Sorry for the late post! I've been somewhat under the weather and headache-ridden for a couple of days, so writing was slow. My apologies if my writing or reporting suffered because of that. I hope this report is still acceptable!
So... my first concert back in America! And it's none other than the lovely D'espairsRay!
Today's show is part of the American leg of D'espairsRay's "Human-clad Monsters" tour. They performed at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago - a tiny venue who's main function is restaurant/bar. Nonetheless, the venue is equipped with a small stage and an overly large area for the audience.
Before the show, I was reunited with four of my friends from Madison who were coming down from Wisconsin for the concert. My friend Evan was kind enough to drive my friends Hannah, Melissa, Dylan, and myself. Thank you Evan!!! We weren't expecting to get to the venue until around 3:00. Doors open at 6:00. I know that seems a little late for someone like me who wants the best spot possible, but I knew this was going to be a small crowd and I'd heard a lot of people probably wouldn't be showing up till doors opened anyways. When we got to the venue (which was literally in the middle of nowhere), there was around 50 to 60 people in line. I'd heard my friend Caroline (whom some might remember popping up on my blog in Japan a few times) would be there early, but I didn't see her.
It was pretty hot outside, but we were mostly able to get shade (mostly). There was a Starbucks about fifteen minutes away so I went there with Hannah and Dylan. Finally found Caroline down there and was able to chat with her. Then I got water and a sandwich. Yadda yadda yadda, returned to being in line (and saw Harry smoking outside the tour bus). The restaurant next to the venue was really nice, however, and set up a lemonade stand next to the line. They were selling cold lemonade for only a dollar. Eventually, my friends and I went over to get some lemonade and the guy told us to take it for free! I guess he was closing the stand and wanted to get rid of it, so we got free lemonade! Probably the best moment... a very clever man drove an ice cream truck up alongside the line. Hahaha, nice. Lots of people in line went to get drinks and ice cream. Dylan got nachos, hahaha. Anyways, doors finally opened at six and we made our way inside.
The stage was very, very small, but D'espairsRay are used to that sort of thing even in Japan, so that's no big deal. Also, there was no crate or drum platform and... no barrier. Huh. Well, okay, the band was likely to get groped, but they're probably somewhat used to that too. My friends and I wound up about twelve rows back. Not what I'm used to, but I was certainly planning to move up as much as allowed. By that point, I'd had no problems with the crowd, till a couple of jackasses pushed through the crowd, shoved Dylan and I out of the way, and squeezed in front of us. God damnit. I was soooo hoping to be nice at this show, but fifteen minutes in and I'm already pissed off.
Anyways, the band started over a half an hour late. Uuuugh. Also, since this was an American JRock show, everyone cheered for the roadies as they did sound check. One of the roadies actually threw the horns at us and got us to scream for him. Lol.
Anyways, the lights finally went down and the show started up with some sweet intro music. And here's our setlist!
Love Is Dead
Reddish -DIVA version-
Fuyuu Shita Risou
The band members came out one by one... Tsukasa on drums, Zero on bass, Karyu on guitar, and Hizumi on vocals. As far as their appearances go... Tsukasa's hair was mostly brown, with a little blond, and puffed up a bit on top. I believe he was wearing a sleeveless top. I wish I could've seen him better but... damn the lack of drum platform. Karyu's hair was still done up with the braids and beads. He was wearing a blindingly sparkly wife beater and intense white-out contacts surrounded by dark eye shadow. Zero's hair was really puffy and feathery. He was also wearing a sparkly top and black pants with a black, pleated skirt over it. Hizumi came out wearing an open vest and black genie pants that seemed determined to fall off. Still, he had several belts holding them up including a large, complicated one covering half his butt. He also had dark eyeshadow and a beard (well... as much of a beard as Hizumi can get). The band came out holding up their fists and they seemed pretty excited. The audience started rushing up a bit, so I took advantage of the situation and began to move my way forward (people weren't that pushy, so there was room to make my way forward as everyone else did). Managed to snag third row within a few songs without even really trying or meaning to.
The band went straight into DEATH POINT. Alright! I was excited to hear the new Monsters album live, so we got off on an excellent foot. Although we had a crowd of barely two hundred people (and more empty space on the floor than filled space), the people who were there seemed very excited. We all pushed up and started rocking out. Despite the small crowd, things were pretty tight up front. Hizumi was an amazing front man as always. He was dancing around, screaming, and making full use of the stage. We had Karyu doing full backup vocals, including screaming. I gotta say, I just loved Karyu's face whenever he screamed. He would bug out his eyes and make a face like he was being poked in the back with a hot prod. How often in life do you get to see a man so excited to do back-up screaming that he'll make a face like a psychopath? Gotta love it.
