On December 4th, 2016, fans from across Japan flocked to Zepp Tokyo to witness a live preview of “Oto” (音), SUGIZO’s first new album release in nearly five years, at the final of “The Voyage Home” tour. The standing are was full to bursting, while those with seated tickets remained standing for the entire set.
Eerie synthesizer music—almost like a trip to outer space—played in the background while the band prepared to start. The stage was jam-packed with drums, turntables, keyboards, and guitar pedals. The back of the stage was dominated by a large screen displaying a symbol of a winged crystal.
The room went dark, then deep blue lights shone into the crowd. SUGIZO’s support members, all clad in black, took their places on stage one by one, each greeted by cheers. Of course, SUGIZO earned the loudest cheers of them all, fans holding their hands up in the musician’s signature, Star Trek-inspired fashion.
The set opened with a song off of “Oto,” IRA. Black and white lines wriggled across the screen. Heavy bass and drums battled in an erratic rhythm, interlaced with Japanese shakuhachi flute phrases. Moments of silence only added to its unsteadiness.
SUGIZO edged ever closer to the audience during fan-favorite FINAL OF THE MESSIAH. The heat in the audience picked up as well. SUGIZO switched guitars for almost every song during the set, all to achieve different and unique sounds for each tune. For NEO COSMOSCAPE, however, SUGIZO traded in his guitar midway through the song to hop on the second drum set. One of his drummers took center stage for a standing drum solo that had the audience dancing.
During Lux Aeterna, Atsushi (Dragon Ash) joined the performance as a backup dancer. He expressed the contrast between the erratic beat and the elegant notes SUGIZO played beautifully through arm movements that alternated between jerky and smooth. It was difficult to choose what was most fascinating to focus on: the dark visuals in the back, the skilled dancing of Atsushi, or the hypnotic playing of SUGIZO.
Decaying and Misogi offered similarly unsteady rhythms, the former taking on more of a rocking, club beat closer to SUGIZO’s signature sound. Decaying featured jazz-style trumpet from Toru, an unexpected but welcome addition to the anticipated track.
The album “Oto” itself, SUGIZO explained during his MC’s, is an expression of the dark, the ugly, and the filth that exists within the famed musician. The next album, he promised, would sound more beautiful. The audience reacted to this with knowing laughter. His set closed out with DO-FUNK-DANCE, allowing the audience one last chance to dance in SUGIZO’s carefully crafted world.
For the encore, fans were treated to a very special performance of one of the most influential songs on SUGIZO himself, LIFE ON MARS? by David Bowie. Maiko—who has worked with X JAPAN for years—accompanied SUGIZO’s soaring violin on piano. “The Voyage Home” closed out on a high note with TELL ME WHY?, bringing the setlist full circle.
2. TELL ME WHY NOT PSYCHEDELIA?
3. FINAL OF THE MESSIAH
4. NEO COSMOSCAPE
6. ARC MOON
8. Lux Aeterna
9. ENOLA GAY RELOADED
11. 禊 (Misogi)
En-1. LIFE ON MARS?
En-2. TELL ME WHY?