Wiltern Theatre – May 3, 2016
Article by: Nhu Nguyen
Full disclosure: I am a fan of the GazettE. I have had the pleasure of seeing their concert twice at Shinkiba Studio Coast in 2014 performing their first two albums Disorder and NIL. Attending their live was a bucket list item for my first trip to Japan. (A lot of people cite anime as introducing them to Japan, Japanese rock was my drug.) I was also convinced they were never coming to America so my feeling back then was see them now or never. Boy, am I glad I was wrong!
When I heard they were coming to America – not as in an appearance at a convention, even better, in the form of a legitimate tour — I was shocked. Disbelief, denial, and doubt filled me. Did I read the announcement on their Facebook correctly!? For the GazettE and their American fans this was a dream come true.
May 3, the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles – this is my stop. It could not be a more fitting place for their first L.A. concert. I am sure each tour stop rocked in its own right, but from the performance of “Filth in the Beauty” to the attendance of rock royalty Yoshiki, here are my 10 reasons why the band’s L.A. show kicked ass!
1. All the love in the venue.
The merchandise line was long, and the venue was abuzz with excitement. When the members made their first appearance on stage, the cheers were staggering – the adoration was felt and heard. Shouts and claps for the encore stayed consistent, which is normally (and disappointingly) inconsistent with the U.S. J-rock crowd. The GazettE has heard fans sing along to their songs before, but seeing their proud and thankful expressions in awe during “The Suicide Circus” and “Cockroach” showed it was a different experience for the band to hear this particular crowd sing along with them.
2. The band’s first Los Angeles show was held at the Wiltern Theatre.
U.S. fans who have been into J-rock for as far back as 2007 have a fond memory of the Wiltern Theatre: it’s where the two day visual kei festival Jrock Revolution was held. Many of the fans who attended that extravaganza shared the same feelings of nostalgia about being in the venue for the GazettE. Seeing the new generation of J-rock lovers come out, our own memories flooded back of arriving early morning to the show, bonding with old and new friends in line, and laughing about the stares and comments from the passersby who saw the way we were dressed. This show was a J-rock high school reunion.
3. The visuals were on point.
As they were drenched in their all black ensemble, red, blue, and green lights illuminated them from behind making for a simple, effectively dramatic stage that matched their music. Their silhouettes stood out against the colors making it easy to focus on all the members at once. During what I like to call the “slow block” of a the GazettE set list – my favorite part where the pace slows down, and the music flows naturally — Ruki held a glowing lantern singing, “Sleep, Count me down, again” from “Ominous” lending to the quiet, uneasy, building nature of the song. The visual detail and stage production succeeded into taking us into their world.
4. They ended their main set with the fan favorite headbanger “Filth in the Beauty”.
“Filth in the Beauty” is undoubtedly the representative track from the band. Prior to the song’s release in August 2006, they already had a healthy following, but this song solidified them as a visual kei force to be reckoned with. In L.A., when the familiar sound of a ball drop segued into the acoustic guitar opening the song, fans shrieked in delight. Even though there were a couple guitar notes out of place, when this highly anticipated and requested song was being played, people lost it.
5. Ruki and the U.S. flag.
When the band walked out for the encore, Uruha, Aoi, and Kai changed their tops for the tour t-shirts while Ruki remained in his “UNDYING” outfit. The vocalist did have something different for the encore though: a U.S. flag. It was an endearing sight as he draped it over his shoulders, the red, white, and blue popping out from all the black wardrobe on stage. Instinctively, the crowd started chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
6. They kicked off their encore set with “Agony”.
“DA DON VIDIVI DA DON again DA DON VIDIVI DA DON,” Ruki raps in “Agony”. I am still unsure of what it means, but it’s a fun sounding line I did not fathom I would have a chance to hear live. Released in 2007 on their album STACKED RUBBISH, the track was a surprising kick off to their third LP. The band’s incorporation of hip hop elements to the album opener made for an interesting addition to the visual kei world. The Wiltern Theatre had way too much fun yelling “Oh Shit!” along with Ruki during the chorus.
7. They went old school by performing “Cockroach”.
“Cockroach” is a stand-out number released on their sixth EP Gama in 2005. The song has a straightforward rock composition with a unique the GazettE feel. Performed live, it’s a fun song to jump up and down and head bang to.
8. Set list was a healthy mix of old and new.
The L.A. set list was a fair mix from their musical timeline, from the aforementioned “Cockroach” released in 2005 to “UNDYING” released only the week prior. We got singles and material from four different albums (STACKED RUBBISH, TOXIC, DIVISION, and DOGMA). Of course, it still wasn’t enough – I wanted to hear “Chizuru” from fourth album DIM.
9. There were less phone screens in the air.
The no photo policy was a necessary reminder to enjoy the live musical experience. It wasn’t a very popular request and the rule was broken, but it was refreshing to see many more eyes were on the guys than through their cell phones. I understand wanting to capture the moment, as I have done it at other shows before too – but please don’t forget to properly rock out!
10. Also, because Yoshiki said so.
Japanese rock royalty, Yoshiki, was in the house! Many people easily recognized the famous musician in the audience. The X-Japan drummer uploaded a picture of him backstage with the GazettE doing the iconic ‘X’ sign on his social media accounts. The composer wrote, “It was a great show in LA! Thanx for inviting me!”
5. Venomous Spider’s Web
6. Sludgy Cult
8. Dripping Insanity
10. The Suicide Circus
14. Filth in the Beauty
17. Tomorrow Never Dies
First photo credit: the GazettE Facebook