I heard Gabrielle Aplin was coming to Japan and playing a few gigs, and it worked out that I was able to schedule an appointment at a clinic not too far away from where she was playing on the same day to have a reason to take off work and go. It was my first time attending a concert put on by Tokyo Billboard Live, located inside the Tokyo Midtown center in Roppongi, and booking information was a little vague. There also weren’t really any pictures of the venue set up on the official site, and a Google search for other blog posts with detailed info on Tokyo Billboard came up empty. So for my future reference and maybe for someone else down the line, here’s a how-to with my take on the venue and show.
As I mentioned, the booking process left me a little confused. I couldn’t figure out how to reserve a ticket without becoming a Guest Member or signing up for yearly membership, but apparently it’s possible. I suggest skipping the frustration and just doing the free registration for guest membership, which you can access by clicking “Membership Registration / Login” from the left-hand menu.
Once you’ve completed that step, log in with your new registration and click to see the live schedule for the current or following months.
As an example, I’ve scrolled down the June schedule and clicked on j-pop artist PUFFY playing on 6/20. You can click on Ticket Info for booking and purchase information, or on Ticket Availability to see what tickets (seating areas) are left. For Ticket Availability, a circle means there are a good number of tickets left, a triangle means there are limited tickets left, and an X means that tickets are sold out.
Each artist gives two dinner shows. First show doors open at 5:30 and it begins at 7:00 p.m. Second show doors open at 8:45 p.m. and it begins at 9:30 p.m. Once you’ve checked the availability, click on Ticket Info to select a show time and go through with buying your ticket using their purchase/reservation form.
After reserving your tickets, you’ll get a confirmation e-mail that you should print out and bring to the information desk on the day of the concert when admission begins. Unlike other ticketing services, you don’t need to wait for tickets to arrive through the mail or go to the convenience store to exchange your confirmation number for real tickets.
On the day of the live I left work early, took a bus out to Tokyo, did the clinic thing, and then took the Hibiya line metro to Roppongi station. Tokyo Midtown’s entrance is located at the metro exit 8. Many well known shops and restaurants are located inside, but much of the space has been left open for “architectural design” purposes. It’s really comes off more like, “Roppongi got so much swag and money we don’t even have to pretend to give any flips about how many millions we’ve wasted on all this unused space.” Even the 7-11 was made to look like some upscale architectural masterpiece. 😉
Billboard Live is located on the 4F of the Galleria wing, and there are sectional chairs right outside the venue to chill while you wait for admission to start. (Or you could pick from the many restaurants and shops on the other floors to kill time at.) Even from the outside you can tell it’s a pretty swanky place; there’s even a service desk to take your luggage and coat.
When I arrived admission had just begun, so I took my copy of the confirmation e-mail to the information desk and the lady directed me to a host who would lead the way to the seating area.
Since reserved seating wasn’t full up and I’d arrived early enough, there were still a few spots in front of the stage area. Stage area tables seat up to six, and no seats are left unfilled unless there’s shortage in ticket bookings. Shortly after I’d been seated another single, unreserved ticket holder took the seat beside me. Luckily it was a really sweet gal around my age, and we had a pleasant chat all through dinner until the show started about an hour and a half later.
One thing I wasn’t clear on when booking was if all dining options required a reservation only or not. As it turned out, only the special dining menu needed to be pre-reserved, but everyone could order off the regular food and drink menu. Although just FYI, dinner and drinks are only served pre-show, so make sure you order soon after you arrive. Eats and drinks were pretty expensive and I wasn’t too hungry, so I just went with the appetizer nachos. The chips, guacamole, and salsa were all fresh. There could have been more guac and salsa, but the nacho portion size was bigger than I was expecting. It’s bigger than it appears in the photo, and I didn’t end up finishing it all. The gal next to me said her bolognese spaghetti was pretty good, too. They had a great mix of casual foods and fancier dinners, so all ya’ll out there like me who can’t tell a dinner fork from a salad fork shouldn’t have a problem finding something worth trying.
The location of the restaurant/hall couldn’t be beat, either! The whole seating space afforded first performance diners a great view of the sunset and the city below. Different to other dinner and show places I’ve been to before, the stage was really close no matter where you were seated on the first floor. The very front rows were so close to the stage I was thankful I was seated a couple of tables back. I don’t know if I would have been able to awkwardly munch on nachos with Gabrielle Aplin practically standing over me singing. 😉
As show time drew nearer, curtains closed over Roppongi Hills and the lights dimmed. From this point on no pictures were allowed, so I’m sorry to say I don’t have anything to show of Ms. Aplin herself. If you must know, she looked stunning and classy in a sparkling green cocktail dress, which I think she managed to somehow pull off with gladiator heels.
Gabrielle’s set was wonderful. Her voice was beautiful live and Billboard Live had a great instrumental and sound stage set-up. Effects and lighting were minimal, but in a pleasant way. Between songs she gave a few short, one-liner MCs, and also introduced her bandmates. Apparently her and her mates all love cats, lol.
There was a nice mix of album songs, older songs, and a couple of new songs. She debuted her new song, “Awhile” in Osaka, and we were lucky enough to be the second audience to hear it. 😀 At the end of her set some guests seated in the very front made a point to stop her for an autograph or give her presents. You could tell she was in a bit of a rush because of the short changeover time allowed, but she took time to accept these requests graciously and it was nice to see how down to earth she was.
- Keep Pushing Me
- Keep On Walking
- The Power of Love
- How Do You Feel Today?
- Awhile (new song)
- Rings Round Roses
- A Case of You (Joni Mitchell cover)
- Stranger Side
- Please Don’t Say You Love Me (with Japanese chorus)
- Panic Cord
- Somewhere on the Avenue (new song)
I was holding out for her to play “Home” throughout the whole set, and was so happy to see she included it as the last song. Out of all her releases so far, as someone who calls somewhere an ocean away from where I was raised “home” because that’s where my heart lies, this song speaks to me the most. 🙂
After the show ended guests were kindly prompted to make their way to the exit and pay to allow second show guests to start being seated. Next to the cashier where you pay they’ve got a small shop area where you can buy artist goods and Billboard Live souvenirs. Gabrielle Aplin had t-shirts on sale in a variety of styles and sizes.
As this is already Ms. Aplin’s second time performing in Japan, I’m sure we can expect her back again in the future. I can only hope! Either way I’d like to go back to Tokyo Billboard Live someday with Mr. J. I really enjoyed my evening at the venue, and think it would be the perfect spot for a date or anniversary dinner if you or someone you love is a music fan.