Next up was dope! Alright, Monsters music again! I'd been dying to hear this song live because I knew it would be so easy to dance to this shit. The moment the music started, most of the audience literally started bopping back and forth to the beat. Glad to see we had a good beat going! This was my first show back in America and I knew I needed to reorient my brain off of furi and into the American style again. For me, that meant just doing whatever I wanted, so if that meant dancing around like an idiot, so be it. Admittedly, a little furi burst out of me, but what're ya gonna do. Hizumi was totally rapping for this song. Zero was being pretty adorable for the entire concert and giving us little, tight-lipped smiles. I found that I could see Tsukasa a lot better than I expected. He was a lot less stoic than usual and really getting into his drumming. Even caught him smirking to himself a few times.
After this, Hizumi started up his first MC. I gotta tell ya... Hizumi's English has improved a million times since Taste of Chaos. At ToC, Hizumi's English was brief and difficult to understand. Also, he had it written on a piece of paper on the stage as a reference. At this show, Hizumi did have a script (thank you, Caroline, for pointing this out to me) but he had the MC memorized and never really looked at it. His English was clear, confident, and easy to understand. I don't remember exactly what he said, but I could understand all of it. He yelled, "I wanna see you scream!" and everyone screamed. Then he yelled, "I wanna see you jump!" and everyone sorta... bunny-hopped in place to appease him, lol. Then Hizumi shouted, "I wanna see you go fuckin' crazy!" (well, okay, he kinda said "cwazy", but you get the point). We all start screaming and throwing the horns in response. Oh Hizumi... talk about a healthy combination of awesome and adorable all wrapped up into one! Alright Hizumi, I'm ready to go fuckin' crazy for ya! Then he yelled "Love Is Dead." Oh hellz yes. I think we were all ready to "rip it up, break it down, dance." Hizumi encouraged us all to jump up and down and the entire audience pretty much did jump up and down for the entire song. Some people started to tire out and stopped jumping, but I did my best to jump for the entire thing. It was such a blast. Zero jumped up and down the entire time and started to do a weird little boogie that involved hopping on one foot while kicking his other leg out to the side. Strange little man. We had such a blast!
The next song up was GOING ON! This was a lot of fun too. I knew the setlist would be between GOING ON! or ARK IN THE STORM and, admittedly, I would have preferred ARK IN THE STORM, but I made sure to rock out and have a lot of fun anyways.
The next song up was REDEEMER. I find it really funny that the only song off the REDEEMER album that D'espairsRay ever play on the American tour is REDEEMER itself. Anyways, I love this song and it was great live as always. One of the main differences between Japanese audiences and American audiences is that Americans have a tendency to sing along. The Japanese usually won't unless the vocalist makes it obvious that they should. But Americans love to sing along, so I was able to sing along after a year of restraining myself. Hizumi would sing "Screaming out your emotions" and the crowd would echo "screaming out your emotions" back without much prompting.
The next song up was 13 -thirteen-. This was a great opportunity for Hizumi to show off his powerful singing voice. And Karyu got to yell along with him and make the crazy stabbed-in-the-back face. Once again, however, the differences between Japanese audiences and American audiences became more clear to me. For example, Hizumi often held out his arm in salute and I automatically mimicked him. I mean... the song is like a goth march, so why not salute? But most of the Americans didn't do anything like that. Not to overgeneralize, but I think the situation is that the Japanese respond to visual signals, while Americans respond to verbal signals. If Hizumi had told the Americans to do it, they would have, while the Japanese will do it based on Hizumi's gesture alone. On the other hand, sometimes the Japanese will hesitate to do something, even when told to. So yeah, the Japanese audience is visual, the American audience is verbal. This isn't a good or a bad thing for either side, it's just different. Although... I still think the Americans would have had more fun if they'd saluted and joined the goth march with me, lol!
After 13 -thirteen-, the band started up an intro to a song. Hizumi would point to his left and Karyu would play a tune. Then Hizumi would point to his right and Zero would repeat the tune on his bass. They did this back and forth several times with the spotlight switching back and forth between the two members. Then the intro rolled into the song itself, and it was time for Sixty∞Nine. Time for more dancing around! By now, Hizumi was totally shirtless. I gotta say, that boy looks damn fine without a shirt. He's not, like... muscular or anything, but he just looks good. The genie pants give him a nice shape. I approve.
Next up was the new song PROGRESS, which sounded quite nice live. Good, solid, slower track. Where the Japanese might have stayed more still, the Americans continued to headbang whenever the pace increased. Still, the song sounded solid. I think the slower songs on Monsters were more solid than REDEEMER's slower songs. But maybe that's just me.
