The Sheraton Dallas bustled with activity on Friday May 29, 2009. A-Kon 20 was underway. Registration lines were long. Costumed revelers prowled the hallways and common areas. Various demonstrations and competitions attracted excited participants. JShoxx blasted new music from ALSDEAD at a booth in the center of the second floor and fans snapped up the ALSDEAD CD singles they had on sale.
To say that the convention center was filled with excited fans and concert-goers would do the word "filled" a disservice. By 7 p.m. the line to get in to see ALSDEAD and camino already wound down one wall and was well down the second hallway, though the show wasn’t due to begin for two hours. Line monitors cracked jokes, danced and sang for the anxious fans as they waited to be allowed into the convention center’s huge ballroom.
The fans were a mixture of ages from 10 to over 50, but the majority seemed to be under 25. What united them was a love of music and the opportunity to see acts that had made journeys of thousands of miles just to be able to play for them. The buzz running through the crowd centered on the forthcoming "live" and what it would be like to see bands from Japan, which many would be doing for the first time. Every single one of them wanted a place in the front row.
When the doors opened around 8 p.m., the crowd of more than a thousand flowed into the room, quickly filling up all the spaces in front of the stage before moving to fill the wings and then the sides. Chairs were lined up by security to allow for space between the audience and the stage, and the eager fans leaned against the chairs, each trying to position themselves to get a good view of the coming spectacle. Overhead the ceiling glittered and glowed with a mass of tiny lights that twinkled like distant stars. The room was dim and it was easy to pick out those wearing glow-sticks in the darkness.
The stage was large and to the left stood a large video screen for the live feed offered to fans further back so that they could see close-ups of their favorite musicians. The stacks of Marshall Amplifiers reached towards the ceiling 20 feet overhead and a gleaming red Pearl drum kit filled the center of the stage. The fans looked around in awe, chanting "ALSDEAD" as the room filled with ever greater excitement. Whenever a roadie moved across the stage shouts came from all around the room.
Finally, as 9 p.m. approached the anticipation expanded and the assemblage cheered to entice ALSDEAD to the stage. Their cries were soon rewarded as the band was introduced and filled its place on stage. The members wore shiny black patent leather and lace, their painted faces beautiful in the soft lighting of the stage lights. -setua- came out first, quickly followed by -shin- and -reito-. They filled the stage with exuberance, bouncing up, playing to the crowd, grinning as the cheering grew. They took their places, -reito- on bass to the left, -shin- on guitar to the right, -setua- at the drums in the back and Maki in the center, microphone in hand.
The music began and the house went wild. Cheering fans raised their arms in excitement, releasing some of their pent-up energy by waving their hands and pumping their fists. Maki, clad in a black patent leather jacket, shorts, thigh-high leggings and lace, began to sing and the focus turned to him. He raised his arms and the adulation began. Strutting around the stage, he enticed the crowd with his movements and the fans’ energy continued to grow. Even those unfamiliar with the songs were enamored by his charms. He spoke predominantly in Japanese but the fans didn’t seem to care.
-shin- and -reito- wore more of the black patent leather short shorts and thigh-high leggings, their outfits complimenting each other in color and texture, though -reito’s- black and silver beribboned hair piece set him slightly apart. Both wore black lace and a small lace overskirt over their shorts and their hair took on the tones of the lights each time the spotlights shifted. They moved back and forth across the stage, taking each others’ places at times so that everyone in the crowd could see them. -shin- seemed the more playful of the pair, grinning whenever he wasn’t concentrating on his playing. Each of them played to the crowd and showed off for the audience.
At the back -setua- wasn’t about to be outdone. His face was covered in a cybernetic-influenced array that appeared as a mask of wires, and his clothing had a more futuristic inspiration. His vest was covered in rings and chains and he wore full body make-up. He wore pants rather than shorts and seemed more a character from science fiction than his band mates. His steady drumming added to the scene and even when there were a couple of cymbal malfunctions he continued to play, not letting slight technical missteps mar his professionalism.
