The members of heidi. took the Visual Stage in a burst of energy, bassist KOHSUKE practically running on stage. They got off to a jumping start with Utakata. Strobe lights flashed when it was time for NAO’s brilliant guitar solo, and the song ended with a tide of cheers from fans. “Thank you all for coming to see us at Visual Japan Summit! Let’s make it a fun day!” vocalist YOSHIHIKO said before transitioning into Sakura Underground.
The energy picked up even further for Omae-san, a song with a few death growls, moshing, and headbanging mixed in. heidi. chose to end their short but strong set with Glide, an upbeat ballad.
01. 泡沫 (Utakata)
02. サクラアンダーグラウンド (Sakura Underground)
03. おまえさん (Omae-san)
04. グライド (Glide)
A drum-and-bass-heavy SE cued DEZERT with the members back-lit on stage to give the band an imposing, silhouetted appearance. The attention-grabbing Ohayou opened their set featuring Chiaki’s heavy vocals which effortlessly escalated into growls when needed. Following a quick, simple MC — “Hello! Hello! Hello! We’re grateful to be here!” — the arena was flung into the violence encapsulated by the track Satsui. Chiaki demanded audience members raise their hands and press closer to the stage.
Chiaki then spent a good half of the next song in the gap in front of the stage rather than on it, and followed up by climbing the railing in the camera pit, screaming and singing from his perch during Houchou no Tadashii Tsukaikata ~Shuusoku-hen~. With the vocalist absent from the stage, guitarist Miyako and bassist SaZ had the spotlight, but kept a gap in the center consistently open for Chiaki’s (unlikely) return.
DEZERT brought plenty of attitude to the festival with its unforgiving, live house-like performance, and Chiaki’s powerful presence and ruthless demands for crowd participation stood out in particular.
01. おはよう (Ohayou)
02. 殺意 (Satsui)
03. 大塚ヘッドロック (Otsuka Headlock)
04. 包丁の正しい使い方～終息編～ (Houchou no Tadashii Tsukaikata ~Shuusoku-hen~)
05. ピクトグラムさん (Pictogram-san)
The crowd swelled in anticipation of hide with Spread Beaver, appearing for the first time since the hide memorial summit in 2008. GEORGE, Tatsurou, and Ryutarou (Plastic Tree) gave a brief introduction before the band did the rest themselves: the set kicked off with old backstage footage of the band together, hide included, set to the “Spread Beaver” SE. The members were announced in video in order — Joe, I.N.A., D.I.E, K.A.Z, Chirolyn, Kiyoshi, and hide — before launching into Rocket Dive, one of their most memorable songs.
In hide’s place stood his iconic yellow guitar at center stage, with plenty of video and audio footage of the frontman playing right along with his outlandishly-dressed band. Even with the band’s playful stage antics, such as Chirolyn‘s kicks and Kiyoshi’s high energy jamming, it was hard to look anywhere but the screen to watch the artist many have never had the chance to see on stage.
GOOD BYE opened with Yoshiki taking over on piano, with only hide’s vocals accompanying him. Here, the video changed to a slideshow of hide’s old photos that was enough to bring some fans to tears. Yoshiki expressed his appreciation after the performance: “Thank you so, so much for continuing to support hide for so long. Thanks to you and everyone in Spread Beaver, it’s like he’s still living with us. I’m very grateful.”
The upbeat Pink Spider brought the tension level up once again and Yoshiki took up that yellow guitar to join in for another round. DOUBT and DICE cranked up the volume, and ever free brought X JAPAN’s Pata on stage partway through.
Chirolyn cued hide on screen to announce the final song, and TELL ME began with a bang of confetti. After pouring their all into the last performance, the band reluctantly cleared off the stage — with Kiyoshi hurling his guitar aside with as much intensity as he’d performed.
01. ROCKET DIVE
03. BEAUTY & STUPID
05. GOOD BYE
06. ピンクスパイダー (Pink Spider)
09. ever free
10. TELL ME
Kameleo is something of a dance-group visual kei band with a style of showmanship a little removed — refreshingly — from many of their contemporaries. The members entered in masks and tossed light-up items into the crowd, even though many attendees near the stage were already decked out with glow rings and bracelets. Entertainingly, the masks stayed on for the duration of the first song.
During Unmei Kaika Disco, vocalist Hikaru introduced the members of the band before guitarist Daisuke treated the crowd to a nice solo. NEET-hime brought curious backup dancers on stage: a girl in a full-head anime character mask, and a pizza delivery man doing furitsuke with a pizza box. Male dancers with pompoms also made an appearance later in the set, ensuring that there was always something fun to watch on stage.
