The first part of this Chapter was actually labelled “Part 0.” Please check the Table of Contents for earlier parts.
October 12, 2002 Toda City Culture Hall (Dress Rehearsal)
In preparation for the show on the 14th, the staff had already gotten all the equipment set up inside the hall yesterday. Now, they awaited the band’s arrival.
In the previous two hall tours, the dress rehearsal (in which everything is done as if the audience were there) was carried out the day before the show, but this time, it came two days before. In part, this was out of consideration for Gackt, who said he wanted to rest his throat before the show even just a little bit. But also, the idea was to have one whole day to slowly tweak the lights and all the other stand-out elements to perfection.
The amount of work and man-hours that go into putting on a concert far exceed what any of us would imagine. When people come to see the show, I hope they keep in mind the countless individuals who worked to make it happen.
“I got lost. I kept going in circles all around this place. Ahaha!”
Gackt arrived at twenty past noon; unexpectedly, he’d driven himself over in his beloved car.
“How’s your throat?”
“Not good. Today I’ll only sing when I absolutely have to.”
But once the dress rehearsal started, he would have to sing at the same volume he would use for the audience, so this, in particular, was the same as always.
Once everyone went into the dressing room, they immediately tried on the clothes they’d wear in the second half of the show, from “ANOTHER WORLD” on. As they slipped on the new clothes, there were grumbles here and there of things being not quite right.
“What’s up with Chacha and Ren? Hm, they really look like they’re in the Gorengers. And You looks like he’s wearing a stuffed animal suit. Ahaha!”
Perhaps out of consideration for the stylist, Monkey, who had stayed up all night designing and making these costumes, Gackt tried to soften the blow with jokes. But ultimately these costumes were no good, so after the dress rehearsal, all the members ended up going to “Little Village,” a boutique in Harajuku, to pick out new clothes for the show.
After the instrument check, the band began rehearsing song by song.
“These IEMs keep cutting in and out…no good.”
A problem right from the beginning! The sound techs rushed to set up a fresh pair of monitors for Gackt.
For “ANOTHER WORLD,” the members take their time talking over how they’re going to make use of the stairs, and decide their positions. Of course, there hadn’t been any stairs to rehearse with in the studio, so it was crucial that they spend some time on this today.
Gackt started barking out critiques for the first time today while the dancers practiced their moves for “death wish.”
“What happened? Didn’t you practice? Show them how to do it right!”
Gackt yells to the lead dancer, YOSH, whose face turns sour.
From down in the seats, Gackt kept on watching the dancers practice for a while. Eventually, he said:
“Good, good. Keep it like that for the day of the show.”
To be completely honest, the dancers’ movements were still off. Gackt seemed to be giving them the green light simply because otherwise they’d never move forward; he wore a dissatisfied look on his face. The dancers hadn’t heard the last of Gackt’s severe criticism.
After this, while discussing each point with Mr. Asano, Gackt and the performers repeatedly practiced the wire work for “Lu:na,” the choreography for “Missing,” and the part of “memories” where the dancers fall backwards, ending with meticulous run-throughs of said song.
“There’s too much time between ‘Kimi ga Matteiru Kara’ and ‘memories.’ We’ve got to transition faster.”
“Memories” starts off with the members seated on the stairs. To decide where each one would go, Gackt walked around checking the members’ movements and positioning, asking the opinion of everyone around, including me.
“I think it’s much more moving if we do it this way, but what do you guys think?”
Yet, there was still a hint of dissatisfaction in his expression……
The practice for the dress rehearsal had already gone over the allotted time, but just as they had done in the past on the day before the show, everyone strove for the best performance in what little time they had. While feeling a bit of déjà vu from thinking about the previous 2 tours, I started expecting more and more to come out of the dress rehearsal.
In the same way that someone coming to see a Gackt concert for the first time is surprised, as a fan, I’m always surprised by the first dress rehearsal. Really, I get all giddy like a child.
Then, well past what was supposed to be the starting time, the dress rehearsal finally began, and I saw it for the first time: water onstage during “rain.” It goes without staying that I was stunned to see actual rain falling on the stage. Without the heat from an audience, the rain made the venue cold rather than merely cool. That’s the type of thing that only happens during dress rehearsals.
Despite my surprise, I figured Gackt would ask me later what points should be improved upon, as he usually did, so I jotted down some notes about the things that concerned me.
With the empty seats before them, Gackt and the members put as much energy into their performance as they would for the real show. Of course, there were still parts they seemed to be struggling with……
“How was it?”
