Happy New Year, O Readers! May the Year of the Monkey treat you well.
We come once again to the Tokyo International Forum for another two days of shows. Any new readers or those wishing to reread earlier posts might want to go to the Table of Contents first.
November 16, 2002 Tokyo International Forum (Third Day)
The third Tokyo performance took place in, once again, Hall A of the International Forum, site of the former Tokyo City Hall. Controlling their feel for the stage might be a bit difficult coming back to a venue that can hold 5,000 people after doing shows at the 2,000-person capacity halls in Sendai, Gunma, Sapporo, and Utsunomiya. However, I couldn’t help but expect this performance to be better than the previous two here, given that they’d be throwing in everything they learned from doing the regional shows.
Gackt got into the venue at 2 p.m. He was wearing, strangely enough, a fur jacket. It was pretty fluffy and even had lamé in it.
“Morning. Feels kinda like Christmas.”
“Oh? I got these clothes from the Don (Mr. Konishi), but don’t they look like something a madam would wear? Ahaha!”1
While getting everyone around to burst into laughter, Gackt left for his usual trip around the venue. I decided to use this time to ask the dancers their thoughts on the tour so far. YOSH, who had been with Gackt since the last tour, had brought together EGA, TAKA, and HAYASHI. Along with YOSH and the other dancers, each of these three had been active in the underground dance scene centered around clubs, and among them had instructors from dance and specialty schools. It could be called a gathering of technicians.
First off, I started with HAYASHI, the youngest.
“Up on stage, I feel like I’m receiving an incredible power from the audience. During ‘death wish’ it feels like the audience is pulling away, but then during ‘Lu:na’ they come back so forcefully that it makes me get super excited. Even though my dancing’s the same, there’s a synergy here that you can’t feel at club events. Coming back to Tokyo today, I want to show everyone that I’ve leveled up.”
Next was Japan’s greatest break dancer, EGA.
“This is the first time for me to participate in a large-scale tour, so as a dancer, I’m learning about staging. Things like the difference in the rhythm of dancers and musicians, or the difference between how Gackt sees things and how we see things. I’m especially learning a lot about how to use the whole space of the stage, since this time there’s wire work that has us moving vertically onstage.”
Next was TAKA, whose reflexes were absolutely exceptional.
“I’m going to put myself out there more in the upcoming shows, using everything I’ve learned so far. I want to add more acrobatics, make my moves bigger, and make the whole hall shake. From now on I don’t want to perform with the mentality of a backup dancer, but with the mentality of a lead performer.”
Up till now, these guys had made the space in the clubs shake with their dancing, basking in the cheers from those crowds, but given that this was the first time for them to dance in something on the scale of this tour, surely there must have been many new, puzzling things for them. However, it was as reassuring as could be to hear them all say such positive things. Actually, from around this time, they were not only brimming with confidence, they also started introducing dances which made use of their own particular techniques.
“Alright, let’s hear from YOSH next. Well?”
I called out to him, but found him bearing an anguished expression.
“To be honest, there’s still so much I can’t even see…”
It would seem he was feeling an intense amount of pressure as dance leader. Certainly, YOSH’s characteristic brightness had been AWOL for some time.
“Anyway, I’ll do my best not to mess up. That’s all.”
YOSH chose his words as if to strengthen his own resolve. Though the words he spoke were few, he said them with a tone that made his passionate thoughts quite clear to me.
Well, as per the established routine, it was then time for acrobatics practice. Gackt and the dancers were doing forward somersaults on the mats spread out in the lobby. They had already made considerable progress, landing half of their attempts perfectly. The advanced acrobat TAKA landed perfectly every time.
Chachamaru, some record label staff members, and others, stimulated by the practice (?),2 got in line to give the forward somersaults a try, but they landed squarely on their butts after every attempt. Hope they didn’t get hurt, but…
Although, if anyone was injured, that would be Gackt. Remembering that he’d cut his left hand during the previous show, in Utsunomiya, I looked at the mat and, sure enough, it was bloodstained. Gackt’s bandages were blotted with blood.
