It was a bit hard to keep my concentration up to get through this translation, but I’m trying to do like that one lady told Picard and “Never give up [my] music.” (A gingerbread cookie to whoever gets the reference and can cite season & episode number. Ahaha…)
It didn’t help that I recently got to the part of Asa ga Kita where [spoiler]Godai dies, and that I noticed in giving Gackt’s instrumental piece “Solitude ~Regret~” a listen that it starts sounding a lot like “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” / “Forbidden Colours” so I had to go listen to those tracks and that always put me in some kinda mood…
Anyway once I noticed that it looks like Gackt and Kanata are reaching up to touch the snowflakes falling on WordPress until the New Year, I knew I wanted to get this done in time for everyone to enjoy the effect. So here we are.
New readers may wish to start from the Table of Contents.
And in case I don’t update again before the New Year, I send you, O Readers, Season’s Greetings with this post. I hope Hanukkah was good, that Christmas will be Merry, that Festivus and the Emperor’s Birthday will be Happy, and that you welcome a good New Year! よいおとしを！
Chapter 6: Jōgen no Tsuki
Jōgen no Tsuki Rehearsal (At a Tokyo-area Studio)
The start of the long-awaited arena tour would come during the height of Golden Week, May 4th, at an event hall called “Messe” in Chiba Prefecture’s Makuhari area. Tickets for all venues sold out on the same day.
As this would be a tour where performing for 5,000 to 9,000 people, even 10,000 people, was a given even by conservative estimates, the preparation for the shows was that much harder. To be able to put on a performance while lugging around large-scale stage sets all over the country, it was decided there would be a dress rehearsal at Makuhari Messe on May 3rd, one day before the opening show.
I headed to the studio a little bit past 3PM on April 30th to check things out. Rehearsals had entered the final stages now that the big day was fast approaching.
I’d gone to see how things were going in the studio right before the start of every tour, but the atmosphere was different this time. The number of staff members bustling about was strangely low. Needless to say, Mr. Asano was nowhere to be seen either.
I was told that the staff had already gone to Makuhari Messe with the equipment and materials to begin setting up for construction. Four days ahead of the opening?! I had figured that once the best preparations were in place they would proceed with rehearsals for lighting, rigging, and everything else, but just imagining how complicated things would be backstage now that the venue was an arena made me tense up.
I went around greeting the band members, whom I hadn’t seen in a while, but I was in for another surprise: they all seemed on the verge of collapsing. It was one fatigued face after another.
“I got whiplash from headbanging too much…” Ren muttered. He had a compress on his neck and all the color had drained from his face.
You was in an even more heart-breaking condition.
“I dislocated my hip around the second day of rehearsals. It’s been getting better little by little, but when I went to the doctor a little while ago I got told it was about to become a hernia.” He gently rubbed his hip while laughing dryly.
Seeing everyone hurt all over, I was suddenly beset by a rising anxiety.
“We were recording ‘TSUKI no UTA’ until 4:30 in the morning. Today’s the tenth day of rehearsals. We’re recording in the gaps between that. We’ve been rehearsing even when Gaku leaves to go to screening events… We’ve gone way beyond ‘tired.'” Chachamaru was so tired he seemed like he was high as he related all this.
Gackt would not be back until he was done rehearsing with the dancers (who had increased to 10 people), and since Mr. Asano was also gone, at present Chachamaru was in charge of managing things in the studio. Under his direction, they started to run through the whole show from the first song—minus the vocals. During “Speed Master,” each one of them was headbanging so madly, it was as if their next breath depended on it. No wonder they were so tired, to say nothing of having trouble with their necks.
They skipped the part for Gackt’s piano solo, but right as they finished up about one concert’s worth of songs and were collapsing into some chairs, Gackt opened the studio door. He immediately took off his shoes and socks, and did a round off-jump to cartwheel move. Many days had passed since Kagen no Tsuki, but even so, seeing his even more highly polished skills on display was my third surprise of the day.
“Man, my legs and hips are so shaky from doing acrobatics too much. At this point, the dancing in ‘Lu:na’ isn’t even a ‘dance’ anymore.”
From 6 p.m., there was once again a rehearsal going through all the songs in the show. Then, they practiced synchronizing their timing for the part in the chorus of “Kimi ga Oikaketa Yume” where they throw their arm up. This became a beloved part of the tour. Come to think of it, there was a part in “ANOTHER WORLD” where they threw their arms up too, but since they had to do it on the backbeat it was actually pretty difficult. The timing for “Kimi ga Oikaketa Yume” was also quite unorthodox.
“Man this is tough!” You lamented as he raised and waved his arm. Perhaps it was too hard to get the timing right.
