It’s Memorial Day weekend! While I physically did not go anywhere (unless you count repeatedly walking up and down the Detroit International Riverfront), I did take a break from all my usual duties.
But enough about me.
This post covers two stops, one in Sendai and one in Gunma. First-time visitors are encouraged to start from the beginning; anyone needing to find where they left off can do so via the Table of Contents. I suppose it’s fitting to post this on Memorial Day, given the rabbit hole I went down looking up that “Sieg Zeon” stuff. Not that I was completely unfamiliar with it, but…well, that’s a long story for another day.
October 25, 2002 Sendai Sunplaza
It took a long time for the band members and staff to become one and put on a convincing show during the first tour, MARS ~Sora Kara no Hōmonsha~. Gackt didn’t look satisfied with the results until the last stage of that tour. The next tour, 2001’s Requiem et Réminiscence ~Chinkon to Saisei~, made use of the lessons learned in the first tour. While this did make for concerts that were of very high quality right from the beginning, I remember that it nonetheless took a fair amount of time for the shows to really have an impact.
Coming after the live house tour, the beginning of Kagen no Tsuki was already of such high caliber that it wouldn’t even be fair to compare it to the early stages of MARS ~Sora Kara no Hōmonsha~; the former had succeeded in putting together a polished show very early on. This was indeed a wonderful thing. However, as far as Gackt was concerned, Kagen no Tsuki was but a piece of the larger MOON PROJECT. No matter how polished the show already was, it wouldn’t do to rest his laurels at this point. He had to continue putting on shows that were wonderful in every way, and making the audience feel the world of MOON and the movie MOON CHILD, so that it would all connect to the next big tour, Jōgen no Tsuki. Kagen no Tsuki itself would end on Christmas Eve at Yokohama Arena, but that wasn’t the end of everything.
While reminiscing about the tour, which leveled up step by step through the shows in Toda, Ōmiya, Tokyo, and the metropolitan area, I made my way to Sendai via bullet train. Because of work commitments, I was unable to get to the venue at the same time as Gackt and company. I figured I’d probably get there in the middle of rehearsals.
As expected, rehearsals were still going on when I opened the venue door at 5:00 p.m. Up on the stage, the dancers were practicing the part where they fall down after “memories.”
“You’re not jumping backwards off the stage, it should look like you’re falling straight down!”
Gackt was giving instructions from down in the audience’s seats, but I realized that the dancers were performing their fall differently. So far, the dancers had been crossing their arms over their chests, letting themselves fall over backwards while maintaining their bodies perfectly straight, but their movements were different today. Was the change made in consideration for the dancers’ whiplash?
“We changed it because the space behind the stage is pretty narrow, so there isn’t enough room for them to lean backwards into the fall.”
Standing nearby, Mr. Asano explained the change to me, and I got it. That’s why the dancers, with their arms crossed over their chests, were moving backwards and letting themselves simply drop straight down from the stage. It’s exactly as Gackt said; rather than falling after jumping off, it looked much better if the dancers just seem to suddenly disappear. The dancers practiced this new move countless times, and once they’d gotten the hang of it, rehearsals were over.
“Do your best during the show. Careful not to hurt yourselves.”
The brief word from Gackt echoed in the venue through the loudspeakers.
Gackt had his feet propped up on the audience’s seats as he leaned back in his own chair when I approached him to greet him.
Turning around at the sound of my voice, Gackt lost his balance and tipped over. The bodyguards rushed over to help him up. Oh no…what if he hurt himself? I was covered in a cold sweat.
“Man, you really startled me. This hurts like hell… Now it’s not just the dancers, even I fell over! Ahaha…”
He looked like he was really in serious pain, but since he was able to joke about it so easily, it was clear he was okay. Still, my heart had been pounding, thinking that he might have gotten injured.
Instead of going back to the dressing room, for some reason Gackt went up on stage and started playing the drums. He played the phrases from “death wish” that are full of fills with great ease.
“Come to think of it…had you ever seen me playing the drums, Mr. Hirose?”
Gackt was really enjoying himself as he asked me the question. Of course, the staff had these looks on their faces that said “He needs to start getting ready for the show…” But Gackt was all riled up. If that energy came out in a good way, the show would turn out great, but there was also the danger of the show becoming too frantic. After all, once a performer has gone out onstage, there are many things which can go one way or another depending on the vibe from the audience.
