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ROCK MEETS KABUKI

A different kind of glam icon

by David Hickey

He captured rock ‘n’ roll iconoclasts David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed at the height of their fame in the 1970s. Now photographer Mick Rock turns his lens toward a different kind of glam icon, kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, for an exhibition at Tokyo Midtown Hall B, April 20-May 6.

Titled “Mick Rock Meets Kanzaburo,” the exhibition features photographs of Kanzaburo on stage and off during two plays: “Natsu Matsuri,” which was performed in July 2004 on a specially built stage outside New York’s Lincoln Center; and “Hokaibo,” performed at the Kabuki-za theater in Ginza in August 2005.

“He trusted me intuitively from the beginning,” says Rock of his working relationship with Kanzaburo, one of the kabuki world’s best-loved performers.

Artists have been trusting Rock, a New York-based Brit, since he shot the cover for Syd Barrett’s 1970 album “The Madcap Laughs,” for which he was paid the princely sum of £50 (around 10,000 yen).

Two years later Rock was cavorting with David Bowie, just as the one-time hippy was transforming himself into his highly sexed, makeup-adorned alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It was as the official photographer on tour with Bowie that Rock cemented his reputation. More recently he has captured The Strokes and The Killers.

Rock sees a clear correlation between the rock stars he has shot and Kanzaburo, an actor from a celebrated kabuki lineage who is as comfortable playing the male lead as he is a female role.

“He prepares and performs with the spirit of some of the great rock performers I have photographed,” says Rock. “Even though kabuki is very disciplined and rehearsed, Kanzaburo’s performance flows with the same sense of intuition and connection with the audience that these rockers display. . . . To my eye, it is a very similar experience.”

Tokyo Midtown is directly linked to Roppongi Station on the Toei Oedo and Hibiya subway lines. The exhibition’s opening hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is 1,000 yen. For more information, visit www.tokyo-midtown.com