LIVE REPORT: ALICE NINE AT SUPERNOVA SYMPHONIA IN SINGAPORE (JUNE 28, 2014)

(A shorter self-censored version of this live report appears at JpopAsia)

Supernova: a stellar explosion that could briefly outshine an entire galaxy.

Last June 28, jrock fans in Singapore experienced a live akin to such a spectacle as the 5-man band Alice Nine mounted their much anticipated first one-man in the country. For a solid two hours, The Coliseum at The Hard Rock Hotel Sentosa bore witness to an explosive amalgam of musical intensity, spellbinding stage presence and a throng of eager fans armed with light rings and galaxy lights. But of course, the brightest were the ones on stage. Alice Nine, bedazzled and brimming with energy, more than delivered in their 18 songs strong setlist that featured their classics and tracks from their latest album “Supernova“.

Smoke billowing on the darkened stage signaled the start of the live at around 8PM. ToraSagaNao and Hiroto walked to their places and immediately started playing “Prelude-resolution-“. As the short song wind down, Shou waltzed in and the band seamlessly transitioned to the very apt “SHINING“. Alice Nine was clearly in their element and each member exuded distinct personalities onstage: Tora the bad boy guitarist who wouldn’t also look out of place in a hiphop gig, Saga the stoic and patrician looking bassist, Nao the playful drummer with the funky specs, Shou the Casanova vocalist whose sweeping hand gestures could rival a master magician and Hiroto the guitarist who could only be charm personified.

Barely giving everyone the chance to brace themselves, the band launched into “プラマイ (+-)“. The song about self worth really got the crowd jumping and shouting along. Shou then gripped a towel and this signaled the equally rousing “SEVEN“. As the song reached its chorus, the crowd area morphed into a swirling mass of towels.

The intro to “Kiss twice, kiss me deadly” was then heard but instead of singing, Shou spoke “Hello, Singapore! Are you ready? Are you ready? Member Introduction!“. As he introduced his fellow band members in this order: Nao, Saga, Tora and Hiroto, he encourage the audience to “Call out his name“. When it was time to introduce himself, Shou said “Call my name, call my name” then sang the first verse to “Kiss twice..” a capella.

After a “Come on, baby” from Shou, the whole band then re-started “Kiss twice…” and played the full song. Whereas in the initial songs, the members mostly stayed in their designated spots (Tora and Saga on the left, Hiroto on the right, Nao and Shou on center of course), they were more mobile on this one. At one point, both Saga and Hiroto walked towards Nao’s platform and put up one foot each. Shou faced them and swung his hips side to side, his back to the audience. Shou then turned sideways and beckoned Hiroto with his finger. Both Shou and Hiroto leaned forward toward each other until their faces were only inches apart. Shou acted as if taunting Hiroto to which the guitarist responded by planting a kiss on the vocalist’s forehead.

As “Kiss twice..” concluded, Shou began his first MC for the night. “Singapore! We have come back! We are Alice Nine“. After saying a few sentences in Japanese, Shou shouted “Are you ready, are you ready? Are you fucking ready? Next song is Rainbows“. The highly energetic song took the live to a whole new level. There was a lot of grunting, not just from Shou but also from the other members. Saga’s bass playing really shone on this song. He mostly stayed on his spot at the left side while Hiroto and Tora switched places. As Tora ran to the right side of the stage, Shou met him halfway. Shou then sang the chorus while clutching Tora’s face closely.

After a quick pause, the band segued to “KID” where Hiroto immediately got to display his guitar shredding skills. Everyone’s light rings and galaxy lights were all up in the air. As the band hoped, the crowd area had now become a glittering dance floor. No one was immune to the song’s infectious EDM vibe. But suddenly it was just Nao playing. Everyone started chanting “Hey, hey, hey“. The guitars were then heard and the mood shifted into something heavy. The next song was “九龍 (Kowloon Nine Heads Rodeo Show)” and the dancing became frenzied headbanging.

The Coliseum was then shrouded in darkness. Smoke once again billowed. Only the sound of a ticking clock was heard. It was only when Shou was passionately singing the chorus “from KURAYAMI” that the stage lights were turned on. Everything worked in unison from the lighting effects, to the band members to the response from the crowd in conveying through the song the pain of longing for someone who might as well be light-years away. There’s no mistaking the intensity on the members’ faces as they build to “from KURAYAMI’s” rousing crescendo, the seemingly haphazard beats mirroring the feeling of confronting pent up emotions.

But pain can eventually give way to hope, Alice Nine assured the audience as they followed up with the optimistic “Daybreak“. The venue was bathed in light, brighter than ever, and everyone felt comfort in the song’s message of transforming burdens into wings.

There was a long pause after the song as the band re-energized. Hiroto took the time to douse those in front with water then toss the bottle in the midst of the crowd. Shou walked backed in front and mentioned a few sentences in Japanese. He asked the audience, “Are you ok? Do you want some next song? Next song is Mebius from Supernova!“. During “Mebius“, Hiroto switch to Tora’s place at the left side of the stage – but not before sneaking up to Shou and surprising him with another kiss.

