Category Archives: live report

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.

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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.

LIVE REPORT: MIYAVI “SLAP THE WORLD TOUR” LIVE IN KUALA LUMPUR (February 22, 2014)

On stage, Miyavi croons KIMI NI NEGAI WO but my eyes were drawn to the single tear streaking through the cheek of the elderly Japanese woman to my left.  In front of us, a Malaysian teen clutches at the barricades not moving an inch, eyes transfixed in front as a group of Singaporean girls behind me struggled to contain their excitement. My friend who flew all the way from the Philippines clutched my arm tightly. Miyavi has preached about unity and share in love. True enough, in that powerful moment, irregardless of either race, gender or generation, we were one.

Last February 22nd, Miyavi kickstarted his much-anticipated world tour with a high-octane live in the city of Kuala Lumpur. The venue: the brand spankin’ new (and very much well ventilated) Mega Star Arena.

The live began past 8PM with the screening of the trailer of Unbroken, the Angelina Jolie-directed biopic of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini where Miyavi would be be having his big Hollywood debut. Already there’s no doubt that fans would be flocking to catch this movie when it lands in theaters in December as every time Miyavi appeared onscreen the hall erupted into screams.

The promo clip for the SLAP THE WORLD tour was then showed and not long after, local act Bunkface appeared to warm up the already restless crowd. To their credit, Bunkface performed a capable 4 song set enhanced by strong stage presence and good sense of humor. They even led repeated chanting of “Miyavi, Miyavi”.

The man himself didn’t keep the fans waiting too long as he stepped into the now darkened stage in true rock star fashion: decked in mostly white with a long cape trailing behind him. The spotlight revealed the cape to be actually a banner in which fans wrote in their messages earlier.

Miyavi began his 2 hour performance with aptly enough, DAY 1 from his current self-titled album. Immediately the crowd went wild as fists were pumped in tune to the beat. Upping the ante was the rapid transition from STRONG to CHASE IT to the breathtaking SECRET. Others songs from his latest album (he performed all tracks with the exception of FREE WORLD) were all received with escalating enthusiasm.

In addition to the emotionally charged rendition of KIMI NI NEGAI WO mentioned above, Miyavi also performed older songs such as WHAT’S MY NAME, SELFISH LOVE, and FUTURISTIC LOVE. His take that night on CHILLIN’ CHILLIN’ MONEY BLUES was a standout as it displayed his mastery of different styles after wowing us with the Spanish guitar-esque elegance of GUARD YOU just a few songs earlier.

In between songs, Miyavi regaled us with pep talk. As with his lyrics, he urged the audience to keep pushing forward in life with chins proudly lifted up.  He also spoke about the value of self-improvement. His MCs were always peppered with words of encouragement. Miyavi could actually make a lucrative sideline as a motivational speaker 🙂

And then there were the light moments which made the live even more endearing. Early into the live, Miyavi stopped his intro and sheepishly admitted that he made a mistake. He said it has been quite a while since he performed live and then he made “that movie”.  The live had to be paused briefly again when Miyavi had to take his special candy for this throat. He was after all still recovering from the surgery he had last Christmas. During this time, he directed attention to Bobo. The boxer clad drummer refused to speak but Miyavi egged him on. He relented by whispering “Xièxiè” to the microphone. Everyone laughed and Bobo, after being counseled by Miyavi, leaned into the mic again and said “Terima kasih”.

The funniest bit happened during the encore MCs.  As he thanked Bobo, he recalled how certain “rumors” were spread about them. His spiel went something like this:

Always us two men on stage, Bobo and I, that we were mistaken to be gay.  Can’t really blame them as I used to wear too much make up with the hair and was wearing see-through outfits. But let me clarify it right now:

Not gay.

I mean, I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with being gay. It’s just that even if I am gay, (points at Bobo), I WOULDN’T CHOOSE HIM.

Yep, Miyavi threw Bobo under a bus and it was freaking hilarious. Bobo just retaliated with a deadpan look.

The live ended with Miyavi promising to come back and to keep on improving. The rest of the audience was ushered out as holders of the meet and greet passes were asked to line up at the side of the venue.

The meet and greet was actually very orderly. Fans were allowed to enter in groups of five but would the face Miyavi alone (save for the staff and crew). Its only flaw? Me.