Hikaru’s MC stood out among MCs of the evening: after calling out to attendees on the opposite end of the arena, far from their stage, he encouraged everyone to shout where they had traveled from, and then asked anyone who had never seen Kameleo to cheer. A surprising number of people humored him and cheered; Hikaru’s response was, “It’s almost like we’re popular!” After spending the rest of the MC giving away Yoshiki-brand curry, the band wrapped up their set with another upbeat song.
Kameleo brought humor to the stage and lightened the atmosphere for not only their fans, but also for the many attendees who were watching them for the first time. Fittingly, they wrapped up their set time by pretending to start a fifth song, but abruptly stopped, said goodbye, and took their leave.
01. 運命開華ディスコ (Unmei Kaika Disco)
02. ニート姫 (NEET-hime)
03. デビルくん (Devil-kun)
Following Kameleo’s set, SID took the Summit Stage for the band’s first show in nearly ten months. They kicked off with Monochrome no Kiss, green lights and strong bass coloring the venue. Despite not leaving the center of the stage much, vocalist Mao expressed emotion and music through the movement of his arms. cosmetic and Toge to Neko offered a more jazzy vibe to their set. Bassist AKi drew used his area of the stage well, grabbing attention from the crowd. A red spotlight shone on Mao as he sang the last lyrics.
In Mao’s MC, he talked about how he was thankful and a bit embarrassed that their first show in ten months was at Visual Japan Summit with so many of his mentors watching. Uso and the ultra-popular Mousou Nikki followed. The audience sang along for Dear Tokyo, and Mao declared “Visual kei is awesome!” They closed out their set with Genun, the whole audience jumping along.
01. モノクロのキス (Monochrome no Kiss)
05. 刺と猫 (Toge to Neko)
06. 嘘 (Uso)
07. 妄想日記 (Mousou Nikki)
08. Dear Tokyo
09. 眩暈 (Genun)
HYDE x YOSHIKI
When this unlikely but amazing collaboration was announced just days before Visual Japan Summit took place, we think it’s safe to say that no one knew what to expect. Between stage setups, the only thing on the Summit Stage was YOSHIKI’s crystal piano.
YOSHIKI and HYDE took the stage in simple black clothing. YOSHIKI took his seat at the piano while HYDE stood in front of the piano, only holding a microphone. YOSHIKI began playing the melody of a popular L’Arc~en~Ciel song, MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM. HYDE sang with only the piano as accompaniment, his voice falling and rising with practiced control. The final chorus, “yume wo egaku yo,” was sung by the entire audience of 35,000 people for over a minute before the song came to a gentle close.
The legendary pair paused to thank each other, talk about the collaboration for a moment, and take a selfie together on stage. Then, they treated the audience to one more song: Say Anything by X JAPAN. YOSHIKI’s skillful playing and HYDE’s unique voice made for an unexpectedly enchanting combination. The two-song set was the stuff of dreams.
01. MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM
02. Say Anything
After members took the stage to a horn-heavy SE, R-Shitei took over in costumes akin to Japanese schoolboy uniforms and a style that harkened back to Showa-era Japan. The sound of a cued the beginning of their set with Gokusai Melancholy, during which vocalist Mamo broke out a megaphone and led the audience in saluting.
Kokuritsu Shounen – National Kid started out with an enthusiastic mosh pit and delivered an enjoyable guitar solo by Z, and Yanderu Kanojo saw Mamo on guitar and a great bass line from Nana.
The final song, THE Hainingen, proved to be surprisingly heavy and included death-voice vocals and guttural backing vocals. White lighting flickered in time over the crowd, immersed in headbanging. With the chorus came a catchier melody, however, much like the rest of songs in the set, which was very cohesive by the end.
R-Shitei’s set was both and neither heavy or upbeat; their set struck a good middle ground that anyone could enjoy.
01. 玉砕メランコリィ (Gokusai Melancholy)
02. 國立少年-ナショナルキッド (Kokuritsu Shounen – National Kid)
03. 病ンデル彼女 (Yanderu Kanojo)
04. 波瀾万丈、椿唄 (Haran Banjou, Tsubaki Uta)
05. THE廃人間 (THE Hainingen)
GLAY’s immense popularity was greeted with cheering that was so deafening it just might have been the loudest of the night. Vocalist Teru started out on guitar at center stage for the opening song, DEATHTOPIA, and was greeted by a sea of light sticks in the audience. Smoke columns shot up for Scoop, and the audience was particularly excited for Freeze My Love.
