SUGIZO TOUR 2016 “The Voyage Home” @ Zepp TOKYO 2016.12.04

Main set:
1. IRA
5. Raummusik
8. Lux Aeterna
10. Decaying
11. 禊(Misogi)

(1.5 Jupiter)

It was a cloudy Sunday night with brisk air. Excited fans gathered at the famous venue in Odaiba, located right under a colorfully lit Ferris Wheel for SUGIZO‘s first solo tour in three years. Tokyo marks the third stop following stops in Nagoya and Osaka the week prior, with a newly added final stop in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. The tour celebrates SUGIZO‘s first original album release in five years, “音 (Oto)”, which includes new songs as well as songs from the three singles released consecutively from August to October earlier this year.

The concept of “Oto” is officially described as “raging electronic music” that expresses sorrow and anger towards the rotten side of society as well as the never-ending chain of hatred in this world. The meaning of “Oto” is translates to “sounds”, and indeed, all of those negative emotions were translated into raw sounds that you could feel with your body and soul.

Inside the usually all-standing venue, electronic beats set the mood as seated fans impatiently awaited for the show to start. The stage was dimly lit by a spectrum of colored lights ranging between red and blue. The backdrop shows a white logo with two layered sets of wings on either side. As the show was running about 15 minutes behind schedule, fans started chanting “SUGIZO!” Their prayers were heard as the music abruptly stopped and lights dimmed at 6:20 p.m.

Fans leapt off their seats and started cheering as beams of white and blue lights flooded the venue with a strangely captivating cacophony of sounds. Members appeared onto the stage to welcoming loud cheers from the crowd. For most of the set, it featured two sets of drums: a regular set (played by Komaki), and with some custom percussion (played by Kenji  Yoshiura) which produced an industrial sound to add a rawness to certain songs. In addition, MaZDA was on computer and synthesizer, along with featured guests for dance, trumpet, and piano who appeared later on. I was excited to see what this unconventional band line-up would bring.

The first song started with thundering drums and a video of white static bouncing to the beat. SUGIZO entered the stage to equally loud cheers from the crowd, with his right hand up in the air doing his own signature version of the Vulcan salute. The crowd responded with the same pose. His guitar greeted the crowd with a short bit before “IRA” started with thundering drums playing a simple yet powerful beat. Throughout the song (and certain songs in the set), SUGIZO often held an effects bar of some sort (looked similar to a violin bow from a distance) which produced a distinctive sound that’s a bit difficult to describe with words alone. The song itself can probably be best described as a powerful stormy prelude of what would come.

The stage was then lit in blue as SUGIZO‘s guitar screamed angrily, paving the way to the start of the second song, “TELL ME WHY NOT PSYCHEDELIA?” Fittingly, psychedelic lights flashed to the beat and reverberating notes from the guitar. SUGIZO’s guitar was obviously the star of this song, with a prominent guitar line throughout. At times he walked around to either side of the stage to drive the crowd. Just as the crowd was starting to warm up and asking for more, the song faded out. SUGIZO bowed lightly before bringing a mic stand to center stage.

He smiled and greeted the crowd, “Sorry to have kept you waiting, Tokyo!” Then he talked about his newly released album, “Oto“. “I’ve released into this world all the ‘filth’ inside me, and released that entire negative mass into ‘sounds’. Because if you let out the ‘filth’, and the ‘darkness’, all that’s left will be ‘light’. Tonight, let us all become one together with the light and universe.”

With that said, red lights lit up the venue for “FINAL OF THE MESSIAH” which opened with an upbeat electronic intro with short strums on the guitar. The crowd, now getting heated up, put their hands up in the air and danced along to the beat. During the drum solo in the middle, SUGIZO went around the stage to drive the crowd while the entire crowd clapped along. Without a break, the lights dimmed and switched to blue.

The lights and SUGIZO‘s guitar solo set the tone for “NEO COSMOSCAPE“. The song was led by his guitar as well together with lively conga drum beats, which really added a punch to the entire song throughout. Fans happily clapped and danced to the beat. The conga drums also had a solo during the song, which I actually really enjoyed because it really livened up the crowd. Meanwhile, SUGIZO took over the percussions set while the conga drums took center stage.

After the very upbeat and energetic number, the lights dimmed for “Raummusik“, the very ambient leading single from “Oto“, followed by the equally calming and more emotional “ARC MOON“. The song has a very beautiful and melodious guitar line played both in clean tone and rigorous strumming at different times. It was as if the guitar was singing throughout the song. It was visually well balanced with the blue lights and video of water playing in the back. It then seamlessly transitioned into the next song, “FATIMA“. The mysterious vibe was carried over, but this time with SUGIZO’s violin singing the melody of the song. It’s interesting to note that he has used not the violin but the guitar in prior renditions of this song. The violin gave it a beautiful yet sometimes sad overtone.

