D Tour 2011 Legend of Heilong "Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~"

live report - 04.18.2012 20:01

D's tour final set a cold December night ablaze with an impressive display of talent and power

On 29th December 2011, D held the final of their Legend of Heilong "Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~" tour at Shibuya AX in Tokyo. Fans of all ages braved arctic temperatures to join the celebration and see out the year together with their favourite band. From 6pm, a healthy mixture of rock and punk-styled males and females, classic and gothic lolitas, aristocrats and elaborate cosplayers began to queue outside the venue. The dominant colours worn by the crowd were black and red, D's signature colours, but many outfits also sported Chinese influences, echoing the theme of the band's new mini-album Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~.

Inside the packed hall, the wall behind the stage was decorated with three red silk banners. The middle one showed a large black dragon symbol while the outer banners were decorated with smaller dragons. At 7pm sharp, the lights dimmed and the opening SE, an electronic version of Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~, began to play. The fans clapped along with the rhythm as, one by one, the band members filed in, their costumes, too, reflecting a Chinese vibe.

First up was drummer HIROKI in a narrow, belted tunic of black and gold brocade. He was followed by bassist Tsunehito, who wore a short asymmetrical dress under a long overcoat. His red bob cut was styled into feminine ringlets and at his throat glittered the choker he had designed in collaboration with the silversmith F.A.L.. Next came the guitarists. HIDE-ZOU marched in wearing baggy brocade trousers and a head scarf that gave him a slightly pirate-like appearance. Ruiza looked elegant in a long slim dress that resembled a Chinese qipao. His blonde hair was teased into a fluffy bob with long braids falling over his shoulders. Last to appear was vocalist ASAGI in a long brocade gown with wide bell sleeves, a window in his left sleeve showing off the rose tattoo on his arm. His long black hair was swept up into a bun that was decorated with hair pins and around his neck he wore a necklace of silver roses.

Wasting no time, the band launched into the dark, angry world of Heilong, the song that had given the hero of Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~ his name. ASAGI's voice was perfect from the very first moment – rich, powerful and yet full of emotion. HIDE-ZOU oozed cool confidence and Ruiza sported an infectious smile as their fingers flew across the strings of their guitars. Even before the first chorus, Tsunehito stepped up to the very edge of the stage where he would spend most of the evening; smiling, hyping the crowd and head banging so hard that his forehead almost touched his boots. The contrast between his graceful movements and the brutal sound of his bass was particularly striking. HIROKI kept the fast, heavy rhythm going with tireless enthusiasm.

Next up was Crimson Fish, the other song upon which the new album is based. Green and purple light engulfed the stage as the melodic tune rang through the auditorium. During the chorus, HIDE-ZOU lined up with Ruiza and Tsunehito at the edge of the stage, before joining ASAGI on his platform for a hot solo. Then a brutal volley of bass and guitars heralded the next song, Meteo ~mubi no koku~, and the mood changed from introspective and melancholy to untamed and wild. Those who have seen D in Europe and the US know that they like to get close to their fans, but in a venue the size of AX that's no mean feat. ASAGI knelt down and, ignoring the meter-wide gap between the stage and the pit that was bustling with photographers, reached out to shake the hands that extended towards him. Ruiza took this opportunity to step on to the platform to deliver a blistering solo, before posing together with HIDE-ZOU as their twin guitars harmonised. The fans cheered them on with open arms, but soon returned to wild head banging for the catchy chorus.

"Shibuya! This is the tour final!" ASAGI called as he was handed a huge black flag with an ornate red D logo, signaling to all that the next song would be Night-ship "D". The fans pulled out their own red and black D flags and when he called "warera no" they stood ready and answered "kouro ni!" As Ruiza and HIDE-ZOU struck the first chords of this classic, ASAGI punched the air with his fist, before earnestly singing to the crowd, one moment with his foot on the platform and the next strutting up and down at the edge of the stage. During the chorus, the entire band swayed from side to side with the song's driving rhythm, their movements mirrored by a sea of red and black flags that danced in perfect unison.

Having delved into their history with the first couple of songs, D now introduced two tracks from the new album. First up was Makutsuenshuuki, a fast paced rock tune that gave Ruiza the opportunity to show off his skill with an extensive solo on the vocalist's platform while HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito played their instruments side by side at the edge of the stage. Then ASAGI's rose encrusted microphone stand was carried in, indicating that the next song, Honoo no kairou, would be a ballad. The crowd listened in rapt silence as, both hands on the microphone, his tremolos rang crisp and clear through the hall. During HIDE-ZOU's solo the stage was bathed in red light which changed to blue, green, white and finally, for ASAGI's monologue, back to red. As the song came to its end, instead of cheering, the fans clapped respectfully as befitted the solemn atmosphere.

