5:00 a.m. Outside, snow. Not only did I have to drag myself to work , I then somehow had to get myself from there to Meguro with very little time to spare. Luckily, through some fortuitous turn of events, the snow melted faster than it fell and so my road home was relatively clear. And then the road to the station was even more so. So clear, in fact, that every traffic light I reached turned green upon me reaching it.
I ended up being early on every train I had planned to be on, and so rather than going straight to Meguro, I headed to Ikebukuro with Dean to get the best karaage in the world. It’s also the shop that does weirdcollaborations with Alice Project, though their normal karaage is far better than those could ever be. Amusingly the shop’s history with Alice Project caught up with us, as Maipuu (to me she’ll forever be “minefield”) turned up as we were waiting, recognised Dean (who used to visit PARMS far too frequently) and then hid behind a corner until we disappeared. I guess she was there to stick her feet in the batter or something. Continue reading →
As I mentioned in the Weekender, team, ol’ Maniac won’t be providing first-person accounts of his own from the NSLE shows; instead, I turn to friends! And nobody will travel further for, and deliver a better description of, the idol experience than our old pal Daemon. Take it away, sir!
So, everyone raise their hand that was worried about the reception of Not Secured, Loose Ends’ (aka Yukueshirezutsurezure) Western debut! Now, everyone can put their hands down and pretend they knew it was going to go fine all along. TL;DR: NSLE freaking destroyed the Rivoli in Toronto last night and the crowd loved every second of it. Continue reading →
The idol experience isn’t something that a lot of us get to enjoy — due to distance, finance and other pressures, we resign ourselves to YouTube and Twitter and fan communities, and we hope against hope that maybe someday the performers we love the most will wind up within easy travel distance of our homes. But it’s kind of lame!
Content warning: You may be about to hate Phillter’s guts. And who can blame you! All four parts of the Phillterlogue are like a horrible tease. Go look at Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV if you need to.
December 28, 2016. This was the second show I had been eagerly awaiting. Passcode’s MISS UNLIMITED Tour Final at Studio Coast. As the final show of their major label debut tour, this show was not one for a Passcode fan to miss. Continue reading →
How are you liking Phillter’s idol experience, amigos? It makes me jealous — I know that I’ll never personally get to take a trip like this. And I know what the punchline — publishing tomorrow! — is going to be, and that makes me jealouser. Anyway, Part I and Part II and Part III are here if you need them.
December 27 brought with it what I thought was going to be a day of recuperation and relaxation. I had plans to go to the Odaiba Onsen Park in Tokyo with the friends who came to Tokyo with me (they are more into anime and partying, and so didn’t come to any of the shows I went to which is totally fine, everyone has their own interests). But after a day of shopping I took a second to look at the park’s tattoo policy, because I have tattoos. Continue reading →
You guys are going to be glad that I wagged my finger at Phillter when he told me about this epic account of his epic holiday trip to Shangri-la; imagine if this thing were all one enormous piece? Gracious. But this is Part III, and you can go look at Part I and/or Part II if you don’t already know the score.
December 26 brought with it a show I had been looking forward to for a very long time: Survival UB Visual Shock, Under Beasty’s 4th One-Man Live at the Shinjuku ReNY!
I pride myself on being a long-time fan of Under Beasty, one of the seemingly lesser known rock idol units. [Maniac: #IdolHipster] The group of four (Nagase Kaho, Haruno Yumu, Matsushita Ai, and leader Uetake Yua) is one I have had the great pleasure and fortune of seeing live before at the ReNY, during that show where I got my gear stolen.
The day before that show, during the summer, I had stopped by the venue to scout out the location, since finding the entrance to the ReNY is a bit of a pain. When I figured out where it was, I made a note and turned to leave, but I saw Kaho-chan herself handing out fliers in the lobby.
She saw that I was staring in what must have looked like shock (when you see something/someone that you’ve always wanted to see in person you tend to forget yourself), and stepped outside of the venue to ask me if I knew her. I said yes of course, and from there we had a small chat.
I couldn’t believe I was talking to an idol, she couldn’t believe Under Beasty had fans in America, there was a mutual cloud of wonderment hanging over the two of us. So, when I entered the show on December 26, I wondered if she would remember me.
I picked up my reserved ticket (you can email most groups before a show and reserve a ticket for a cheaper price than buying the day of), bought the ever-necessary drink ticket, and walked into the venue. I was just in time for this show, as previous plans during the day extended to the very last minute, so there was no time to try to get any merch. I figured there would be plenty of opportunities after the show, so I threw my bag in a coin locker [Maniac: Yes, you did.] and entered the hall.