“Today’s the fifth day of Kagen no Tsuki, huh…?”
Before the show, past concerts seemed to be flashing before Gackt’s eyes as he addressed himself to the band members.
“People in the second floor seats are going to be looking down from practically directly above us, so let’s be mindful of the fact that the audience is pretty close…let’s get hype!”
The show began 35 minutes late, but wow! The flood of sound that burst forth could only come from the Sendai Sunplaza.
Even when comparing it to venues nationwide, the Sunplaza has a particularly peculiar construction: it is a perfect circle. Consequently, the sound bounces back to the stage pretty severely in exactly the same way that it would in a live house. Furthermore, since the seats on the second floor are placed so that they trace the rim of the circle, there are people looking down from directly above the left and right ends of the stage. At any rate, this setup makes it incredibly easy to create a sense of unity, and the band members and Gackt knew that they had been able to leave behind a nice lingering feeling after the previous live show.1 From the beginning, the band went after the audience with rather frenetic movements.
The dancers also introduced some brand new moves (break dancing and such) to the choreography of “Lu:na” and “death wish,” making it clear that they were devoted to improving their performance even after the Tokyo shows. The crowd was completely fired up as it cheered, but they nonetheless were holding their breaths during “rain.”
Just like the water which filled the venue with the subtle scent of rain, when Gackt went up the stairs and left the stage during the performance, he chose to fall through the center door for the first time this tour. Chachamaru and You’s guitars continued to cry on as the audience was left mute with surprise and amazement.
I’d written about the change that was made to the way the dancers fall during “memories,” but I wonder if that’s what gave Gackt the idea to make the change to this part of the performance. After all, a tour is a living thing. It evolves through daily changes.
During “Mirror”‘s call and response section, which had become a feature of Gackt’s live shows, Gackt riled up the crowd by yelling out, “Try and show me what you’ve really got!” He had already gone berserk. He’d started the part where they yell “yay!” back and forth at the top of his lungs, and he repeated it more times than he ever had before. This battle of strength between Gackt and the audience was like fuel to an already blazing fire. His expression was pretty wild when he asked the audience, “Do you want to keep going?”
It would seem that Gackt worked himself up into such a frenzy it was like he was totally high; what made him blaze up was the heat from the audience and the sense of unity in the air. But it wasn’t just because the venue lent itself to creating that type of unity. The desire to simply enjoy the day to the fullest burst forth from all the band members, riling them up.
There’s something to be said for the atmosphere of Tokyo shows, where the audience seems to be concentrating fiercely on the band, but there’s also much to be said for the passion of the regional shows, where the audience members tend to be from a young demographic. Precisely because the previous show had been in Tokyo, the difference seemed even starker. The band members probably got a big dose of youthful energy from the crowd.
“Thank you, Gackt!”
The yelling from the fans after the show ended was also more passionate than it had ever been. What’s more, perhaps because of the influence of All Night Nippon, there were many fans chanting “Sieg Zeon!” during the encore.2 Up till now, that hadn’t happened much. Actually, there was even one fan out in the audience who had raised a Zeon flag.
After the show, Gackt had the worst fainting spell of this whole tour. He was pretty limp when he was carried to his dressing room, and afterwards, he was over one hour late to dinner.
“I don’t remember anything that happened from about the middle on…”
It had been a while since Gackt had ended up with such a large gap in his memory, and even he himself seemed to be scared by the severity of his condition.
“You went pretty wild during ‘Mirror.’ It looked like you lost control of yourself. Is that what happened?”
“Hmmm…I can’t remember. But that always happens. I mean, I know it’s dangerous to keep going like this… I am so tired today. It’s the first time I’m this exhausted…”
Gackt seemed to be reflecting on his condition, but it was hard to imagine that he’d hold himself back from now on because of that. That’s just the way he was.
“I’ve really got to learn how to pace myself for these shows…”
Gackt looked into the distance as he spoke, and it was obvious that behind those eyes, he was thinking, “Though it doesn’t matter because you never know what’s gonna happen until you get onstage…”
I noticed Gackt was eating more slowly than usual, and decided to change the subject. I asked him a little about the movie.
“You must be done editing it now, right?”
