August 14, 2009 / 4:38 AM / in 8 years

British bands blown away by "supersonic" Japan

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - British band Kasabian have had three smash-hit albums but the psychedelic rockers still have trouble getting their heads around how big they are in Japan.

<p>Fans cheer during a performance by British rock band Kasabian at the Summer Sonic 2009 music festival in Chiba, near Tokyo, August 7, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>

They performed in front of 50,000 Japanese fans at Asia’s biggest music festival, “Summer Sonic,” following a packed warm-up gig.

“Our first time here our debut album wasn’t even out and there were 40,000 people waiting for us,” vocalist Tom Meighan told Reuters.

“That first time the size of the crowd was ridiculous. They were all waiting quietly and then we started and they were all ‘Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!’ It was amazing,” he added.

“We’ve been here four times. We’re big in England but they treat you like royalty in Japan -- like you’re Elvis Presley or John Lennon. It blows my mind.”

Celebrity culture is big in Japan, and Japanese music fans fell in love with British pop ever since The Beatles came to the country in the 1960s. Fans also appreciate the fact that many of these musicians travel half way across the world to entertain them.

Kasabian were still reeling from a smaller show in Tokyo, where hundreds of fans came in nurse uniforms and surgical gowns, many wearing flu masks for extra effect.

“It was bizarre. It was cool,” said Meighan, whose band celebrated a number one hit with their latest album “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” earlier this year.

An earthquake and typhoon rains failed to dampen the party spirit at this year’s Summer Sonic, where a record 250,000 fans poured into venues in Tokyo and Osaka last weekend.

<p>Fans raise their hands as they attend a live performance by a Japanese indie band at the Summer Sonic 2009 music festival in Chiba, near Tokyo August 7, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>

‘WORLD‘S BIGGEST’

“This year it’s bigger than Glastonbury and Reading,” said festival promoter Naoki Shimizu, who used to drive Duran Duran to gigs when they toured Japan in the 1980s.

“Over two or three days we think it’s the biggest in the world. It sort of exploded when Radiohead and Blur headlined the fourth year we did it.”

<p>British rock band Kasabian's vocalist Tom Meighan performs at Summer Sonic 2009, an annual rock festival in Chiba, near Tokyo August 7, 2009. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon</p>

British band Keane were given an especially warm welcome as a huge stadium crowd sang along to hits such as “Crystal Ball” and “Bedshaped” three years after a Tokyo no-show.

At that time, frontman Tom Chaplin famously checked out of his hotel without warning and flew back to Britain alone to book himself into rehab for alcohol and drug abuse.

“It was a weird time,” said Chaplin. “It’s nice of them to invite us back. It feels good to come here and kind of shake off the demons of the past.”

“I‘m always a bit nervous about coming to Japan. You can find yourself getting lost -- not just geographically, but mentally -- because it’s such an intense place.”

Kasabian’s Meighan agrees.

”Nothing surprises me in Japan,“ he said. ”You can hire a cat out for half an hour and stroke it while you have a coffee.

“But to think that you can come to the other side of the world and people give a (damn) is incredible. Most English bands get treated like The Beatles.”

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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