The song ended with a lengthy feedback in the dark, transitioning to the mysterious “Lux Aeterna” which is a track on the new album. The number also featured an interpretive dancer’s (Atsushi of Dragon Ash) performance on stage alongside SUGIZO’s roaring guitar. One can feel the discontent, anger, and at times, sadness, from this song through both the sounds and visuals. The crowd, including myself, were heavily drawn to the emotional performance.

The set then transitioned to “ENOLA GAY RELOADED“, an upbeat and powerful number. We could see flashing red lights, SUGIZO waving around a large flag at times, and Atsushi continuing his intense dancing to one side. Fans were thrown into a frenzy as they absorbed that energy and danced along.

Atsushi bowed deeply at the end of the song, and the rest of the band entered a heavy jamming intro between the guitar and drums for “Decaying“. Sparks could be seen shooting from the back of the set while a trumpet player (TOKU) entered the stage from the other end. The song ended with a unique sound made by dropping chains repeatedly on the drums by the percussionist.

The feedback from the guitar stopped abruptly and the next song, “禊(Misogi)” started with a heavy intro backed by an uptempo beats. The percussionist appeared once again on the conga drums and could be seen jumping around the stage, getting the fans going and jamming face to face with SUGIZO and his wailing guitar.

The song finished with SUGIZO holding both of his arms out wide and fans responded with their hands high up in the air. SUGIZO motioned to stage left to welcome the trumpeter on stage once again for the final song on the main set. A funky drum beat set the foundation for “DO-FUNK DANCE“, with an equally swift and funky guitar part. The colorful lights and music essentially turned the venue into a large dance floor. The crowd went into a frenzy as they clapped and danced along. The beat was so addicting and catchy that you couldn’t help but to at least nod your head in rhythm. The fans seemed to have really enjoyed themselves. SUGIZO also appeared pleased as he waved to the crowd while exiting the stage at the end of the main set.

The impatient crowd immediately started their call for encore. SUGIZO returned to the stage after about 8 minutes, with his palms tightly pushing together to show his gratitude towards the crowd.

“Thank you so much, everyone. It probably felt like it was from another dimension, but are you guys having fun? [Yeah!] Anyway, this is the third stop of “The Voyage Home” tour. I’ve been saying this a lot, but I’ve had this darkness, perhaps toxin? Or filthy parts in my heart I’ve been having in recent years and so I released them as sounds.

The music isn’t something that all of us can sing along to happily. It’s an accumulation of hideous sounds, but ironically, once it was done I was fond of it. So I hope you’ll all appreciate the “Oto” album for a long time to come.

Since I’ve released all the darkness, toxins, and filthy parts, I hope the next songs I’ll make will be very clean and beautiful and that it’ll make you feel good. (laugh)”

He continued in a serious tone, “This year, various artists who I was a huge fan of and was influenced by had left us for the other world. Through music I want to thank those amazing people from my heart.”

Then once again changing of mood, he mentioned how next year will be his solo debut’s 20th anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of LUNA SEA’s debut.

“I’m getting old. (laugh) My body doesn’t move like it used to. So I’ll take care of myself in order to stand on the stage like this for a long time to come. (laugh) I’ll watch my meals and health. I hope to be the same old glittery and shining old man forever. (laugh)”

“Since next year is gonna be both the 20th and the 25th anniversary, it’s gonna be fantastic! Cuz if you put them together, it’s the 45th anniversary! (laugh) I don’t even know what I meant by that but anyway, this is the busiest I’ve ever been in the 47 years of my life.”

Then he fumbled with his words a bit and jokingly asked us to let it slide. (lol)

He then introduced Maiko, who is a keyboardist he’s also worked with X JAPAN as well as for his violin solos. They then together performed an emotional and soulful piano and violin duet rendition of David Bowie’s “LIFE ON MARS?” It was just so beautiful yet sad that it gave me goosebumps. The violin soared and sang as the crowd quietly watched the tribute cover in awe.

The crowd was then treated to SUGIZO’s powerful and emotional guitar solo on his beautiful white ESP Edwards — his rendition of “Jupiter” from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. I have to say that it is officially one of my favorite renditions of the song, not to mention that it was perhaps the perfect choice of cover that matches the “space” theme of most of his solo performances. The atmosphere it created was truly out of this world.

Drawing in the crowd, he started the final song of the night — “TELL ME WHY?” It was the only song that night that he did the vocals for. His strong voice reverberated throughout the venue and into the dancing crowd. It was yet another song that you couldn’t help but move your body along to the beat. If there’s anything I think would’ve made this song even better would be for them to have a live female background vocal as he had done in the past.

Nevertheless, in conclusion, it was an excellent set that gave me a uniquely different experience from what I’m used to (conventional line-ups with vocalists). It was definitely the kind of show that a mere video footage doesn’t do it any justice. It was an experience that you have to be there to actually FEEL it with your body. This unique world created by not only his music, but also the visual presentation and the “space” created by his music.

It matters not if you’re already a fan of his from LUNA SEA or his other projects, if you simply enjoy music, you should definitely check out his live concerts in the future if you can!

Album Preview
Lux Aeterna

Report by: Jin

You can find Jin on on his Facebook Page and Twitter.