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GLAY DEMOCRACY 25TH “HOTEL GLAY GRAND FINALE”

10/03/2021 2021-03-10 01:00:00 JaME Author: Lucy C.H.

GLAY DEMOCRACY 25TH “HOTEL GLAY GRAND FINALE”

The legendary Hokkaido band presented its fans with a slow-burning but entrancing rock show.


© LSG. All rights reserved.

It’s almost 3 pm. The sun threatens to set early, as it always does at this time of the year in the Far East. On the outskirts of Tokyo, outside the Saitama Super Arena, a massive, spaceship-like venue, all hard angles and glass, people have been gathering since mid-morning. It’s an exceptionally cold afternoon, but they keep themselves warm under puffy coats and face masks, sipping takeaway coffee and snapping photos of the exquisite blue illuminations adorning the trees. Massive screens reminding the crowds of hygiene regulations cast an eerie ashen light on the otherwise happy faces, reminding all that this air of normalcy is but a superficial gloss on a fragile, unsound status quo. For many, this is their first and last concert of the year.

The doors open and a flurry of socially-distanced figures make beelines for their respective entrance gates, many clutching dolls of Zura, the band’s iconic mascot. Others wave at friends from yards away, not making a move to approach them. Although the Saitama Super Arena usually seats over 35,000 people, it is operating at a much lower capacity today, forcing many fans to stay home and watch the livestream instead.

For those of you unfamiliar with GLAY, let us get the introductions over and done with. GLAY are rock mastodons. GLAY have been around since 1988. GLAY have no less than fifteen studio albums under their belts. GLAY once held the record for the biggest rock concert to ever take place in Japan, when they sat no less than 200,000 at Makuhari Messe in 1999. GLAY once had their very faces printed on a JAL jumbo jet. GLAY ’s name is actually a misspelling of the English word “grey”, for the band couldn’t decide between black (rock) and white (pop). But these days, calling GLAY a "grey" band would be an insult to these four Hokkaido-born rock legends.

Discovered in the mid-1990s by the legendary guitarist and skilled headhunter (or should we say earhunter?) hide, they became protégés of YOSHIKI, where they stood out as some of the brightest stars in their mentor’s Extasy coven. GLAY soon found their own path, one adorned with a variety of blooms in the colours of power pop, progressive rock, electronic and sometimes even R&B. On this night, they're expected to grace the crowd with a mix of old and new tracks, with a focus on the promotion of their latest single G4・2020, which was released last August.

2020 was a difficult year for the band, a year that saw a large chunk of their 25th anniversary festivities cancelled, including their May Tokyo Dome show. The original plan would have seen them perform this grand finale in Sapporo, not far from their hometown Hakodate. The decision to transfer the show to Saitama, due to the alarming spread of the disease in Hokkaido, was certainly an emotionally charged one. The band hadn’t gotten a taste of stage adrenaline in almost a year, their last live performance dating back to January. “What we all took for granted was not the norm”, singer Teru would later declare during one of his numerous MC breaks. “As transient as this moment might be, I now realise its preciousness with deep gratitude.” So do we, Teru, so do we.

And yet, despite whatever bittersweet feelings might be harboured on both sides of the stage, GLAY opens the show with the thunderous vigour of a very satisfying, long-awaited comeback. A short film is projected on the stage screens, picturing the four band members awaking from the dead in morgue-style beds. “Who killed GLAY?” reads the next screen, before the four of them are shown laughing while sitting together on a sofa, then being shot dead by doubles of themselves. Unsure of the concept behind the whole thing? You’re not alone.

But the good news is that the four of them won’t be dead for long, for as the lights shine on centre stage, we find them asleep on that very same sofa. Teru wakes, sporting a long white gown. His power nap sure did him good though, and the next minute, he’s singing the first notes to ROCK ACADEMIA, GLAY’s brand new, feel-good power pop song from their latest single, G4・2020. Similarly clad all in white, guitarist Takuro and bassist Jiro pick up on the bubbly teen rock energy remarkably well for people whose bubbly teen years date back to the early 1980s (truth must be told!).

