Tag Archives: Alice Nine

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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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!!!

NO MUSIC NO REASON

Music has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. High school was a breeze because of top40 hits. Then as I got older, my taste became, shall I say it, more refined. I survived all-nighters in college with my eyes on the computer and Rage Against the Machine blaring on my ear. In my college thesis, I almost included Radiohead, Nirvana and Silverchair on the acknowledgement page as they helped me get thru tons of research and re-writes.

And then I discovered jrock and as they say, my life has never been the same.

It all began with a mixtape.

My younger brother brought home a compilation of anime theme songs given to him by a classmate. I’m  a big fan of anime so he lent it to me. To be honest, I’ve never bothered with the theme songs before as I’m guilty of skipping the opening credits. But lo and behold, amidst the confetti of jpop fluff I discovered gems. That mixtape introduced me to the music of Siam Shade, Asian Kung-fu Generation, and of course, to the 1 of only 2 bands I would ever admit of being a fangirl,  L’Arc~en~Ciel (in case you’re wondering, D’espairsRay is the other one but we’ll get to that later).

L'Arc~en~Ciel
Have Laruku, will follow

I owe it to that mixtape for introducing me to jrock. But what really immersed me hook, line, down to the damning sinker is the online forum Ongaku Society. Becoming a novice fan of jrock when one is tens of thousands kilometers away from Japan is tough, especially when my friends give me a blank stare every time I gush about a new song I discovered. Just imagine then my joy upon finding out that there is a site dedicated to Filipino fans of Japanese music. In the presence of peers, my fascination for jrock became a full-blown commitment.

Sadly, Ongaku Society is no more. The site was down for the longest time only to resurface without its most vital component: the forums. My memories though of the time spent lurking on the site remain intact to this day. For the longest time, Ongaku Society has become my one and only resource for jrock. It sated my appetite for all things L’Arc~en~Ciel and introduced me to the likes of Alice Nine, the GazettE and most importantly, D’espairsRay. I remember that visits to the Alice Nine and the GazettE threads were always a source of pure amusement to me. The said threads were always updated with the latest pictures and adorned with comments like “<insert band member’s name here> – sama!!!” I also owe it to those threads for expanding my vocabulary to include “ikemen” and “smexy”. Good times indeed.

I never stood a chance. Jrock-related stuff is actually part of my budget now. I made my first purchase in 2007: HYDE’s first and last album as a solo artist: Roetngen and Faith. I bought it off Amazon US as the American version of both albums were much cheaper. Then I learned about the wonders of Oricon and so I opted to buy my stuff on YesAsia and later on, CDJapan.

my first jrock loot
topmost was the actual box that encased my first jrock cds

There’s only one thing left really, and I’m fervently anticipating the day I get to complete the full jrock experience: to watch at least one of my favorite bands live. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I find it quite ironic that despite the Philippines and Japan being on the same continent, performances by Japanese acts are close to nil in my country. And for some reason, every time these bands embark on the a “world” tour, Asian countries are left out. Nevertheless, I’ll have my chance soon and I’ll be sure to faithfully document it here on SOLILOQUY.

So that’s just about it, my history as a jrock fan. If you have wandered into this site and have read up to this point, chances are we share the same affliction. The question now is, how did yours started?

(note: post title is courtesy of girugamesh from the album NOW)

single review–Stargazer (Alice Nine)

Stargazer_cover (1)

One fine day, the Alice Nine boys were all taking a breather in their office. While they are still riding high on the warm welcome received by Senkou, the boys were tired and close to burn out due to touring and preparations for their big concert at Nippon Budokan.

Then suddenly, Big Bad Record Executive made a grand entrance and broke the serene mood (Let’s hide him under the name, Mr. Satoh).

“Alright, boys” exclaimed the very giddy Mr. Satoh. “I say we strike while the iron is hot. We need to release another single soon.”

“But Satoh-sama,” pouted Shou “we’ve been extremely busy and hadn’t had time to create new material.”

Mr. Satoh became very livid causing both Shou and Hiroto to cower. Saga retreated in a corner, pretending to lick clean his bass guitar. Tora and Nao seemed unaffected.

“Preposterous! I know fully well that you have a stash of unreleased songs stored somewhere.” said Mr. Satoh. “Or you could very well start writing new ones. Think boys. Think! Or have the hair dyes finally seeped to your brains?”

All eyes were then directed to band leader Nao who first cleared his throat before muttering, “Well, I guess we could release Karma as a single. It was supposed to be on Vandalize but we had to let it go when we were told to trim down the tracklist.”

“But MUCC is already working on an album called Karma!” exclaimed the now-blonde Hiroto who has been fussing on his hair since Mr, Satoh remarked about the hair dye.

Mr. Satoh walked back and forth, “Don’t you have anything upbeat? Something fun and positive?”

Shou finally had the courage to speak up again, “How about STARLIGHT? We initially wrote it as the theme for Doraemon but the producers thought it was cheesy. Funny, the people behind Digimon said the same thing for Shinkirou.”

“STARLIGHT?” The wheels inside Mr. Satoh’s head seemed to be spinning on hyper mode. “That could work. But change the title to.. to Stargazer! Flower names as titles are a charm. Just think how many jrocks songs are named after that weed freesia.”

