Japan’s legendary two man rock band B’z took the world by storm once more with their breath taking performance at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, the finale of three venues for their Live Gym 2011 — Long Time No See — American Tour.
This time their band line-up comprised of long time friend and colleague Takanobu Masuda (Keyboard & Chorus), Barry Sparks (Bass guitar), Shane Gaalaas (Drums) and finally a new member Yoshinobu Ohga (Rhythm guitar).

The highly anticipated concert was rumored to have an interesting mix of B’z classic hits as well as a new song or two. The set-list was as follows:

01. さまよえる蒼い弾丸 Samayoeru Aoi Dangan (English Style, New)
02. Juice (English Style, New)
03. FRICTION (Song featured in the car racing game: Burnout Paradise)
04. MY LONELY TOWN (43rd Number 1 single on the Oricon charts)
05. イチブトゼンブ Ichibu to Zenbu (Theme song for Japanese manga-turned drama, Buzzer Beater)
06. HOME (English Style, released for B’z The Best “Ultra Treasure” album)
07. OCEAN (Awarded 3 certifications from the *RIAJ as a gold and platinum single)
08. 今夜月の見える丘に Konya Tsuki no Mieru Koto ni
09. Calling
10. Love me, I love you
11. 裸足の女神 Hadashi no Megami
12. Splash! (English Style, New)
13. Brotherhood (English Style, New)
14. 愛のバクダン Ai no Bakudan
15. ギリギリChop Giri Giri Chop (Theme song for the 6th Season of Detective Conan, the anime.)
17. さよなら傷だらけの日々よ Sayonara Kizu Darake no Hibiyo (Song for Pepsi NEX.)
18. Ultra Soul 2011 (Theme song for 2011 World Aquatics Championship)

All music is composed and produced by Tak Matsumoto.
All lyrics [English and Japanese] are written by Inaba Koshi.

The selection reflected a mix of popular hits throughout their years of music making, although a few more additions from the early years would have been appreciated, such as their signature song “Bad Communication” (1989) that still remains a classic favorite. Fans have been looking forward to seeing another live performance of Inaba-san’s English songs like “Logic” as it was never recorded in studios, or the famously hard rock influenced “Real Thing Shakes” (1996). Instead fans were treated to other popular B’z classics re-written in English.

The concert began with Tak Matsumoto’s introductory guitar riff (a recognizable melody from their upbeat song “Banzai”) after leading his musicians onto the stage. Inaba Koshi then burst in with an energetic greeting; the crowd went wild. All eyes were on the legendary pair as Inaba broke out into a powerful performance of “Samayoeru Aoi Dangan,” followed by “Juice” — both in English.

Throughout the concert, Inaba addressed the crowd in smooth English with crisp pronunciation not only in speech but also in song. He mentioned during a break that it felt like home in Los Angeles. Tak then introduced the English version of the song “Home” with a short blues piece. The guitar score was updated and improvised again to suit a bluesier feel for Club Nokia’s intimate live, showcasing the beauty of Tak Matsumoto’s guitar-craft.

Straight after the finishing touches of that sentimental hit, Inaba greeted the crowd with his customary shout-out, “B’z no Live Gym ni Yokoso!!!” [Welcome to B’z Live Gym!]. Somewhere in between, Tak removed his sunglasses. From the powerful, energetic hits, Inaba mellowed it down with a beautiful ballad “Ocean.” The PV for this song was shot on a Japanese Navy ship and backed by an orchestra, giving it the feeling of patriotism and grandeur, while the tidal music in Tak’s compositions mimic the soothing oceanic waves. Despite the lack of an orchestra at Club Nokia, Inaba’s soulful performance during “Ocean” was astounding. He stilled the crowd with his beautiful vocals and meaningful lyrics.

When the ballad faded, Inaba brought the B’z rock out again with “Konya Tsuki no Mieru Koto Ni,” another classic favorite. Tak amazed the crowd with his solo segment in this song, made astounding with fresh adjustments and a bluesier, jazzier feel in comparison to the 2000 studio version, possibly a Larry Carlton influence.

