosted performers from the Liverpool/early 60's era such as Ronnie Spector, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, and Herman's Hermits.

I was very interested in this place and I visited it right before the concert to take a glance at the interior. This time, I took my net friend Mr. Ronegan, who is also a crazy VDP fan. While waiting around the entrance for the doors to open for the second gig, I saw the signboard showing the tour members. I was very happy to see the name of Leland Sklar, who is a famous bass player from James Taylor sessions.

In spite of being opening time the audience numbered only 20. "Oh my God!" I thought, "What a disaster this concert is! Why aren't any Japanese interested in seeing VDP's performance?" I was very disappointed to see the small crowd. Eventually, the number of audience numbered a little under 40.

However, my anxiety was blown away as soon as the music started. The three veteran performers started to enjoy themselves. At first, VDP shouted "Konbanwa! Ready to Rock'n Roll!" Then I was listening to an instrumental version of the famous tune called "JUMP." The second tune was "Opportunity For Two" which is my favorite song. It was played with a very free arrangement, with the vocal sung only by VDP with the other two musicians supporting on guitar and electric bass.

VDP seemed to be happy to sing and play the electric piano, so I was glad I came to the concert. "Pajama Party!" he said intimately, and "this is the dancing spot if you like." He sang "Orange Crate Art," "Summer In Monterey," "Sail Away" among others, and I sang along without even thinking. I have never heard such impressive music. He joked continually, for example, "today I went to the palace, but the Emperor did not appear."

Next song was "Wings of A Dove," and I was so charmed by his great performance I forgot to clap after it was finished. In fact, I ordered a several dishes but I forgot to eat them, instead feeling satiated with the great sound that Chef VDP was cooking up.

Finally, VDP appeared came down to the audience seats and everyone shook hands and said something. When he came to me, I couldn't express what I felt, only saying "Thank you very much!" But it seemed that his handshake had such warm feeling for me. The audience was small but everyone was so impressed. A storm of applause arose, and the encore was an improvisation with lyrics that mentioned John Lennon and Bob Dylan. After great cheers, he sung "Sailin' Shoes," which reminded me of Little Feat.

After all the performance finally ended, I sat and wondered about what the charm of VDP's performance was that could move me so much? Every time I listen to his music, I always get a warm feeling. What is the secret of his music? Finally I came up with what I think is the reason for the attraction of his great sound. There is no fitting word created to describe the world that he begins to spin, but I am convinced that the charm of VDP's sound is in the intimate feeling in his songs. This is something not found in typical hit music, the bright sound in an old-tradition American style that can be enjoyed in a pure spirit.

I am sure that the feeling of supreme bliss that I felt while listening to the concert was certainly shared among the small audience there. Maybe it was the size of the club itself and the number of people there that made it so intimate. The negative feeling that I felt at first was turned out to be unwarranted, and I was treated to an "at home" concert that turned out to be a moving heartwarming experience never to be equaled.

A Japanese version of this review can be found on here.

I would like to thank the author for translating this piece into English especially for the inclusion on this website. - Jan Jansen

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