The mood turned somber again as Alice Nine readied to perform the power ballad “shooting star“. Shou tested his vocals on this one and the effort was admirable. He navigated through the song’s nuances with practiced eased and his showmanship was in full effect. As the spotlight focused on him, he stood sideways, extended his left hand with a flourish then clutched his heart after which tilted his head back slightly. He just stood there, holding the same position for quite some time, all the while just gazing at the audience hanging on to his next move. Really feeling the song, he sang the last line of “shooting star” a capella then mouthed off “Arigatou“.

Another long pause and the audience lapped it up by shouting their favorite member’s names. The shouting led to gleeful screams as Shou and Hiroto led the other members to “FANTASY“. For this song, Tora did double duty as an acoustic guitar was also mounted on stage for him to use on some parts.

The stage lights were once again dimmed. Shou shouted “Are you ready?” and everyone responded by raising their arms and swaying them side to side. Shou dared the audience “Come with us, here we go!“. Lights were on in full and everyone was whisked off to “Blue Planet“. The band moved in amazing synchronicity. All four mobile members moved to Nao’s platform from both sides. Then in perfect timing, faced forward again and purposely walked to front and center. Afterwards, it was just pandemonium. Shou mounted his platform with Tora beside him. Saga moved to the left most side of stage as Hiroto moved about. Shou left his platform only for Hiroto to take over as he did his solo. Never to miss a fan service opportunity, Shou sang the last few verses of the song while leaning on Tora’s shoulders. Both high fived each other as the song ended.

Alice Nine showed no signs of fatigue as they reached the fourteenth track for the night: “Velvet“. As soon as the opening rifts were heard, the crowd was on hyper-drive. Heads were banging in tune to Nao’s pounding on his drums. Saga also contributed to hyping the crowd even more with his second vocals. It was Tora though who stole the show as he licked his guitar.

百花繚乱 (Hyakka Ryouran)” followed and it saw the members trading places. It was Saga’s turn to spend a long time enticing the audience near the right side of the stage. Hiroto joined Tora on the left. Both showed off their guitar skills while they were back to back. As the song swelled, Tora turned his head and kissed his blonde counterpart.

Shou introduced the next song “開戦前夜 (Kaisen zen’ya)“. The lights on the audience side got brighter. Days before the live, the band encouraged attendees to “just enjoy and get excited until you are burnt out” to this song. Audience and band didn’t disappoint. It was madness on both ends. Onstage, Saga was growling and Tora was throwing his head back while raising his guitar in salute to the stars. More and more headbanging followed. Saga took his turn on the platform and Hiroto drenched the audience with water. Lights out and the main setlist was done.

Not a minute later, fans were already screaming “Ankore!”. The shouting didn’t stop up until the band returned to the stage. Shou came out holding the banner the Singaporean fans prepared for the live. Each member then took turns saying their thanks. Nao had everyone in stitches with the English part of his spiel, “My heart, my heart, my heart, cannot take it. Cannot take it!“. Tora addressed the audience with a gruff “Singapore, I’m back! Thank you for waiting!“. Saga mentioned that the Singapore audience was great then asked for more bras! As for Hiroto, his turn to speak easily received the most enthusiastic response from the crowd. The exchange went this way:

Hiroto: Singapore, tadaima! (we’re back)
Audience: Okaeri! (welcome)
Hiroto: Tadaima?
Audience: Okaeri!
Hiroto: Daisuki! (I like you!) Minna, cute! (Everyone is cute!). (points to a male audience member in front) Cool guy! Minna kakkoi! (Everyone is good looking!) It’s our tenth year! Minna Number Six, kazoko, family! (Everyone who is part of Number Six is family!) We are Alice Nine! We are Alice Nine!
Shou: (joining in) We are…
Audience: Alice Nine!
Shou: We are…
Audience: Alice Nine!

It’s interesting to note that every time Shou was chanting “We are..”, Saga would respond by crossing his arms across his face.

Finally Shou said his thanks followed by another round of “Are you ready, are you ready? Next song is 春夏秋冬(Shunkashuutou)! Sing with me! Make some noise!“.

As a fitting end to the night, Alice Nine rounded up its Singapore setlist with one of its sublime hits. Soft lights and smoke blanketed the stage to welcome “the beautiful name” Hands were clapping in unison. As the first verse was sung, arms were already held up high. The audience sang their hearts out in the chorus to express their gratitude towards the band, not only for this night but for 10 years of beautiful music. Shou ended the song with a heartfelt “Thanks so much!” then bumped his fist with Hiroto.

Guitar picks were thrown. Bottles were tossed. Then the band members exited the stage one by one as “Daybreak – instrumental-” played in the background. Hiroto was the last to leave. He went to the middle and bowed deeply for a long time. He took the mic then shouted: “Singapore! Mata aimashou! See you again. I love you!

As the audience screamed in response, one thing was made certain: Alice Nine’s star would be burning bright for a long, long time.