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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!)

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

The wind was cold, bitingly so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the stage went dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To think this is only day 1.

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!!!

LIVE REPORT: L’Arc~en~Ciel 20th L’Anniverary World Tour Live in Hong Kong (March 03, 2012)

FROM HOSPITAL TO HONG KONG: L’ADVENTURE DAY 1

Armed with my doctors’ clearance and sheer determination, I made it to Hong Kong around 9:30 in the morning, a day before the concert. I actually didn’t think I could make it considering that I just had a major surgery more than 2 weeks ago but I’ve planning for this since last year and everything has been laid out. Besides, this unique opportunity to see one of my favorite bands live had fortified my will to get better in the speediest time possible.

Upon arrival, I immediately set out to Asia World Expo to claim my ticket. The box office had yet to open and there was already a really, really long line. Apparently, pre-sale for Lady Gaga’s May live was on the same day. I went to customer service instead but was told that even though I’m just going to claim my already paid-for ticket, I still need to line up. Staff at the end of the line then gave me my stub: No. 248. Great.

Two hours later and I’m still far off from the box office. Lady Gaga’s fans were also getting more irate as tickets were running out fast. I asked a guard if there’s some other way to claim my ticket and was more than ready to play the sick card. However, he promptly instructed me to wait in a corner for the Lady Gaga pre-sale to be over. While waiting, I bumped into other L’Arc fans: May and Ming from Singapore and Kei and Liz from the Philippines. As we were chatting, a girl wearing a big grey hoodie and carrying 2 cups of coffee passed by. When her back was turned to us, her hoodie has “L’ArCrew” in it! It was also around this time when we heard a collective groan from the long line ahead of us. Lady Gaga tickets had sold out. Monster move over. It’s now time for us Cielers to claim what’s rightfully ours.

After getting our tickets, Liz, Kei and I went downstairs to the concert venue with hopes of finding out to whom those coffee cups end up with. Three other girls were already there but the guard already had her eye on them so we just moved on. I bid good-bye to Liz and Kei with the invite to meet with them before the concert tomorrow.

I then checked in to my hotel which I purposely chose to keep up with the L’Arc spirit.

My doctors specifically said that I should stay put as much as possible so I just spent the remainder of the day holed up in my room. Then again with the view that I had, there’s no reason to complain. As I gaze into the Hong Kong’s stunning skyline, I couldn’t help but feel elated. But of course.  I made it to Hong Kong. I’m gonna see L’Arc~en~Ciel in a few hours. I survived a medical emergency. Life is indeed good.

MERCHANDISE MADNESS AND THE CONCERT COUNTDOWN:  L’ADVENTURE 2.1

I went to Asia World Expo by 11:30 am and was again greeted by a line of people that extended to the streets already. And I thought I was already early ORZ . It doesn’t help that Hong Kong was freezing! The fog was thick and the wind was crazy. Between worrying if the goods would be sold out before my turn and battling hypothermia, I amused myself by people watching. As expected, many arrived in full cosplay regalia. Variations of hyde roamed the venue. Most fans were in gothic Lolita. What really drew my attention though was the parade of goods from previous lives. There were all so tempting.

12NN arrived and finally some movement. Selling of the goods had started! Everyone’s excitement had become more tangible in the air. I reached the goods table past 1PM. My haul:

  • World’s Best Selection + Shirt Premium Package
  • Light stick
  • Eco bag
  • Tour grey tee
  • Tour Book

Yes, I exceeded my budget. I am so doomed.

It’s impractical to go back to the hotel so I just loitered around with Liz and Kei. The flurry of activity was very stimulating. There were a lot of banners and everyone was welcome to put their messages to the band. The line at the goods table continued to grow longer. We also spotted a very suave-looking Oishi Masahiro taking pictures of the crowd.

As night time came close, people began clustering into the entrance. I positioned myself upfront. They started letting people in at exactly 7:10 and I’m one of the very first to enter. I settled into my seat:  Block B, Row G, Seat No.10 and contentedly wait for my dream to become reality.

THE BRAIDS ARE BACK AND THE BIRDS ARE ANGRY: L’ADVENTURE 2.2

It’s already 8PM and people were still filing in. The live was not sold out but I swear there were only a handful of seats at the very back that are vacant.

8:20PM. The lights dimmed out and everyone screamed. Well everyone except me. My doctors only allowed me to go on the condition that I cannot jump and shout. They also said that I cannot stand for so long but I’ve been on my two feet for practically the whole day already so what the heck.