It was clear that every muscle in their bodies was strained. Even in that condition, Gackt took out a weighted vest and put it on, making things even harder for himself. It wasn’t unusual for him to put on a weighted vest during rehearsals for the sake of training his body. Everyone close to him knows that he always has weights strapped around his legs. However, that day the fatigue was already showing; he was weighed down heavily enough by everything as it was. For him to put on that weighted vest, despite that, and go up to practice the stage action…he seemed more like a fighter who happened to sing than anything else.
After going through one full rehearsal, the members started to put things away for the day, but Gackt didn’t stop there.
“Damn, my legs are really stiff. I can do a round off, but since I haven’t been practicing forward somersaults I can’t do them anymore. It’s scary…I have to practice more.”
With that, he brought a small trampoline into the studio, and with a little running start, began jumping on it! It was the fourth surprise of the day.
Having seen everyone in Gackt Job make it this far, getting stronger through Kagen no Tsuki, I had imagined they would be rehearsing with ease now. I had been far too optimistic!
These men were taking on Jōgen no Tsuki with far weightier expectations than they had had for Kagen no Tsuki. Overwhelmed, the only sounds I could get out were groans.
“They all look emaciated…”
I knew that with such firmly devoted people behind it, Jōgen no Tsuki would become a tremendous show; I pepped myself up as I headed home.
We would meet again in three days, at the full dress rehearsal at Makuhari Messe.
May 3, 2003 Makuhari Messe (Full Dress Rehearsal)
The environs of Makuhari Messe, where the dress rehearsal was being held in preparation for tomorrow’s show, were full of Golden Week crowds going to the flea market, pet show, and other events going on at the same time. I cut a path through the throng as I hurried toward the event hall.
Once I got inside, I saw the intense faces of the staff, which had been there since April 30th setting up and rehearsing over and over. Had they been spending the night in the venue as well? Their expressions made them look like they’d become totally different people. Well, it was the duty of a pro to lay down a perfect foundation of preparation to ensure each subsequent step of the tour could proceed smoothly. Their determination to secure that good start came across clearly.
Gackt arrived in the venue at 1:15 p.m. He took the band members and dancers on the customary rounds through the audience seats. Because their ranks had increased to ten dancers, it looked like they were a tour group moving about.
“Morning, you doing all right?”
“No, I’m tired. My body’s creaking all over. I came here last night, practiced dancing for about two hours… My butt hurts…”
I wondered if that meant that he kept landing on his butt rehearsing the acrobatics for “Lu:na”?
I was imagining Gackt struggling as we walked in the second floor stands, when the music for “birdcage” came blasting through the sound system, and a lighting rehearsal began. Everyone who experienced Jōgen no Tsuki was surely overpowered by these lights. They were set within a circular frame; it looked exactly as if a UFO had flown into the hall. Surprised gasps came from all directions.
No one was standing where Gackt would normally be, but he watched the lights moving in the circular set as they would for the actual show, and at the end let out a satisfied “Looks good” under his breath.
“I think this aspect of the show is easier to see from the stands than from the arena floor. But I wonder why when you look at it from the side, the circular set doesn’t look like it’s in the center of the stage?”
It was true; from the second floor seats at the side of the stage it did look that way. Later Mr. Asano explained that it was an optical illusion. It was probably more interesting to have the view change depending on the angle.
To get back to the dressing rooms, we walked down the hallways inside the wide venue. Along the way, Gackt looked outside from the windows and unexpectedly muttered, “It’s a nice day… Oh, look, there are people wearing yukata.”
On the other side of the windows was the bustling flea market.
“It’s a completely different world beyond this single wall. It kinda feels like it’s the Berlin Wall. Ahaha!”
Everyone burst into laughter. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, we came to a stop in front of a dressing room. It was Kanata Hongo’s dressing room. When Kanata opened the door and came out beaming, Gackt drew him into a hug.
“I have to introduce you to everyone. This is Kanata Hongo. He played the child version of Shō in MOON CHILD and will come out for ‘TSUKI no UTA’ and the ending. Everyone…please don’t bully him. (LOL)” Gackt introduced him with a huge smile on his face.
“Of course not! We’re not scary like that! Ahaha!” The band and the dancers were all smiles. Little Kanata’s smile was still plastered on his face, but…
It was right about time for block rehearsals to begin.
The main thing for today was the full dress rehearsal, where they would run through the concert exactly as if they were performing for an audience even though none was present. But before that, in order to check each section of the show, there had to be a regular rehearsal as always. I went over to the seats and sat down in a folding chair. As I waited for the band to come up onstage, I noticed Mr. Asano next to me, so I greeted him. To my surprise, his face was also deeply colored by fatigue, to the point of looking like a different person. However, there was a bright light shining in his eyes, and he started talking to me excitedly.
