Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet- World Tour - Holy Grail in London

live report - 10.13.2011 20:01

Versailles returns to bring a touch of regality to London once more.

Sunday evening, Islington, North London. Despite the shambolic state of public transport, fans from far and wide had made it to the O2 Academy for Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet-'s second live gig there.

The crowd was dotted with heavy metal T-shirts, gothic gear, frilly period dresses, capes and even the odd smart suit. Inside, the band's name and tour title glittered in gothic gold font on a large black cloth draped over the back of the stage. Perhaps in keeping with the band's period influences, the unusual choice of classical music from Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and others was played over the speakers prior to the concert. Cries of "We are Versailles" rang out sporadically as excitement mounted, and some admitted that their hearts were pounding away with anticipation during the wait. Adrenaline flowed so much that everytime a crew member appeared, it set off fits of false alarm screaming, and this was intensified when one member came out to announce that the band's meet and greet was taking place after the gig.

The crowd's rehearsal of the band's signature entrance chants obviously paid off as each member came onstage to the dramatically orchestrated backing track Prelude and raised their hands to prompt roars of "We are Versailles!" each time. First out was drummer YUKI, holding up a hand in a devil horns salute. Then bassist MASASHI strolled out, dressed in black like YUKI. Guitarists TERU and HIZAKI followed to deafening cheers, complementing each other in a white and gold jacket, shorts and elaborate white dress respectively, as if from an extravagant French Baroque palatial court. Finally, vocalist KAMIJO made his nonchalant entrance, dazzling fans in a regal red overcoat with intricate gold embroidery and equally detailed waistcoat. Turning his back for a moment, he turned and pointed dramatically, a simple enough motion but one that sent the audience into a frenzy.

The grandiose MASQUERADE was the opener, and during the lengthy intro section KAMIJO cut a commanding figure just by standing at the front of the stage. When his vocals did begin they were unfortunately overpowered by the thundering bass and drums, but the fans were still thrilled by his performance and helped by joining in with the chorus. The other members warmed up quickly, striking poses and playing up to the audience early on with the exception of MASASHI. During his bass solo he made it to the front to the delight of some in the crowd, but was stoneyfaced with concentration throughout. The graceful HIZAKI on the other hand was, as usual, all about the showmanship: his solo was full of flourishes and every flamboyant movement of his right arm was finished as elegantly as a ballet dancer. The grandeur continued into ASCENDEAD MASTER. KAMIJO's vocals picked up with increased power, the strength of his vibrato making his head shake up and down every so often. TERU was clearly having fun, grinning away with boyish enjoyment.

After the military drum ending of the song died away, KAMIJO chose to greet everyone with a cry of "London! Long time no see!" "I wanted to say: How do you do?" he continued with a singsong upward inflection in "do," and the crowd readily gave him the same in return. It was repeated with "bonjour" also. He expressed his wish to make it a special night, and they launched into Judicial Noir. It saw both guitarists and bassist group together for an instrumental interlude, while the audience participated in some sing-a-long with KAMIJO. A furious guitar riff then brought in Flowery, a spirited performance which the crowd loved.

The band required a bit of refreshment after all the activity. During the short break, the main lights were turned on, in what was already a surprisingly well lit gig, to allow the performers and spectators to mutually observe each other closely. It created a more intimate setting, and the band members made no bones about visibly soaking up the love offered by their fans. Glowing Butterfly was played after the break, and the rock ballad chorus allowed everyone from the floor up to the mezzanine to sway from side to side for once, holding aloft flags, fans and the illuminated roses which were the must-buy piece of merchandise for the concert. When the band disappeared to recover, KAMIJO alone returned holding one of these roses to sing the English Love will be born again. Standing by himself and bathed in a green light, he gave an emotional performance. Halfway through he kissed the rose and threw it into the crowd where it was snatched up by an overjoyed audience member.

Then it was time for him to give his vocal cords a rest, and the others returned to perform the first instrumental-only half of their latest album Holy Grail's lengthy magnum opus, Faith & Decision. Each of the members got their own solo: HIZAKI took the spotlight for a time with his mournful, wailing guitar, his curls bouncing with each flick of the head; TERU whipped the neck of his instrument around almost violently, and showily played with the guitar held skywards; MASASHI played skilfully but remained quite deadpan as before; YUKI tirelessly got on with the relentless pounding of his drumkit in the challenging piece, where he never got a chance to let up the pace. KAMIJO made a return about seven minutes in and belted out his part with renewed vigour, athough he couldn't stop his voice from cracking with emotion at the final leg. He took a union flag signed with fan messages and raised it with each emphatic beat in the music. It was all too much for one fan, who collapsed and needed to be taken away for some medical attention. Luckily she was back to dancing and cheering for the band shortly after.

KAMIJO reverted back to Japanese for a moment in his next MC to say how happy he was that people were listening to their new album Holy Grail in London. "I'm very happy!" he added in English. Then it was back to business: "I want to suck your blood!" he declared to the audience, who seemed delighted by the very prospect. The next song was therefore none other than Vampire which featured such an extreme bassline and loud thumping drums that it created some squealing feedback. The audience clearly enjoyed it still, from joining in loudly with the cries of "Jesus Christ" that came after the chorus to HIZAKI's brutal guitar solo in the middle. They also obeyed promptly when told to "scream!" before the vigorously performed DRY ICE SCREAM!!. The pace was taken down just a notch as all the members took a moment to hold up a rose before DESTINY -THE LOVERS-, an action mirrored by those who also had one. "I want to be with you, always," KAMIJO confessed before launching into the heavy and powerful rock ballad. He also finally got onto the matter of band member intros partway through. The band was then bathed in red lights for the dramatic The Red Carpet Day, which had been chosen to end the main set. The audience visibly loved participating in it and all of the band gave it their all, with TERU being especially active and flashy. HIZAKI even finally managed to get over to the other side of the stage, to the appreciation of those standing there. The members then took their leave, with the lead singer departing last after a deep bow whilst holding several of the roses between his teeth.

During the break that followed more chants of "We are..." struck up, but fans weren't kept waiting longer than five minutes for the reappearance of the band. KAMIJO invited everyone to sing Remember Forever together and they did just that, joining him to sing with feeling. During the piano solo he held out his microphone for them to sing "I remember this place...You'll just follow one's heart" in what was a rare quiet moment. The second encore song and final one of the night was Philia, to end things on a noisier note. The band and crowd both went crazy and rocked out one last time. TERU sent his white rose-patterned cape flying as he bounded around the stage wildly, and altogether the band brought the show to a dynamic close. Each member saluted the crowd who heaped their praise on them all. TERU formed a heart shape with his hands, and MASASHI swung his bass round in farewell as if it weighed nothing. KAMIJO sweetly thanked everyone very much for their support before making his exit.

Some in the crowd shouted for a second encore, but to no avail as the band had a meet and greet to get to. A queue rapidly formed for this and fans were still leaving about an hour after, a bit deaf but happy nonetheless. Versailles certainly know how to put on a show, and they had thoroughly entertained that night.

Set List:

01. Prelude
04. Judicial Noir
05. Flowery
06. Glowing Butterfly
07. Love will be born again
08. Faith & Decision
09. Vampire
10. DRY ICE SCREAM!! [Remove silence]
12. The Red Carpet Day

EN1. Remember Forever
EN2. Philia
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