You see, because I was so disoriented and awkward that night, this happened:

Me: Hi, I’m Nerissa from the Philippines!
Miyavi: Oh Philippines! I also want to go to the Philippines. (gestures as if asking me how to spell my name)
Nerissa: N-e-r-i-s-s-a. I look forward to seeing you live in the Philippines someday! (grabs CD then starts to walk away)
Miyavi: (couldn’t understand well what he said but it sounds like “Tell everyone”)
Nerissa: (confused) Yeah, sure. (walks fast)
Miyavi: (as told by my friend) o_O

I still had much time left to speak with him but as I got strangely paranoid that I would be dragged out by security, I foolishly cut our interaction too short! I walked out on Miyavi while he was still talking to me! Argh. But as another friend said, at least I made an impression right? As rock stars are more used to fans mobbing them, I bet it’s rare they encounter ones who couldn’t hardly wait to get out of their sight asap. ORZ. Then again, it’s just another memory from this live which I wouldn’t be forgetting for a quite a while.

Thank you Miyavi for an astounding night. Until the next live! Really looking forward seeing you in Manila. I promise to not walk out on you again! My nerves should know better by then!

Thank you #Malaysia! ツアー初日マレーシア、無事にROCKED ON!!!!!! w/ @bobodrums #SlapTheWorldTour2014

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LIVE REPORT: VAMPS at Hyper Wave Festival in Jakarta (November 29, 2013)

OMFG. We were THIS close to HYDE. He was like only 15 feet away! And those pants! Blessed be those pants. Any lower and they should be censored! But we could totally see HYDE’s abdominal muscles rippling as he languidly glided on stage! And yeah, v-muscle galore! adaflkjd;ljdf;ad;fk;adfkaldfkadjsfla;sdkf;asdkf’afdhfl;ajdf;adf;ad’kf;ad

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And now that we have the spazzing out of the way… on with the actual live report.

I arrived at the venue around 5pm and was very much pleased that the venue looked more organized compared to how it was during the OOR live barely a week ago. I was also overly relieved if not a tad surprised that the line was tolerably short. Granted that there were 3 ticket classes: VIP (where I was), Festival and Regular, the fact that only about 20 people separated me from the entrance made all the agonizing I did all day seemed useless. (I couldn’t take the day off from the office because we had training that I myself organized.)

Still, my relief was short-lived for mere minutes after I arrived, intense thunder and lightning happened. Pretty soon, heavy rains were upon us. This was no drizzle similar to what happened during OOR but still no one was giving up their spot even after the parking lot started flooding a bit.

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Ubrellas were hardly useful so we had no choice but to buy uber expensive plastic bags in the shape of rain coats.

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We at the VIP hardly felt VIP no more because our line was situated at muddy terrain. Later on, we would end up walking through shallow flood water then even through more mud. I ended up watching the live with slushy feet. My shoes were barely recognizable after all the abuse. Buy hey, all for the love of HYDE.

By around 6:30, we were finally allowed to enter the concert grounds. Everyone was gunning for the spot directly in front of HYDE but Yoan, Rej and I ran instead at KAZ’s side. There were much lesser people there so we get to enjoy front row view.

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At this point, I just want to clarify that there seemed to be no effort on the security’s part to hinder us from taking a few pictures which is why this post would be filled with them. There wasn’t also any announcement, to the best of my knowledge, that picture taking was not allowed. But no, I did not record full performances. If I want to see VAMPS through a screen, I should have just saved my shoes from ruin and watched a concert DVD at home.

There were 3 acts before VAMPS. The first of which was DJ Han (?) from Japan.  I wasn’t able to catch his name but noted that he always added the “from Japan” when referring to himself 🙂 He had the audience warming up to his remixed versions of Coldplay, Linkin Park and Oasis songs.

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Next was P.R.I.D.E. This band had nice stage presence and eclectic in their choice of songs. After an English song which was unfortunately, I was not familiar with, they performed rock covers of 2 Michael Jackson songs, one of which was Earth Song. Very cool. For their second to the last song, they had me jumping in glee upon hearing the first few bars. I shouted “Clock Strikes! Clock Strikes!!” during which the vocalist pointed at me and had a laugh. Hearing an OOR song during a VAMPS gig even if it’s just a cover? Still surrealistic.  Plus it brought back feels from the OOR live earlier. P.R.I.D.E. ended their set with a song that had people shouting “Indonesia!” several times.