Hizumi went into another MC after this. He said, "this next song is so important to us that we named our album after it... Human-clad monster!" So then we moved straight into Human-clad monster. More dancing ensued! Zero was constantly moving close enough to the edge of the stage so that everyone could start grabbing and petting him. He didn't seem to mind, and consistently made perverted faces at the fans. At one point, I reached out because I wanted to test the distance between him and me. Thanks to my terrible depth-perception, I wound up putting my fingers right on his hand while he was playing. Oh geez! I jerked my hand back immediately when I realized. Sorry, Zero, I would never intentionally break your concentration! I told myself never to touch the string section's hands while they're playing! But I guess that goes to show you how close we were to them.
The next song up was one of my most beloved songs: Angeldust. The fact that they played Angeldust definitely made up for us not getting ARK IN THE STORM. Angeldust is such a beautiful song, and the band performed it beautifully as always. Actually, for most of the concert, I was impressed with how good the sound quality was at the Bottom Lounge, considering the venue's small size, and the fact that it's a restaurant. However, during this song they had Hizumi's mic turned down way too low and it was hard to hear him. Nevertheless, the song was lovely and I took this opportunity to cool down a bit and enjoy the music.
Angeldust was followed by a familiar, ethnic-style intro. Aaaah, Infection! I love Infection! Once again, totally fantastic. The whole band was headbanging like crazy and Hizumi blasted us with his voice. By this point in the concert, I just couldn't keep the smile off my face. D'espairsRay always manages to put on such great shows!
After this was CROSSED ARROWS from the latest single. Also a great performance. A couple of times Hizumi actually crossed the air in front of his face with his finger while saying "crossed arrows."
This was followed by one of Hizumi's most adorable MCs of the night. When people quieted down a little, Hizumi told us, "this next song was inspired by the deep, deep sea." He held out his hand and gestured downwards each time he said "deep." Well, this could only be one thing: abyss! I know people have had mixed feeling on abyss. Personally, I was neither here nor there on the song, but it sounded very good live and Hizumi put a lot of feeling into it. Karyu kept throwing back his head and getting really into it too.
Next up was FALLING. Like PROGRESS, it's very solid. Very good track. After FALLING, Hizumi yelled "are you ready to join the parade?!" Oh fuck yes, we all know what's comin' now! Then Hizumi shouted:
"DEVIL'S PARADE!" Oh man, who wasn't excited for this shit? I danced the fuck out for this one. We all got to sing along to "NaMaReMiLaMiNa" and boogie like crazy. I was more than happy to join the Devil's Parade. Zero kept up his kick-dancing and Tsukasa was definitely smirking to himself while he played. Sometimes he unnecessarily raised his arm straight into the air before slamming down the drumstick, just because he had the extra energy. Karyu was always moving up to the front of the stage and letting people grab his legs while he made crazy faces. Hizumi was dancing around as if he couldn't even stop moving. It was awesome!
I think it was here that Hizumi attempted another MC. "Attempted" is the only word I can use to describe it. No, not because he had trouble with his English, but because no one in the audience would shut their goddamn mouths. I felt really sorry for Hizumi because it was obvious he had semi-memorized what he wanted to say during the show. He was trying to tell us how much he loves Chicago, but people just kept screaming randomly and shouting stupid shit like "aishiteru!" and "daisuki!" (seriously, people? Fucking seriously?). Hizumi started to look really nervous because he obviously doesn't know how to quiet us down in English and he was starting to forget what he wanted to say. He hunched up his shoulders and stared at the stage with his eyes flicking back and forth. I couldn't hear what he was saying because he started to mumble. Finally, some wonderful person next to me was able to sense Hizumi's tension and screamed out, "SHUT THE FUCK UP, HE'S TRYING TO TALK!" Amazingly enough, this actually worked. Everyone finally shut their goddamn mouths and Hizumi looked up and very quietly told us he likes the Bulls. Geez, people... let the man talk!
End of rant.
After this came MIЯROR - always a crowd-pleaser. My furi urges were almost overpowering during this song and I found myself doing the fist-grab more times than necessary. Ah well, it's just ingrained inside me at this point.
