BLOOD: Anime USA 2011

While BLOOD is typically considered a gothic metal band, their performance at Anime USA would probably be better characterized with a few extra adjectives. Gothic, psychedelic-metal comedy act might summarize the experience for the audience Friday night.

Even for those who aren’t a fan of metal, head banging or excessively loud music (the morning after I still couldn’t hear and the ringing in my ears had a been constant companion for at least 12 hours), BLOOD put on the kind of show that is irresistibly fun, getting an entire crowd of diverse con-goers to jump, dance and hang-bang with unmatched enthusiasm from the very first song. In spite of the usual, initial reaction from con-crowds on Friday night — generally lukewarm due to most people’s self-preserving tendency to not be the first person dancing — fans were immediately consumed by the band’s infectiously fun attitude.

That was probably the biggest selling point of the night: Each member possessed their own distinct ability to get a reaction from the crowd.

Bondage-esque costumes and flamboyant make-up aside, the theme “gothic” fits the music precisely — but even with head-banging and intense music, the concert didn’t have the typical metal-show vibe. Pausing periodically to pose, Kiwamu (guitarist and band leader) played with expert intensity. Synchronized head banging between Kiwamu and Kazuha (a guitarist moved to bass for their U.S. and Canada tour) added an element of cohesion in a chaotic set. But it was when they played for fans individually on the small platforms on either side of the stage that sent fans into a frenzy.

Kiwamu’s dramatic appearance was countered by Kazuha more reserved style. In fact, Kazuha’s performance was a bit perplexing, because while he certainly nailed down the dark elements of gothic look, he also possesses an undeniable air of cuteness and shyness that seems misplaced at the metal live. Somehow it works in the band’s dynamic, and no one would have guessed that one band member— bassist Azami, who is currently touring in Japan with his other band — was missing.

Drummers can sometimes fall into the background, but at the end of the show Dora managed to get the kind of reaction from the crowd that is typically reserved for the front man. Quiet and strangely sweet in his black floor-length dress, he seemed a bit timid in front of the cheering crowd.

And then there is Hayato, an animalistic little man whose masochist tendency for self-harm can only be rivaled by his strange oral fixation. During the night he hit himself in the head with microphone hard enough to make himself bleed, and scratched himself across the chest to draw blood.

But that was only half as surprising as the amount of time he spent with the microphone shoved into his mouth while grunting out portions of songs. He contentiously licked his lips — and even the hands of some fans — and while Kimayu described in his near-fluent English how buying two CDs got you a free poster, Hayato held up two CDs in either hand while the poster dangled out his mouth despite offers from others to hold it for him.

It’s also worth noting that his costume lacked shoes, which was understandable after watching him climb all over the stage to sing and throw himself off violently. What’s harder to understand is why   he rolled over the ground like a toddler gymnast and ended the show with a comical serious cartwheels and a round-off. The fact that he occasionally threw himself into the crowd to be pet and to lick fans doesn’t help the case against the animal analogy — but really, his comical and sometimes perplexing penchant for acrobatics and theatrics is probably what drew in the crowd so quickly. The audience spent as much time laughing as screaming.

Despite the show being the last in a week long tour of Canada and the U.S., none of the members seemed even remotely tired. The amount of energy, excitement and happiness BLOOD expressed was probably the reason for the show’s success. And while I have been to a lot of concerts, this one ranks very high on the “Most Fun” list. I don’t think I’ve laughed, or seen my friends laugh, at any concert as much this one.

At the end of the live,  half the crowd shouted a chorus of “I can’t hear anything,” followed by a response of “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you!” But everyone was smiling in spite of their new deafness, and as the room emptied the happiness emanating from the fans was far from what’s expected after a typical “gothic metal” show.

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