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Then came Pee Wee Gaskin. By this time, the audience was overly excited to see VAMPS which could perhaps explain why the reception to this band was somewhat lukewarm. And then the vocalist just had to trip over a wire or something even before they started their first song. Unlike P.R.I.D.E., Pee Wee Gaskin performed their original songs (I think. The songs were all in Bahasa Indonesian). Halfway through their set, some people were already shouting “We want VAMPS”. This guy beside us even shouted repeatedly “Haido, hayaku hayaku onegaishimasu” to that effect. Sorry dude, but that was just very rude of you. After playing for about 30 minutes, Pee Wee Gaskin concluded with another song which, lo and behold, had chants of “Indonesia!’ in the lyrics again.

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Finally, VAMPS right? Right? No. What followed was a meticulous setting up that seemed to last forever 🙂 VAMPS crew began their overhaul by blowing smoke on stage. Disinfectant? Just kidding. Then they stripped and fastened stuff here and there. The stage had some slippery parts because of the rain so the crew scrubbed, dried and made hazard-free the whole thing. Some last minute sound checks then some guy turning his flashlight on and off as a signal to the folks at the projectionists side and they were off the stage.

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9:25PM came and the damp clothes and muddy feet ceased to matter. VAMPS was at long last on stage.

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The boys opened the show with yay LIFE ON MARS? Each had their own little platforms but fortunately for us, KAZ, Ju-Ken and most especially HYDE shuffled places once in a while.

The first time HYDE glided in front of us, my heart leaped to my throat.

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My initial impressions upon seeing VAMPS up close: the ever stoic KAZ could be very loquacious when he lets his guitar speaks for him while both Jin and Arimatsu did their best not to blend in with the background. Ju-ken, on the other hand, was quite the attention grabber and had the most “wild rocker” presence of the four.

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As for HYDE, I couldn’t quite place it but it seemed to me that for the first half of the live, he was a bit detached and – please don’t hate me for this – performed rather idly. He sauntered across the stage like a lazy feline with the confidence of someone who knows that he could just stand there reading a laundry list and the audience would still lap it all up.

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LIFE ON MARS? was followed by what I actually expected to be their opening song DEVIL SIDE and then REDRUM. Around this time, HYDE shouted Jakarta a lot and the sound was distorted making his voice eerie and there were echoes too.

What came next was VAMPS’ latest single REPLAY. This got us really hyped up.

AHEAD intro. Still from #VAMPSJKT. I should really get to writing the live report by today.

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VAMPS followed it up with a subdued rendition of THE PAST and MY FIRST LAST before having everyone bobbing their heads to VAMPIRE DEPRESSION.

Then came HYDE’s MC. He said something about eating I think because the audience just started shouting “Nasi goreng! Nasi goreng!” and then about devouring some fans.

HYDE's MC #VAMPSJKT

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The energy hiked up exponentially when VAMPS segued to HUNTING. It was also when HYDE also uttered the most quotable quote that night: “Where’s malam?” 🙂 He’s actually saying “Where’s my lamb?” but it came out sounding as if he’s looking for the night as malam translates to evening in Bahasa Indonesian. And yes, I finally sensed the naughty, overwhelmingly sexual and hyperactive stage presence of HYDE that I had been missing.

Then the live just went full throttle. The audience has gotten really wide as well. We were all jumping as VAMPS moved from AHEAD to ANGEL TRIP (in English!) to TROUBLE. It was really a head-scratcher for me when VAMPS opted to do a cover of this song but hearing it live made me appreciate it. It was really fun jumping along to each “Oh, oh, we’re in trouble”.

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The band closed off their main set with the infectious LOVE ADDICT.

Right after they exited the stage, we immediately shouted “Encore! Encore!”. The band took their time coming out so we moved on to “BANG ON STOMP EVERYBODY!” That proved to be the magic words as VAMPS kicked off their encore with REVOLUTION II

BANG ON! STOMP EVERYBODY!! #VAMPSJKT

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REVOLUTION had us all shouting and stomping so it was a relief that VAMPS opted to mellow it down with SWEET DREAMS.

Short clip of SWEET DREAMS from #VAMPSJKT Good night everyone!

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VAMPS afterwards gifted us with another entry in our wishlist: MEMORIES! Just like Angel Trip, they performed this song in English.

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Insanity then ensued as they closed the show with SEX, BLOOD, ROCK and ROLL. It was a song that could go on and on but of course it didn’t. Still it was a very satisfying ending. VAMPS Live at Hyper Wave Festival started with a slow burn but ended with everyone on fire. And for his parting words, HYDE gave an endearing promise: “I’ll see you soon.”

I will DEFINITELY see you again soon. Let it be in the Philippines please.