“I’m fine! More importantly, I’m pretty good already, huh? But I wish I could go straight into a second flip after the first…”
Gackt was already planning out his next technique.
Even though this was just practice he threw himself into danger, challenging his limits. It’s that attitude precisely that is quintessentially Gackt, isn’t it?
Once everyone’s bodies were plenty loosened up, the rehearsal proceeded without a single delay. The performers went through make-up and changed smoothly, as if the pace needed to start the show on time had finally worked its way into their bones. Actually, the concert started about 15 minutes late, but that was largely due to spending time waiting for the audience to get into the venue; backstage, the troops were mustered and ready for battle sooner than planned.
Today, the members flew at a pretty fast pace onstage. Undoubtedly, the first and second performances in Tokyo had improved over previous shows, but at that point they still had not been quite convinced by what they were doing. With this, the third Tokyo concert, the members were doing their best to show that they had leveled up via the regional shows. Gackt and Chachamaru’s interactions on stage were bigger than usual, as they were during the interlude of “Speed Master”, but the other members had so much extra energy that there were many times when they bumped into each other unexpectedly. The jumping during “Mirror” also reached overwhelming heights and energy levels.
Gackt trudged forward on the stairs after singing “rain”, looking considerably exhausted, and during “Missing” he appeared to be so on the verge of collapse that he could barely get the lyrics out. Despite that, even the people sitting in the second floor seats were probably able to tell how desperately he was singing. I think Gackt’s thoughts reached them. The proof was in the wonderful applause at the end of the show.
I always close my eyes and listen to the applause at the end of a concert while sitting in with the audience. Just like on all the previous tours and on the Jōgen no Tsuki tour to follow, this act is one of the major things I look forward to doing during a tour. Naturally, inside my head I’m comparing the applause in each venue while soaking in the afterglow of the show; from that point of view as well, the applause today was extraordinarily heartfelt. And yet, there was still something missing.
Gackt had said about the direction of the energy he gives off from the stage, “I want them to stiffen up with the first chapter,” “In one show you experience everything that happens between meeting someone and parting ways…”, but it would be difficult to say that every single person in the audience had understood these things. Of course, everyone is free to feel the concert in their own particular way. What I’m worried about—and this is especially true of huge venues like Tokyo—is that the physical sense of distance cuts down on the members’ ability to focus. Having come here, I think the difference in energy level between the regional shows and the Tokyo shows came out rather prominently.
Even in a large venue, their performance should get hotter and hotter. After a show, I want to see the audience crying, unable to stop the flood of tears. I want to see them almost confused even. These guys should be able to control the mental distance during a concert even more than they’re doing now. I’m absolutely certain they can do more!
Gackt remained unconscious in the horrible way he’d been doing ever since the Sapporo show. While waiting for him to recover, I muttered to myself as if I’d become a fiery coach fighting a championship bout, “This isn’t over yet!”3
November 17, 2002 Tokyo International Forum (Fourth Day)
“Yesterday’s show made quite an impact. Now I can really feel that we’re gradually getting better.” The dancer TAKA told me as he got into the venue at 12:30 p.m., before anyone else. He immediately started stretching, completely absorbed in his preparations. One after the other, the dancers came into the green room, all looking quite energetic. After them, Gackt made his appearance at 1 p.m.
As one would expect, yesterday’s burnout seemed to be having a lasting effect, given how Gackt was walking around the venue with faltering steps. While greeting each staff member, he suddenly turned toward the drum set on the stage. He picked up Ryu’s drumsticks and started playing. He was clearly still tired, but he whaled on the drums with all his strength, as if scolding his body for not doing what he was telling it to do.
“Hahh, I’m tired. I don’t have any strength at all. The fatigue from yesterday? Yeah, haven’t gotten over it yet. My legs feel really heavy so I’ve got to stretch them out. Maybe doing some somersaults or back flips would get this all out of me.”