After Chouonsoku Destiny, Teru took the mic. “Everyone having fun?” he asked the massive crowd that gathered to see GLAY. He talked about how X JAPAN was the band that helped give them their big break 21 years ago. Then they performed a cover of X JAPAN’s Joker, where hide with Spread Beaver’s Die joined on keyboard and guitarist HISASHI nailed the guitar solo. Die stayed on for the next two songs. GLAY ended their set with fan favorite Yuuwaku, going out in a cloud of smoke.
01. デストピア (DEATHTOPIA)
03. Freeze My Love
04. 超音速デスティニー (Chouonsoku Destiny)
07. 生きてく強さ (Ikiteku Tsuyosa)
08. 彼女の”Modern…” (Kanojo no “Modern…”)
09. ACID HEAD
10. 誘惑 (Yuuwaku)
LM.C was the last band to take the Japan Stage for Day Two, but they were definitely not an act to miss. They took the stage with a beat akin to “We Will Rock You,” strange synth noises playing as members took the stage. They kicked off with DOUBLE DRAGON, drawing a chorus of “Woah, woah” from the audience.
Maya took a moment to thank everyone who came to see them despite being sandwiched between visual kei giants GLAY and X JAPAN. They felt like they didn’t deserve it. Their fans believed otherwise, giving their all for OH MY JULIET., MOGURA, and Chameleon Dance.
Before DREAMscape, Maya took the mic once more. He thanked the audience again for the warm welcome and told a heartwarming story from when he was in junior high school and a little on the chubby side. One day in Harajuku, he saw a beautiful older woman who had an X JAPAN bag that he couldn’t find for sale anywhere. He plucked up the courage to ask her where she bought it and she told him very kindly where to find it. He was grateful that he could find someone so thoughtful, and that made him want to start his own band that had fans just as caring as that older woman. “If you’re watching us right now, let me know!” he said.
LM.C closed their set with the popular PUNKY♥HEART, and when it was all over, Maya told the audience he was glad he decided to become a visual kei artist, and asked everyone to jump with them.
01. DOUBLE DRAGON
02. OH MY JULIET.
04. Chameleon Dance
With the event running behind, X JAPAN’s set started about an hour after its scheduled time, but the wait is always worthwhile for a legendary band. Their SE consisted of the “epic”-sounding Miracle with clips from many of the overseas tours the band played over the last few years — an introduction that was strikingly similar to, if not the same as, their opening for LUNATIC FEST in 2015. Still, fans were pumped from the outset and JADE was greeted with an eruption of cheers.
From JADE’s pyrotechnics we were carried into the concert favorite Rusty Nail, with the crowd enticed to sing half of one of the choruses, frontman Toshi running the left-hand catwalk in the meantime. Kurenai was the standout song of Day Two, Toshi shouting “Kurenai da!!” before the audience and band burst into action. Born to be Free featured fire and lasers, the crowd was showered with confetti for X, and the three disco balls dangling from the ceiling of Makuhari Messe lit up for Endless Rain.
SUGIZO‘s violin solo led into Art of Life, featuring YOSHIKI on both piano and drums. The X JAPAN epic closed out the set for Day Two, and when the band exited the stage, the anticipation built once more for the Muteki Band to come.
03. Rusty Nail
04. Forever Love
05. 紅 (Kurenai)
06. Born to be free
08. ENDLESS RAIN
09. Violin Solo
10. ART OF LIFE
Much like the first evening’s final act, the “peerless band” closed out day 2 with members from every band on stage (down Kameleo and Grieva). The members contributing to the act were Teru (GLAY), Mao (Sid), Toshi (X JAPAN), Taka (defspiral), Maya (LM.C), Ryutarou (Plastic Tree), Shou (A9), and Sono (Matenrou Opera) on vocals; Sugizo (LUNA SEA), Pata (X JAPAN), Takuro (GLAY), Hisashi (GLAY), and Aiji (LM.C) on guitar; Heath (X JAPAN) and Chirolyn (hide with Spread Beaver) on bass; and JOE (hide with Spread Beaver) on drums.
The set was kept to two short, wild Sex Pistols covers — Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen. The significance of this selection goes all the way back to Yoshiki’s wild label events, called Extasy Summit, held in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where appearing bands began the tradition of closing out the night with — you guessed it — Sex Pistols cover songs under the banner of “Muteki Band.”
01. Anarchy in the UK (Sex Pistols cover)
02. God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols cover)
Reports by Ku and Shannon
Photos: © VISUAL JAPAN SUMMIT 2016 Powered by Rakuten.