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Random memories from the live:

  • the Japanese fan who wore a VAMPS bikini for the entire duration of the show
  • HYDE and Ju-ken throwing bras to the audience. HYDE even put one on top of his hat.
  • Two of KAZ’s pics landing behind me. Yoan’s friend competed hard with another fan for the first one but effortless caught the second one. And he also won the meet and greet raffle earlier! Lucky guy
  • THIS SONG. It must have played a gazillion times that night so it still haunts me up to today. Honestly, I sometimes find myself singing it out of the blue.

Now good luck your way getting that song out of your head 🙂 Here are more VAMPS porn snapshots as a countermeasure:

P.S. Please don’t repost them somewhere else without credit ne? Learn to source.

 

LIVE REPORT: ONE OK ROCK “Who are you?? Who are we??” Tour Live in Jakarta (November 24, 2013)

ONE OK ROCK Weekend Part 2: Welcome to Jakarta!

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THE GOOD

The boys killed it again!

ONE OK ROCK made their Indonesian debut via an intense live jam-packed with gripping moments belying the fact that this is actually their 11th stop in a whirlwind tour spanning 2 continents. I myself have barely recovered from the physically straining Singapore live but Boss Toru and the gang hardly showed signs of fatigue, running across the stage and headbanging like crazy.

The setlist is similar to that of Singapore’s but as artists feed off the response of their audience, Indonesians gifted OOR with a reception that was equally stunning as the band’s performance thus giving this particular live its own special blend of awesomeness. OORJKT had a more give and take between performer and audience.

I didn’t make it to front row this time (more on this later) but I was able to see the whole stage and it has allowed me to really appreciate ONE OK ROCK’s production in totality. For instance, I didn’t mind it before, but the stage lighting for was really good. Like during the first verse of Be the Light, soft beams of white light bathed Taka from all directions before giving way to a cacophony of yellow and blue as the song builds it dramatic tension. The lighting turned helter skelter during the really hard-hitting songs like Deeper Deeper and NO SCARED which complimented very well how the boys turned the stage into their very own playground. And watching these boys play was really a sight to behold.

I was in awe with how well coordinated their movements were. It was not as if they seemed rehearsed with proper timing and all that. The band was well coordinated in a way that there was no instance of a single member stealing the show for himself. Taka was of course front and center but from where I was, it was absolutely stunning how Toru, Tomoya and Ryota held their own. Each had their quirks: Taka liked raising both his arms wide open (his wingspan was impressive); Ryota (who’s hair was tied back for most parts of the show) tend to keep his feet far apart and when he’s really into it, appeared like he’s doing the split while pounding on his bass; Toru (who was wearing a sleeveless top) got twitchy sometimes and Tomoya banged on his drums with that adorably goofy expression of his. Seen together, their antics seemed like a response to the action of another band member. And their headbanging was in sync! It was amazing! At one point, they banged their heads in perfect unison continuously, Ryota and Toru at equal distance from Taka at the center who seemed to be directing the whole ensemble with his left arm. Ryota and Toru had each of their feet far apart, their bottoms at a very low angle and as Taka waved his left arm back and forth, their heads would follow. It was as if all three of them were jackhammering the floor. I wonder how they deal with neck and back aches because mine certainly needs tending.

The band spoke Bahasa during their MCs but Taka used English during his spiels in between songs. Ryota told everyone he liked nasi goreng and even sang a few lines from what I would later learn to be the Indonesian national anthem. Tomoya exclaimed his love for bakmi while Toru urged the crowd to go crazy. Taka made the same requests: lie low then jump for Let’s Take It Someday and for us to sing WOHOHO to Answer is Near. There was a variation though. After a few rounds of WOHOHO, Taka shifted to TARARARA which is actually pretty amusing.

With each request, the crowd responded in full vigor. Indonesian fans, hands down, are so awe-inspiring. Their response to L’Arc~en~Ciel’s live during #LarukuJKT was very overwhelming and the Indonesian live of MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM was the stuff of legends. In OOR’s live, they delivered the same passion. Hands never left the air, always swaying if not clapping hard. From the first song to the encore, the crowd sang their hearts out. Immediately after the band left the stage after The Beginning, chants of “WE WANT MORE” pierced the air and continued for some time. And then the shouts shifted to “ANKORU, ANKORU!”. Just like in Singapore, WOHOHO was also heard. ONE OK ROCK then rewarded these by coming back with Taka holding the Indonesian flag! He waved it all around before draping it on his back. Earlier he said, “Jakarta, we will definitely come back” (*squeal*) and he reiterated it with more conviction this time around. He then placed the Indonesian flag in front of Tomoya’s drums before launching into a goosebump inducing rendition of WHEREVER YOU ARE. What made it so? The audience. Good Lord, that was awesome. The crowd sang in unison, their voices ringing loud and clear that it almost drowned out Taka’s. And it did not waver, down to the final “Wherever You Are ..”. Someone upload an official video of this quick.

