L'Arc~en~Ciel's 20th L'Anniversary - Day 2

live report - 11.06.2011 10:01

On a rainy Sunday evening, the legends from Osaka and their legions of fans concluded their two-day “coming of age party” with vigor.

For those new to Tokyo, Tobitakyu Station may seem a little desolate. A local-only stop on the Keio Line, it’s not surprising for tourists and Nihon neophytes alike to overlook the Chofu landmark. What sets it apart from other stations, though, is its proximity to another landmark: Ajinomoto Stadium, home of two famous soccer teams and one of a select number of venues in Japan that can boast a seating capacity of 50,000. On days where the stadium holds events, the Keio Line’s rapid and express trains add Tobitakyu to their routes, and for good reason; both sports fans and music lovers tend to flood into and out of trains headed to their occasional mecca.

Case in point: tonight’s L’Arc~en~Ciel live, the second of two sold-out lives held to celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary as a performing unit. The first show featured songs from L’Arc~en~Ciel’s first five albums, with today’s live taking from their later releases. Upon arriving at Tobitakyu Station, even two hours prior to showtime, one could easily wonder if the live was actually being held right past the ticket gates, with hundreds of fans exiting the train and converging by the gates. Lines of people waiting for friends blanketed each side of the station, with the restroom lines so long they required train staff to mark their ends. Outside the station, a crowd of umbrella-wielding fans looked like something out of "Minority Report."

Fans trickled down the stairs and inched up the path to Ajinomoto Stadium. The sheer mass of people turned the normally five-minute trek into a 15-minute stretch, with nearby convenience stores and restaurants filled to the brim with anxious fans. Most of these fans had come equipped with bags, towels or t-shirts from the Saturday show; how they all managed to secure tickets to both shows within the minutes-long period they were available remains a mystery to this day. After ascending the stairways at either side of the street, an inflated 20th L’Anniversary Live banner, appropriately in the form of a rainbow, welcomed the horde to their paradise.

Ajinomoto Stadium wasn’t much different from Tobitakyu Station, with fans continuing to crowd the available restaurants, but no one seemed to mind. Those about to enter the stadium seating were busy talking amongst themselves, most if not all equipped with raincoats to avoid using umbrellas during the live. Seated fans during the first hour were treated to a series of regular and karaoke-subbed PVs to which they could and did sing along to. As the rain poured, and as the fans poured in, the video footage gave way to soft music box instrumentals, with the chatter of the now tens of thousands of L’Arc~en~Ciel lovers filling the rest of the stadium air.

By 5:00pm, the arena had been filled with mostly white raincoats, their owners standing in restless wait. They wouldn’t be waiting long: the speakers boomed as “L’Arc~en~Ciel” appeared on giant screens at both sides of the stage. The crowd roared, with the six-odd concert staffers sweeping excess rainwater off the stage taking its cries as their cue to depart. The band names on screen gave way to a newspaper, announcing in French the band’s 20th anniversary. The front-page photo expanded into a picture of the band, then another and several more, presenting to the appreciative crowd a montage of their heroes over the past two decades. Some photos were familiar territory, taken from albums or PVs, while others looked amusedly candid.

The audience cheered when the montage had run its course. Then, a pause, and a sole figure clad in all black walked onto the stage, his head hung down as to obscure his face. He sat behind the drum set on stage, and as he lifted his head, and as the two screens revealed the figure to be L’Arc~en~Ciel’s drummer, yukihiro, the crowd roared in applause. Guitarist ken, equipped with a stylish leather jacket, and bassist tetsuya in a white, red-striped jacket followed their drummer’s lead to equal screen exposure and crowd applause. Last was vocalist hyde, drenched in waist-length strands of hair and sporting a crowd-pleasing revealing black outfit. As hyde approached the center of the stage, his guitarists began to play a familiar riff, with yukihiro joining in on drums and, seconds later, segued into READY STEADY GO. The crowd had never been louder.

Younger audience members – those who may have never heard of L’Arc~en~Ciel prior to Fullmetal Alchemist – here jumped for joy. With every chorus, they in particular were the ones singing the backing vocals (“hayaku!” “yonde!”, etc.), some even louder than their mid-30’s counterparts. As the song neared its end, and as the crowd sang along to the final words of the last chorus, the rain stopped, as if the crowd and the band combined to defeat weather itself.

