Slowly we inch closer to the halfway mark of The Air Moon. Very slowly, as I will most likely not have time for this again until May. For the earlier parts, please see the Table of Contents.
I’m not sure if I’ve brought this up before, but the part of concerts where the artist stops and talks to the audience for a while is called the “MC” portion in Japanese. Earlier I was leaving this in the translation as such, writing it out as “emcee,” as I’ve seen this term used in the English-speaking fandom. However, it’s one of those language things that doesn’t sit quite right with me, like calling live shows “lives” or using “inbox” as a verb. Not that I’m a strict prescriptivist, it’s just a matter of personal preference. I may go back and change “emcee portion” to “talk portion” where it appears in earlier parts of the translation.
Also, it occurred to me that readers with certain kinds of colorblindness or those using screen-reading software wouldn’t be able to tell that I write what I’m saying in indigo and the text of the translation in black to differentiate between the two. So just in case, know that what follows the single star is always the translation.
Anyway, remember when you had to ask other people to take your picture for you? Before selfies were a thing? Ah, those were the days. Ahaha…
October 19, 2002 Tokyo International Forum (First Day)
“It’s because television doesn’t really suit me…”
Gackt was in the habit of saying that, but there was doubtless a close connection between his rise in popularity this past year and his appearances on radio and television. His unique tempo and tone had the strange effect of setting him apart from the other personalities during the talk portions of music programs, at some point turning him into a character called “Gak-kun” on Domoto Kyōdai; likewise, even though he appeared in commercials with impeccable style, he nevertheless showed hints of his comedic side. Without a doubt, there was something about TV Gackt that betrayed the fact that he wasn’t quite right for the medium, but at the same time, that awkwardness seemed to give him a certain impact.
Personally, I prefer Radio Gackt. The voice I hear when he’s doing All Night Nippon sounds more like the usual Gackt that I know than the voice I hear when the TV cameras are rolling. Be that as it may, it makes me immensely happy that Gackt has gained so much recognition through the exposure he gets on many different media. The restrictions on his private life have increased, and he’s paying the price of fame, but those are things which must be rationally accepted as unavoidable.
“I’m just using many doors.”
Without fail, that’s what Gackt says whenever the topic of television or commercials pops up.
Exposure to Gackt on many kinds of media offers an easy-to-understand gateway to the world of his music. Regardless of what form that exposure takes, getting more people interested in Gackt and having them go see the world he creates is absolutely necessary for turning all of his concepts into reality. The more that people become interested in Gackt, buying his CDs and going to his live shows, the more the expression of Gackt’s artistry can evolve. It’s a synergistic effect. To put it simply, if there is a larger audience, it becomes possible to use larger venues where all kinds of performances can be done, broadening the scope of Gackt’s art.
As a result of all the exposure, the tickets for each venue on the Kagen no Tsuki tour sold out on the same day, becoming “platinum tickets.” Today’s venue, Hall A of the Tokyo International Forum, had been used three times in previous tours, but on this tour, it would be used four times: there would be shows here two days in a row at two points in the tour. Despite the generous offering, there were still many fans who could not get tickets. The results would likely have been the same even if the venue had been the Budōkan or Yokohama Arena.
Gackt was perfectly aware of that reality. He pumped himself up with the thought that he must not let down the fans who went through the trouble of securing tickets, and entered the venue at 2 p.m. His physical condition was so-so.
As always, he got in and walked all over the venue.
“I think it’s a given for any performer to check things from the audience’s point of view. How the audience will enter the venue, what stairs they’ll have to climb, what seats they’ll sit in, and what view they’ll have of the stage from those seats.”
The force of this unchanging thought had always compelled Gackt through the seats in all the venues he performed in, and it did so again today.
Hall A of the Tokyo International Forum is the largest hall in the Tokyo metropolitan area with fixed seating in which it is possible to hold rock concerts. It can seat over 5,000 people. Given its large size and its steep stairs, even Gackt was breathing hard as he went all around the hall. It took him half an hour to complete his inspection.
Off in a corner of the stage, the staff were lined up looking as if they wanted to get on with the rehearsal. However, it had already become an established custom that Gackt would survey the entire venue first, so they also seemed to be thinking, “We’re used to be being kept waiting.”
