LIVE REPORT: L’Arc~en~Ciel LIVE 2014 at National Olympic Stadium / Kokuritsu Day 2 (March 22, 2014)

(READ DAY 1 REPORT HERE)

Allow me to begin my day 2 narrative by giving props to the staffer who we asked if we were in the right gate. Whoever you are, thank you for your patience. I knew you were saying numbers to me but my poor brain was taking eons in processing Japanese to English. Really, really grateful that after sensing my frustration (and a very awkward pause), you just said “Kochira dozo” and let Irene, Frances, Regina and I in anyway.

Much like during day 1, we had a bit of a trouble finding where we were supposed to sit. And exactly like day 1, when we get to our assigned seats, someone else was already occupying it! This time, there were 2 girls already sitting on Irene and I’s place. They were even wearing the bracelets already. Good thing the matter was resolved quickly. Our day 2 seats were so much better than the previous day! We were right above one of the VIP tents which was why I spent a good chunk of the live craning my neck to see if I would recognize someone. Unfortunately, the tent closest so to us was empty and the one next to it housed technicians it seemed.

Since today’s live would be broadcast on cinemas, there were more cameras around. There was even one directly in front of our section. Each time the camera would pan the audience, we would wave the #LArcMNL banner like crazy. We held on to that banner for the whole duration of the live. Hopefully, there would be a glimpse of it in the DVD somehow. It was also hugely advantageous that the weather was more cooperative. It wasn’t as cold as yesterday.

At around twenty minutes past 5PM, the same intro as the previous day began. I noticed that there seemed to be something wrong with the pod transporting Ken. The other 3 had a dome-shaped top while Ken’s was just blunt – as if the actual dome tapered off. Two other observations: (1) when yukkie came out, Irene and I couldn’t help but scream “acid android yukkie!”, must be the headgear he was sporting this time around; and (2) hyde was still wearing a veil but it was white this time and he looked like a blessed virgin.

Since the setlist for day 2 was similar with day 1 except for a few songs, I would only focus now on the highlights.

  • Day 2 was kicked off by CHASE. I find it to be a better warm up for the crowd and the transition to SEVENTH HEAVEN was smoother.
  • NEW WORLD gave way to NEXUS 4 as the eight song. It was a prudent decision to place NEW WORLD the day before as it was harder to sing and as much as I want to deny it, HYDE’s voice sounded strained during some parts of the live. In fact, his voice was hoarse in the MCs. So proud of him that he was still able to pull off BLESS a cappella earlier.
  • The L’ed wristbands! One can be deluded into thinking that second exposure to those wonders would somehow diminish the effect but nope, my jaw still dropped. The goosebumps likewise returned. Witnessing those dancing lights in person was truly a phenomenal experience.
  • When the bubble  burst at the second stage and L’Arc began their their first song there, I even went more bonkers. They were playing METROPOLIS! Such a refreshing change of pace.
  • For their last song at the second stage, it took me quite a while to figure it out. It was only after hyde sang the first lines that I was able to pinpoint it as KASOU. The arrangement was jazzy and more acoustic than the original. A week later, I would recognize it as a version they played in Hawaii as per videos uploaded to YouTube by ninjas.
  • Our seats on day 2 were closer to the second stage – so close that we could actually here yukkie’s cymbals. Still, we were crushed with envy when as the band exited, they walked right towards the stands across the stage. Hyde even lingered longer on the railings.
  • Have I ever mentioned that I have a soft spot for SHADE OF SEASON? I really do, which was why it baffles me why I wrote WILD FLOWER on my notes during the live as I was clearly singing along to “round and round and round”. It only hit me that I was wrong when J told me afterwards that he liked day 2 better because Shade of Season was one of the songs.  Great. I witnessed live one of my better liked songs from Butterfly without even realizing it.
  • I’m sure by now you’ve read about hyde flubbing his lines during DRIVER’S HIGH. I would have missed it  too if only Irene didn’t point it out seconds after it happened. But the butt grab by Ken? Oh yes, I saw it with my own eyes. Perfect.
  • Also during Driver’s High, we were distracted by staffers dragging huge grey bags from all directions which turned out to contain balloons. The memory stuck with me because one staffer placed a bag in the wrong position so he had to go back and drag it again to the right place. It was also my cue that the live would be over soon.

The last song was Anata. They also sang this on day 1 but it hit me more during this performance. It brought me back to Hong Kong where I first saw them live during the L’Anniversary World Tour. I remember the mirror ball illuminating the stage and the soft almost music box sounding background. It brought me to the time when I had goosebumps because we the audience were singing in perfect harmony. Kokuritsu may not have been as intimate as Asia World Expo but at that very moment, strangers were again as one.

The grey bags eventually released the balloons. The fireworks again lit up the sky. It was also this time when I let the tears fall. I was alright when L’Arc ended Day 1 with Niji but today was different. I cried because I had fulfilled a dream – dreams in fact. But most of all, I cried because I knew it was really over. There’s no more day 3. By this time tomorrow, all these would be a memory.

