Sengoku Jidai (The Age of Civil Wars) at HYPER JAPAN, London

live report - 16.10.2017 11:01

History and rock music collide at HYPER JAPAN.

This year’s HYPER JAPAN sees the new band Sengoku Jidai (aka The Age of Civil Wars) make their international debut. Their theme is based around the Sengoku period of Japanese history, a time of chaos and civil war between rival lords and their samurai, which eventually resulted in the unification of Japan under the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603. So, that's the history lesson over, now it’s on with the show!

Until now, Sengoku Jidai has been a virtual band, depicted as animated characters in their music videos, with the four members taking their stage names from samurai of the Sengoku period. It’s not as arcane as it sounds. These historical figures are still a big part of Japanese popular culture today, starring in films and TV shows and appearing in novels, manga and video games. For their first ever in-person appearance, two members of the band are at HYPER JAPAN; singer Nao-A, who is named after the samurai Kanetsugu Naoe and guitarist Kz, who takes his name from Keiji Maeda. Their set is a combination of the duo’s live performance with support from drummer SND and bass player Date on a playback track.

The intro music plays for a full minute, which feels like a long time, before Nao-A and Kz stride onto the stage. The first sight of Sengoku Jidai is pretty striking, as their flamboyant costumes carry echoes of a samurai’s hakama robes in their elaborate designs.

They kick off their set with Kyouka Ranbu. A brief trill of traditional koto rings out before the metal beats crash in and Nao-A launches into aggressive rap vocals. The members are accompanied by their virtual alter egos as the song’s video plays on the big screens. The heavy vocals switch to a melodic chorus and Kz throws in some nifty dance moves to go with his guitar solo.

The powerful rock sound of next track Joushou fills the venue, but just seeing the two members on stage seems a little sparse visually at times. Nao-A overcomes this by prowling from side to side, whipping up the crowd, as Kz takes centre stage for his guitar solo.

Pausing for a brief MC, Nao-A asks the crowd “We are having a good time or what?” and everyone agrees. He continues in Japanese, which mostly goes over the crowd’s heads so he reverts to the tried and trusted “All right! Are you ready?” before starting the next number.

After that aggressive start, Lonely slows the pace down, with the two members’ voices combining for some attractive harmonies, and then it picks up again with Rinne no Hana. Kz takes the chance to show off his moves again, throwing in some impressive one-legged pirouetting.

Nao-A pauses for a quick drink, shouting “Kanpai! Cheers!”, then unleashes a few screams to get the crowd going for their final number, Sakura. This one has some abstract but catchy koto in the mix and the vocals are more of a duet, with the pair trading lead lines. Kz steps to the edge of the stage for his guitar solo, then Nao-A joins him for a bout of twin synchro head-banging as they build to the big finish. It’s a good track to close the show, showcasing Sengoku Jidai’s combination of the past and present and traditional and rock instruments.

As he is leaving the stage Nao-A shouts “We’ll be back!” – and seconds later they are – for the traditional HYPER JAPAN band/fan photo, which they eventually get done after Nao-A finishes messing about with the crowd for some laughs.

Set List

01. Kyouka Ranbu
02. Joushou
03. Lonely
04. Rinne no Hana
05. Sakura
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HYPER JAPAN 2017



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