The stage was actually quite sparse but when the LED screen light up, oh WOW. I was immediately reminded of the CHASE PV. The screen dissolved into pixels then it showed butterflies flying around a futuristic city. Then they fluttered around the globe. Alternately, the names of the countries included in the tour were flashed. The butterflies reached outer space. Afterwards, the screen turned into four copper plate panels bearing the names of each member. It transitioned into 4 galactic beings seemingly sleeping in their alien pods. They were wearing a metallic suit with a helmet and they were all in a semi-fetal position. A butterfly landed on alien hyde’s hand. We knew it was hyde because of his braids. The tubes on his back actually complimented those darn braids. A hissing sound signaled the helmet being taken off and there we have it: a larger than life close up of hyde’s eyes opening up. The camera moved back to show his full face and by jove, he was breathtaking! hyde raised his right fist and in slow motion, he punched the screen. The glass shatters. The band appeared. The 20th L’Anniversary World Tour has commenced.

L’Arc~en~Ciel kicked off the evening with Ibara no Namida – a personal favorite of mine. The crowd was so livid. Everyone around me was absolutely losing it. As for me, I just settled with swaying my right hand as the other clutched my abdominal binder. I too was so ecstatic but was also wary that giving in might land me another trip to the hospital. Anyway, INN gave way to CHASE and GOOD LUCK MY WAY. The band had obviously found their bearing and was now in full form. hyde and tetsu roamed both sides of the stage while ken was just stationary on the right. As for yuki, he was high and mighty on his throne at the center. Some random visuals similar to that on CHASE PV were projected into the screen.

After GLMW, hyde made an acceptable attempt of speaking in Chinese. He looked so adorable saying the lines as if confirming with the audience first if he was saying it right. Then he would glance at his cheat sheet on the floor and say it again. The screen turned light orange with a huge butterfly in the middle and hyde segued into honey. He was barely into the second verse when a technical glitch happened. hyde had this goofy “wait, this can’t be happening” look. Screen turned black. Mere seconds later, the huge butterfly reappeared and the band started the song again.

Drink it Down followed and all throughout the screen showed a bevy of naked girls dancing. Good thing they were all in silhouette. It’s like one of those James Bond opening credits. Then it was time for more active audience participation. revelation was playing and we all had a superb time pumping our firsts to chants of “yeah!”.

The stage dimmed only to reveal tetsu, hyde and ken sitting on the platform marking yuki’s dominion. The melodious intro of Hitomi no Juunin was heard and the whole venue was swathed in sentimental calm. hyde was sitting down the whole time yet he never missed a note. Amazing, especially considering that HNJ has a ridiculously high chorus. XXX followed. While hyde was already doing his infamous penguin dance even during INN, he was now using it to full effect. hyde was shaking his booty like there was no tomorrow and the movement was emphasized by his long braids.

Then came hands down, my favorite part of the evening: the back to back perfection of forbidden lover and MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM. For forbidden lover, the stage was bathed in warm red light. hyde was obviously tearing up during the chorus. As the song draws to the end he closed his eyes, held his arms wide as if in surrender while a soft breeze blows his hair. It was an ethereal moment. The entire performance was so moving it hurt. The stage went black as if to allow everyone to compose themselves. After a short while, the spotlight turned to ken and he began bluesy guitar solo that introduced MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM. MHDAD is no doubt a great song but when heard live, it takes on a life of its own. It was a very emotionally driven performance made more inspiring as the audience became one in singing “yume wo egaku yo”. Goosebumps.

The mood made a 360 degree turn when ken began his MC. Like hyde, he also spoke in Chinese all the while holding a package. I couldn’t understand a thing back then but it turned out he brought a present for hyde (for his birthday perhaps?). When hyde opened the package, we all burst out laughing. It was a set of Angry Birds action figures! Ken turned his attention back to us as he shouted “So many angry” and “ANGRY!?” The whole exchange was like this:

ken: Angry?

Audience: Bird!

ken: Angry?

Audience: Bird!

ken: Angry?

Audience: Bird!

ken: SEVENTH?

Audience: HEAVEN!!!

Seventh Heaven was followed by other L’Arc staples Driver’s High, STAY AWAY and READY STEADY GO. STAY AWAY was introduced by tetsu’s bass solo. He did his thing in front of three enormous speakers that weren’t there a moment ago. As the song started, the screen showed an army of androids doing the robot dance in synchronized form. It was quite amusing actually. READY STEADY GO then made everyone all fired up. We were so into the moment I guess that not everyone noticed that hyde and ken already left the stage. tetsu got engaged with an intense bass versus drums battle with yuki but the focus was more on tetsu. He swaggered a bit then left his bass on top of his giant speakers and exited the stage with flourish. yuki had the stage to himself and boy did he milk it for all it’s worth. He performed a jaw dropping drum solo that left everyone on the edge. Thump, thump thump he went until the spotlight faded out and the stage reverted to what it was 2 hours ago: empty.