Several long tubes of air inflated on each side of the stage as the band continued with Pretty girl, an album-only track on Kiss. The fans swayed to the music – some admittedly may have been dodging the resurging rain as well – while the younger fans listened and, too, enjoyed. The single NEXUS 4 came next, deflating the air tubes yet further encouraging the crowd to sing along and withstand the rain. At the first MC of the evening, hyde took the time to welcome those watching at movie theaters worldwide, greeting his fans with at least five different “hellos.” When the salutations had finished, he took a guitar as L’Arc~en~Ciel took to HEAVEN’S DRIVE.

The next few songs, mostly singles from the late-90’s, demonstrated the longevity of the band’s fanbase – not to mention the durability of hyde’s singing voice. Even after twenty years of performing, he has managed to maintain his talents to where he can still make demanding songs like NEO UNIVERSE appear easy. It could also have been the cathedral-like imagery displayed from the screens on stage, giving the high pitch of the song a borderline ethereal effect. The ethereality turned to ecstasy when a car’s engine revved up once, twice, several times, and as Driver’s High started countless gold-and-silver streamers burst out towards the crowd. The crowd roared in applause, frantically catching their shiny new memoirs.

Following the classic GTO theme, the songs thereafter yielded a wide range of emotions. REVELATION’s utterly eerie pair of eyes watching over the audience via the screens kept the audience on its toes, for some if only out of chilly fright. Green lights and streams of fire from the stage warmed those fans up in the songs to come, and then, it happened. Similar to the previous evening’s live, a video aired featuring a potpourri of celebrities, including singers DAIGO and Yasu, along with impersonator Aoki Ryuji, comedian Kano Eiko, and several others singing the first half of HONEY. The latter two elicited massive laughs from the crowd, while the former two, watching the live from a high balcony, received cheers and thanks even after the video had finished.

The fan service continued with ken delivering a particularly wacky MC prior to SEVENTH HEAVEN. Fireworks lit the stage, with the rain and wind carrying a soft fog throughout the arena. In retaliation, the band brought in their fan-favorite giant balls, as STAY AWAY once again brought the crowd to its feet. Given the immense amount of rain that had fallen onto the crowd, tetsuya made it a point to remind the fans, no matter what, to not dismiss the rain as “bad weather,” his reasoning being that it was disrespectful to the rain. The fans accepted his reasoning without question. Link and Hitomi no juunin closed the night’s main set, with the fans immediately clamoring for an encore.

Their encore began in the form of two familiar white limos, again from the previous live, as the band members stepped out, walking almost in slow motion, and waving to as many fans as possible. Messages on-screen thanked the band’s fans for their support until now, and towards their new journey in the years to come. The familiar snare intro of forbidden lover started the encore, as fans became entranced by hyde’s voice once again. Fan favorite MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM came next, followed by L’Arc~en~Ciel’s latest single, GOOD LUCK MY WAY, set for release on June 29. hyde took one last MC to thank his fans for twenty years of support and love, seemingly holding back tears, and closed the evening with BLESS. Images of fire flooded the stage screens, not to mention the lights and projections below, above, and behind the stage. The crowd had endured the rain for hours, and this last burst of warmth was their ultimate reward for the day.

Or was it? Once the band left the stage, the PV for GOOD LUCK MY WAY was shown to the crowd, in addition to two breaking news announcements: one for a nationwide tour in 2011, the other for a World Circuit tour in 2012, the latter ending with a Tokyo stop, much to the crowd’s delight. With this, the live ended, but no one in the audience was dejected. If anything, they were filled with a renewed sense of joy: on a day where rain pounded Japan, the crowd had been blessed with their own rainbow.

Set List:

02. Pretty girl
03. NEXUS 4
06. snow drop
08. Jojoushi
10. Driver’s High
13. Kasou
14. Shinshoku-lose control-
18. Link
19. Hitomi no juunin
20. forbidden lover
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L'Arc~en~Ciel 29/05

Tokyo - Japan
Ajinomoto Stadium
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