The band played eight songs including “VOR- Violent of Reason,” “S.a.g.A.” and “F-99” but no set list was available for the full line-up. It appears that they played everything on their two singles and perhaps something from their former band, Dice and Joker. There were changes in tempo throughout, but each medley contained its own bit of showmanship. Maki has the tongue wag down and they all played with the crowd, working the fans into a frenzy of jumping and arm waving in imitation of the band’s own upraised hands. They clapped and sang and the crowd chanted and sang along. Many of the girls in the audience were using their hands to make hearts whenever one of the band members, especially -reito-, happened to look her way. While many fans didn’t know the Japanese words, you could see them singing along to the chorus, undeterred by the language barrier.
Maki called "last song" just before their final and as the crowd groaned it was clear that those gathered would like to have heard much more. When the band finished the last notes, it stood and waved, posing for the audience, playing up to its fans for a few minutes more before grabbing hands and taking a final group bow. The chant "ALSDEAD" continued as the members disappeared. They did not do an encore.
The efficient A-kon staff passed out water to the audience, some of whom had been standing in the heat of the crowd for two hours by the time ALSDEAD left the stage. A few of the crowd departed the press at the front of the audience but the majority stayed at the front, eagerly anticipating camino’s entrance. Spirits were high despite the heat and packed conditions. Though the room was almost full most of the attendees were well behaved. The few times there was a disturbance it was taken care of swiftly.
The roadies removed ALSDEAD’s instruments and replaced them with Kiku’s three guitars, Ryosuke’s keyboards and Mac and Taka’s basses. The sole remnant from the previous band was the Pearl drum kit with a few additions. The transition did not take long and by 10 p.m. the announcer was on stage once more, admonishing the crowd not to mosh. He got the crowd focused on the front of the room once more and it was time for the music to begin.
As the announcer finished, the excited fans looked expectantly towards the wings. Amidst screams and cheers camino took the stage. Rehit headed to the drums as Ryosuke took his place behind the keyboards to the left of the drums. Kiku took his place on the left side of the stage and Taka moved to the right while Hayato came on and took his place in the middle. The band quickly moved into its set. Hayato danced around, buddying up to his other bandmates, wiggling and hopping around. He moved easily with the flow of the music and became a visual focal-point for camino’s show.
Out in the crowd it was clear that camino had many fans, likely aided by their two previous A-Kon appearances and their contribution of tracks to several television shows in Japan. A large number of the audience members sang along to both "Story" and "Nostalgia" though you saw people mouthing the words to "4u" and "Lovin’ You" as well. The tempo of camino’s music was a contrast to that of ALSDEAD. This time the fans had a chance to slow down and groove rather than leap around at a frantic pace. The energy was a little different but it was still very much present, exemplified by the reaction to Hayato each time he spoke to the assemblage. It would do exactly as he’d asked whether it be shouting out the lyrics or chanting or singing the chorus. His exuberance was infectious and the fans responded, smiling, laughing, singing and cheering.
camino did a full set and the audience remained pumped throughout the show. Its set list also included "The Life," "Silver Phantom," "Right Now," "So Short Lo…," "Lunatic," "Drive" and their encore "One way to Rock." They covered most of their recent first full album "New Life" during the concert and also included old favorites. Throughout the hour that the band played the audience remained charged and its energy added to the band’s. It was clear that everyone in the band thrived on the crowd’s response. Children as young as nine or ten danced along happily smiles were found everywhere in the large ballroom.
When camino came out for the encore after changing into matching shirts, Hayato took a place behind the drums and began to play. Rehit ran out to the microphone and both the band and audience had a good laugh before the pair changed places. After they finished playing the entire band took their place with their backs to the audience and had someone come out and take pictures of them with their audience from a few angles. They left the stage on this bright note and the lights came on and clean-up began. Fans headed out to meet the band for autographs in the convention center after camino had time to clean up and take a breath of Texas air.
Live report by: Haleigh Watson
Edited by: Kelly T.