The year 2015 will be remembered as the year of Kamijo in the hearts of many. It began last February 15th at Takadanobaba PHASE; Kamijo bade his home country a brief farewell to begin an around-the world tour. Touring all across Europe, South America, Mexico and the USA, Kamijo finally returned in the summer to play a part of the tour in Japan. During the Japan final at Kinema Club, the man announced a special surprise for the end of the year: joining him at his year-end live would be none other than the members of New Sodmy, Versailles, and most surprising of all, Lareine! After this, in between opening up his long-awaited international fan club he would continue touring, including a stop in Taipei, slowly gaining steam for what would sure to be the best live of his 20th Anniversary BEST Tour.
The setting for this once in a lifetime show took place on December 28th at Tokyo’s Zepp Diver City. Nestled within the giant Diver City Mall in Tokyo’s beautiful Waterfront City, Zepp was packed to bursting with fans of all ages, both male and female. Zepp staff members continually herded the waves of incoming fans outside to the packed courtyard, and those lucky enough to have received special seats began to descend the stairs to the concert hall, while others anxiously tried their luck at exchanging their tickets for better ones. The many Kamijo admirers, a myriad of lolitas, expert cosplayers, fellow vampires, and even some families, packed into either side of the seating area, which was cut in half by a red catwalk. The whole venue was draped in velvety red, offset by the banners bearing the golden mark of Kamijo. The stage itself had two levels and seemed designed to fit more than one band at a time, including not one but two drum sets. Needless to say, the room was buzzing with anticipation.
Just then, as if on cue, the lights simultaneously went out and the room glowed bright red while a bell tolled. The glow came not from the stage but from the fans, whose light-up roses all started flashing at once. The tolling of the bell ceased, and the video monitor behind the stage introduced the story of the evening. This story began not just 20 years ago as originally thought, but 200 years ago! The narrator described the story of Louie the 17th of France, who perished during the French Revolution, or so we thought. “A great story of a king is about to be told,” intoned the narrator as the stage lights went red and Vive le Roi began to play. The members of Kamijo’s band, guitarists Meku (ex. Galeyd) and Daishi (Ninjaman Japan), bassist Shigure (Rhedoric), and drummer Maoki Yamamoto walked in from the side, and Kamijo himself descended from the top stage regally dressed in a blue coat with gold trim. He walked the length of the catwalk, blew the audience a kiss, and bid us welcome before beginning the show with the epic Symphony of the Vampire.
This song, Kamijo’s trademark epic, went from headbanging and fist pumping metal goodness to more measured and elegant melodies. Meku stood apart on the left side of the stage, and his intense performance and excellent solos shone through in every part of the song. On the other side of the stage, Daishi was much more outwardly intense as he headbanged along with bassist Shigure and appealed to the fans seated in front of him. Drummer Maoki kept the rhythms going steady all night, which was perfectly in time with the back projector, which alternated between the band’s live performance and the music video, one always in perfect sync with the other. Kamijo sang the whole song through, and was pitch perfect the whole time. This was his night, and he didn’t even try to hide the joyous expression on his face as he posed in front of the stage and walked along the catwalk.
The narrator continued the tale of Louie the 17th, having escaped France, he now travels to New York City. The Statue of Liberty comes into focus as a sweeping musical score introduces the next part of the show, with the next band being none other than New Sodmy! The band, which originally was formed by Kamijo during Lareine’s hiatus in 2001, featured original members Aya on guitar and You on bass. The threesome walked onstage together, all dressed much more casually in black. The atmosphere immediately changed as the rocking grooves onstage were offset by the black and white concert footage on screen, showing the band as they were both in the past and present. Kamijo himself seemed to go back in time as well, singing noticeably higher as he did back in those days, and his bandmates showed no signs of rust as they played on. “Let’s have fun!” proclaimed Kamijo, and indeed the band and audience alike shared in the fun atmosphere. Reunited with his old friends, Kamijo went into his first MC, beginning with a hearty “Bonjour!”
“Let’s enjoy our time together beautifully and fiercely,” he said. He introduced Aya and You, and each one played a riff in reply. Then they segued into their song Cat Walk. Fittingly enough, Kamijo spent the song strutting along the catwalk, only this time he wasn’t alone. As if on the spur of the moment, You decided to follow behind Kamijo and playfully serenade him as they walked. As the members danced around one another, the live truly had the air of a happy reunion. The song ended, and Kamijo and You exited the stage, giving some time for Aya, in all black and wearing a stylish bowler hat, to let loose with one last solo. The fans reacted wholeheartedly, and called out for him even after he too had left the stage.
Continuing the story of Kamijo, the narrator related a tale about the ghost of the Bastille. As the opening chant started, the members made good use of the catwalk by entering on it one after another as the narrator introduced them in English. Kamijo entered this time in a white frilly shirt and sparkly coat, complete with a cape. The band played this heavy-hitting song to perfection, with Meku ensuring every riff was picture-perfect and Daishi following along while keeping the energy of the fans up. The focus, as always, was on Kamijo, who reverted right back to his current vampire persona, with his intense performance and deeper vocal tones.
In front of his current bandmates, Kamijo gave his 2nd MC of the night. He thanked everyone for their support and gave his thoughts on performing. “The stage is like an onsen (Japanese hot spring); it is smoky and warm. But this warm feeling is also dangerous, I feel. It’s like we’re all naked here. Everyone, let’s get in the bath together!”