The sounds of airplanes taking off were then heard. I’m not really sure if this was part of the show or just an effect of the venue being near the airport after all. Everyone was looking around as if expecting the boys to appear on another part of the venue. When it became apparent that hyde’s not gonna come floating down from the ceiling with butterfly wings, some began chanting “ENCORE!” 5 minutes later and still an empty stage. All the while I’m thinking that that can’t be it. They haven’t even played the new songs yet! No one was budging out of their seats anyway. Suddenly, the whole right section of the venue erupted into a human wave. Everyone then followed suit. It went on and on and every time a cycle was complete, we would dissolve into fits of laughter. The wave eventually died down only to be replaced with more chants of “ENCORE!”.

After about 15 minutes or so, the stage glowed in white and the orchestra version of Anata was heard. The band members were not yet visible so we the audience sang the song instead. It was again another goosebump inducing moment. The band then showed themselves and hyde claimed his song. He however allowed us to sing whole chorus. winter fall, The Fourth Avenue Café and Link came next. It was during these performances wherein we’ve seen some pyrotechnic action on the stage. At one point, fire even engulfed the stage. As the notes of Link faded, hyde began his MC. Majority was still in Chinese but he did say this in English: “It’s the start of the world tour. Thank you Hong Kong!” Then the band launched into a heart wrenching performance of Niji. Feathers came shooting out of the stage. And soon after, tetsu was hurling bananas into the audience. Before throwing out the last banana, he even bit into it. Next thing we knew he was firing at us with his banana shaped water gun. He walked into the right side of the stage and he was gone. So were hyde, ken and yuki.

The concert was apparently over. No Bye Bye Bye, Mirai Sekai, wild flower and Shade of Season. Everyone was already leaving so I likewise exited the venue. When I met up with Liz and Kei, I couldn’t help but tell them that I was a bit disappointed. I was really looking forward hearing the new songs live. However, when I already had time to reflect, I realized it was more of a feeling of something missing rather than disappointment over songs that were not played. And it was definitely not L’Arc~en~Ciel’s fault. It was due to the simple fact that it was just really difficult to wholly immense oneself into the whole live experience when you also have an incision to be careful about. Well, this could only mean one thing right? I need to see them live once more! Someday, somehow. Until then, who’s up for a game of Angry Birds?

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)

mini-album review – Flower Language (Rayflower)

The Project Dora exploration has now led me to the band Rayflower. Dubbed as as a “super-group” by NEUMANIA, Rayflower is composed of Takayuki Tazawa (SPIRAL MIND, ex.Waive) on vocals, YUKI (DUSTAR-3, ex. Λucifer) on guitar, IKUO (BULL ZEICHEN, abingdon boys school [support]) on bass, Keiichi Miyako (SOPHIA) on keyboards and finally L’Arc~en~Ciel’s former drummer Sakura (Lion Heads, Sons of All Pussys, ex. Zigzo) Flower Language is the band’s first mini-album. flower_language_cover

Six powerful tracks deliver Rayflower’s brand of alternative rock. Each song is bursting with energy that contrast the album’s boring cover artwork. Collectively, they build on a buoyant and relentless vibe that tends to linger long after the last song has played.

Runaway Brain kicks off the album and immediately it establishes the get up and go attitude that permeates Flower Language. Sakura bangs on the drums with such ferocity and skill that easily makes it the song’s focal point. Tazawa likewise gives a commendable performance as he hits the high notes effortlessly. Runaway Brain actually sounds like something off abingdon boys school’s catalogue but the excellent drumming by Sakura gives it the Rayflower advantage.

The succeeding track Inishie starts off slow before escalating into a mid-tempo beat that allows the guitar to join in the spotlight. However, the song borders on being a standard pop-rock fare. If not for vocal prowess displayed by Tazawa, Inishie is a bit bland. Shinjitsu no mori no naka de, in contrast, is a richly textured track that is highlighted by sexy guitar rifts. It is definitely my favorite track in the album. While being mid-tempo like Inishie, there is enough movement in Shinjitsu to ensure a very pleasant listening experience.