Everyone went back to the dressing rooms. Gackt went into his private dressing room, and I went to that of the band members to greet them. I found the dancers there, all with long faces.
“Everybody’s got whiplash from that part at the end where we fall over. We’re not going to be able to do it if we don’t come up with some countermeasure.”
Dance leader YOSH’s face was especially glum. He understood that the scene at the end of “memories” where four dancers fall backwards off the stage and disappear made a huge impact on the audience, and that it was a precious scene that left a wonderful lingering sensation with them. However…
I’m writing what goes on behind the scenes here. The truth is, that was a very dangerous stunt. The only thing in place to catch the dancers when they fell backwards off the stage was a mattress held up by some staff members. It’s no wonder the dancers ended up with whiplash. Nevertheless, what they were most painfully aware of was the fact that Gackt was taking the risk of doing a dangerous stunt himself, namely with wire work, so they had to somehow put forth the effort to clear this hurdle. Since the front man was doing all that, it wouldn’t do for the people who make up the rest of the ensemble to whine about their part. From this point on, surely the dancers would start experimenting with ways to lessen the force of the blow to their necks.
There were a few grumbles, but before I realized it, the dancers had gotten up to practice their moves for “Lu:na.” They went over the steps while giving each other advice.
The band also began its preparation for battle. Holding his guitar, You got up and said:
“We’ve done two live shows, but I’m still burning to go for each one. I’m all giddy like a kid before a field trip. These Tokyo shows…I want to play each one as if it were the last, to make them even better. I’ll do my best!”
The rehearsal started with more fire and passion than that for the previous two shows.
On the first day, the group had groped about in Toda, trying to find the sweet spot for their performance based off of their pre-tour rehearsals. On the second day, the group applied what they’d learned in Toda to the show in Ōmiya, and tried out some new additions. Today, the third day, the group must go over everything they experienced in the past two shows to come up with the performance’s final form. It always ends up being this way, but the third stop on a live tour is when the band has enough fuel to put on a more fiery rehearsal than ever.
“You! We’re supposed to be moving on the upbeat! You guys are completely off! Didn’t you tell everyone how to do it?!”
Gackt’s rallying cries were already echoing through the venue.
Gackt and You were supposed to raise their fists during the bridge of “ANOTHER WORLD,” but they were supposed to do it on the upbeat. Now, they had to practice to get their timing right. They practiced the same thing over and over, to make the rhythm seep into their bodies.
Keeping an eye on the members’ movements from the audience’s seats, Gackt once again yelled out his instructions.
“Come on, everybody! Get with the program! We don’t have much time. You’re all going like ‘I only have to move up to this point.’ But that’s no good! You’re not moving ‘up to’ a certain point, you’re moving from a certain point. That’s why you can’t keep up with the lights, you’re thinking about getting to the bare minimum instead of starting from the bare minimum. What kind of performers can’t keep up with the lighting, huh?! Run through ‘ANOTHER WORLD’ again!”
How many times did they practice that song? But no matter how many times they played it, there was no end to Gackt’s criticisms.
“You! You’re still slow!”
On top of all that, there was also a rehearsal for the wire work, and it was becoming obvious the show wouldn’t open on time. The staff looked like they were starting to panic, but Gackt apparently still had many things on his mind. He went over to Igao, the keyboardist, and started modifying the programming.
Once that was done, I expected Gackt would finally be able to go into makeup, but instead, he went over to the staff person in charge of the visuals, and started making changes to the opening video. Well well, not compromising even at the very last minute is completely in keeping with Gackt’s obsessiveness.
“At this rate, today’s show will open over an hour behind schedule…”
Gackt’s refusal to return to his dressing room had the whole staff on edge. Of course, when he did finally go get ready for the show, he made a fast break. Somehow, they managed to start only 55 minutes behind schedule.
Compared to the other venues they’d played at so far, this one was significantly larger, so the stage made you feel a strong sense of openness. Thanks to the rehearsal, the members’ movements had become much bigger than before, and the spacious venue seemed to only spur them on into a greater frenzy. They were as energetic as wild animals that had been set free from their cages, let out into the fields. Everyone burst from the gate with all their might.
At this point, there were only two previous shows to look to for comparison, but as far as I could see, the performance had gotten much better. However, perhaps from overexerting himself in the first half, Gackt came out to do the talk portion with faltering steps.