Gackt’s body apparently demanded the acrobatics practice, so he loosened up his stiffer than usual joints with some calisthenics then went to join the dancers, who were already flying above their spread out mats. Following TAKA’s instructions, the dancers were practicing a new mid-air twist. When Gackt saw that, he said, “That’s cool! I wanna try it too!” and entered their circle. At some point, the “forward somersault with a half twist” became the focus of today’s acrobatics practice, and they splendidly added the new variation to their bag of tricks.
After the acrobatics practice, the rehearsal proceeded and ended more smoothly than yesterday’s. The staff also got ready in a flash, and somehow (of course) the doors could open on time, right at 4:30 p.m. A wave of relief seemed to sweep over the staff.
As the members came back out into the hallway after changing in their dressing room, I decided to ask them their thoughts on the tour so far. First was Ren.
“The live house tour felt like a dialogue with the audience, but this tour feels like you have to fight yourself before you can even get to that point. But I feel like I can win that fight now more than I did during the ‘Rebirth’ tour, so I think it’s coming along well. Today’s the fourth show, right? But I don’t want to do the same thing every time, so I’m coming up with ways to change the performance. It would make me really happy if I could get the audience to feel those changes.”
Certainly, the way Ren jumped around on stage as he was performing, always so full of energy, made him look one size bigger this time around.
Next was Chachamaru-aniki.4 Come to think of it, didn’t a new guitar appear onstage yesterday?
“I tried out the new guitar only on ‘ANOTHER WORLD’. I’m still just testin’ it out. The tour…? It’s been a while since it started, but since the tour dates skip around here and there, it’s easy to lose your groove during the gaps. You lose the mindset you worked hard to build up. That’s why I prefer a long journey instead. Anyway, when I’m onstage now, I can tell that doin’ the live house tour had an effect.”
“For example…what kind of effect?”
“One of the big ones is the intuition we developed on that tour. As a band, we’re puttin’ it to use in how we take our positions onstage relative to each other. And while I’m performin’ the images that come into my mind are from the live house tour. When I’m perfomin’, the moment I think, ‘It’s gotten good!’ it’s like I go back to the state of mind I had for that tour.”
If I remember correctly, it was after the secret show in Kobe… Right around the time when the live house tour was first starting, I remember talking with Chacha-san about “just how much meaning and results this tour had”. He knew better than anyone else the results produced thanks to doing that tour.
“On this tour, the…what would you call it? The wind that comes up to the stage from the audience? The air they give off, it’s refreshin’. Of course, it’s different from a show in the summer in a live house…”
“Isn’t that because the rain during ‘rain’ cools everything off?”
“Oh, yeah! That’s right! It sure does rain a lot…I’m not thinkin’ anythin’ when I’m playin’ guitar, so I forgot. Ahaha!”
Our conversation was enveloped in smiles.
It was true that there were lots of negative ions floating around during the rain in “rain” so the temperature would drop considerably, and it had the effect of making one feel refreshed. But Chachamaru was probably feeling a refreshing aura coming off the audience that was completely unrelated to that. That’s the sort of thing that only those who stand onstage can understand.
Then, the show started. Gackt was wearing a brace on his injured left hand.
What I could clearly tell from the first half was that the sound quality I was hearing and the balance of the instruments were exceptional. Since this show was taking place in the same venue as yesterday’s, the staff had succeeded in creating the best sound going off of all their previous experiences here. By the same token, the sound as heard from the onstage monitors must have also been good. Gackt showed off a perfect falsetto during “death wish”. In light of previous tours, it would seem that whenever Gackt does this falsetto well, his physical condition is extraordinarily good. Surely, the members were hearing a well-balanced sound onstage.
In that supportive environment, the show was bursting with life as it continued. During the Talk Corner, for the first time this tour, Gackt let an introduction of the band members slip out of his mouth.