“Yeah. The soundtrack isn’t in yet, but I’ve watched it over and over at home. Once it’s done, I’m sure that it’ll be the kind of movie that makes the viewer flash back to all their past experiences.”
“Oh, yes, Kagen no Tsuki certainly has that feel to it, too.”
“Really? There are things that don’t come up in the movie, things that the movie doesn’t explain, that I want people to understand by seeing the concert…that’s what I’m trying to do anyway. There are a lot of things in the concert which are expressed abstractly, but if you watch the movie, you’ll be able to understand those parts of the show that you didn’t get before… Well, anyway, for a long time, I wanted to make something in which movies, CDs, and live shows interlocked, so I’m really happy that that’s coming together little by little.”
Gackt strung his words together philosophically, even as the weariness showed on his face.
I happened to look around the restaurant and noticed that Ryu wasn’t there. I’d heard that he’d gone to South Korea on a gig with a different band. He was supposed to leave Sendai by car, and take off from Narita Airport the next morning. Chachamaru was working on his solo album at the same time he was doing this tour, so Gackt wasn’t the only one with a grueling schedule. I was certain that there would be much to gain from taking on all these projects.
November 1, 2002 Gunma Music Center
The Gunma Music Center, which would be seeing a Gackt show for the first time, was but two hours from Tokyo by car in the city of Takasaki. That’s why the whole party gathered in Tokyo, and took a large bus to Gunma. It looked as if it was about to rain, and I prayed the weather would clear up as I made my way to the venue by train.
A little bit past 3 p.m., I headed toward the side of the building where the entrance to the dressing rooms was. On the way there, I was rushing past the parking lot with the big trucks that were being used to haul the equipment around when all of a sudden something caught me by surprise. From the shadow of the truck, I could see people dancing up into the sky and twirling down to the ground!
It turned out that Gackt and the dancers had set up a mattress in the parking lot and had started practicing acrobatics. Starting off with a backflip, they all gradually worked their way to doing huge forward somersaults by going into them with a running start. They used to practice their acrobatics each time they came back to Tokyo during the live house tour, but now they started doing it during this tour too.
This practice was an effective warm-up before a show, but it goes without saying that it was also something done with Jōgen no Tsuki in mind. Afterward, I would see this going on at each stop on the current tour, and got to see how Gackt and the dancers’ skills evolved.
Of course, Gackt looked healthy as he jumped up forcefully.
“I could get used to this!”
Indeed, he ended up spending over an hour flying around on that mat. Everyone was having so much fun, they were like junior high school students frolicking about when it came time to do mat exercises in gym class.
As one can gather from the outdoor acrobatics practice continuing on well past 4 p.m., the rehearsal couldn’t quite get started. The truth was there was a huge delay bringing in and setting up the equipment. The venue’s service entrance as well as the stage were narrow, and the ceiling was low, so the crew knew before the tour started that they would have trouble setting up. Even so, Mr. Asano wore a deeply troubled look on his face now that he saw that it was taking this much longer than expected. Looking out from the audience’s seats, I saw that the lights above the stage were set only half as high as usual, and they were having difficulty putting the water system for “rain” in place.
All that said, panicking about the situation wouldn’t solve anything. Everyone would just have to come to terms with the fact that the show would start late. In the meantime, they had to concentrate to solve the problems at hand, and then have but a short rehearsal. The degree of tension in the venue intensified.
After the sound check, Gackt went up onstage at 5:40 p.m. He tried to ease everyone’s tension with a joke.
“Since the ceiling is low here, Ren will look tall. Ahaha!”
That said, this was an urgent situation. In a move that was unusual for him, Mr. Asano, the producer, picked up a mike and went up on the stage.
“Welcome to this somewhat large live house. Ahaha… As you all know, we don’t have any time. We’re only going to rehearse ‘Lu:na’ and ‘memories’ and then…”
His explanation of what was to come rang out through the venue, and everyone focused their attention.
Even though there was no time, “Lu:na” included wire work which could prove deadly with one false step. They ran through the song carefully several times.
“I think it’s easier to get my balance if I kick out further.”
Gackt stumbled upon a trick to the wire work in the course of flying around many times. He came to do it with great timing. As I’ve said before, a tour is a living thing. This kind of evolution raised everyone’s morale.