Just as I was blinking back tears, we hear hyde talking. What’s going on? Everyone froze on the spot. The screens were showing some backstage footage. Then the words “DOCUMENTARY FILMS ~ WORLD TOUR 2012”. Screams.

The screens turned blank. After which, the word “And” was shown. The screaming intensifies. Needless to say, I was desperate for another world tour announcement. Ah but not yet. The alternative was not bad after all. Everlasting would be released as a “memorial single” in August and the just concluded live would be release on DVD! I dread the waiting time for their next comeback but a cinematic release for the documentary, a new single and a DVD on the way are good enough distractions.

Until next time, L’Arc~en~Ciel. Until next time.

(And please consider visiting the Philippines soon. The #LArcMNL campaign turns 2 today!)

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LIVE REPORT: L’Arc~en~Ciel LIVE 2014 at National Olympic Stadium / Kokuritsu Day 1 (March 21, 2014)

The wind was cold, bitingly so.

I stared ahead. The stage was massive. Intimidating. Beyond and around it, not one seat was left unoccupied. All eighty thousand of them.

Another frosty gust of wind hit my cheek. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. Just hours ago, I was battling stress at the office. I was fearful of missing my flight. I almost lost my laptop at baggage check. And just when I was to set my Out of Office reply, I realized the something was wrong with my wireless connection.

I opened my eyes, one at a time. The crowd was still there and the screens onstage were showing a countdown. This was no dream. I was really about to fulfill my wish of watching L’Arc~en~Ciel live in their home turf of Japan.

The countdown ended with a picture of a camera and the word “FLASH”. Everyone laughed. We waited some more. I fidgeted with my L’ed wristband which I suspected to be broken since it wouldn’t turn on. In fact, neither of my companions Jordy, Irene and Joanne could make their wristbands glow.

At 5:20PM, the screens lit up again. It showed some futuristic images much like those in the movie Minority Report. Then some laser device etched out the form of each member. Each form exploded as it neared completion to reveal a more defined image of the members. First it was Ken, then Leader then yukkie. Or was it the other way around? I couldn’t remember. All I’m sure was that hyde was revealed last.

As the visuals ended, four pods shot up on stage. Everyone’s breathing hitched. For a long while, the pods just silently stood there. The camera zoomed in to provide a glimpsed of the pods’ occupants.  We screamed with every focus.

And then the members came out one by one. My train of thought…”Ken, wtf????….yukkie, hnggg….OMG, green hair!….What’s taking you so long hyde? Come out already!!!…..Is he really…is that…waaahhhh…why is he wearing a veil?” By this time, all rational thought came flying out the window. They all looked ridiculous but they were back and I was so over the moon convinced now that all of these were really happening.

The familiar strains of GET OUT FROM THE SHELL was heard and L’Arc~en~Ciel LIVE 2014 Day 1 was officially on its way. The boys immediately maximized the stage’s potential by dispersing wide. May I just stress again just how impressive that stage was? There were rumors of a circular stage a day before the actual live but I doubt anyone expected it to look this way. It was HUGE and boasted of a 360deg view. The outline of four pillars with flames towered on it and the base of the stage itself was surrounded by LED screens. There were two massive screens on the left and right sides plus one in the middle. To be honest, sometimes I found it hard to figure out where to focus my attention. hyde would be frolicking on one end while either Leader or Ken would be sashaying on another part of the stage.

GOFTS was followed by a rousing rendition of SEVENTH HEAVEN. I was half expecting cheerleaders to come out but then again that’s just me pushing my luck. It was such a treat seeing Ken hamming it up with cheerleaders in the previous Kokuritsu live so I was kinda looking forward witnessing it in person. REVELATION followed quickly. Always the song that’s best appreciated live, this particular version was special because it involved us counting down to the lighting up of the Olympic cauldron. Truly a moment to be treasured. hyde even made it more dramatic by carrying the mic stand all over the stage with a huge banner attached to it. L’Arc then slowed things down with BLESS.

Afterwards, hyde delivered his first MC for the night. Alas, no one in my group understood anything that was said. Haha. Then hyde was handed his guitar so we knew right there and then which song was coming up: HONEY of course! Considering that this was a sudden live, it was understandable that the same big butterfly in the midst of gold background from World Tour 2012 was used. We also noticed that hyde struggled a bit as his long sleeve was getting in the way of his guitar playing.

HONEY was followed by the triple-threat of WINTERFALL, NEW WORLD and READY STEADY GO. The first song was very apt since by this time, temperature was dropping precariously. RSG likewise used recycled effects from previous world tour. At this point, I remember whispering to Irene that somehow, I find the whole live subdued, like it was lacking the spectacular. I’ve always dreamed of watching a live in Japan because compared to when artists perform overseas, they tend to go more all out when performing in their own country. With this live so far, I had yet to experience anything that was truly jaw-dropping.

Then the stage went dark.

The screens began to project the CMs for the members-produced goods. They were adorable.

