This year Anime Vegas went all out with their guest performance. Featuring six musical acts in celebration of the conventions six-year anniversary. The musical line-up was Satsuki, ALSDEAD, akai SKY, RUSIKA, Makenai, and Momoi. Four rock bands, one anime music group and a pop/idol performance.
It’s fairly common to see Jrock and Jpop artists performing at anime conventions for one or two concerts, but rarely do all the bands play back-to-back for one single event. Anime Vegas decided to have them all on one bill for one night, roughly 7 hours of domestic and imported Japanese rock and pop with chances to see the performers directly after their individual shows. It was an event not soon forgotten.
First up was San Francisco based akai SKY. Their drummer, Jinra, was the first to step out on stage with the guitarist, Hayashi, directly behind him. Umi, the bassist, then came walking out with a camera. She took pictures of the audience with a big smile while throwing up a "peace" hand sign to go with it. The three of them started in with "akai SKY bookie ’09, which immediately brought the audience to their feet cheering. As they grooved out on stage, vocalist, Ryuusei, made his entrance, jogging onstage, hands in the air.
With the question, "Are you ready to rock out?" and the audience’s enthusiastic "Yeah!", the band charged into their first song, "In Black." The song alternated between a heavy, rhythmic riffs and smooth vocals. Hayashi’s guitar solo was skillfully executed and received several outcries of excitement. Despite them, he seemed to keep a very calm approach and expression.
After a quick MC by Ryuusei, Hayashi asked everyone to "Come closer, closer," and Umi promised that they didn’t have H1N1, the band launched their new song "BINETSU." This song, created by Hayashi, was a harder rock song with drums pulsing enough for the audience to feel it in their chests. The guitar and bass had a groovy "James Bond" feel to them and accompanied the clean vocals beautifully.
Next up was their ballad "To the Sea," a type of classic love song. With the accents of blue lights, the audience had instantly begun to sway their arms back and forth in the air in time with the song. It was hard to stop the movement once the song got going as evidenced by the crowd swaying all the way to the end of it when Ryuusei’s voice soared into his falsetto of soft "oohs," accompanied by a shimmering cymbal roll and final major chord. "Neon" and "Saccharine" followed to pick up the pace and get the crowd moving once again with clapping, cheers and the occasional "Hey, hey, hey," when the song required it.
Hayashi ordered the audience to "be hypnotized by Umi’s bass" as they dove into "Hostile," which featured Ryuusei’s voice sliding into the opening lyrics and ends with Ryuusei introducing each member.
Their final selection, "Yuuhi" was about not being able to be with someone you care about. Hayashi’s guitar arpeggios inverted depending on whether he played the melody or the verse. Ryuusei looked out as though searching for someone in the audience. It was the most emotional and expressive performance the band gave that night, and concluded as one impressive opening act. akai SKY have catchy, memorable rhythms and melodies. They clearly enjoy performing and it was more than obvious that the audience enjoyed seeing them.
Want to know more about akai SKY? Read the interview with the band from Anime Vegas here.
The second band, Makenai, pieced themselves together through friendships and craigslist in order to enter Anime Expo’s Battle of the Bands . The vocalists, Pamela and Evelyn, were AX Idol winner and finalist, respectively, in 2008. All six members of Makenai love anime and cover anime songs. The crowd listened appreciatively to covers from NANA, Gurren Laden, Cowboy Bebop, Naruto, and more as Makenai showcased their skills.
Third on the bill was Anime Vegas’ guest of honor, Momoi. Known as the Queen of Akihabara, Momoi was pretty, energetic, and a good, strong singer. Before her set, the audience received glow sticks and an instruction booklet for how to participate during her songs. Momoi bounded on stage looking quite adorable. The front row was filled with fans, guys and girls alike, who seemed to know every move and call. Momoi’s music played electronically through the house for her to sing to, but she also played a keytar and grabbed a broom to pretend to play guitar. Her performance ability cannot be denied: her voice and energy level lasted the entire hour and a half long set and never faltered.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the fire alarm went off just before RUSIKA was about to play, but Ilán playfully let out a bass line to match the alarm at the advice of a backstage hand. Once the alarms died down and everything deemed safe, Alfred came on stage and started an intense drum solo. When he stopped he grabbed his mic and said, "Everybody should stand up!" Then he immediately dropped into another drum solo, which induced a loud cheer from the audience. At that point Ilán jumped out, playing his bass, followed by Natz with his guitar in hand.
