Well, I lied in my last post. I said this weekend's posts would be short, but this one won't be. That's because D'espairsRay was fucking awesome, and I feel the need to tell everyone about it.
They've come up on the blog several times, but today we're going to meet them again... and it's going to feel like the first time. Welcome back, D'espairsRay:
So... I feel that this blog post needs a bit of an introduction to make sense. What needs to be known here is my rather... rocky history with D'espairsRay. I've been a D'espairsRay fan like... five... six years? I'm not sure. But anyways, there are three bands I consider to be the "Founding Fathers" of my love of music. One of those is obviously Dir en grey. The less obvious one is Rammstein. The third one is... you guessed it - D'espairsray.
Growing up, I wasn't particularly fond of music. I mean, sure, a song came around here and there that I liked but... I didn't really believe in the idea of a "band" or that music was even particularly important. I always heard people saying that music was their life, or that music saves your soul, or blah blah blah, but growing up it sounded like garbage. Music failed to mean much of anything to me. Now, all that changed when I found JRock. I, like many people, started with Gackt/Malice Mizer. I will give Malice Mizer credit for the fact that they opened up my mind and showed me that music could be different. But it wasn't until I got to Dir en grey that I came to realize that music could really mean something. Dir en grey marked the moment I began to fall in love with music. Now, it was very, very soon after I discovered Dir en grey that I considered that maybe Japan had even more musical gems buried in its treasure trove. And that was when I found D'espairsRay.
They were unique and they had their own sound and they were crazy and it was shit you could really move to. I always put D'espairsRay as my #2 band through Coll:Set, through Mirror... Now, around Mirror I noticed some changes in the band. Something was... brighter?
And then... there was a snag. As with most Japanese bands, singles come out in preparation for a new album. So D'espairsray started releasing singles. It started with Brilliant... then Kamikaze... and I was growing more and more disconcerted with these releases. Then they released Horizon... a song I truly despise... and at that point, I began to feel like I was rooting for a team destined to lose, and I started to slip away from the band. The new album was entitled REDEEMER and I thought... maybe it'll redeem itself? The song REDEEMER and its music video seemed incredibly promising. But then the album... it just fell short... just like the singles... What had once been a unique, dark, one-of-a-kind talent suddenly became... like everyone else. The music was bright, cheerful, and... totally forgettable. People told me "oh, well, I think it's good they're experimenting." But experimenting to sound like everyone else isn't experimenting, it's conforming. And changing styles is fine, as long as the music still sounds good and memorable. After REDEEMER, I virtually gave up on D'espairsRay. What had once been a "Founding Father of Music" for me became, well... a joke. After Final Call was released and wasn't any more interesting than REDEEMER, I simply said, "I give up."
But you can't really give up on something you once loved so much, can you? I still listened to their old music all the time, and even listened to the songs I loved on REDEEMER (I can't possibly say the CD was all bad, it had some great songs on it). But I would find myself feeling sad and melancholy when I listened to the classics... like I'd lost a friend. I figured D'espairsRay and I simply had too many differences now and the friendship wasn't going to work out. But again, I never truly gave up, and D'espairsRay wound up being the first concert I saw in Japan. And I really loved it. I'd been told that D'espairsRay on stage is a lot more like the old D'espairsRay. And they really were.
Was there really hope? Was there really a shadow of the old D'espairsRay still standing?
Well, today I'm going to tell you the answer is yes. D'espairsRay... you sneaky bastards, you've pulled me back in yet again.
When I keep track of like... what are the best concerts I've ever been to... I always think that Dir en grey Inward Scream in Chicago 2007, and Dir en grey's Dorje show at Shinkiba Studio Coast this year were the best concerts I've ever been to. And of course Dir en grey at the Budokan, but that's another monster entirely. But today, my friends, I'm happy to say that my old friend will join my other old friend in the ranks of Best Concerts I've Ever Been To. Congratulations, D'espairsRay! You fucking earned it!