It was packed. The ReNY is one of the better-sized venues in the hard-idol circuit. It isn’t by any means a stadium, but that number of people felt like an enormous crowd. And good for Under Beasty, they deserve an audience like that.
People saw that a foreigner was in the crowd and were in minor states of disbelief, followed by immediately shoving me towards the front, for which I was extremely grateful. I got my light wand I had purchased earlier in the day in Akihabara for this occasion, ready to go with my favorite member’s color, pink for Ai-tsun, just as the lights dimmed and the show began.
They brought out all the heavy-hitting songs that I expected, threw in some songs I didn’t even know they had, and did a fair bit of MCing. The crowd ate up every minute of it, all of us getting lost in the call and responses, the coordinated movements, and the clapping rhythms.
The halfway point of the show was ushered in with lights dimming and background music coming up for the girls to go take a water break … or so I had thought. But no, it was time for some vocal solo songs from the two major voices of the group, Yua and Yumu.
Yumu was first, and did a slow-paced rock ballad with piano accompaniment. Her voice is the richest of the group in my opinion, with lots of little layers to it that build up to some amazing crescendos when she is singing solo pieces. You could see small tears dropping from her eyes due to the emotion of the song as she gave the stage to Yua before going off to take her own break.
Yua’s solo piece was a slower jazzy-vocal-solo piece. Just piano, with a brushed snare if I recall correctly. Her singing voice is higher-pitched and joined with the piano lines well. No tears of emotion came to the hard facade of Under Beasty’s leader though, this girl has the mind of a strategist for sure; cool under any kind of pressure. And since Under Beasty is a self-managing group, I’m unsurprised.
These two vocal songs showed off one of Under Beasty’s best points: the voices. It is very easy to tell from the singing parts in their songs that all of them are professionally trained and take their vocal work seriously. It can be obvious when an idol group isn’t really vocally up to snuff, and may hide that fact by gimmicking something in, but these girls are nothing like that. Personally, I think Yumu has a powerhouse of a voice that could be up with the likes of Su-Metal on any day of the week, but I digress.
After the break came some more powerhouse songs, including my personal favorite, “Raven” from their first single:
These, along with the signed frisbees and streamers of shiny ribbon that exploded into the crowd, woke everyone up and led quickly to the end of the show. The lights dimmed, the girls waved and said thanks as they walked off of the stage.
But of course it wasn’t quite over yet. With a chorus of “ON-KO-RAY!” (how the Japanese say “Encore”) repeated for a few minutes, the girls came out and did one final song, which I believe was “Black Jet,” one of the title songs from their latest single. It, of course, blew the house down and ended the show perfectly. After the song, the girls each thanked all of the people for supporting them thus far, and emphasized very strongly that 2016 is not the end of Under Beasty, that 2017 was going to be an even bigger year, with (and this has yet to be confirmed by anyone officially) the possibility of a nationwide tour. If that were followed through with it would be a HUGE step for the group, so I hope it does end up panning out for them. Who knows, they may even come to Shikoku!
After the show, I was unable to pick up the towel or T-shirt I wanted, but I was able to pick up all the versions of their new single, and get photos with all of the members. Apparently Kaho had previously spread word of me being their fan and attending a show of theirs because all of the girls told me that they heard about how I had talked to Kaho and thanked me for coming all the way back to Tokyo for this important show of theirs. I also met one of their promotion guys who knew English really well. We had a nice chat about various things, and exchanged contact info. So who knows, maybe we’ll be able to get more Under Beasty info into the community’s hands at some point!
[Maniac: I demand an interview. With the members. Not the guy.]
I headed home that night still spinning with such joy … that I got on the wrong train, went half an hour outside of Tokyo, barely realize it in time, catch the last train back into the city, not quite make it to the stop I needed, and have to walk about two miles back to my hostel. That just goes to show you how great the show was, though. Tomorrow was another, however, so I needed to get some rest.
Check in next time for what ended up being an unexpected show, but a good one nonetheless!
[Maniac: Phillter lives in the Kansas of Japan. Ain’t nobody touring the Kansas of Japan.]
In case you were wondering, it’s perfectly okay to think that Phillter’s a big stupid jerk after reading Part I of his long weekend of a lifetime in Tokyo that he’ll get to repeat because he lives in Japan now. But for real, go look at Part I if you haven’t.