“We started setting up on the 30th. On the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, we were making the colors for the lights. We still have to make some of the colors. My god, this time we had less prep time than ever!”
Even as he said it, he seemed to be enjoying the last-minute frenzy. The ability to enjoy the feeling of walking on a tightrope was something he had in common with Gackt. That was probably why they had been able to come this far together.
“Last night, Gackt suddenly showed up with the dancers. They’d been practicing for about two hours when out of nowhere he says ‘I wanna do wire work.’ I said, ‘We don’t have a set-up for that!’ Ahaha!”
Taking a good look at the stage from back in the audience section, I noticed the rainbow-like arch and circular frame. I’d tended to think of this as a large-scale stage, but besides the size itself, I could now see that it was really very simple.
“That’s right. Plus the background’s black, so it’s actually a very simple set. How far can Gackt pull the audience in with his own power? It’s truly the kind of set that tests a performer’s abilities. Of course, we’ll be backing him up with the lighting, but he himself is the most important factor.”
Mr. Asano was unusually talkative. Was it because he felt relieved having gotten to the point where they could bring in Gackt for rehearsals? His expectations for Gackt came across without question.
The band had assembled onstage at some point. Gackt spoke with the dancers in detail and started doing forward somersaults. However, even after four tries, he could not pull off a satisfactory landing. Worse yet, he was landing on his butt half the time.
“Am I still scared?” He let the words slip out under his breath.
Of course it’s scary to be somersaulting around on a dark stage while wearing boots! It’s a given. But when it came time to do it for real, he would pull it off perfectly. So I think you can tell how earnest he was from that.
Then, Gackt was watching the rehearsal for “Fragrance” from the audience seats. When they started playing it for the second time, Gackt yelled out with sharp criticism for the first time in a long while.
“KAZUYA! Don’t be so nervous!”
KAZUYA was the youngest dancer, but he and EGA alone would be wearing white costumes for their dance during “Lu:na” and “Fragrance.” In other words, he probably felt a tremendous amount of pressure having been given such an important role, but on top of that, the importance of the role naturally increased how many times Gackt would call him out.
“C’mon, somebody stand in the center! You must not know why we’re doing this. You’re not synced! You’re doing it faster than you did yesterday!”
They replayed many of the songs amidst a flurry of critiques. Three hours passed in the blink of an eye. It would be 8 p.m. soon. There were still no traces of satisfaction in Gackt’s comments, yet he suddenly turned to me.
“What do you think? Isn’t the dance for ‘Fragrance’ interesting?”
This was my first time seeing the choreography for “Fragrance” and it quite overwhelmed me, so I couldn’t help but answer honestly.
Gackt laughed forcefully, but then he immediately sighed, “But this is as good as it’ll get…” The whisper seemed to renew his determination.
Finally, we arrived at what would be the last song of the main part of the concert, “memories.”
“Dancers, you have to call out to each other to get your timing right! There’s no point if you don’t call out loud enough to hear it during the actual show!”
For Kagen no Tsuki, the dancers disappeared from the stage by falling backwards, but this time they had to follow right behind the band members as they left from the center of the stage, gracefully descending the stairs they had been standing on. In order to synchronize their every step, they had to call out and time themselves.
Somehow or other it all came together, and the band members and dancers went back to the dressing rooms a little bit past 8:30 p.m. They had to have dinner then start the dress rehearsal right away. Gackt had to rehearse “birdcage” so there was no leaving the stage for him just yet. Of course, he would go without dinner.
Quite a bit past 9 p.m., Mr. Asano made an announcement over the PA system.
“We no longer have enough time to run through each song. I’ll be consulting with Gackt shortly about which songs to cut from our dress rehearsal. Each section, please start getting ready.”
The full dress rehearsal started a little bit before 10 p.m. Starting with “Speed Master,” the first four songs were “Mirror,” “ANOTHER WORLD,” and “Soleil,” but unfortunately, because I had to make it in time to catch the last train, that was as much as I got to see. They probably stopped the rehearsal at midnight as the venue’s rules stipulated there could be no sound playing past that time, but I have no doubt they went on for as long as they could down to the microsecond.
Nevertheless…following the studio rehearsal on the 30th with this, I was just overwhelmed the whole time by their hard progress and the eagerness they put into every single song. I was washed away by the awesome spirit of the band members, dancers, and staff; all I could do was pray the show would go off without a hitch tomorrow.
[To be continued in Chapter 6, Part 1]