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LIVE REPORT - Chariots, DIO, Beri, KAYA Sel'm


27 Dec 2007
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LIVE at AREA livehouse in Tokyo

January 30 - 2008

Kaya, Beri, Dio, Chariots, Sel’m

Fashioned elegantly in his new, lavish Victorian finery in a multitude of red variant materials, Kaya was nothing short of a stunning image to behold last night, prancing and sashaying gracefully about the AREA stage flanked by the usual array of dancers and performers. And one was not only taken back by his breathtaking parade of fashion but equally stunned by the attention given to his soft-curled brown hair and hard glamour make-up, all of which was impeccable and must have taken hours. If only everyone tonight had devoted such effort to being “visual”. Alas, this was not the case with the first two bands of the evening that came out dressed “street sassy Harajuku” and with a five-minute eyeliner job. As a result, I have not bothered to review them for two reasons. First, if they didn’t make an effort to be “visual”, I’m not making an effort to review them. And secondly, I didn’t watch them anyway.

Accompanying Kaya on stage tonight were the token Kaya dancers, if I may call them so. In four different songs they appeared together or individually in various states of attire, from the butchy jeans & T-shirt thing to black enamel micro hot pants that made one of them look like a muscle down version of the Japanese comedian Razor Ramon aka Hot Gay. These dudes did their dancing thing to the best of their ability but they clearly need hours more practise as they are often way too out of synch with each other. As a result, it just makes Kaya’s performance – at times - look a tad unprepared and unrehearsed. Thankfully this doesn’t directly affect Kaya’s individual performance as he generally operates his performance independent of the boys. And it comes as no surprise that when Kaya works the stage solo, the results tend to be superior.

For the final song, a heavy trance techno number, Kaya stripped away his ballooning gown in favor of a simply adorable and flirty mini-dress version with stockings and platform boots. At this point he had the whole stage to himself to tear up as he felt. With great agility, he pranced from stage left to stage right, stopping at times to move to the stage apron and to allow his fans to reach up and paw at him. The song was great though I was completely at a loss as to why the girls always head bang instead of dance. I mean… isn’t that what you are supposed to do with techno – trance – metal? If for no other reason, it would certainly up the fun factor of Kaya’s lives. Perhaps Kaya should say something. If he doesn’t I will. Yeah. Right.

Okay, the next act on stage was Beri (Berry). Now although these dudes fell into the rather bland and uncreative category of “Harajuku O-share Visual”, they did make enough effort on the hair and eye make-up to vault them into what I consider visual kei. And what they lacked in true visual esthetic they more than made up for in stage presence, and to some extent musical delivery.

Their vocalist, who spoke to the audience with a sense of cool abandoned, bopped all about the stage in punk style and kept an aggressive tone throughout the set. And his band mates provided excellent assist. I especially liked the way in which they related to the audience.

Although there is nothing wrong with it, many bands eye / smile at their fans as if to say we’re the band and you’re the fans. Ie they give the same glances to you that they give to everyone. It’s almost scripted. But the guys in Beri are different. They seemed to look at you with a friendlier eye and with a more encouraging smile. There was something distinctly personal in the way they looked at their fans – or maybe it was just the way they chose to look at me. In any case, it was fresh and fun to watch. There were however things that were a little teeth gritting.

After eight years on the visual kei club scene, I still cannot fully come to grips with some of the childish things that bands and fans do – and the Beri show got as childish as it gets.

At one point the bassist and guitarist would run over to one side of the stage, and all the girls would start hopping up and down and in one big spawn they would shuttle in that direction. And then the guys would dart back to the other side and just like a pack of baby mice being teased with a piece of cheese, these bopping, giggling girls would bop in tandem back to the other side of the club. It was eye-rolling enough that one wishes that one could have had brought a bottle of the slipperiest cooking oil they could find to lubricate the floor with.

Musically they were heavy rock with short spurts of nice screaming and noise. Some decent rhythms to their music definitely kept them in contention with the bigger acts to follow.

With the exception of the play list, this DIO set was virtually identical to their set a week earlier; they even looked the same. They had on the snazzy black suits with either a black or white unbuttoned shirt, all with wide gull-wing collars. Their long blonde hair was immaculately boffed and styled ala Mike (Hanoi Rocks) Monroe on steroids, and glitzy neck jewelry figured prominently in their dress code. The vocalist even had on shiny black faux alligator shoes. For those that have never been to Tokyo and the streets of Shinjuku, there was absolutely no difference between DIO and those fashionable VK looking “male hosts” that saunter around the streets of Kabukacho all night in their pimp wear trying to lure women into host clubs. In fact, if the DIO deal doesn’t work out, these guys could always take comfort in knowing that there is big BIG money to be made in the male host trade; though I’d be very surprised if at least one or two of the DIO boys isn’t already doing it. And as a side note...f you gals love the VK boy – pimp dressy look, then I invite you to walk around Kabukacho at night and drool at all the yummy guys and their $500 dollar rocker hairstyles and chic $300 dollar suits. But unless you have the cash of a “female hostess” (who make up a bulk of a host club’s clientele) I would steer clear from entering and buying the guys drinks, unless you can afford $3000 - $10,000 dollar bottles of champagne.