Usually, an introduction of the band members is to be expected at any rock concert, but Gackt doesn’t necessarily do it for each show. So when does he do it? It has been this way with previous tours too, but clearly this is something he does only when the performance up to the Talk Corner is good and feels unified. Having seen all his live shows, I can understand that quite well. That’s why the band members often look happy beyond words whenever they hear Gackt call out, “I’m going to introduce the band!”
As may be expected from the first band introduction of the tour, today everyone’s expressions were marked by a strong sense of relief. The Talk Corner seemed to have added fuel to the excited fire of the show, because the performance became a bit rough in the second half, but that’s part of the natural flow of a live show…huh?
Something about Gackt as he took a step during “Wasurenai Kara” made it seem like he was having a hard time. Could there have been an accident?
Even if there had been an accident, the concert ended with most people in the audience completely unaware that something might have happened. I waited a while outside the green room while Gackt regained consciousness.
When Gackt finally emerged from the green room, as I suspected, he was dragging his foot. Something really did happen during the show.
“Did you sprain your ankle?” Surprised, I called out to Gackt.
“Hm, I wonder… It happened during ‘Soleil’. It’s probably an avulsion fracture. Since I’ve been putting too much strain on my feet all this time.”
The impact from landing on the hard stage for the wire work, the impact from sticking his landings during acrobatics practice…whatever the case may be, Gackt trains by putting pressure on himself. It’s his way. He didn’t seem to be terribly worried about this injury either. Quite the contrary, it seemed to have aroused his fighting spirit.
“Just because I’m injured, I don’t like looking as if I can’t do something. It wasn’t that big a deal, not even during ‘Wasurenai Kara’, right?” Gackt told the story in a deep voice, then left the venue.
The injury to his left hand could be overlooked, but given that this time the damage was to his ankle, I was worried about the upcoming shows. Compared to the live house tour, when he’d have a fever practically every night and had to be prescribed medicines over and over again, the Kagen no Tsuki tour had seen Gackt in pretty good physical condition (although he hadn’t actually completely recovered from before). However, external injuries seemed to be taking the place of internal health problems.
I also left the venue, praying to the moon peeking out from between skyscrapers that the Nagoya shows would end without incident, but…
[Continued in Chapter 4, Part 8]
1. What I’ve translated as “madam” was “mama” (ママ). Other than “mother” this word can refer to female barkeeps or (if I’m not mistaken) women who run brothels (madams). As I don’t see anything particularly maternal about the fur coat, I went with the last interpretation. ⤴
2. This question mark appears in the original. Guess Hirose was surprised Chacha and the others would join in on the practice of their own accord. ⤴
3. What this actually said was “I felt like a supokon gym teacher.” Supokon is short for supootsu konsei meaning “sports will-power” and is used these days mostly to refer to the genre of anime/manga that’s about characters who throw themselves into their chosen sport with all their body and soul. The Japanese Wikipedia article about it is super deep. It includes debates about the exact ingredients for supokon, such as the main character must be someone who becomes great at their sport through grueling practice and steadfast devotion and that they’re usually relatively poor, whereas their rival tends to be rich and just naturally gifted. I don’t know how many Japanese today are familiar with what’s written in the “History” section (namely that SCAP forbade martial arts education and period pieces immediately after Japan’s defeat in WWII, but that this ban was lifted after the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco. A post-ban manga about jūdō is said to be the precursor to supokon), but given those facts perhaps the very mention of supokon stirs pretty deep feelings in the original Japanese audience. I suppose I could’ve said “I felt like Coach Carter” but…I thought that might be going a bit too far. Ahaha… ⤴
4. “Aniki” is a respectful way to say “[your own] big brother”. Hirose doesn’t consistently append honorifics to Chacha’s name; for the most part he writes either “Chachamaru” or “Chacha” but here he also used “-aniki” and “-san” to refer to the leopard print guitarist. ⤴