Taka concluded WHEREVER YOU ARE by facing Tomaya and placing his left foot over the drums. He held this pose with both arms extended wide as the other 3 finished off the song. And then all of them went to center of the stage to bow at the audience signaling that the live was really over. With that, my ONE OK ROCK weekend also reached its finale.

THE BAD

I am really, REALLY pissed off with how the organizers handled crowd control during entrance to the venue. It was sloppy, amateurish and overall, a direct F*** YOU to the concept of lining up.

Squeezing into the train during rush hour was a more blissful experience compared to getting inside Lapangan Parkir Renang Senayan where the OORJKT live was held. To think I actually enjoyed waiting despite the shifts in weather because excitement was in the air all throughout. It just so happened that shit hit the fan when the gates finally opened.

As I was still very sore due to Singapore’s epic moshing and stayed up all night writing the live report, I arrived 11:30AM at the venue, rather late in comparison to my 7:15AM arrival at Hard Rock Cafe in Sentosa. I was already very content with the spot I got in SG so I wouldn’t mind being a bit far from the stage this time.

As expected, many people were already ahead of me. Quite a number were just loitering around while many were slopped down in front of the entrance. I took my place at the end of the “line” and ate my brunch.

It rained after a while and still no one budged.

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More and more people started arriving as the hours dripped by. Krystle and her friends arrived after lunch and by that time, an impenetrable wall of people were surrounding me so they couldn’t come over to where I was.

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But the wait was really enjoyable. I amused myself gawking at the OOR-inspired garb almost everyone was wearing, from shirts to caps to pins to bandannas. I just hoped the band’s management didn’t mind all these unofficial stuff going around so much. I also chatted with a few other fans stuck with me.

I was particularly impressed with the ONE OK ROCK Bandung group. They were everywhere and all of them proudly wore something that screamed ONE OK ROCK Bandung. They even led us into singing OOR songs. During the live itself, they had a giant banner facing the band.

Later on, I had no choice but to get out of the formation as I really need to pee. Fortunately, I was located near the direction towards the toilet so I was able so squeeze my way out. Even more fortunate, the band started rehearsing and the toilet’s entrance offered a good view of the stage! Thanks to my height, I saw Ryota and Tomoya without needing to climb fences.

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I then went back in “line” and enjoyed listening to the rest of rehearsals. Amazingly, the band rehearsed many songs, even finishing some of them. The crowd sang along and erupted into cheers each time a song finished.

The weather turned hot (but not as terrible as the weather was in Singapore). Still, it was a bit uncomfortable. The collective sigh from everyone could actually be heard loud each time a breeze was felt.

By 5PM, everyone was on their feet. There wasn’t any space to sit down anyway. People started chanting “OPEN GATE! OPEN GATE!” The number of people has since swelled and the those in front of me had somehow tripled (WTF).

5:30PM the gate finally opened and mismanagement reigned. The moment the gate was opened, people from all directions made a beeline towards it, including those who were just loitering at the sides. Those who were in front of the supposed “line” were lucky because they were able to avoid the pandemonium (I hope). But for those who were originally just 10 rows away from the gate, we had to battle it out with people who just came out from nowhere. There was no line. Just a huge mass of people aiming to pass thru a narrow gap in the steel railings. When I finally got close enough to the “gate” 30 freaking minutes later, I saw that the guards were basically just dragging people in. And then they opened 2 more openings on either sides thus allowing those who skipped through the original “line” to go ahead.

There was also no proper waste disposal so not only was there moshing already at the entrance, there were shit tons of discarded water bottles too.

Inside the bag checking area, there was finally a semblance of control, i.e. hello line. I looked back at the railing and was glad to finally escape this:

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I skipped the photo wall and was greeted by…. vast amount of space.

Inside, there were food stalls and portable toilets which was located far away from the stage. It was really thoughtful of the organizers to put these amenities up so people can hang around here as they waited for the band to show up. Then again, who am I kidding???? It would have been better if these kiosks were placed outside so people can enjoy them while waiting. I was desperate for food earlier and there wasn’t much options outside. Why can’t these be outside?