The Christmas Day show. This one was gonna be a doozy. Four band’s whose names I had heard before: one that I knew very well; one that I was interested in learning more about; one I wanted to form an opinion about; and one that I didn’t know much about.
The show was at 1:00 p.m., rather early in the day. I arrived at the Rock Maykan Live House in Meguro a few hours early, as usual, and stood around waiting to be let in. While waiting, I caught a glimpse of a girl wearing a medical mask (a very common sight here) with slightly blue hair (a much, much less common sight) walk up to the venue, look around for a bit, then enter and head to the basement where the live house was. More to come from her later though.
Appropriate attire for the day, don’t you think?
Eventually, others I had seen before showed up, conversations happened, small friendships were started, cultural differences were shared. One thing I’ve learned about the regulars I see at these shows is that they are good people in general. They’ll show you the ropes if you’re lost, help you buy a piece of merch if you don’t quite know what to say, and pick you up off of the floor if you fall in the pits. Foreigner or native, no matter who your favorite groups are, we are all one big family … except always make sure you put your stuff in a coin locker, as you’ll see later. Continue reading →
It’s not often that you walk out of a concert with Johnny Rotten’s voice muttering in your head, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and still have no regrets.
You remember that whole thing about having to overcome the past and emerge as a reborn, black and gold, grown-up BABYMETAL? Yeah, that’s SO Red Night. This is Black Night, where the red crinoline fairy of kawaii was set loose in the dressing room and even added a short train to Su’s tutu and some fluffy shoulder pads. And “Onedari Daisukusen”? Say goodbye to yesterday’s self (“bye bye!”), because it’s back! And just for fun, lose Moa and Yui’s scrunchies for OD and give the new, mature BLACK BABYMETAL Minnie Mouse hair bows.
I can probably skip my adventures in Japanese queue management and missed opportunities in cross-cultural communication that kept me in the rain for two hours trying to get to my assigned gate and seating assignment. None of that matters anyway because, as we’ve been promised for untold months: In the end … DOOMSDAY is coming.
Red Night began with the mumbo jumbo from KOBAMETAL in a BABYBONES outfit telling us the rules (no pictures, video, streaming) and how this little DOOMSDAY death match is gonna go down. The girls are going to regale us with the “metal melodies” of the two albums over the course of Red Night and Black Night without MC or encore. Only the Fox God knows what order the songs will be played in and (conspiracy theorists can shine up their tinfoil hats here [Maniac: TEE-HEE!]) once played, the song will never be played again. If we’re all good, at the end of the festivities he promises to share with us the biggest announcement in the history of time.
We have also all received what he calls a “crystal neck brace” as we entered The Dome (they are, in fact, clear rubber Embedded with an LED that can be illuminated remotely). This, he tells us, will store up power as we headbang. If we headbang well enough, it will transmit that energy to the girls in a beam of light and assist them in their battle.
The battleground itself (i.e. stage) resembled the Budokan set on steroids. The big difference is three coffin-shaped catwalks that extended all the way across the floor to about 20 feet (wait; I’m in Japan so it’s, like, 7 meters?) short of the stands. Above the circular stage were 6 gigantic digital screens that were used to tremendous effect. Whoever was hired for cinematography deserves a medal. There were a couple other features we learned about later.
The decor was iconography in red and black that we are all well and familiar with. I’m starting to believe that on the wall of Koba’s office is a poster that displays the Japanese version of, “Keep it simple, stupid”.
The music of Red Night begins with this tours perennial closing number, “Road of Resistance.” This works out well as, since the audience is all “seated” (I mean, the sell-out crowd was standing throughout, but physical seats ruled out any possible moshing or Walls of Death) so, instead of the climax of a WOD, we can all experience our hearts drop through the floor as our three young heroines appear at the apex of the Tokyo Dome. Above the main stage and the jumbotrons* is a second circular stage that was easy to miss in pre-show scouting. So our girls begin the biggest concert of the young careers singing over 100 feet in the air.
They stayed up there until Su had the audience started in on the “WOWOWs” and they vanished from their doki doki-inducing perches. In a nice touch, the guitar Kamis kept the “WOWOWs” going instrumentally until the girls appeared on the ground to finish things out.