Shou was just about to protest on the name change but Mr. Satoh was already busy on the phone.

“Alright boys,” repeated the once again giddy Mr. Satoh. “Stargazer will be your new single. We’ll even add that Karma and that Shinkirou for good measure. Announcements are being posted online as we speak.”

And that, my friends, is the story of how Alice Nine’s Stargazer, undoubtedly one of the most disappointing and insipid releases of the year, came to be.

THE END

note: This work is entirely pure fiction, of course. In one interview, Shou shares that Stargazer was written with performing in Budokan in mind. However, as I was listening to the entire single, I can’t help but think of children’s anime hence the reference to Doreamon and Digimon.

I initially didn’t want to review the single but I needed to block out a very devastating news so I came up with this. I eschewed my usual way of reviewing but I believe the above still gets my point across.

maxi-single review – Senkou Type A (Alice Nine)

Alice Nine’s latest release is a fast-paced song marked by jaw-dropping guitar solos complemented with a vertigo-inducing pv to boot. Gritty and downright full of energy, Senkou stands as the malevolent twin to the band’s 2008 single, Mirrorball.

Save for the early inclusion of drumbeats in Senkou, the two songs seem to share the same intro. However, the comparison ends there. While Mirrorball was a soaring number infused with tempered pop sensibilities, Senkou is a genuine head-banger. Nao pounds on the drum like there’s no tomorrow while Hiroto and Tora outdo each other in letting loose rifts from hell. A few moments after Senkou hits its second minute, all semblance of restraint dissipates and we are treated to an aural orgy of awesomeness. I do have one pet-peeve though: Shou blundered his way singing the English lyrics but they are more discomfiting when read: “When swan sings lost song / The time for walk with you, I loved…… When I sings your song / At the end of the world, I loved…… When swan sings lost song / The time for walk with you, I loved.” (I swear that’s how exactly there were written in the booklet).

The second track, Le Grand Bleu picks up where Senkou lefts off. Frenetic drumming and guitar rifts open the song before launching into a full assault on the senses. Le Grand Bleu takes you in, dangles you all around, slows down by a notch then goes all out again. Furthermore, the addition of a second voice right around the chorus provides a very fascinating contrast. It’s an effort keeping up with the song’s helterskelter vibe but overall, Le Grand Bleu is a very rousing number and an apt progress from Senkou.

Solar Eclipse, on the other hand, features a prominent bass and some nifty guitar shredding but for some reason, I’m drawn to this song because of Shou’s vocals. To be honest, I’ve always been ambivalent towards his singing. Sometimes he sounds as if there’s something in his throat. In Solar Eclipse though, he is in full control. It’s difficult to stand out when you have guitarists dueling around you but Shou managed to hold his ground. I’m impressed by how he was able to shift from soft vocals to a more commanding one, even more so when he let out that high note 3:16 into the song.

The final track, Namida no Aru Basho, is a bit of a downer and it’s not because it’s a ballad. Alice Nine has released emotionally-charged slows songs before but this one sounds uninspired and dragging in some parts. Suffice it is to say, Namida no Aru Basho felt already empty even before catharsis sets in. After all the exhilaration provoked by the first 3 tracks, it would have been nice if a powerful yet soothing track winds it all down. Unfortunately, Namida no Aru Basho didn’t quite live up to it.

That aside, Senkou the maxi-single is a highly recommended release. It’s not just a glint. It’s a glistening fireball.

we are coming to you live (via streaming)!

As I start writing this piece, the stage is being set up for MUCC’s performance at this year’s Jack in the Box. They’re the final act of the night and the crowd’s energy is palpitating like mad. Then suddenly the stage lights up. MUCC appears and the familiar strains of their hit FUZZ is heard. The crowd goes wild. And I got to savor it all – in real time, at the comfort of my own home about 2,966 km away.

Welcome to the wonders of live streaming.

Jack in the Box 2010

Thanks to the emergence of sites like myspace and ustream, fans like me from other countries could now attend jrock concerts albeit in the virtual sense. In fact, Jack in the Box is just the latest to join a rapidly increasing list of events being broadcasted live via the internet.  Two days ago, I was rocking with Miyavi in ustream for his Screaming Out from Tokyo tour. About a month before that, I joined a legion of hyperventilating fangirls who were singing along with VAMPS in their free live at Roponggi.

What makes the experience different from watching the performance in say, a YouTube upload, is that since it’s live, you get to enjoy it untainted by comments/reviews from fans who were fortunate enough to attend the actual concert. And as I’ve mentioned a while back, you get to savor the moment together with those who are in the venue itself. You get to be one with them in anticipating for the next act or the next song, share their slight annoyance over technical difficulties and their amusement over an epic blooper that no DVD offshoot could give justice to. Via live streaming, the excitement is not just contained in the club or stadium alone but is spread out across the globe.

Live streamings hold even greater significance for us fans from countries that have slim chances of being included in a world tour itinerary. It’s our only chance to wholly experience the visual in visual kei. It won’t be an audacity to think then that I’m not the only one that’s extremely grateful for the opportunity. I’m sure nothing beats experiencing a live in the venue itself but for now, this would do. And besides, at least we don’t have to worry about our feet being stomped on or someone’s elbow hitting us in the face. Our biggest concern is the speed of our internet connection but that’s another story already 🙂