In the interestingly titled SOCIAL NETWORK GENERATION, Rayflower explores a more rocking sound with its rippling guitar solos and aggressive sound. The next song, Uragiri no nai sekai made follows in the same vein only its chorus makes a slight detour in the pop territory. Uragiri… is in fact Rayflower’s first single and was used as the opening theme for the brand new anime Uragiri wa boku no namae o shitteiru.

Flower Language closes with the power ballad Hanataba~from rose with love~. How this song was sung reminds me of Takanori Nishikawa’s performance in From Dusk Till Dawn –INCH UP- off the ABINGDON ROAD album. The clarity in elocution and the emotional intensity that propels the vocals are spot-on. As for the song itself, soaring is the word that best describes it. The same could be said for the whole album. With Flower Language, Rayflower lives up to the “super-group” tag. I certainly would be on the lookout for their future releases. Unfortunately, I may be in for a long wait as Miyako has just been recently diagnosed with lymphoma. It’s quite a blow for a band just poised for flight but I’m positive that whatever they come out with after this would be worth the wait.

album review – Asylum (THE BACK HORN)

Following the Gundam connection theme, this next review and latest entry on Project Dora focuses on the THE BACK HORN’s just released album, Asylum. I first heard this band on the soundtrack of Gundam 00 – they did the first ending song, Wana and I found it a good contrast to the opening theme Daybreak’s Bell by of course, L’Arc~en~Ciel. While Daybreak’s Bell was light and breezy, Wana was loud and gritty.

Now on to the review of Asylum.

someone just barfed out the alphabet soup

The album opens with definitely one of the album’s standout tracks. Raiden is a helter skelter of a song that starts with some awesome chanting. The Middle Eastern influence is apparent but THE BACK HORN grunged it up by a mile and the result is really engaging, if not hypnotic.

The second track Rafflesia shifts pacing all too often but it’s the vocals that truly lifts up the song. Yamada’s voice is raspy on some parts as he half shouts-half sings the lyrics and the effect was jarring but pleasant. Tatakau kimi yo, on the other hand, strikes me as the extroverted sibling of Wana. Their intros are a bit similar but Tatakau kimi yo is much more fast paced. It won’t prepare you though for the explosion that is Saisei. Kicking off with badass guitars before being segueing into a nice coordination between bass and drums, Saisei would make you headbang in no time. The longest song in the album at 5 minutes and 11 seconds, Saisei is brimming with energy yet knows fully well when to take it slow only to hyperventilate even more.

THE BACK HORN channels acid black cherry in the next two tracks, Hagoromo and Kaigansen. Hagoromo is a favorite of mine in Asylum. The piano makes it first appearance and it carried the languid mood of the song. It strikes me that every listen to Hagoromo brings forth another level of appreciation for the song. It could be mysterious sometimes and lethally seductive the next. In Kaigansen, THE BACK HORN dabbled with jazzy beats the way acid black cherry did in Recreation 2. It was a commendable effort but dragged too long. The second longest song in the album, it would do Kaigansen good if a few minutes were to be chopped off.

THE BACK HORN

The grunge influence makes a comeback in Persona. The way this song was sung reminds me of Ajikan’s Goto. Unfortunately, Persona is the weakest song in the album it sounds notes where just thrown together in random just as the album’s artwork looks like someone just threw up her alphabet soup. Taiyou no Shiwaza follows suit and it more than makes up for Persona. Just like Saisei, Taiyou no Shiwaza is a guaranteed headbanger. The guitars are awesome, the drums are superb and when the song breaks it down on the second minute, Taiyou no Shiwaza already claims you spirit.

And speaking of spirit, Tozasareta Sekai has plenty of it. A mid-tempo song that is primarily bass driven, Tozasareta Sekai feels like pent-up anger expressed in a very classy way. (The song also serves as the opening theme to Mobile Suit Gundam 00 The Movie: A Wakening of the Trailblazer). The succeeding song, Yogorenaki Namida also has good bass. It is also the song with the highest sing-along potential in Asylum. It joins Hagoromo and Taiyou no Shiwaza as my favorite songs in the album. The chorus simply begs to be belted out and I am but a willing follower.

Closing the album is Parade and no other song could have done it any better. If you like Ajikan’s HARUKA KANATA then you’ll definitely fall under Parade’s charms. Both songs radiates the same energetic vibe that rouses the crowd. Take a listen to Parade and indulge in your own private moshpit.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Asylum. Different influences are abound but THE BACK HORN was able to weave them together into one cohesive tracklist. Just think, if acid black cherry was a garage band and was into grunge, they would have churned out something like Asylum. If you are fan of either acid black cherry, Asian Kung-fu Generation or above-average alternative music, then Asylum is a definite must listen.