After the dress rehearsal ended, Gackt asked for my opinion with a tense look on his face. I started listing what I thought were the problem points in the performance, focusing on the fact that the rain was hard to see in some spots with the lighting set up as it was. However, with the clock about to strike 11 o’clock at night, the atmosphere backstage was one of exhaustion. Gackt had to go on to several other meetings, so I ended up leaving the venue without getting too deep into our conversation.
Directly afterwards the band went to see about getting new outfits for the show, and I heard they were picking out clothes till dawn. Of course, the staff also had a long meeting. All of this was so to be able to express the world of MOON in the long, grueling tour ahead……
October 14, 2002 Toda City Culture Hall
The first day of Kagen no Tsuki had arrived.
Right on time, Gackt got to the venue at 11 a.m. Considering that today’s show wouldn’t start until 5 p.m., it was a rather early meeting time, much earlier than usual.
After selecting his outfit for the show, Gackt had probably stayed up watching footage of the dress rehearsal with a critical eye. He must have been practicing the action sequences this whole time too.
All I could think about was the impact of the onstage rain. Certain it could turn into a groundbreaking, wonderful performance, I went to greet Gackt and tell him what was on my mind.
“Yeah, the rain’s great, isn’t it? It’s beautiful, and just makes you relax. No other Japanese artist is doing this.”
What Gackt said was right on point. The unique system for making the rain fall on the stage was something that Mr. Asano and staff had spent over half a year developing. It came to fruition precisely because of Gackt and Mr. Asano, a combo that continually seeks outstanding, original stage direction.
I went to speak with Mr. Asano. He worried that Gackt was still unable to focus as he had in previous tours.
“It feels like Gackt isn’t as hyped up for the first day as he usually is. I guess the schedule’s just way too packed, huh? But there’s nothing I can do about that, and I’ve been entrusted with a lot of things too, so I’ll try to support Gackt as much as I can by doing my part.”
When Gackt had once again said during the dress rehearsal, “I don’t like how we’re so pressed for time,” I definitely got the feeling his concentration was a bit off. I, too, was worried by that.
However, compared to the Gackt from previous tours, this new, post-Madagascar Gackt had an entirely different way of thinking. This Gackt made you feel that, rather than focusing solely on the live show ahead, he was looking at the big picture. In other words, at the whole “MOON Project.” Even without focusing on what’s directly in front of him, now that he had reached a mutual understanding with the other members and his staff he was able to confidently delegate more tasks to them. That’s why he could now step back to look at how all the pieces went together. Granted, time constraints could be a burden, but it could be said that his concentration had actually increased in looking at the big picture.
With such thoughts filling my head, I went to speak to the band members.
“This time, the second half of the show is really tough. After the dress rehearsal, I felt like I’d lost weight. Last night I drank two energy drinks and fell asleep.”
You spoke with very little energy. He’s the type to get really nervous before a show, in stark contrast with the cheery vibe he gives off over drinks.
“Ren! Aren’t those clothes a little too big for you?”
Using the small-framed Ren as the butt of his joke, (or maybe just saying what he really thought?) Gackt got the whole room roaring with laughter.
In wardrobe, the staff adjusted the costumes, which were almost ready. Including the dancers’ costumes, just how many outfits were being used for this tour? Compared to previous years, the backstage area seemed even more like a battlefield than usual.
At 12:50 p.m., Gackt and the dancers headed for the stage. Over and over again, they rehearsed the scene after “memories” in which the dancers fall over backwards and disappear. Anyone who has seen the show can probably understand what a dangerous stunt that was. The dancers were actually falling backwards unto a mattress held up by the staff. But it can’t be ignored just how terrifying it is to let yourself fall over 3 meters [nearly 10 feet] from the stage without being able to see where you’re falling to. The dancers couldn’t have pulled off this type of staging without trusting and being in sync with the staff.
The dancers’ rehearsal ended, and everyone took a breather. Suddenly, Gackt started whaling on the drums. As a former drummer, he seemed to be having a blast, wielding the drumsticks splendidly. But the staff seemed unsettled.
“It’s fine if he needs a little change of pace, but the time…”
They watched Gackt with those worried looks on their faces. (Ahaha!)
Since much time was needed to wipe down the stage after “rain,” they got that rehearsal out of the way early on. Usually, rehearsals before a show centered on the band’s practice, but since it was the first day, the focus was instead on the wire work during the bridge of “Lu:na.” They went over it countless times, getting everyone involved on the same page. At the time, the chances of Gackt arcing beautifully through the air and sticking his landing were only 50-50. Which would it be during the show…?
“It’s hard to fly with just a strobe light,” Gackt lamented.
The darkness was not only dangerous, but it also made it hard to see the action from the seats further in the back. (After this performance and the one in Ōmiya, they decided to make the lights brighter from the Tokyo shows on.)
