All posts by kenryoku

THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A D’ESPAIRSRAY LIVE REPORT

Everything was ready. All that’s left for me to do was to get on that plane. But the airport was the farthest I could go. Even if the live that I was supposed to attend was finished already, it still hasn’t sunk in. I wasn’t seeing D’espairsRay live after all.

JULY 28
I arrived early at the airport. My flight was at 5AM but I was already on the way an hour past midnight. Yes, I was that excited. As I reached the check-in counter, my head was already in Tokyo. My daydreaming was interrupted by the staffer’s unexpected question, “Ma’am, what happened to your passport?” I was using the same passport since 2010 and this was the first time I was asked this question. Confused, I ask what she meant. The staffer explained that my passport looked detached and then “glued together”. She again asked “Did you do anything to your passport?” I told her “No! Of course not.” She consulted with her supervisor. She went back and said “I’m sorry Ma’am, we cannot check you in. Your passport is tampered.” My knees felt instantly weak but calmly I told her, “Miss, there must be a mistake. I just used that same passport upon my arrival yesterday from Singapore. I even have here my ticket from that flight.” She then asked me again “Did you really not do anything to your passport?” Again, I told her that no, I did not do anything with my passport. And so she want back to consult with her peers. When she faced me again she  said with a tone of finality “Sorry Ma’am. There’s really something wrong with your passport. If we let you through, we will be given a memo. We cannot check you in on this flight.” I left the counter in a daze.

To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing wrong with my passport. This year alone, I’ve used the very same passport to get in and out of 5 countries, including Japan just this March. Prior to my supposed MNL – NRT flight, the same passport got me through CGK – SNG last July 23 and then through SNG – CLK last July 26. How could it be that suddenly my passport is invalid?

I sought out airport security. They told me only immigration can deny me passage but they, the security personnel, cannot interfere. I went back to the airline staff and asked if there’s anyone I can speak with. Two staffers approached, one of which was a supervisor it seemed. Again I was questioned if I did something with my passport. I vehemently told them that I didn’t mess with my own passport and that I have no reason to do so. So they asked me if there ever was a time wherein my passport was not with me. I told them I can only think of two recent instances: when I submitted my passport at Indonesian immigration for my re-entry permit last April and when I left it at the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta for the processing of my Japan visa only a week ago. The supervisor then said it could be that somehow, someone managed to detached my passport pages from the cover and then tried to cover up the damage by just glueing them back together.

I examined my passport and it did seem that something was amiss. But by this time, I don’t know what to think anymore. I haven’t slept yet since the day before and my stress level was quadrupling every minute. The supervisor further explained that they don’t want to let me through because if Japan immigration sensed also that there’s something wrong with my passport, I would be deported. DEPORTED. Hearing that word literally brought me chills. I told the supervisor that if only for my peace of mind could we compare my passport with another person’s. She complied. Faced with two passports with my own looking very different, I knew then that there’s nothing else I could do.

I wanted to cry so badly but wouldn’t. There’s no reason for me to look and feel more pathetic that I really was already. After all that questioning, I just wanted to hear a comforting voice. I tried calling my family then the friend I was supposed to meet in Japan. I called them numerous times. No answer. It’s 4AM. Everyone else had the right to blissfully sleep. I called a friend based in Canada. Static. All I had was my inner voice telling me to keep it together.

It was a long journey back home from the airport. Four hours after my ordeal, I was finally able to cry.

I felt sick but I had a lot to do. I needed to cancel and rebook what I can. Most importantly, I need to apply for a new passport so I can get back to my job in Jakarta.

By nightfall, I developed a fever.

JULY 29
I was supposed to welcome back D’espairsRay but instead I was stuck on my sick bed nursing a fever, a head-splitting ache and a hollowness inside.

It was tough balancing between wanting to hear updates about what’s going on and shunning everything about the live once and for all.

I was also still confused regarding what happened to my passport. Numerous questions kept running through my head. Who would do such a thing? Was there malice involved? Like seriously, WHAT THE FUCK? Will I able to secure a passport in time for my return to Jakarta?

My only comfort was that I was with my whole family. They’ve been very supportive. But then again, they don’t get the whole picture. Still, because of them I can smile.

Within me, inner voice kept chanting to keep it together.

NOW
I find joy in the knowledge that the live went well. Hizumi is still not on top form but from what I heard, he was able to perform competently.

There was no announcement of another live but still I was so, so happy that D’espairsRay was able to stage a comeback even if only for just one night and via a 4-song set.

But at the same time, each mention of the live brings a sharper pang through my heart. It is torture and it probably would be for quite a while.

Listening to D’espairsRay had and will always be an emotional experience for me. After their so-called disbandment, there was the tinge of longing and regret – regret that I didn’t take the chance to see them live before. Then there was also the hope that they’ll get back together eventually and I will be there to witness it.

Now, I have more emotions to wrestle with: bitterness, sadness and shit tons more of what-ifs and could-have-beens. But just as D’espairsRay has taught me that it’s never in vain to keep on hoping, I look forward to learning more about believing in second chances.

This first attempt at reaching out to them didn’t turn out the way I pictured it to be. But maybe, just maybe…next time I’ll get my turn to cheer for them in person.

…though I go on I won’t forget; the miracle of a reunion with you.

reflecting my unravelling thoughts, the sky cried…

forbear…

I wanted to be together with you forever…

– SQUALL (lyrics: Hizumi; music: Karyu / English translation: iro)

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.

Dear D’espairsRay

Three years ago, you made me write this:

It’s again past 3am. D’espairsRay made me ditch the Sandman one more time. But then again, this could also be the very last. The last time I’m losing sleep for them, the last time I’m writing a post about them. To paraphrase Neruda, though this be the last pain that they made me suffer and these the last verses that I write for them. And yet, just as it was said in the very same poem: my soul is not satisfied that it had lost them.

Every fiber in me refuses to acknowledge that this is the end. I vow then to remember this day…

I have never forgotten that day, guys. NEVER. But this is one thing I wasn’t able to uphold: that you will never make me cry again. Guess what, I’ve been crying for almost 2 hours now. And yes, here  I am writing another post about you.

You are coming back. You are really coming back.

Silly me have thought that as I’ve imagined this moment a number of times, I would have been ready when the time comes. Still you caught me off guard. Bravo guys, bravo.

I am still not 100% sure whether I’ll be there to welcome you personally. But I’ll be trying my damn hardest to be there.

And no more promises of not crying. If you happen to see one girl crying her eyes out at the live, chances are that it is me. Then again, there would definitely be a lot of crying on July. Not just me.

Welcome back, D’espairsRay. You are worth every teardrop.

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!)

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.

blessed be

I really thought 2013 would be hard to top up but as it turns out, it is only the opening salvo.

Already 2014 is shaping up to be a badass year, even so much better than the previous.

In a few days, I would see L’Arc~en~Ciel live again. In their own turf Tokyo, Japan. Yes. I am finally going to Japan and I will see my favorite band perform in one of the grandest stadiums in the world. Twice.

(Perhaps even VAMPS? Please HYDE let me win that invite to #VAMPSLIVEINTOKYO!)

Fast forward to June and I will then see Alice Nine in Singapore. I even get to take a picture with them. 6 shots! I’m so giddy with excitement.

And the year is barely out if its first quarter.

THANK YOU THEE.

As always, watch out for my live reports!!!