The first song, "Jinsei no Tabibito", alternated between a fast rocking groove and a simple beat and chords. For Natz’s guitar solo, Ilán accompanied with high bass arpeggios. By that point the front seating area was flooded with people trying to get close enough to rock out with everyone else. At the end of the song, Alfred removed his shirt due to heat and restriction, but it didn’t seem to bother the audience if all the shouts and hollering meant anything.
RUSIKA’s second song, "Tsubasa", showcased the band’s skill as performers. Natz’s guitar strap kept coming undone, and Natz could not play or sing when this happened. The first time he had it reattached in no time, stepping right into the song flawlessly and as though nothing wrong had happened at all. Alfred kept drumming and Ilán ran through the crowd as though it were part of the show.
The second time the strap came loose Natz had to leave the stage. Not to be deterred, Ilán and Alfred started up a mini jam session, just having fun and keeping the audience hyped up. After just a few moments Natz made his re-entrance by sliding into the jam session effortlessly and leading straight into an amazing guitar solo which brought the band back to the song. The crowd cheered loudly and the show went on without any further hitches.
Alfred stood to initiate the third selection, "Ame to Seinen", and produced a drum pattern that had both a powerful rhythm and melodic quality, almost like a guitar riff without actual pitches.
Half the fun of RUSIKA’s performance is watching the band members interact, both with each other and with the fans. Natz and Ilán frequently ran past the front row to high five the audience. Especially during the fourth song, "Mirical is Calling me" and then in the fifth song where Ilán, in true Tetsu of L’arc en Ciel fashion, strummed his bass with bananas and then chucked the bananas into the audience.
All the way through their seven song set, RUSIKA kept their energy level high. Even during the remaining songs, "Natsu no Umi" and "Sunny Day Despair", Ilán never stopped running and spinning or jumping around. By the end of the performance the crowd was riled up, screaming and cheering. After the last bit of sound faded from the song, the band took time to have some quick in-person interaction with the fans before heading completely off stage.
Want more on RUSIKA? Check out their interview with JRR.com after the event here.
The audience’s level of intensity only increased with anticipation for the next performer, Satsuki. He entered the stage to a high, ethereal chorus of voices cheering for him, as he walked to center stage his white coat with gold decorated coat cascaded around him. Immediately, he had the crowd participating, encouraging them to cheer louder with their hands in the air.
Satsuki has a powerful voice with a wide range, which he utilizes along with his charismatic smile, emotional expression, and captivating stage presence. He performed songs from his two "stories" AWAKE and CRYSTAL, taking time to make sure the audience was aware that they were his first and second story thus far in his solo career.
During the third song, Satsuki picked up an acoustic guitar for a slower tempo ballad, to which he encouraged the crowd to wave their arms back and forth as one in a single, flowing motion amongst everyone. Satsuki spent plenty of time kneeling down and leaning towards the audience. With a wide inviting smile, he let the fans reach out and touch him as he sang to them. The audience didn’t stop swaying until the song had finished.
The fourth song, off of CRYSTAL, had a completely different mood. Satsuki walked up to the audience and leans toward them smiling beautifully just before the song breaks in. Surprisingly, Satsuki began to head bang to the rock sounds that were harder than expected. The audience was quick to join in and soon the front section was head banging along. Whenever the beat picked up fist pump up into the air with force and excitement. Come the end of the song Satsuki decides to take a drink, for just a few moments he leads the audience to believe he is going to hand a lucky fan his nearly fully water bottle, but suddenly he splashes the crowd instead while laughing and smiling playfully.
A master of many genres, Satsuki sat at an electric piano for the fifth song. It was beautiful in its simplicity, smooth and welcoming. Satsuki’s high voice soared over very deliberate, brooding chords. The entire song is nothing but the piano and his voice.