“I was dizzy and passed out for a bit just now…” Gackt informed the audience.
Then, there was an unusual development. For the first time in Gackt concert history, a lively member of the audience was invited up on stage during the talk portion. It was a man named Sugimoto. I was amazed by how he had the guts to do his impression of Gackt before the man himself. Gackt had this to say about it later:
“The instant I brought him up on stage, the faces of my bodyguards and the security guards changed completely. They were staring on like ‘We’ll pounce on him if he looks at you the wrong way.’ It was really scary. The slightest move set them into fighting stances. Ahaha!”
With that little bit of excitement, the show continued on at a good pace. But there were clearly some problems that came up in the course of the performance. Overall, the lights were far too dim. Of course, given the superior staff that had been gathered for this tour, the size of the venue had been taken into account when setting up the lights, but they had needed to kick it up just one more notch.
This concert tour had been leveling up steadily, but there were certainly still many points which needed to be worked on. After the show, Gackt talked about just that.
“I put my absolute all into this show, as if it were the last. But my best still isn’t good enough. I’ll have to give it my all again tomorrow.”
The sour expression on his face as he said those words seemed to reveal his lingering irritation at still not being able to fire on all cylinders.
October 20, 2002 Tokyo International Forum (Second Day)
Evaporation, detoxification, and purification. The waning moon is said to have these powers, which grow stronger the closer it gets to the new moon. In that case, were the band members and staff tackling this tour still in the process of purification at this point? When they finally put on the best show ever, would that signal the presence of the new moon? The road ahead was still quite long. It would be interesting if there really were a new moon on Christmas Eve, the day of the last show on the tour…
The members started trickling into the dressing room one after the other a little past 1 p.m. By the looks of it, they were still too excited to get any sleep, so it didn’t seem as if they had been purified just yet. Even though they were tired, they kept up a high level of energy.
Chachamaru started taking photos of the people in the dressing room with the digital camera he’d brought along. He also passed it to YOSH to have his own picture taken. Ryu was another one who tended to get all worked up in the presence of digital cameras. He probably uploaded the shots to his website.
The buzz in the dressing room lately is often all about photography, so much so that you’ll often catch the members asking the photographer, Mr. Tsukagoshi, questions about it.
Gackt got into the venue around 2 p.m.
“Hey. Time to plunge into the fifth all-nighter. You guys sure have a lot of energy. Ahaha…”
As expected, Gackt was feeling the tension too. He set off for the audience’s seats without going into the dressing room.
“I wanna go up to the highest seats on the second floor.”
I was fairly certain he went up to those seats yesterday when he made his rounds inside the venue, but maybe there was something in particular on his mind this time. Gackt pounded up the escalators, which were not in operation before the venue opened, and got to the top in a flash.
“There’s a really good view of the stage from all the way up here too. Even though this is further up than the highest seats in the Budōkan.”
Gackt probably wanted to check with his own eyes just how bright the lights on stage looked from the highest part of the hall, as well as how visible the members were under those lights. As he had made his way to the second floor with that spring in his step, he had said, “I got a lot of emails saying the lights weren’t bright enough yesterday,” so that was, without a doubt, what he had wanted to check.
He immediately turned on his heels, heading for the lighting techs positioned behind the first floor seats. After having a private talk with them about this and that, he returned to his dressing room for the time being.
In the costume room, Monkey the stylist and his crew were hurriedly adjusting the costumes. After today’s show, there would be four regional shows, meaning they would not be able to return to Tokyo for a while and had to get all repairs properly done before leaving the city.
“Gackt told us to do this yesterday, and we just got back from buying materials,” Monkey explained as he added bone-like lines to the dancers’ gloves with fluorescent paint.
Of course! That way, the audience would be able to see the dancers’ hands even when the lights dimmed. It was an extremely minor detail, but paying attention to such things is quintessentially Gackt.
“These gloves are already all beat up. We better buy some new ones to keep in stock…”
I inadvertently sighed while taking in the dancers’ small gloves, which bore witness to their struggle as they continued working with such frenzied choreography. How much longer until the dancers could acquire the powers the waning moon bestows as it turns into the new moon?