Now, part of what makes this show great is that my friend Caroline was kind enough to get Ashley and I some friggin' fan club tickets. In Japan, tickets are done by number and you get called in by number. Fan club tickets are like first priority tickets, meaning if you want to get close to the front of the stage, you need to be in the fan club with a low number ticket. So thanks to Caroline, Ashley and I had tickets in the A section! Whoo!
We returned to Shibuya O-East, the venue where I saw two Merry concerts in one day. Shoved our shit in lockers, loitered around... I just had to have some of the bad-ass merch. Check these puppies out!
Bad-ass tour towel featuring the band members wearing their bird masks:
Also a bad-ass t-shirt featuring the Hizumi bird-mask on the front:
And the band members in their masks on the back:
Hell yeah! Anyways, the doors opened, la la la... They called by groups of ten, and I wound up getting left out of one section while Caroline and Ashley went ahead. That would've been fine, but when they called out my section, some girl shoved me out of the way in an attempt to get ahead. Because I stumbled, I wound up twenty people behind my friends in line. This angered me immensely and wound up fueling a lot of aggression that I had later in the show, lol. It didn't really matter, though. I grabbed a spot next to Ashley over on Karyu's side of the stage... fourth row, baby!
And then the show began! Below I've posted the setlist. I know many of my friends have felt as discouraged by the band lately as I was. I think this setlist might... change your mind a bit? Notice anything awesome about it? Like, most of it? The curious non-existence of REDEEMER? Notice they didn't play that god-awful Yozora song? Yeah... awesome.
LOVE IS DEAD
ARK IN THE STORM
Screen (Squall single Hizumi-solo version)
Fuyu Shita Risou
So the show opened with fantastic hard-core techno intro music, with everyone clapping in unison.
When the curtain rose, the entire band was already on stage wearing their bird masks, completely frozen. If you haven't seen those masks yet, they look like this:
Honestly, it was super creepy when Hizumi just stood there in that skull mask, unmoving, looming over the crowd. He was dressed really crazy, too. He had on these genie-pants in which the crotch went down to his ankles. It was like he was wearing a dress that was wrapped around his ankles. And the back had this crazy, giant belt-thing. Almost like a butt-flap of belts and metal pieces. Up top... some kind of open vest-thing. And you know what, he's wearing make-up again! Yeah, like black eye-shadow and shit! Also... Hizumi, um... kinda has a beard, hahahaha. But it's a pathetic beard. It's just some chin-fuzz - you can hardly even see it.
Oh, anyways, enough about the fact that Hizumi is totally sexy again... so D'espairsray opened with their new single: Love is Dead! La-la-la-la love is dead! Oh my god, it was amazing! The audience has pretty much given up on doing any furi, so everyone just did as the song tells us to and danced! I mean, it is a dance song! But during the "once infection, twice addiction" part, everyone held out their fingers for once and twice like Hizumi does in the music video. If you haven't heard this song/seen this music video, you are totally missing out! Allow me to post the awesomeness that is Love is Dead!
After Love is Dead was over, the whole band immediately ripped their masks off. I've heard they really hate playing with those things on. Tsukasa has complained that he hates it because he keeps whacking his, er... beak... with the drumsticks, hahaha.
After Love is Dead we had freakin' GRUDGE! I mean dude... what?! I mean, that's fuckin' old school, man! It was sooo awesome! Again, furi has basically died out with D'espairsRay. People just jump and dance and slam into each other and throw their fist at the band. For this song it was so much fun because Hizumi would go "mother-" and the music would cut and the whole audience would scream "-FUCKER DIE!"
As if that wasn't amazing enough, we went from GRUDGE to REDEEMER. At that point, I was so overcome with excitement and joy and happiness that I was jumping up and down regardless of what anyone else was doing. I couldn't stop moving or I thought I'd explode. Somehow, during this time, I wound up slamming my way forward without meaning to. You know what that means? I was in the second fucking row. Second row!!!
Now, a quick derailment here but... it came to my attention that the girl next to me wasn't very happy that I was in the second row and closer to the center than she was. She was in some kind of pissing match over who was the "biggest fan" or something. Pissing Match Girl wanted everyone to know that no one was a bigger Hizumi fan than she was and she consistently went out of her way to elbow me, shove my arm down, knock into me, wave her hands in my face, scream Hizumi's name at ear-splitting levels, and generally irritate me. But I can fight fire with fire, so I made sure not to back down and to consistently headbang and slam right back into her. After a few songs, as she came to realize I knew the band just as well as anyone else and was as violent as anyone else, she began to back off.