And then another major pet peeve. THE GOODS KIOSK WAS ALSO INSIDE THE VENUE. Viewers then were given the option of: buy goods upon entering and risk finding a good spot or find a good spot now and risk having your chosen good sold out. Someone from Manila requested that I buy goods for her so I lined up. I also wanted to get a hoodie and as it was not available in SG, I took my chances here.

This was the view from my spot at the line at the goods. Note how the space in front of the stage was already filled up.  There was no hoodie available as well. The lady there explained that it already sold out during the earlier lives.

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By the time I reached the stage area, I had this view:

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Pissed off, thirsty and in need of fresh air, I gave up my spot and retreated way back to clear my head. I was in a foul mood and ready to punch just about anyone so I had to get away. I found a good space behind the control booth which allowed me to see the whole stage and observe the audience as well so I just stayed there for the duration of the live.

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It turned out to be a good decision in the end because there was plenty of space for me to jump. Besides, I had the pleasure of being near two of the most unlikely concert goers: an elderly Japanese guy who danced his way to every song (he was really, really enthusiastic I found myself just watching him sometimes) and a 9 month old baby in the arms of her dad. It was obvious her mom was the bigger fan as she had her eyes glued to the stage. But seriously, while I believe in early exposure to the good stuff, this baby clearly needed to be sleeping at home and that giant ear mufflers her parents placed on her head were useless.

Another major gripe I have about the event was the sound system. It was a bit terrible. From where I was, Taka’s mic sounded so loud that it drowned out the instruments. Hence, I could hear every intake of breath he did. When Toru did his guitar solo, it was obvious that the system could use some clearing up as the sound was cracked. It did sounded that Toru missed a note but it could also be the speaker cracking up.

Finally, there was this and Jakarta actually got it right: as I was double-checking the items I bought before coming home, I noticed something different from the shirt I just bought to the one I am wearing which I got in Singapore.

Nevermind the difference in color as that’s just the lighting. The one on the right was the shirt I bought during the Singapore live, the one on the left was freshly bought in Jakarta. The Singapore shirt has a tag of the shirt brand (GILDAN) and said “Made in Bangladesh”. The Jakarta shirt doesn’t have a tag but has this printed inside: the band’s logo, tour name and the words OFFICIAL MERCHANDISE.

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To be clear, I am not insinuating that either of these shirts is unofficial. It’s just that I find it odd that this difference existed. Both shirts seemed to me to be of the same quality, appearance-wise. Wash and wear would eventually determine if there is indeed any disparity in quality. Truth be told, I would have preferred it if the Singapore shirt was more like the Jakarta shirt. And of course, if only the hoodie was available in all countries!

Now, with all that out of the way, I officially close my ONE OK ROCK weekend. Thank you to ONE OK ROCK and to all of those I’ve experienced this amazing cross-country adventure with.

Next tour, I’ll watch them in Japan for sure. Until then, time to get ready for VAMPS this coming Friday.

LIVE REPORT: ONE OK ROCK “Who are you?? Who are we??” Tour Live in Singapore (November 22, 2013)

ONE OK ROCK Weekend Part 1: Hello Singapore!

THE BEGINNING

The time: 7:15 AM (yes, morning). The place: Hard Rock Hotel in Sentosa. I took my place at the end of a still short queue and braced myself for the monumental wait ahead. The live was still 13 hours away. The people in front of me arrived 3AM, some even 6PM the day before. Ah the things we do for love.

Fortunately, Tsu and Sharon arrived a few minutes later. We passed the time talking about random stuff and people watching. But the hours moved…ever….so….slowwwwwwwly. The temperature was climbing too: from a tolerable 29°C to a sweltering 32°C. There were even moments wherein we felt there was no air circulating.

Around noon time, more and more people had arrived. The line was already snaking around the waiting area. People are getting more restless too as coupled with the heat, there was lesser space to move. We were all sweating like pigs.

Soundcheck began and we were treated to the voice of someone who must have had discovered the microphone for the first time. I had no idea checking the microphones would be such an arduous task. He was making these strange noises as if calling out to the fishes at the nearby marina (think Finding Nemo). He kept at it for hours! The guitars were tuned, then the drums. Then he was at it again! Around 4PM though, we heard the unmistakable voice of Taka. The band was rehearsing “Be The Light” and we could hear it very clearly. That lifted everyone’s spirit up. I saw smiles albeit weary ones.