Up next was another massive crowd-pleaser: Hollow. I couldn't help but hold out my hands in a welcoming gesture every time Hizumi said "hollow." Damn furi. I saw some people in the audience kind of wave the word "hollow" though, lol. So here was an interesting little thing... I've written on the blog about how JRock bands in Japan like to play certain songs for an extended period of time in order to have an opportunity to get the crowd moving and to interact with the audience. Well, if I'm remembering correctly, it was during Hollow that D'espairsRay brought a little taste of the Japan concert style with them to America. They repeated a good minute of Hollow over and over again with the band members swapping sides around the stage to give every part of the audience some love. Zero, Karyu, and Hizumi would continuously put themselves right up at the edge and allow everyone to grab at them. When Karyu ran over, I wound up poking his pants, lol. At one point, I looked up and Zero was staring at me with the same creepy face he had at the instore event I went to. I must have looked startled because he smirked and nodded at me. Damnit, Zero, just when I was getting over that event, hahaha. Hizumi kept putting his arm out into the crowd to grab at people. Being on his right-hand side that was holding the microphone, however, I found it hard to get a grab out of him. It was so much fun, though. The band ran around riling us up and making the audience push forward and get crazy. A rhythmic sway seemed to form in the audience and I found all of us rocking left and right in time to the music. Interesting, lol.
After Hollow, Hizumi simply whispered "Garnet..." Aha. Of course. The classic. I don't think I really need to express in words how much we rocked the fuck out for Garnet, because that's simply a given! Knowing this was the "last song" I gave it my all! Some people around me seemed to have tired out already, but I sure as hell wasn't gonna give in!
After Garnet, the band waved their goodbyes and exited the stage. Well, time to call encore. Encore was a mixture of yelling "encore!" or "D'espairsRay!" We didn't really settle on one. During this time, James walked around filming the audience's cheering. Then the band returned. Pretty quickly too. They had all changed into tour shirts. Hizumi and Tsukasa were wearing the white tour shirt (aw, I don't want Hizumi to put his clothes back on, lol). Karyu was also wearing the white tour shirt, but he'd cut the neckline so that it was hanging off one shoulder. Um... okay, lol. Zero was wearing the black Love Is Dead shirt. Hizumi yelled some more "you ready to rock?!"-type stuff at us, then the band went into...
Reddish ~DIVA version~. Sweet! Now that's an old friggin' song! This was lots of fun, especially because the crowd perked up a bit and got really into it again. The band was super energetic and continued to run around using up the entire stage. Let's face it, they're just damn good performers.
The last song up was Fuyuu Shita Risou. Yeah... only two encore songs, thanks to the late start. A guy near me saw the setlist when it was brought in and he said the band was supposed to end with BORN... but we didn't get it. Oh well. Fuyuu Shita Risou was totally awesome. Talk about a screamer. Despite the rather low mic setting, we could still hear Hizumi shrieking his brains out and running around. Zero just stayed up front and allowed himself to get groped virtually the entire time. Oh, but some guy kept trying to hand Hizumi a teddy bear from the audience for some reason. Hizumi ignored it several times, but this person wouldn't let up, so Hizumi finally brushed it out of the way. Thank you, Hizumi, for standing up for yourself.
When the show was over, Hizumi burst into a huge smile and began reaching into the crowd and shaking hands with everyone in front of him. I got a handshake, lol. It was... itchy, thanks to his mesh gloves, hahaha. Zero drowned us all by spitting gallons of water at us. Then he started doing this creepy thing where he would look at people in the audience and lick his lips. Then he'd spit a pick into the audience and lick his lips. Then he crouched down with a pick between his lips and let a guy take it out of his mouth. When the guy took it, Zero grinned at that guy and licked his lips. Zero... you never cease to make me go "what the hell" lol. I got drowned in spit. Didn't really mind since it was so hot, though. Karyu threw lots of picks and stuck his tongue out at us a lot. He has a really long tongue. The whole band threw water. Tsukasa came down with a big smirk on his face and threw some drumsticks. I avoided. I hate getting involved in those scuffles. Unfortunately, some big fight broke out over a pick and I wound up almost knocked to the floor. God fucking damnit, people, it's a piece of plastic. Anyways, Hizumi's face was nearly exploding with smiles. Too friggin' cute. He shouted "thank you!" a few times and everyone was screaming. Then Hizumi put a finger to his lips and we all got quiet. He smirked and screamed "arigatou!" We all burst into screams again. Hizumi and Karyu waved at us as they left. And then the band was gone.
Overall... fantastic show! Despite the late start, the band did an amazing job and were completely and utterly awesome yet again! Great setlist, great performance, we were able to rock out, dance like fools, and it was totally awesome!
After the show, they said we could get an autograph from all the members if we bought the poster. Um, yeah, I didn't care... Fifteen bucks to get shoved through the signing at top speed and have nothing to say? Count me out. I did buy the fan with the cartoon versions of D'espairsRay on it, though, because that thing is awesome and hilarious.
Hmm... I guess that's all! I had a massive headache after the show and we left pretty quickly. But I had a great time! I hope the report was okay despite the delay!
See ya next time!