Tak’s next climatic riff for the hit single ”Calling,” reverberates through the venue and blended in seamlessly with Inaba’s heart-rendering wail, two components that are the core of B’z’s trademark touch. This song was the best performance throughout the concert and a splendid choice for the set-list, as “Calling” marked the peak of their classic rock sounds in the late 1990’s, with a bone-chilling melody that is unforgettable and now made timeless with this performance that would live on forever.

From the soulful peals to something happier, Inaba lifted the mood again with yet another romantic classic from 1995, “Love Me, I Love You” and a fan favorite, “Hadashi no Megami.” At this point in the concert, fans started noticing how effortlessly each performance was executed to perfection. Inaba’s constant interaction with the crowd while sprinting all over the stage displayed his commendable stamina. When the harmonious melody of “Hadashi no Megami” ceased, he introduced the band with special emphasis to Grammy Award-Winning Guitarist Tak Matsumoto. The very first words that left the guitarist’s lips were then, “Long time no see. How have you been?”

The band paused here to have an intimate chat with the audience. Inaba began retelling his tale of the Grammy Awards not so long ago. “When Tak was on the Grammy podium, I was on the street, watching. I felt so lonely… But actually I was going to see him later, then I was so happy.”

“It was 15, 16 years ago when we started coming to LA to do our recording. There’s been many people helping and supporting us. We owe a lot to this town. So I’d like to say thank you. Domo Arigato.”

Shane then began the next song with Tak, a unique drums and guitar duet that slipped into “Splash,” a fast-paced rock song that Inaba rewrote into English and localized with elements of American culture and Hollywood into the lyrics. His vocal range and amazing speed enhanced the power of this number, proving his capabilities as a renown rock vocalist. It was an energetic show and stage performance with Inaba whipping out three maracas and jiving to the beat in the background while Tak’s riff took center stage.

Next up on the list was “Brotherhood,” a song composed in 1999 that described true friendship between men. This was another pinnacle in their long music career and the milestone during their years of experimenting with sounds, having completely taken out their synthesized keyboard elements and pop influences to venture into pure rock. Their first milestone was the “7th Blues,” an album released before “Brotherhood” that concentrated solely on blues tracks.

This song was also performed in its original Japanese version, on April 1, 2011 during the Music Station 3-hour Special, with slightly modified lyrics in dedication to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami victims. Their soulful performance created a wave amongst the Japanese and straight after B’z fans addressed each other as “ブラサー” (Katakana pronounciation for “Brother”).

“Ai no Bakudan” came up next with a lively performance that matched its happy, catchy tunes. Drummer Shane Gaalaas used this opportunity to showcase his drumming prowess with an energetic solo. “Giri Giri Chop” slipped in after Shane’s work, another fast-paced and gritty rock song that rivals the quickness of “Splash.” This time Tak retained the original score, keeping it classic with no modifications or updated riffs.

The music continued non-stop into “Banzai,” another crowd-rallying number. Inaba danced as Tak began the memorable melody with the crowd clapping along to the beat. “How are you feeling now? I can’t hear you Los Angeles! Let me hear you scream! Are you ready?!” The crowd jumped upon Inaba’s signal just as he leaped off the speakers, crying, “BANZAI!” It was a great song to finish the set-list, because the newly energized audience cheered and screamed for more when the band stepped offstage.

Encore began after the crowd continued cheering for five minutes. The band returned to the stage with Inaba changed out of his sweat-riddled clothes and into a red t-shirt. The heavier tunes of “Sayonara Kizudarake Hibi yo” filled Club Nokia along with its undertones of danger and strife. This song was produced during the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster and thus it was reflected on the title (Goodbye, wounded days).

B’z Live Gym 2011 thus came to a climatic end with a new version of another B’z staple, “Ultra Soul 2011.” This piece was originally made the theme song for the 2001 FINA World Aquatics Championships. A decade later, the event decided to use it again as their theme, this time an updated version jazzed up and remastered with a modern riff.

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience that left everyone touched by the masterful and sincere performance that B’z displayed. Their contribution to music, be it blues, rock or pop has built a solid foundation for many other artists for the years to come. B’z is definitely a band to see live again and again and again.

Guest Submission by: Roxanne.
Edited by: Debra
* Recording Industry Association of Japan