The Singaporean ST passed around a banner and a notebook for everyone to sign on. A photographer from LAMC productions asked around for anyone who wants to have their picture taken. Familiars faces popped up. I saw Jac again and met the L’Arc~en~Ciel Singaporean Street Team. Someone opened a purple L’Arc~en~Ciel umbrella as a girl toting a VAMPS bag passed by. Marshals kept the line intact as tourists wondered what’s with this mass of sweaty individuals, mostly wearing black with skulls on it, were up to.

At 5PM (?), the goods kiosks finally opened. The skull wearing people were now joined by more skull wearing people and even those wearing a druid design. I got myself another shirt (skulls!) and after a moment’s hesitation, a copy of OOR’s latest album. Sharon got a skulls shirt too. It’s amusing because earlier on we were both decided on getting the druid version.

And then we waited some more.

7PM came and HOLY SHIT, THIS IS IT. We were finally ushered into the venue. We ran ahead and landed at this spot: 3rd row, between Taka and Toru’s positions. In other words: PERFECTION.

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We still have an hour to go before the boys get onstage but that’s nothing considering how long we had already been waiting. What got me worried though was that even though the venue was open air, there was lack of air! There was little room to move and everyone’s sweat was mingling with someone else’s. Thankfully, the production people gave us cups of water to pass around and they kept this up all throughout the live.

A few minutes more til 8PM and final soundchecks were made. The guy tuning Toru’s guitar was really good. And he even checked the drums! Made us wonder though if he was also the one “toying” with the mike earlier. I didn’t wonder long because my heart just skipped a beat. All the lights went out. The crew shuffled out of the stage. The live was about to begin.

THE LIVE

At approximately 10 minutes past 8PM, ONE OK ROCK hit the Singapore stage with a stirring performance of Ending Story?? It was stirring because by the time they reached the chorus, the audience had become a whirlpool. Toru hovered over me, just 10 feet away but I couldn’t concentrate because I was worried of being crushed. I’m not entirely sure how it happened but the crowd started swerving from left to right. I literally toppled over the people right next to me only to be pushed back towards the other direction. This went on for quite a while and it was actually very frightening.

Deeper Deeper followed and the girl in front of me signaled that she felt faint. The people around her including me waved frantically to the crew to get her out. One of the big burly bouncers lifted her to safety. Later on, about 2-3 more people were carried out in the same fashion.

The human whirlpool settled down a bit as the band segued to Nothing Helps. Then they sang C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h. and the swaying was reduced to the hands only. I was finally able to gawk at Toru and Taka. Ryota’s abs and the rest of him occasionally ventured to our side too. They were so close! They’ve also gotten bajillion times hotter since the last time I saw them.

Much like last year, Taka asked everyone squat down as an intro to Let’s take it someday. He had to repeat the request several times before the crowd exhibited a semblance of compliance. Taka, you have to understand. There was no space for us to move. We did do our best though to jump.

It all literally became a blur to me after that. Literally and figuratively. My glasses had fogged up and I was so afraid to remove them knowing that if my clammy hands dropped them, they would turn to dust in a hearbeat. (Note to self: get contacts for succeeding lives).

As for the band itself, they were flawless. Their energy was bountiful and their showmanship was superb. Perfect form all throughout. I must also give special mention to Taka’s voice. It has gotten steadier and it’s amazing how he can sustain it as he growled and reached long notes. The emotions he poured into each song was very tangible. At one point, (can’t remember if it was during C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h. or Be The Light), he achingly sang the final notes of the song as he crouched down to the floor. He remained in fetal position for quite a while, as if in anguish. Then he walked off to the side of the stage and wiped his face with a fluffy white towel. It was mesmerizing.

Their performance of Be The Light was especially poignant for me. Toru shifted to an acoustic guitar and he silenced the rowdy crowd with just the initial chords. As we all know, this song was in memory of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. As OOR performed the song, I thought of my country, the Philippines, and prayed that just like what the song says, our nation, especially the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, would find the strength in our hearts to start anew and “keep it up and not give up, with out heads held high“.

The band followed it up with LIAR and boy, what a complete turn around in emotions. As Tsu empathically said, “NERISSA, IT’S YOUR SONG!” Indeed, it was and I sang it with full vigor.

Taka made another request prior to Answer is Near. He asked us to do the WOHOHO a few times with a few variations. These guys surely know how to keep the crowd hyper. Sometime before or after this segment, the boys did their MCs. Basically, their MCs were different ways of saying that the Singapore crowd was FUCKING AWESOME! Impressively, their English had improved a lot. It also seemed that they were not reading off as script just like last year. Ah but Tomoya stole the show when he introduced himself. I don’t know why but he was wearing a nose clip which was probably why when he introduced himself, he had a really strangely cute voice, almost like a toddler who knows how to get his way.  If only someone was able to clearly record his “Hello, I am Tomoya”, I would make it my message alert tone immediately.

