Finally, Japan comes into the DVD age. Well, better late than never...
Just missing the video boom, as they imploded on the verge of mainstream success over 20 years ago, Japan's videos have only been available up until now via Instant Pictures, an alternative (and costly) import collection...
Cutting to the quick, Japan's videos have hardly aged well (was video ever meant to last?), and being the promotionally shy bunch that they were, they never really rose to the challenge of mastering this artform, anyway.
However, this DVD is worth dipping into your pockets for regardless, if solely for the fantastic Oil On Canvas gig from their farewell 1982 tour, included as a bonus feature. Previously out of print following its limited availability on VHS circa 83/84, this is something of a lost gem, and is a crucial record of how seriously powerful this band were instrumentally. And whilst it may not be as slick as Hamish Hamilton's recent directorial work for U2 (Elevation Live) or Robbie At The Albert Hall, visual flair is nothing when the performance is this good.
Out on the stage, it becomes very apparent that Japan never rested on studio trickery to deliver, as the band deliver a seriously tight show, punching strong, sophisticated life into already complex songs. If you thought Japan were weak elctro-moody dudes, think again, because this is one show that revels in the power of its own potential. Groove-heavy tracks from Gentelmen Take Polariods get beefed up, and charge along on the kind of gutsy gusto - all booming disco beat and flanged sequencers - that Duran Duran would sell more successfully to a global audience several years later. Later Tin Drum tracks flex their muscles, and guitars scream and dive through distortion, whilst Richard Barbieri does a sterling job delivering his unique synth ambience.
But for me, whilst Barbieri proves he's quietly a legend in his own lifetime, Sylvian's delivers rich vocals shine just as richly (if not more so) than on record, and Mick Karn's bonkers bass playing stabs at stealing the show, it's Steve Jansen's criminally under-rated drumming that grabs centre-stage for me. Watching him work his kit, and make it all look so easy is a bittersweet pleasure like no other - as you jointly marvel at how darn good this guy was (and is), whilst realising that only a handful ever get this good. Along with Stuart Copeland's work with the Police, this film is what turned me on to the true power of the beat, and made me want to get at the drums myself.
I had this back in the 80s, and darn-near wore it out. But now its finally escaped the vaults after all these years. They say all good things come to those that wait, and I've been waiting for this on digital for as long as I can remember.
Watch and enjoy, because this was one of the most criminally under-rated bands to come out of Britain... and they're gone for good.