With Ayakashi kitan now followed a less well-known song, whose powerful, masculine sound and pensive lyrics nevertheless fit well with the new album. Hana madoi, on the other hand, was a crowd pleaser that regularly graces D's set lists. As HIROKI and Tsunehito laid down the throbbing rhythm, with Ruiza and HIDE-ZOU's screaming guitars joining in, ASAGI raised his hands over his head for the complex furi. Then he produced a long leather whip which he licked provocatively, before cracking it to shouts of "oi!" from the other band members. During the guitar solo, he, Ruiza, HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito posed together on the platform while the fans cheered them on with open arms.

Suddenly darkness fell and all band members except HIROKI left the stage. Respectful silence descended and Chinese instruments began to create a sparse, ambient-like soundscape that stood in marked contrast to the playful folkloric melodies of the album. HIROKI started quietly with only cymbals and then gradually built up tempo and volume, the crowd cheering him on as he played ever harder and faster, blue light fanning across the stage and red and white spot lights flashing in time with the beat.

Now a different rhythm started up and the other band members reappeared. Ruiza stepped on to the drum platform and head banged to HIROKI as he, HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito called out to the fans to shout along with them. Finally ASAGI returned, held up his hands in a traditional Chinese hand/fist-wrapping gesture and the bone crunching riffs of Ryuugan no shizuku began to thunder through the auditorium. Ruiza, HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito lined up at the edge of the stage and head banged along with the brutal beat while ASAGI crouched on his platform and switched between operatic vocals and death growls. The mood stayed hard and heavy with Gikyousouden, another intense track from the new album. Ruiza and HIDE-ZOU played up a storm, but ASAGI's voice soared loud and clear over the violent riffs, the sleeves of his robe flying as he punched the air.

A short MC followed and the crowd gasped when another classic, Barairo no hibi, was announced. As the gentle piano intro began to play and white light flooded the stage, the adrenaline charged atmosphere that had filled the hall moments earlier gave way to an air of sweet nostalgia. White and pink light formed a star shaped halo around ASAGI as he perched on his platform, angelic tremolos ringing through the air, while the other band members kept switching places, so everybody in the audience could get a good look at them.

Then the white light changed to yellow and an undulating wave pattern was projected on to the red silk banners at the back of the stage, reflecting the rivers and mountains that had inspired Sansuishi. The stirring ballad opened with chords of acoustic guitar, followed by a graceful melody played on traditional Chinese instruments, which were underlined by Ruiza's and HIDE-ZOU's guitars and Tsunehito's heavy bass to a stunning effect. Having moved all over the stage before and taken turns at striking dramatic poses on the platform, they now stayed at their places and left the limelight to ASAGI who, eyes closed, grasped the ornate microphone stand with both hands, lost in the emotions of the song.

The atmosphere changed once again as D, perhaps courageously after having played their hearts out for the past hour and a half, decided to end the set on a strong note. The mystical, yet heavy 7th Rose, with its bristling metal riffs and constant switching between high falsetto and deep aggressive death growls, required strong voice control, but ASAGI never faltered. Microphone held high, he strutted up and down the stage and, sleeves flying as his arm rose and fell, directed the audience like a puppet master. Again and again, the fans bowed like one man while Ruiza, HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito head banged along with them and to each other, red lights flashing to the pounding beat.

That they still had bags of energy left they proved with their next choice, the even heavier - and longer - Guardian. "No, no, no exit! Don't waste my time!" ASAGI screamed at the top of his voice as the whole band jumped up and down to the staccato beat, the crowd following them with excited smiles on their faces. His arm around their shoulders, ASAGI handed the microphone to the other band members as they called out to the crowd and demanded more, constantly switching places and head banging wildly.

At last it was time for the hotly anticipated title track of the new album, Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~. Yellow light enveloped the stage as ASAGI held up a black fan decorated with a golden dragon, his pose echoed instantly by the audience. Signalling the climax of the evening, golden streamers inscribed with the band's logo and the name of the tour were shot into the air, where they were caught by the fans who wrapped them around their hands and tied them into their hair. As ASAGI's fan danced to the heady mix of heavy rock and traditional Chinese music, HIDE-ZOU stepped up to the edge of the stage for his solo. Yellow, red and white lights flashed as Ruiza played his guitar over his head, while the fans punched the air with fists that held handfuls of shiny streamers.

