Sunday, July 19, 2009


Shirokuma Company (Beatles tribute band)
The Cavern Club

I wouldn't mind betting that Japan has more Beatle tribute bands than any other country. The Japanese love the Fab Four and, with their incredible eye for detail, nihonjin Beatle bands are usually note-perfect.

One of the best is Kyoto's Beatrips, who wowed the crowds at Liverpool's Beatles festival two years ago. I've seen those guys three times and they are fab.

But I'm in Tokyo now at Roppongi's Cavern Club where I catch the superb Shirokuma Company in action.

It's a pleasant venue which thankfully doesn't look anything like the real Cavern. There's an impressive collection of Fab Four photos on display, most of which I have never seen before.

If I understand their Japanese flyer correctly, Shirokuma Company is a collective of 15 musicians with a revolving door policy regarding who plays on any given night. It's an interesting approach which I guess keeps things fresh for the players.

What I like about Shirokuma Company is that, even though they are wearing the standard Beatle suits, they're also a tad unkempt and rough looking. They're also sporting Beatle boots with Cuban heels. Gear.

The first song I hear - this is their third set of the night - is Lovely Rita. They don't quite get the coda right - one of the Fabs' most deliriously spaced out musical endings - but their version of Something is astonishing.

It's fine - and to my ears a strength - that they don't worry too much about getting each song note perfect. After all, if this was the real Beatles they wouldn't sound exactly like the records either.

Mind you, next comes Across the Universe - one of my least favorite Lennon songs - and it's just as soporific and weedy as the original. Can't blame them for that, though, they didn't write it.

But then they let loose a rip-roaring blitzkreig of I Saw Her Standing There. It's one of the best versions I've ever heard.

Shirokuma Company are a great band with a loose, rocky feel. I wouldn't mind seeing them play their own material or some other rock standards, and I'd certainly get back to check 'em out if I were on their patch again. Much recommended.

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