Juno Reactor is renowned among the rave scene and perhaps best known worldwide for their work on The Matrix soundtracks. What they are probably best known for in Japan, however, is a particular guitarist featured in their line-up. JUNO REACTOR stars none other than LUNA SEA and X JAPAN’s Sugizo. On May 22nd, 2015, Juno Reactor came back to Japan for the first time in 2 years, featuring a new singer, Taja, from Slovenia. It marked her official Japan debut.
People filtered into TSUTAYA O-EAST until it was packed with fans of all nationalities, buzzing with excitement. The set opened with the ethereal, haunting sounds of Conquistador #1 and #2 off their album Labyrinth. Taja emerged from the side of the stage wearing a deep red shawl that covered a black and white Lolita-esque outfit with a full skirt. Sugizo, clothed as usual in all black, stood off to the side but still managed to share the spotlight. Leader Ben Watkins entered with low, growling vocals, while dancer and drummer Mali entered from the left brandishing what almost looked like a javelin. Leonard Eto on taiko drums and Budgie on drums may have been on opposite sides of the stage, but their duo percussion was perfectly synchronized. The members followed each other around stage, Sugizo’s screaming guitar contrasting with Taja’s clear vocals. The words “JUNO REACTOR” flashed across the screen at the song’s conclusion.
Sugizo started off the second song, Biot Messiah, with his hand raised in his famous tribute to Star Trek, which was echoed by well over half the audience. Sugizo fans were in the majority tonight. Other fans brandished glowsticks or their fists. Ben and Sugizo played off of each other’s energy, Ben calling out to the audience, “Hey Tokyo! I wanna see your hands!” Even the audience in the very back of the venue joined in. “How you feelin’ out there?” he asked despite the language barrier. No prominent vocals in the song meant Sugizo and his wailing electric guitar were the main focus.
The set moved into another high-energy song, Navras. The audience needed no encouragement to get into it. It was clear that Japan was as excited for Taja’s Japan debut as the band was. In a rather rare occurrence for Japan, the audience was allowed to take pictures and video footage, of which fans gladly took advantage. By the end of Mona lisa overdrive, the entire audience was dancing, even those in the back using every inch of space given.
Sugizo stepped into the center of the stage for Invisible off Juno Reactor’s latest album The Golden Sun of the Great East, released in 2013. Hands folded in prayer were displayed on the giant projection screen behind him. Sugizo and Taja shared the spotlight while Mali stood behind on drums. Next was God is God, featuring clips from the official music video along with images of lotus flowers. This almost cult-like song featured a spoken introduction by Ben, speaking of days “back when we were still in caves.” Mali danced alongside Sugizo, whose screaming guitar riffs prompted fans in the audience to raise their hands in tribute to the guitarist.
The set continued to darken with the next song, Zombie, featuring Mali shrouded in a white cloth as if she were a ghost. Budgie and Leonard took the spotlight next with their impressive drum session, featuring a more traditional drum set alongside Leonard Eto’s talented taiko drumming.
Taja’s vocals shone in Ingonyama, then Ben gave Sugizo the full spotlight for the next song, Hotaka. “This man owes me 24 months of guitar playing. I want it now!” he demanded. Sugizo responded by shredding a few phrases on his electric guitar. “Okay, now it’s 23 months.” Budgie, Leonard, Taja, and even Ben joined in, the frontman wielding a guitar himself. He turned to the audience and said, “If you love me this much, I wanna hear you scream!” Sugizo’s guitar talent was sure to make up for those 24 months since Juno Reactor last played. When the song came to an end, however, Ben stated simply, “He still owes me another year.”
Leonard took on the next track, Conga fury with furious taiko drumming. Sugizo’s guitar solos drew whistles and cheers from the audience. The last song before the encore, Pistolero, got the audience most involved. Ben called the audience his “Japanese pistoleros,” and asked them to sing the main melody with him. After the first try, he asked them to “give it a little more feeling,” and give they did. Sugizo speedy acoustic guitar picking echoed Taja’s vocals. “One more time, Sugizo, I wanna hear Tokyo!” Ben shouted, and the audience sang with all of their might. The lights shone full on the audience until the end of the song, when the members left the stage.
It wasn’t long until the members returned for what Ben introduced as “the one and only Final Frontier,” also off of their latest album. The audience wasn’t tired yet. The last song of the night was Masters of the universe, a rocking song that could also fit into the club scene. It used up the audience’s last reserves of energy. Taja and Mali twirled around the stage together, Taja showing off her high vocals and Sugizo’s screaming guitar matching it perfectly.
When the last song came to an end, Ben took a long time to say goodbye to the audience. “See you on the dark side of the moon,” he said, and one by one, the members left the stage. The members returned briefly to take a “family photo,” which will serve as a perfect memento to hold the crowd over until the next time Juno Reactor takes on The Land of the Rising Sun.
1. Conquistador #1 and #2
2. Biot Messiah
4. Mona lisa overdrive
6. God is God
8. Drum session / Budgie and Leonard
11. Conga fury
EN-1. Final Frontier
EN-2. Masters of the universe