Finally, the band bowed to the audience, indicating that the show was over. ASAGI smiled and thanked everybody while the others waved, threw their picks and water bottles and then one after the other disappeared. Although they eagerly accepted the precious trophies, the fans weren't willing to let them go yet and started to shout for an encore as soon as the last man had left the stage.

They didn't have to wait long. D reappeared a few minutes later to rapturous applause, with Ruiza and HIROKI now dressed in black and gold tour t-shirts and Ruiza carrying a tote bag imprinted with a black dragon. From this, he produced the band's merchandise, extolling the virtues of each piece and even the bag itself in an endearingly unrehearsed way. When he came to the hair scrunchy in the shape of a red rose, HIROKI turned around behind his drum kit to show that he was wearing it. Immediately the crowd demanded that Ruiza should put one on as well and, to everybody's delight, he complied.

The encore continued as powerful as the main set had ended, with Grand Master. One by one, ASAGI introduced the band members to chants of "Hey, hey, hey!" Ruiza once again took to the platform for a solo, while HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito shredded their instruments at the edge of the stage, before returning to their microphones to deliver background shouts. The band still showed no sign of fatigue; in fact, they stepped up the tempo even more with an old favourite, Dangan. To the relentless pounding of HIROKI's drums and Ruiza's and HIDE-ZOU's frantic guitars, ASAGI produced an antique gun, which he pointed at the fans; then he grabbed the collar of his costume and bared his chest, daring them to shoot him. With Kaze ga mekuru peeji, which was used as soundtrack for the historical drama "Shinsengumi PEACEMAKER," D then returned to a traditional vibe. Green light washed across the stage as ASAGI twirled his fan this way and that to the music, clapping it against his microphone with flamenco-like gestures. Thanking the audience repeatedly, the band now attempted to leave a second time, but again the fans called them back.

D burst on to the stage for their second encore with the epic Toki no koe, sending the fans into a head banging frenzy. ASAGI howled like a wolf, then switched to guttural death growls and only used clear vocals during the chorus. As the others head banged in unison to the heavy riffs, he turned puppet master once more and commanded the audience to bow again and again to the rise and fall of his arm. The next song couldn't have been more different. EDEN gave the band the opportunity to reach out to its fans not just physically, but emotionally, as ASAGI and the fans took turns in singing the heartfelt chorus a capella.

The feeling of unity between band and fans was carried over into the third encore, Dearest you, when the fans held each other's hands and jumped together with the band. Then it was time to say goodbye for good. The musicians put down their instruments and thanked the audience for the last time. HIROKI threw his drum sticks and Ruiza, HIDE-ZOU and Tsunehito let their picks follow. ASAGI high-fived HIDE-ZOU and ruffled HIROKI's hair that still sported the rose scrunchy, then stepped on to the platform and kissed his water bottle before throwing it to the crowd.

The chants for another encore continued when the lights came on and the venue staff asked everybody to go home. After the second appeal, the fans finally accepted that there would be "only" three encores. They stopped their chanting and instead applauded respectfully, then gathered their belongings and stepped outside into the freezing December night, the afterglow of tonight's concert keeping them warm. It was a show that had it all: raw power, superb skill, but also heartfelt emotion and the sense of a genuine connection between band and audience.

2011 was an exciting year for D, but also one of hard work and change. Aside from regular concerts in their home country, it saw them play their first ever international shows in Europe and the US. They decided to end their successful major career and return to their indie label, yet still managed to release a full-length album, a single and a mini album, all of which were of equally high quality. For the New Year, they have already announced a fanclub tour, another European tour and their first ever South American tour. We look forward to what else this talented band has in store for us in 2012 and wish them the best of luck for the future!

Set List:

01. Heilong
02. Crimson Fish
03. Meteo ~mubi no koku~
-MC-
04. Night-ship"D"
05. Makutsuenshuuki
06. Honoo no kairou
07. Ayakashi kitan
08. Hana madoi
09. Drum solo (Session)
10. Ryuugan no shizuku
11. Gikyousouden
-MC-
12. Barairo no hibi
13. Sansuishi
14. 7th Rose
15. Guardian
-MC-
16. Huang di ~Yami ni umareta mukui~

Encore 1:
-MC- (Ruiza)
17. Grand Master
18. Dangan
-MC-
19. Kaze ga mekuru peeji

Encore 2:
20. Toki no koe
21. EDEN

Encore 3:
22. Dearest you
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