Only lead guitarist Hisashi seems to be having a hard time waking up from his slumber, having likely spent the past eleven months in that very same black hoodie, doing exactly what he just did for the first half of the song: nap and wait for better days. And yet, much to the crowd’s satisfaction, the chorus comes on and the slightly grumpy, non-conformist, split-haired Hisashi finally leaps from his comfortable spot and sings (well, vocalises) the rest of the song alongside Teru, a surprising combo rarely witnessed in the history of the band.

All Standard is You, a classic from 2001, begins with yet another surprise: a "Star Wars"-style opening crawl bearing the title “The Entertainment Strikes Back”. The mighty evil Covid Empire might have tried to steal the joy and suck the cheer out of all intergalactic beings, but GLAY is here to save the day. May the GLAY be with you. Is the GLAY strong with you yet? Don’t worry, by the end of this gig, it sure will be.

The four members change into sleek black outfits, and the whole band appears to be in tip-top shape. Teru gives his all, singing with passion and purpose. Driving, commanding, leading, but never aggressively so. As usual, guitarist and lyricist Takuro stands out from the crowd with that effortless rockstar attitude that all covet, some emulate, but few truly achieve. The Guns have Slash. X JAPAN had hide. LUNA SEA have J. BUCK-TICK have Imai Hisashi. the GazettE have Reita. That one master of strings who might not steal the show, yet somehow manages to ooze undeniable charisma in just one flick of the hand.

To contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the crowd has been advised to avoid screaming, headbanging, dancing, laughing or applauding (although breathing might be allowed if you truly can’t help it.) A rather peculiar directive the band took with grace and humour. “It’s alright, we don’t need words or laughing today. Be like GLAY - we never laugh,” Teru jokes before instructing the crowd to clap (gently!) during High Communications in appreciation of socially-distanced unity.

The band chose to treat their fans to an hour of eclectic ballads, including the beautiful Mayfair, Haru wo aisuru hito and Curtain Call, all brought to life by the skilled support keyboardist HAJIMETAL. Shortly after that, the real fun begins as the rhythm picks up, Into The Wild follows with a powerful bass intro - and in our humble opinion, this track from G4・2020 steals the show!

Then we’re introduced to a brand new song, Shining Man - a blast of colour and birr - just before we embark on a trip down memory lane that stops by VIVA VIVA VIVA. For those unfamiliar with this 2001 gem, it’s a song about...being as high as a kite? And one of the few ones where the band goes from white to black without giving a fig about grey mode. That’s right: when VIVA VIVA VIVA comes on, you know the gig has hit its peak. 

Amid inflatable doll versions of the band that pop out of nowhere and vaporwave imagery, the band members seem to finally let their hair down. Takuro dons a top hat and stands on the monitors, because it’s not a real rock concert until somebody’s got both feet proudly spaced two feet apart atop an amplifier. Jiro catwalks along the stage aisles. Hisashi looks unperturbed. Teru does a great job demonstrating his showmanship, even if he lacks a little of the carnal energy to make the song truly work. Tracks like VIVA VIVA VIVA ask for a shameless stage beast, not the mild-mannered grace of a seasoned but exceedingly polite entertainer.

Before we tackle the encore, our honourable mention goes to XYZ, a hit from 2017's SUMMERDELICS that is featured tonight with unbelievable light projections all over the stage and arena. It's a moment of festive visual awe that marks the descent from the highs the band slowly built up over the second half of the set list.

But if you missed the climax during the main set, fear not. It is yet to come. As fancy stage outfits come off and the band dons simple tour shirts, the quartet finally present the crowd with a touching, no-frills thank-you speech that is equal parts heartwarming and endearing. The encore follows suit, and with a killer triptych: Kanojo no "Modern…", BIBLE and HEROES. And by the time the last song rolls around, the needless mild manners that left us hanging before appear to be reborn in the form of pure rockstar energy. At last, Teru and Takuro take turns standing on the monitors, and and for once, it doesn’t look choreographed. It looks like they don’t want to go home. It looks like they’ll miss this stage. It looks like a battle to attain and transmit higher notes, higher highs, higher feelings.