Toru and Ryota had their moments too. No, make that TORU AND RYOTA HAD A MOMENT. It bugs me that I cannot remember for which song it was for but the two of them had a guitar duel of sorts. Toru ran to Ryota’s side and they exchanged a few rifts, face to face. Ryota would surge forward and Toru would meet him head on. And then…and then they touched their foreheads. Or at least it seemed that way. They continued with their duel, faces just inches apart. Elsewhere in the venue, fanfics were being hatched and fan arts were being scheduled.

A few more electrifying performances later, Taka took to the mike and said, “In Japanese, ok?” He then went into a lengthy spiel  which mentioned “kokoro” a lot. Forgive me, that’s the only word I understood. He ended it in English: “This is our last song: The Beginning”. It was no question that OOR’s fanbase really swelled after they were given the opportunity to record Rurouni Kenshin’s theme. The Beginning had endeared them to a wider audience hence when Taka introduced it, the crowd erupted even more. We were in unison as we sang our hearts out, even as the band members exited the stage.

They came back moments later to finally close the show with a gut-wrenching performance of Wherever You Are. What a beautiful moment and what a fantastic show!

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED

All throughout the show, I was carrying the banner brought over by Michelle and Mariz featuring the messages from Philippine fans. I raised it up whenever a band member leaned over, long enough for him to see what it says but still in consideration of the people behind me. As the live wounded down, the Singaporean ST gave their banners to the band. They were just in front of me so I asked if they can give the Philippine banner as well. I forwarded it to a girl who then promptly threw it to the stage. Ryota saw what happened and he laughed. He then went over to pick up the banner and scanned the contents. I only learned later that while this was happening, Taka caught a red thong as it was thrown to the stage. I didn’t witness any of that as my eyes were transfixed to Ryota as he was holding our banner. He showed it to Tomoya and then both of them raised it over their heads. There on the stage, Ryota and Tomoya were brandishing a banner saying “We want ONE OK ROCK in the Philippines” with all our messages written around it. Taka then asked them what they were holding and Ryota said “Philippines”. Probably realizing that it should have said Singapore, Ryota and Tomoya sheepishly brought down the banner. But that’s fine. All is fine with the world. ONE OK ROCK has our banner. Mission accomplished.

THE AFTERMATH

My hair was matted to my face and my shirt was drenched not only with my own sweat but also of the people around me. My legs were like jelly and my whole body felt as if it had run a marathon. I looked like a mess but instead I was gleaming. The grueling waiting period, the brush with heatstroke and being caught in a human whirlpool were all worth it. ONE OK ROCK was worth it.

And yes, I would do it all over again. In a few hours from the time of this writing actually. ONE OK ROCK Weekend Part 2: Welcome to Jakarta is happening later today and I really should be sleeping right now.

A few more random observations before I hit the sack:

  • The band members bow to the audience after almost every song. Wow.
  • Taka remained looking pristine as we all sweat like pigs, even his co-members. He looked so radiant and fresh all throughout the live it was so unfair. Must be because he was wearing a loose shirt with the sleeves cut off? But Ryota was half naked and he was all sweaty too. And then there was Toru, darling Toru. He was wearing a black V neck shirt which clung to his torso as he was very sweaty. So sweaty in fact that crew members had to wipe his sweat off the floor sometimes. Haha. I don’t know about Tomoya but he looked comfy on his throne.
  • There was no hoodie on sale despite being listed as official goods. Then again, considering how hot and humid that day was, selling a hoodie was ludicrous.
  • I wasn’t able to see them before or after the live like last year 😦 Too dead tired to conspire with the universe. Perhaps in Jakarta? 😛

Finally, the setlist courtesy of @ONEOKROCK_SG:

  1. Intro: Where idiot should go-
  2. Ending Story??
  3. Deeper Deeper
  4. Nothing Helps
  5. C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h.
  6. Let’s take it someday
  7. Jibun ROCK
  8. Clock Strikes
  9. Be the light
  10. Liar
  11. Answer Is Near
  12. NO SCARED
  13. Re:make
  14. Kanzen Kankaku Dreamer
  15. The Beginning
  16. Encore: Wherever you are
top photo grabbed from LAMC Production's Instagram
top photo grabbed from LAMC Production’s Instagram