The rehearsal was in full swing out on the stage. A great deal of time was allotted to practicing the wire work for “Lu:na,” which up till now had not been going well. Also, changes were made to the dancers’ positioning on the stage, and the band ran through the other songs as well. Gackt had been watching from the seats, but then he returned to the stage and announced to the band:
“None of you are making enough eye contact today. You’ve got to be more aware of each other…”
Gackt gathered the members on the center of the stage, and started talking to them in a calm but nonetheless frightening tone of voice. It was like what happened before the Yonago secret live show all over again…
Over the course of the live house tour, the members had gotten used to being in total mental and physical harmony, but even so, Gackt warned them not to forget something as fundamental as eye contact.
After that, the band resumed its rehearsal.
“Oh man, looks like we’ll be opening late again today…”
All the staff seemed worried, but Mr. Asano was particularly on edge. Even so, lately Gackt had been able to get through makeup very quickly after rehearsals, so the show opened only 30 minutes behind schedule.
The performance with the dragon that went with the track “Noah” had been cut on the previous day, but it made its way back into the show today. The costumes for the staff members controlling the dragon had been upgraded. Previously, the crew had experimented with attaching wires to the dragon to make it “fly,” or cutting the wires at certain points, but no matter what they did, they couldn’t quite settle on a way to control it. But from today’s show and up until the very last performance of the tour, they finally found the perfect style for handling the dragon.
Yesterday, the lights had been too dim, but today, they were much brighter, and changed appropriately for each song. Not only that, but there was a marked improvement in the sound quality too. This staff was one that even Gackt acknowledged as being composed of the best pros in their respective fields. Indeed, they never made the same mistake twice. Having gone to every show, I can vouch for that with absolute confidence. I always ended up deeply admiring the way this staff worked. From the bottom of my heart, I want to point out how wonderful and dependable they were.
Thanks to the adjustments made to the lights, the rain falling during “rain” was much more clearly visible, and added to the atmosphere created by the music. Chachamaru’s guitar work likewise produced a more thrilling sense of urgency, especially at the point when Gackt disappeared from the stage: his guitar seemed to cry out, weeping at the loss of its hero. What’s more, the beautiful patterns projected onto the screen created by the continuous rain conjured up all sorts of visions. It was almost too exciting to bear. The direction of this part of the show had certainly gotten better with each concert. The work of true professionals was once again on display for all to see.
Come to think of it, since the raindrops in this part of the show were so fine, it probably would have been possible to project not patterns but actual video footage onto the screen. That means it would be possible to watch a movie on a screen of falling rain. I’m sure Mr. Asano, who is full of ideas, will think to do it someday. (Note: I thought this would be done during this tour or Jōgen no Tsuki, but perhaps it wasn’t thought necessary, as it didn’t happen. Maybe the effect will be used in an upcoming tour.)
The jam session-like introduction to “ANOTHER WORLD” heralded the start of the second half of the show, and instantly ramped up the voltage in the venue. I noticed the addition of some new keyboard instrumentation to the mix. That was also the result of trial and error, something that led to a better way of performing the song and successfully created a previously unheard gorgeousness.
From the time they’d gone into their dressing rooms, to the rehearsals, and up to this point in the concert, the members had kept up their level of energy, and their vibe remained the same through “Mirror.” Ren’s jumps were high beyond belief.
“Knock, knock. I’m home.”
By now it had become standard to start the talk portion of the show with a skit wherein Gackt pretends to be opening the door to a house. The energy remained high as Gackt and the audience’s cheerful voices rang out through the venue in an exchange of “I’m home!” and “Welcome back!”
After that, Gackt didn’t stumble at all, and the concert finished on an energetic high note. It was a good show.
As usual, the staff had to carry Gackt’s limp body back to the dressing room, but he recovered quickly and emerged with a refreshed look on his face. Likewise, the members all had these satisfied expressions, as if they had finally hit their stride. Considering it was the fourth show, it could be said that it had reached the first level of completeness. It was as if a weight had been lifted off their shoulders, at least for now.
At the celebratory dinner, Gackt conversed nostalgically with some guests from Taiwan. The strange tension and severity had also disappeared from the members’ faces, which seemed to be bathed in the joy of having gotten over their first hurdle. It was the first post-concert party that actually felt good, and everyone got drunk off its atmosphere.
The show seemed to have had a cathartic and purifying effect on the members. As I studied their faces, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if this transformation had anything to do with the powers of the waning moon.
[Continued in Chapter 4, Part 4]