His last selection for the evening was the song "Crystal." It is much faster paced than the previous and had him back up at center stage using his powerful vocals to lure the audience into music music. During the instrumental breaks of the the song, Satsuki moved to the front of the crowd where he danced a bit and gave high fives to the audience members he could reach.
After many thank you’s, bows and smiles; Satsuki, as gracefully as he entered, exited to "Ave Maria" and the loud cheers of the audience. Many called out for an encore, but unfortunately, it was time for the next act to play.
Before the band even hinted that they may be entering the stage, the audience had began cheering "ALS-DEAD! ALS-DEAD!" It was a resounding chorus of voices that filled the theater until finally the band appeared.
They entered into the fabulously dark atmosphere of the stage one at a time. Setsua on drums was first, followed by Reito on bass, Shin on Guitar and then Maki on vocals. Machines flanked the stage to create an illusion of fire from two illuminated pieces of flowing fabric dancing in an updraft of wind. The band’s outfits were elegant and black, and all seemingly had some element of decay to them. As each member took their place at center stage when they entered, each member was welcomed by the audience trying to scream their loudest before walking to their places.
They opened with "VOR," a song that seems like it will be calm just until the band steps it up and the audience is thrown into a fist pumping and head banging experience. During the vocal break of the song, Maki eggs the audience on to be louder and louder. The songs intensity backed by Reito’s incredible bass and Setsuna’s steady yet strong drumming.
A heavy start to the guitar lead the band into their next song, "S.a.g.A." Throughout, Reito’s fingers flew all over his bass with Shin’s shredding guitar and Setsua’s driving pulse from the drums. Maki’s intense screams and and growls encouraged fans to raise their voices in response. The song has the potential to send an audience home exhausted, sore and with their throats aching.
ALSDEAD had the audience’s full attention once they played "A_Dust," a new song, from their upcoming single, with a more melodic chorus. With several tempo changes the song kept the audience on their toes, fist in the air and vocal cords working. The array of colored lights flashing on and around the band throught the song only added to the powerful visual performance of the band.
In a welcomed 180 degree turn, Shin began an arpeggio pattern to slow down the tempo and lead into the ballad, "Eternal Insanity," from the band’s days as Dice and Joker. Maki expressive vocals and gestures combined with the beautiful music showed the true versatility as a band. In addition, the green and gold lights cast an eerie pallor over the band making they appear as though they were an old, sepia shaded photograph. It was a powerful image to accompany the song.
The slow tempo crashed back to metal with another song off their upcoming single "Paradox" and they flew full force into "PM’s Insistence" where it was clear that Maki’s clear and powerful were still holding up despite all his intensity. As the harmonizing back up vocals, Reito bounced around to the rhythom while Shin showcased his smile to the audience around him. The ever constant Setsua maintained the pressing beat with his drums.
Making obvious Maki’s ability to transition from smooth to harsh vocals, "Kizu" was up next followed by "Kairi" to close out their set. As one of the more harsh vocal intensive songs of the night, Maki’s voice soared through the theater. At it’s end the power of the song had the audience screaming and cheering louder than they had all night.
Before leaving the stage the band encourage a few more cheers from the audience, then off they went. There was silence once they left, but it lasted only a heartbeat; chanting, screaming, and pounding on the stage began soon after the departure as the audience demanded an encore. ALSDEAD delivered with "F-99" and "Cynical", two fast paced songs filled with Maki’s strong vocals, his voice apparently not even tired after an hour of performing. The rest of the band seemed even more excited performing the encore than the actual show, where the energy came from is unknown, but the same could be asked of the audience. The theater was overflowing with energy by the close of the last song, cheers rang out for long moments even after then band had left.
Directly following the performance where the autograph sessions for both Satsuki and ALSDEAD. Even after 7 hours of performances the audience was willing to wait in line for their chance to meet the artists and get their goods signed. Satsuki was even drawing pictures on some cd casings and the ALSDEAD members took to shaking hands after signing as fans passed through. By the end of it all many fans, regardless of the hour wore huge smiles as they left the theater. The artists even stayed, signing all the way to the very last person in line. Even though the event was very long, it had been jam packed with excitement and fun.
Live Report by: Jen M. and Corinne O.
Edited by: Ali W.