Many of the interludes were new, which added to the mystery of which song would come next, which is how the first surprise of the night snuck up on us:
Red Night saw “Syncopation,” BABYMETAL’s most radio-friendly song to date and the only one that has yet to see an official release in the U.S. market. Coincidence? Who knows. The choreography for this song is just … Well, with a title called “Syncopation”, I think MIKIKO took it upon herself to really do something special. All in all, it’s a winner and will hopefully stick around in the set list. Maybe we will see this released as a MV and single in the West just in time for the Grammy voters to start paying attention.
Su performed “Amore” at the top of the Dome with the video screens superimposing the glowing Yoshiki angel wings that have become signature for her during this song. It was during this piece that I realized what I was missing: The gut-pounding bass. Even in arena shows, there is a physical sensation when the bass kicks in that was just wasn’t there tonight. Perhaps it is a feature of a venue of this size. I don’t know (I’ve been to several hundred gigs in everything from backyards and dive bars to arenas and opera halls, but this is only the second stadium show I’ve ever been to), but I missed it.
“Akumu no Rondo” totally channeled Budokan with Su and the Kami rotating around the stage. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that she nailed this song more firmly than any version I’ve seen since Budokan’s second night.
For all of you who loved the kawaii little nu-metal monsters of BLACK BABYMETAL, I have unfortunate news. “4 no Uta”’s Kamishibai proclaimed the death of “Onedari Daisakusen”: Moa and Yui have been reborn as equal parts darkness and light (with very dangerous looking light sabers shaped like a 4) and they are done with begging for anything from their fathers.
“CMIYC” was done with an interesting twist: It started with “Mischief of the Metal Gods” as lead-in like always, but the girls appeared from beneath the stage at the far ends of each of the coffin-shaped catwalks. While they moved to the center platform, the choreography was still performed solo with each girl a third of the stage removed from each other instead of the typical, interactive and intertwining dance. They did come together after “Miitsuketa!” and finished the song as a trio.
Red Night appears to be the “greatest hits” night with “Gimme Chocolate” and “Karate” both making it into the set list. There was a wonderful moment during “Karate” during the “Let me hear your voice” audience sing-along where the audience was lit up entirely and the giant screens displayed close up shots of Yui and then Moa. Their faces were filled with a kind of disbelief and joy as if they were realizing the night’s achievement for the first time. It was wonderful to see.
If one of you had approached me yesterday and bet me $10 that BABYMETAL would attempt “Tales of the Destinies live, you would be ¥1,019 richer today. In the biggest surprise of the night, the girls and Kami pulled off a FLAWLESS rendition of this highly technical piece of music that I was of a fairly reasoned opinion could only be performed in the studio. The Kami are true gods of their craft, Su’s vocals were spot on, and the choreography had some very playful touches. I am so glad that this performance has been captured for posterity. It will provide undeniable proof that this band is comprised of pure talent.
“Tales of the Destinies” was followed by its companion piece “The One: English version.” This could leave the door open for the unplugged or Japanese version in Black Night. It’s hard to top Yokohama, where this song was performed flying through the air in a pyramid-shaped UFO, but they did add a couple of touches. At the end of the song they all stood on platforms that floated to the end of the three coffin-shaped runways while their oil-black THE ONE robes turned to a shimmering gold.
Oh, and our neck pieces all lit up at this point. If anyone has seen what those synchronized, personal glow objects are capable of doing at an X-Japan or Lady Gaga show, you have to be a bit underwhelmed. X-Japan uses a wrist version that puts out a colored light show that will make you weep. Maybe we have that to look forward to tomorrow.
So, Red Night at the Tokyo Dome has happened. It still a bit hard for me to believe. I will try to do a similar synopsis of Black Night if I am still among the conscious. I’ve been on a two-week sprint through the underground idol acts of Tokyo (and the drenching rain and choking humidity) and may be close to my limit. After the concert, I checked my phone and found a reminder that I have a Narita Express ticket waiting to take me the airport on Wednesday for my flight home. But KOBAMETAL has promised me DOOMSDAY, so maybe I won’t have to make that flight.
Pray a lot to the Fox God to send Daemon to be our eyes and ears at the literal end of the world!
*Daemon wrote “megatrons” here. It broke my heart to change that.
There’s not a ton to add here, but I thought it was interesting in light of the fact that they’ve actually shown a video for “STEREO” but haven’t released it, and they’re on something approaching a regular idol group’s schedule. That is, the group that was formed to promote a streaming video platform and got LOLed at a little at the beginning, then turned in what’s still a candidate for both song and video of the year, NOW it’s like they’re a real idol group. Go figure.