At the conclusion of the MC band continued through their catalogue of songs about decadence and aesthetic beauty. It was all a reflection of Kamijo, and the artist he has become in these past 20 years. The band ended with a beautiful and heartfelt performance of Romantique, which Kamijo performed as, in his words, “a love letter to all of you.”
Finally, at long last, the live hall was enveloped in blue, as we were prepared for the next chapter: about two birds searching for eternal life. The fans, beforehand very energetic, went wild with anticipation as old photographs filled the screen, and sweeping music built up to a crescendo as Lareine hit the catwalk! First came Mayu, in a purple dress, followed by Machi in red flowing gown and feathers in his hair, and Emiru in a short pink dress and fuzzy slippers. Kamijo, in deep blue, descended from the upper platform to join his bandmates. For the first time in 15 years, this lineup of Lareine was sharing a stage.
They flew right into gear, beginning with LILLIE CHARLOTTE. Emiru took center stage directing the fans in a dance as Machi alternated between using drum pads and dancing along. It seemed to be a warm up, to get the tension even higher. The members took their usual positions for their next song, Fierte no umi to tomo ni kyu. And it seemed as if everyone, Kamijo included, had been in a time capsule for all this time. Nobody showed any sign that things had been different. It seemed, at this moment, that the Lareine of old had simply began again where they left off. The band played their biggest hit, fiancailles, to a huge reaction. Machi deftly twirled his drumsticks and Emiru danced along as Mayu appealed to the crowd with every solo. As for Kamijo, even though this was his night, he seemed to gel perfectly with his old bandmates.
Kamijo himself seemed to have similar feelings, nearly weeping during an emotional MC. “It’s been 20 years since the beginning of Lareine. Thank you so much for your support; we’ve each done a lot these past 20 years, but here we are, it feels like before. I want to share that feeling with all of you.”
Lareine’s performance did feel like a celebration, with Kamijo smiling, Machi throwing flowers into the crowd, Emiru dancing and stamping his feet, and Mayu making his guitar sing. For the people who waited and waited for this moment, it had been well worth it.
After Lareine’s performance concluded, Kamijo went back to his solo repertoire with a rousing performance of God Palace. Kamijo, who admitted that he had difficulty singing through his emotions during parts of Lareine’s set, had come back stronger than ever. Halfway through the song, Shigure left the stage, and his replacement was announced as Masashi from Versailles! Masashi, who played in Kamijo’s solo band previously, fit into the group like a glove, and showed off his powerful bass playing style. For the next song, the Versailles classic Ascendead Master, Masashi was gone, but in place of Meku and Daishi stood Hizaki and Teru, dressed in their old Versailles costumes! The band tore into the song with vigor, most of all Kamijo, who moved Teru’s head back and forth, trying to get him to headbang harder as he and Hizaki were doing. The lineup changes continued with Teru and Hizaki leaving, and Masashi rejoining the lineup, this time with Versailles drummer Yuki, whose drum set was adorned with roses.
Kamijo’s bands, past and present, were now playing together perfectly as the screen mixed the performance with live footage and PVs. Finally, Hizaki and Teru rejoined the group, now made up of all Versailles members, who began anew with what was their first song nearly a decade ago, The Revenant Choir. Everyone was just as great as when they started, with Hizaki playing his trademark solos while playfully bumping into Kamijo. Teru strutted along the catwalk as Masashi and Yuki both showed tremendous mastery of their visual metal sound.
With these members, Kamijo gave another MC about the return of Versailles in 2016. The band will kick off activities on August 7th at Maihama Amphitheatre, and also have plans for a world tour! Of course, Kamijo will also continue solo activities, and ended the night with the songs この世で一番美しい薔薇よ (Kono Yo de Ichiban Utsukushii Bara yo) and Royal Blood. Kamijo’s solo band also have big plans for 2016, including a oneman live May 30th at Akasaka Blitz. As the night ended, all the members from all the bands returned to the stage together, and said a few words congratulating the man of the hour on his achievements. Kamijo has had a great 20, no, a great 200 years, and is showing no signs of slowing down heading into 2016!
1. Vive le Roi (SE)
2. Symphony of the Vampire 第一楽章「Presto」(Dai-ichi Gakusyou)
3. Symphony of the Vampire 第二楽章「Sacrifice of Allegro」(Dai-ni Gakusyou)
4. Symphony of the Vampire 第三楽章「Royal Tercet」(Dai-san Gakusyou)
5. Symphony of the Vampire 第四楽章「Dying-Table」(Dai-yon Gakusyou)
6. Symphony of the Vampire 第五楽章「Sonata」(Dai-go Gakusyou)
7. Symphony of the Vampire 第六楽章「満月のアダージョ」(Dai-roku Gakusyou- Mangetsu no Adaggio)
8. Symphony of the Vampire 第七楽章「Throne」(Dai-nana Gakusyou)
11. CAT WALK
13. サンクチュアリ (Sanctuary)
14. 闇夜のライオン (Yamiyo no Lion)
16. LILLIE CHARLOTTE
17. フィエルテの海と共に消ゆ (Fierte no umi to tomo ni kyu)
20. 再会の花 (Saikai no hana)
21. God Palace
22. Ascendead Master
23. Aristocrat’s Symphony
24. The Revenant Choir
25. この世で一番美しい薔薇よ (Kono Yo de Ichiban Utsukushii Bara yo)
26. Royal Blood
This live report was written in cooperation with artistsounds.asia.