REDEEMER ended and... god, it's just so amazing... Hizumi announced the next song... and it was Infection... Infection! The entire audience went "ooooooooooh!" simultaneously, as if Hizumi had put a giant chocolate cake down in front of the crowd. Oh, I love that song so so so much! I mean, talk about kickin' it old school! That song's the intro to Coll:Set! It's also one of my favorite songs! It was soooooo powerful and amazing live! What I really love about D'espairsRay audiences is that during epic parts, the whole crowd tends to slow-headbang forward simultaneously as if they're lurching like a zombie to the music. This is often accompanied by the equivalent furi in which you throw out your arm, grab the air into a fist and then sorta... headbang your head and fist together. It's weird, but really powerful when combined with the audience-wide lurching.
Infection went into Damned... into Lizard... basically, they played the intro to Coll:Set followed by the intro to Mirror followed by the intro to REDEEMER. Interesting and totally awesome choice, because all those songs kick ass! It was like this setlist was constructed with the sole intent of packing the most amount of rocking-out fuel possible into a single show.
If that wasn't awesome enough, Lizard was followed by... Hollow! Aw man, I haven't seen that shit live since Taste of Chaos! Every time Hizumi sang "hollow!", the audience held out their hands like they were greeting him. And we all got to do the lalala parts!
I think they played Kamikaze here? I'm not sure, whoever wrote up the setlist left out a couple songs on accident. Not that I blame her. I never cared for Kamikaze, lol.
After Hollow we have GOING ON! and ARK IN THE STORM to compliment some of the newer material. It's interesting that they played these two B-sides from Final Call but didn't actually play Final Call itself. Can't complain, I like the B-sides better, hahaha. I actually really, really love ARK IN THE STORM live. The slow, lurching, fist-grab headbang happens during the chorus and it's soooo cool.
After that, Hizumi announced they're working on a new album and they were going to play a new song! Now, he didn't give the song a name, so I don't know what to call it, but whatever this new song was, it was hard-core. Seriously. If anything gave me hope for the new CD, it's the new song. It's bad-ass, man. No one knew what to do with it exactly, so we all improvised and the result was a lot of headbanging. Fuck yes.
This new song was followed by another one of my Coll:Set favorites: in vain! God damn, D'espairsRay! Are you guys trying to kill me with awesome?!! At that point, I was losing my mind with excitement. Sometimes, Japanese girls at concerts do this thing where they get really excited and suddenly jump and down like they're having a seizure. I never understood it until this concert. When in vain started, I just lost it and started seizing. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was so energetically into this show at that point it's no wonder I managed to make Pissing Match Girl back down.
After this came the B-side from the new single: WEDICIИE! Again, it is so so so much fun! It's like an evil dance song! The chorus is really fun because everyone yells out and throws their fist during the "anti medicine" part so that it's like "you are my an-HEY!-ti-HEY! medicine!"
After WEDICIИE, we made time for some slow, pretty songs. We had Squall, and then the band left the stage except for Hizumi. By now, Hizumi was shirtless. Anyways, with only Hizumi on the stage, the band played Screen the way it is on the Squall single. So Hizumi just sang his heart out to some instrumental-type music in the background. It was soooo beautiful. Hizumi has an amazing voice. He's always had an amazing voice, and that was part of the reason I always tried to cling to the band, even when things were turning sour. I was really feeling love again during this show. Real love. Love for D'espairsRay the way I loved them six years ago when I first saw the Garnet music video.
After Screen, we picked up the pace again with Bullet. Now, I may have totally hated Horizon as a single, but I love the Bullet B-side. That song is ridiculously energetic. The whole crowd was headbanging themselves dizzy. I love when the whole crowd jumps up and down shaking their fist screaming "GUN! GUN! GUN! GUN!" Hell, I reached some state of euphoria during this show that I am rarely capable. I couldn't feel anything but happiness. Honest to god.