The verdict? We had a great time, and we’re glad we didn’t base our opinion of the band on the first half of the set. GLAY are still quite literally alive and kicking, and their latest hit Shining Man is proof of their obvious desire to get Japan back on its feet, dancing like no one's watching.


Set List

01. ROCK ACADEMIA
02. All Standard is You
03. MIRROR
04. High Communications
05. Tenshi no Wakemae
06. Ryuusei no Howl
07. Mayfair
08. Haru o Aisuru Hito
09. Curtain Call
10. Into the Wild
11. Tsuki ni Inoru
12. Shining Man
13. everKrack
14. VIVA VIVA VIVA
15. Friend of Mine
16. Lifetime
17. SOUL LOVE
18. Peak Hateshinaku Soul Kagirinaku
19. Dope
20. XYZ

Encore

21. Kanojo no “Modern…”
22. BIBLE
23. HEROES

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J to Stream Online Late Show Vol.2 on niconico LiVE

LUNA SEA bassist J will stream his second “Online Late Show” on July 16th at 21:00 (JST) via niconico LiVE.

nano to Live Stream

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nano to Live Stream "Rock on. @ Home" Acoustic Concert Worldwide

Rock singer nano will be live streaming an acoustic concert titled "Rock on. @ Home" worldwide via YouTube and Niconico on June 28th.

New Releases from David © David. All rights reserved.

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New Releases from David

Ex-Megaromania vocalist SUI's solo project David will release two more singles in July and August.

J to Stream Online Late Show on niconico LiVE © J. All rights reserved.

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J to Stream Online Late Show on niconico LiVE

LUNA SEA bassist J will stream “Online Late Show” on June 27th at 21:00 (JST) via niconico LiVE.

MUCC Announce First Paid No-Audience Streaming Live © MUCC. All rights reserved.

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MUCC Announce First Paid No-Audience Streaming Live

MUCC will broadcast their first paid no-audience streaming live simultaneously via ZAIKO and Niconico Live on June 21st.

Minamino Rock Festival 2020 to Stream Worldwide © Minamino Rock Festival. All rights reserved.

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Minamino Rock Festival 2020 to Stream Worldwide

"Minamino Rock Festival", a yearly event that benefits the family of slain Japanese music producer Shingo Minamino, will broadcast live from Shinjuku Loft on June 10th.

LUNA SEA to Stream

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LUNA SEA to Stream "MUSIC AID FEST. ~FOR POST PANDEMIC~" Aftertalk Program and Upload 30 Full Music Videos to YouTube

Members of LUNA SEA will be streaming an aftertalk program about their online charity festival on June 9th, and the band will upload one full MV to YouTube each day for 30 days.

BACK-ON to Stream No-Audience Concert Worldwide, with First 30 Minutes Free on YouTube © BACK-ON. All rights reserved.

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BACK-ON to Stream No-Audience Concert Worldwide, with First 30 Minutes Free on YouTube

Rock band BACK-ON will live stream the first 30 minutes of their "Bring The Noise Vol. 2" no-audience concert for free on their YouTube channel on June 14th.

Japanese Artists Unite for Online Music Festival

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Japanese Artists Unite for Online Music Festival "From Japan to the World"

A diverse line-up of artists will be coming together for an online music festival called "From Japan to the World".

H ZETTRIO to Live Stream Three Shows on YouTube © World Apart Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

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H ZETTRIO to Live Stream Three Shows on YouTube

Jazz unit H ZETTRIO will live stream three shows via their YouTube channel in June.

Anly to Live Stream Album Release Party Performance © Anly. All rights reserved.

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Anly to Live Stream Album Release Party Performance

Singer-songwriter Anly will live stream a special performance commemorating the release of her new album "Sweet Cruisin'" on April 9th.

DIR EN GREY to Livestream Backstage Documentary and Concert  © sun-krad Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

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DIR EN GREY to Livestream Backstage Documentary and Concert

DIR EN GREY will broadcast a special program titled "The World You Live In" from their YouTube channel on March 28th.

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