Getting back to the DIO set, I actually liked this performance better than the previous one in my last live report. For this set they played the PV single God Forsaken, which I was delighted to find sounded just as good (musically and vocally) as it does in their PV, which is no easy feat as there are some tricky vocals ranges in that.

And what is all the fuss over Chariots about? What’s all this hype I am hearing on the boards about how great they are. Well let me tell you . . . all that Internet message board chatter you’ve been reading, all that hoopla about how amazing these guys are " live " ? Well I have just two words for you: Believe it!

Riku’s has once again raised the bar of VK. Chariots came out tonight and raised the roof and floored the fans with a simply dynamic four-song set of metal ruckus and in-your-face performance.

They played two songs off Cold Pray and two new ones, one of which was announced as being on their next maxi.

Let’s start with the important stuff – the supreme effort they put into their visual.

There is something to be seriously admired about a band that comes out looking like they are playing a place big enough for a dome ceiling. Their black enamel & shreds Goth outfits looked dark and delicious set beneath their dazzlingly styled piano black hair. And how good did Riku look with his red and black streaked locks for a contrast? If this band never changed their image for the rest of their career I wouldn't complain. The Chariots look tonight reminded me of the first “look” that Phantasmagoria had, except that Chariots uses more black polyesters and cottons than they do enamel and rivets. But I actually prefer it. And unlike so many other bands these days that try and costume themselves by color or character, Chariots delivers great panache by looking all the same – right down to their nice dark candy-apple red lipstick. Enjoy it while it lasts because invariably they (Undercode) will eventually start dressing them as buffoons, just as they did with Phantasmagoria – less we remember Lori’s retarded “VK space panda bear ” outfit... the one with white fur head to toe. And no... it wasn’t kawaii. It was bloody awful. And that goes for Kisaki’s translucent red under arm capes and glowing crucifix belt buckle, and Riku’s Kami Uta outfit with his fur-ball blonde hair and eye make-up that made him look like a raccoon on acid.

So until Undercode begins dressing Chariots in outfits that look even more retarded than their name sounds, enjoy them.

Now then, no matter how outlandish future Chariot outfits may look, one thing we can count on is the quality of their stage performance. Riku is just all that on the stage. He came out tonight and took control without hesitation; delivering in volume and character that indicates he is more than ready to play bigger and better stages in his post-Phantasmagoria venture. My biggest question mark with Chariots, however, was whether Riku would continue doing the para-para / cheerleader routines that he did so effectively with many songs in Phantasmagoria. Well, there’s good news and bad news. The two tracks off Cold Pray struck out in the para-para department as Riku did nothing but send his fists into the air alternatively. But then we got the debut of Chariot’s second maxi CD single and... WOW! Go Riku GO!

For this song Riku has put together yet another cool display of spaghetti-like arm work, which is both dazzling to watch yet quick and easy to master. And for the set tonight, he did the routine with a bouquet of flowers in one hand (the microphone was in the other hand). It was way cool!! And I certainly hope that Riku keeps on coming up with routines because I thoroughly enjoy a good aerobic workout while listening to metal. Maybe Riku should do a fitness tape – Riku’s VK Boot Camp! I’d buy it. (Actually I wouldn’t... I just wrote that because it reads better.)

Finally we have the fan turnout. The set tonight saw sardine-like fan packing at the front, and solid fan support right to the back of the club. It was no secret that a lion’s share of the crowd this evening had come for Chariots, and understandably so. If this act vaults their way to the top as quickly as Phantasmagoria, they won’t being playing 500-fan capacity venues like the AREA much longer. So see them real close while you can!

The last act of the evening was Sel’m.
It wasn’t that Sel’m didn’t have their fans, but being the last act after DIO and Chariots left enough space in the club to play a game of floor hockey on. But what two or three dozen fans that remained certainly gave the band their all. Though oddly, I remember some of them – two foreigners amongst them - sitting out in the hall for most of the other bands (seems a colossal waste of a ticket, to me.)

As for Sel’m, they are very light visual in their fashion and play middle of the road VK heavy rock. After an ear splitting and eye-ogling double play from DIO and Chariots, this band just had nothing to offer to many people other than their awaiting fans. And to be honest I hung at the back for maybe two songs and left. The music was fine, though it certainly did not breach what one would consider expected from an average VK band. For the fans that came they were probably great; but they’re just not my brand of VK.​
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