And then maybe MaVERiCK was here? Goddamn, I'm not sure...
After Bullet was the big crowd-pleaser: MIRROR. I'm sorry, but during that one part, I still totally hear Hizumi say "testicle" over and over. I know he's not saying testicle, but it reeeeally sounds like it. And it's funny because he yells "testicle!" and then the whole audience does that air-grab I was talking about. I'm immature and find this very funny, lol.
They played Horizon and brought out the big D'espairsray banner, and I was so happy and into the show that I just friggin' went with Horizon for once. I still think the song is stupid, but... eh, the band seemed happy, whatever, lol.
Hey, speaking of Garnet, guess what came next?! Fuck yeah! Fucking Garnet!!! The song that got me into D'espairsRay! That song is just made for ass-kicking. Hizumi spread his legs and was crouched up on the crate like some kind of gargoyle. Just like in the old days, he was actually being creepy and scary and making evil faces. Oh Hizumi... I missed you...! At the end, Hizumi let the whole audience do the "la la la"s in place of the woman's voice.
And then the band left the stage and left us to scream for their return. D'espairsray is the only band I can think of in which the audience yells the band's name instead of "encore." The whole crowd yells the name like "Dee-SPAHZ-ley!"
Well, of course the band came back! They all came back in their band t-shirts (even Karyu, for once) except Hizumi who... came back shirtless. You go, man! Karyu looks great, by the way! He has a really funny permed pony-tail, though, that Caroline's been calling the "prom-queen up-do." Zero looked good too. As for Tsukasa... okay, it was a really cool effect how the whole show was enveloped in a super smoke-screen colored purple or green or red from the lights, but... I kinda couldn't see Tsukasa because of that. Like, at all. My one complaint about the show.
So encore went straight into the new B-side: CROSSED ARROWS. This song was really fun live! Lots of rocking out, lots of craziness! Love is Dead is just a solid single, seriously. Everyone was going nuts.
But if you think that was nuts... next up... they played fuckin' BORN. Oh my GOD. I mean, there's kickin' it old school, and then there's playing BORN. You know that jumpy seizure-thing I was talking about? Yeah, many girls were doing that. It was an excitement explosion.
The pace only picked up by going straight into Fuyu Shita Risou! Whoooooa.......! This is the time where you really have to watch your head. Hizumi and Karyu and Zero prowled the stage, riling everyone up to terrifying degrees. Especially Hizumi. He was almost always at the edge of the stage, getting the audience involved. He's really good with the crowd. So's Karyu. At one point, Karyu crouched down at the front of the stage while playing his guitar and leaned back farther and farther until he collapsed and was lying on the ground.
The show ended with one of my favorites: COCOON. That song took me by surprise at C.C. Lemon Hall, and I was really happy to see it live again. The lurching headbang is soooo cool. That song is just really epic and powerful live. I love the intensity of it.
And then the show was over... nooooo...
Some funny highlights for you:
At one point, Hizumi went up to Karyu and just... wiggled at him. Just... full-body, hip-shaking wiggling. Karyu looked soooo confused, lol. Another time, Hizumi suddenly pointed at Karyu during a song and Karyu opened his mouth like he was going to bite Hizumi's finger. Hizumi drew his finger downwards and Karyu followed the finger down till he was bent over completely. Uuuuh... strange... Another time, Hizumi crept up behind Zero when he was on our side and suddenly... grabbed his ass! The funny thing is, Zero (who's known to be a pervert) turned around and gave Hizumi a very dry, unamused look, lol. Hizumi just laughed. Apparently, Zero does not appreciate other men touching his ass, lol. When the show was over, Hizumi ran up and down the front of the stage high-fiving everyone. I managed to high-five his fingertips, lol! Then Zero started throwing gargantuan amounts of water into the crowd. I got fuckin' soaked... twice. Bleeeeah.
And then we left the venue, flying high, filled with love! Looooooove! D'espairsRay is back! They're so back! It was so amazing! I was so happy!
La-la-la-la love is dead!