Although he had only sang two songs, Gackt’s voice came out well during the rehearsal, and afterward, he was humming as he practiced the moves to “Lu:na” in the hallway. His physical condition was good. At this rate, the effect of the live house-like venue would probably combine with his energy to make for one hot show.
Having had his make-up done and changed into costume, You went out into the hallway for a cigarette break. I went beside him to light up myself, and for some reason he started this conversation with me:
“Hey, tell me what you think of the new album.”
Unexpectedly, he brought up the topic of MOON. Well, doing something like bringing up a topic from a while ago was typical You. We talked about this and that, and then he said:
“For the next one, I want to do something that feels even newer.”
He started talking fervently about the sound production for Gackt’s new album, though who knew when that would come out. Surely, the fact that Chachamaru was making a solo album had served to energize You. I felt a certain strength emanating from You, who suddenly wore a very musician-like expression. I got so engrossed in the conversation with him that before I realized it, it was time for the show to start.
The audience, which was packed even in the standing area, was quieter than expected. Perhaps they were tired out from having been kept waiting. However, when the lights were blacked out in the venue at 7:30 p.m. and “Noah” came on, an earsplitting cheer erupted from the crowd just as if they were in a live house. The crowd here was even younger than the one in Sendai, and shrill cheering could be heard from all over the venue. But that only lasted until the intro to “Doomsday” started. At that point, the cheers turned to sighs that seemed to be saying, “I can’t believe Gackt is this close…” After that, the audience seemed to regain its composure. Gackt, at the top of his game, had the crowd in the palm of his hand with his peerless falsetto filling the venue during “death wish.”
The rain came out a little late during “rain,” but it was no big deal. The audience kept their eyes locked on the stage. There was a happy accident at the end of the first half, when Gackt falls from the stage: he landed with a THUD, and his mike picked it up. The sound startled the audience, and they stiffened up even more. During “Lapis ~Prologue~” and at some other points, the venue fell completely silent, so much so that the audience could hear Gackt’s voice without him using the mike. This was the first time during this tour that the first half of the concert had such a tense, silent atmosphere.
The show made a complete 180 for the second half. It could be said it was the first time during this tour that the crowd got so violently excited. Being in a venue that felt like a “somewhat large live house” spurred them on. Riled up by the audience’s overwhelming cheers, Gackt was moving about so frenetically I thought his shoes would fly off any second. It stood out each time the band members nearly crashed into each other, but given the narrow stage, even that could be put down to being an effect of performing at this particular venue.
The crowd ate up everything Gackt said during the talk portion.
“I bought my car here in Gunma 12 years ago, and it’s had Gunma plates this whole time… I support Gunma’s yankii!”
The tension ran high on stage and in the crowd the whole time, and the show maintained this feeling of unity until it finished. The narrowness of the venue worked in everyone’s favor; since it created a superior atmosphere, the show ended up being so good that the audience members probably forgot all about how late it had started. Everyone’s faces were full of life as they made their way back to their homes.
After the show, Gackt recovered much faster compared to Sendai, and he was far livelier than he usually is post-concert. His footsteps were light as he made his way onto the bus.
This happened a few days later, but the band members told me that the Gunma show had been deemed particularly excellent. They said they received many passionate letters and emails about the show.
However, it wouldn’t do to be overjoyed at the reactions written out in those messages. After all, it’s a given that Gackt Job, which grew greatly via the red-hot live house tour (I’m sweating just thinking about it!), could put on a great show at a venue that makes it easy to unify everyone there. Keeping in mind next year’s arena tour, Jōgen no Tsuki, what the band must do is put on shows at Tokyo International Forum and Yokohama Arena that will have fans raving the way they did at the Gunma Music Center. No, they have to put on even hotter shows at the stops that remain for the Tokyo International Forum and Yokohama Arena, precisely because it’s those venues.
Of course, everyone involved was well aware of that fact. Inside the large bus that made its way out of Gunma, the looks on the band member’s faces seemed to reveal their thoughts: “We have to carry this vibe over to the large venues…”
[Continued in Chapter 4, Part 5]
2. This comes out of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, which I never saw so I can’t say much about it. Since Gackt is a huge Gundam fan, he must’ve been talking about it on the radio show. Basically, in Gundam Zeon was like a country and “Sieg Zeon” means “Hail Zeon.” ⤴