  • First up was the one for yukkie’s tumbler. It featured Doala reminiscing about the chocolates which yukkie also produced from the past lives. Shot partly in black and white and featured cutesy moments, it was really such a sweet ad. Best appreciated if you happen to see already the yukihiroxDoala calendar pre-nup album.
  • The CM for Leader’s Mukimpo Gun for me is the funniest. It had a Men in Black theme and positioned the Mukimpo Gun as a very formidable weapon. Heck, I applaud the voiceover talent for saying MUKIMPO in such a gruff and serious manner. The CM ended by the camera panning back and revealing that the stoic MIB agents in fact paired up their suits with ballet tights. Both agents then proceeded to hit each other with the gun while doing silly moves.
  • Ken-chan’s ribbons could have been the most practical of the goods, if not the most bizarre. The CM for it was equally as polarizing. The setting was in some seedy place. Two guys were doing arm wrestling with one guy obviously at a disadvantage. A young boy counseled the losing guy to use the magic ribbons and immediately said guy gained immense strength.
  • Finally, the award for the “Huh? What was that all about?” went to the CM for hyde’s skull shirt. It featured a young girl performing a short ice skating routine. She did her final spin and text mentioning hyde producing the shirt she was wearing was showed. That was it.

Subsequently, a video of a woman instructing everyone to wear the poncho was shown. She even amusingly demonstrated how to not wear the poncho. Once everyone was wearing the poncho, a strange sound was heard. It was as if something was bubbling up. We also noticed that the smaller platform located at the opposite side of the stadium across the main stage was somewhat pulsating. It was glowing and a huge balloon seemed to be emerging from it. The balloon eventually morphed into a sphere covering the platform. Strange shapes began to appear on it. They seemed to be a world map. Immediately, my mind began to chant “world tour? world tour?”. Images of the world map gave way to a huge eyeball moving around the sphere. The sphere then split in the middle to reveal the band inside it.

The intro of 4TH AVENUE CAFE began and then…I got my spectacular. The L’ed wristbands came to life on their own and immediately, the whole stadium was bathed in soft light. Because of the poncho, the whole audience became a blank canvas and the L’ed wristbands the dashes of colors. My mind was totally blown that I actually didn’t recognize 4th Avenue. I told Irene, “Hey, this song is really REALLY familiar. What’s the title again?”. Naturally, Irene stared at me incredulously before responding.

As the song ended, hyde began another MC. He made an extravagant display of how he could “control” the L’ed wristbands. He would swing this large glowstick and immediately, the wristbands would change their light color. I would learn later on that he said something along the lines of “this is why your tickets were expensive” 🙂

The band performed Mirai Sekai next. I was over the moon. When I saw them in HK at the start of World Tour 2012, I bitched about them not performing the newer songs. Here 2 years later, L’Arc finally catered to my whims. Anata followed and it had a fairly long intro.

The stadium again went dark. We heard strange noises for the second time and we noticed whales “swimming” across the stands. Ken performed his guitar solo and obviously the epic MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM was next. Memorable moment: the awkward pause during the chorus as neither hyde nor the audience sang the “my heart draws a dream” part 😀 It had always been that the audience would sing “yume o egaku yo” and hyde would answer with “my heart draws a dream” but apparently this time, he wanted us to sing that part too.

Our adrenalin levels shot up immensely as L’Arc followed suit with CHASE. By this time, they were already back at the main stage. Then came XXX. The way the L’ed wristbands transformed the stadium to a glowing sea of pink was jaw-dropping. Thank you very much L’Arc for making me eat my snarky comments earlier.  I would never forget this.

WILD FLOWER and DRINK IT DOWN came next. For the latter, they had flames shooting up from all directions. Each time this happened, we would scream More! Those flames were real life savers. The temperature had really gotten so cold that as much as I wanted to sway my arms around, I had to keep my hands balled up inside my pocket as I fear they would just fall off.

hyde spoke again and even if I couldn’t understand much, I sensed that something historical was about to happen. L’Arc would be performing a new song which they haven’t released before! The first time I heard EVERLASTING, I thought it was written by yukkie. Turned out, it was penned by Ken. Either way, I loved how anguished it sounded.

EVERLASTING was followed by another big surprise. BLAME! I couldn’t believe my ears! It was such a joy hearing this song live.

What came afterwards made me regret I didn’t pursue my Nihonggo lessons after college. Ken delivered his MC and based on the bursts of laughter one after the other, he was being downright hilarious. I was only watching his expressions and already I couldn’t help but giggle.

L’Arc then performed CARESS OF VENUS, DRIVER’S HIGH and LINK. As with past performances of Link, Leader had his moment. He traded shouts of “Ogenki” and “Wassoi” with all of us. And have I already mentioned that his orange outfit glowed in the dark? Leader did well in his impression of a fluorescent carrot that night.

Day 1 capped off its surprisingly generous setlist with NIJI. It was beautiful. I was about to lose my battle with the cold but the magnificent sight before me gave me warmth. From where we sat, we could see all of L’Arc~en~Ciel performing their signature song. Around them, dancing lights in rainbow colors and above them, the glorious Tokyo skyline. Blissful. Sublime. And as the fireworks went off, resplendent.

To think this is only day 1.