4 p.m. It was almost showtime, but there was one last rehearsal still going on. They were running through, one more time, the part where the dancers fall off the stage backwards.
“That was good, YOSH!”
Gackt, who had been yelling out directions from the seats, gave his approval. A wave of applause naturally sprang up from the staff, and just when everyone was starting to feel relaxed with the rehearsal finally ending, Gackt yelled out again:
“This is only the rehearsal, you know. Don’t celebrate just yet, ahaha!”
Though he was smiling, Gackt hadn’t dropped his guard at all. His words put everyone on edge again, and heralded the start of the show.
5:30 p.m. The concert began half an hour late.
In previous tours, shows often started considerably behind schedule, so the fans waited out the 30-minute delay as if saying, “We’re used to this.” Well, that was to be expected, considering today’s show was fanclub-only.
If I recall, the audience’s reaction on the first day of the previous tour, Requiem et Réminiscence ~Chinkon to Saisei~ was one of “observing” an unknown world. But today, there was no such cold inspection. Having already experienced the album MOON, and gone to the live house tour, the well-prepared audience seemed to be ready to just enjoy themselves to the fullest.
Even so, completely different from the previous time, there could also be seen some audience members who seemed unsure how to react to the band as it moved through the first half of the show with a clearly more imposing yet detached manner. How to put it…… Although the band’s playing was good, it was like the hesitant audience members were trying to maintain some psychological distance from the performance, as if they were searching for a way to deal with the world of Kagen no Tsuki. Of course, the audience was stunned by “rain.” They merely stared at the stage, as if they had forgotten to even ask themselves whether what they were seeing was actual water or a projected image.
Next, everyone held their breath at the unexpected performance of “Lapis ~Prologue~,” which ends with Gackt dragging his feet as he walks offstage. There was a sad ring to the voices that called out Gackt’s name, addressing themselves to an empty stage. It was obvious that “rain” and “Lapis ~Prologue~” would go on to become the special highlights of Kagen no Tsuki.
In the second half, a complete 180 from the first, the band members played with gleeful abandon during “Mirror.” Ren jumped around so energetically he got the whole crowd going. You’s comical movements during “Soleil” were also a smash hit. It was quite the accomplishment to have a show on the first day with such good balance between hardness and softness, movement and stillness, effectively modulating the degree of activity on the stage. Of course, there were still many parts that needed work……
“Today is a fanclub-only show, so we’re all family here, we’re all ‘Dears’…”
That was how Gackt opened up his emcee portion, which I’d like to make special note of here. He emphasized that the band members and fans were all family, and moved on to his main point:
“Everyone has their own path. We’re going to do the tour with these members.”
Without once saying Masa’s name, but with loving words, Gackt indirectly explained that Masa wouldn’t be participating this time around.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been moved by Gackt’s special talk, but for me, it was the most moving of all. Actually, it was an exquisite emcee portion.
I’m reminded of an interview we did during the tour:
“Masa and I talked things over quite a bit, and I can say it because I’m the one who told him, ‘If that’s what you think you should do, then do it.’ Ultimately, I was the one who told the band, ‘This is what Masa said,’ and everyone had this internal conflict. I mean, we want to support his decision, but…it’s complicated. We’re a family, so on the one hand it feels like ‘It’s no good if you’re gone,’ but on the other, there’s this pride mixed in, ‘We can do it even without you.’ We did the live house tour carrying those two extremely opposite emotions. Everyone had all sorts of things on their mind.”
—Do you still feel the hole Masa left even now?
“I’m saddened by his absence, but I don’t feel it. Though I still feel that his presence is needed onstage. But it’s not like what we’re doing is something that can’t be done without him. We’d be no good if we couldn’t. ……I’ve got these two emotions inside me that can be hard to balance, feeling like this was inevitable but also being sad, but I have to look at the reality before me. It’s not like we’re all walking the same path to begin with. Everyone has their own path, and those paths sometimes go in the same direction. It’s not a bad thing for someone to change course in the middle of the journey. Besides, it’s rude to the members who stay with you to cling to the people who have left. The fans don’t know the reasons behind a member’s departure, right? But I don’t think there’s any need to explain those things. That’s something they can figure out from watching the show.”
From now on, rather than directly explaining Masa’s absence, Gackt would send the message through his live concerts. The first show at Toda was special for being limited to fanclub members, and while the emcee portion made everyone think about Masa, Gackt carried out his will not to mention Masa’s absence directly. The beginning of Kagen no Tsuki probably served to draw a line between the old band and the new, and the tour got off to a pretty good start on the first day.
What lies in store? Who will we meet, what will we be moved by, and what challenges will we face? While thinking of the long journey ahead, I started for home.
[Continued in Chapter 4, Part 2]