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Nov 20 2017

Yokai, Sci-fi, and Flying High! VAMPS Halloween Party 2017: Day 3

Halloween Party 2017: Day 3
Makuhari Messe, October 29, 2017

Live Report by Michelle Minikhiem
Photo credit: Hideaki Imamoto, Toshikazu Oguruma, Kazuko Tanaka, Senichi Kasai

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The third and final day of Halloween Party 2017 somehow managed to surpass day two in both production quality and hypeness levels. This was in no small part due to the artist lineup, which featured some of the best of the best in Japanese music today.

As is practically tradition at this point, the first group to take the stage was BREAKERZ. The band gave us something of a hint of what the main themes of the artist costumes would be that day — anime and traditional Japanese folklore. The members were all trussed up as characters from the popular anime “Gintama”.

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They were joined at the beginning of their set by the ridiculously talented drum-playing Aomori mascot called Nyango Star, a viral internet sensation from the past year, who hammered out a crazy drum solo to the audience’s great enjoyment. What followed was a mock battle between the band and the mascot, with the mascot wielding a life-sized Minecraft sword. After being dramatically bested by DAIGO, the mascot retreated offstage to allow the band to start their energetic performance.

DAIGO and AKIHIDE (guitar) shared a humorous conversation regarding how AKIHIDE had become a beautiful woman for all three days, to which AKIHIDE commented that he was the crossdressing captain of the band. As always, BREAKERZ kept up a playful, fun vibe the whole time they manned the stage. DAIGO highlighted the song “GOD” as being dedicated to HYDE once again, also dropping that ARIMATSU and Ju-ken (VAMPS) helped work on the recording of it.

MUCC followed after BREAKERZ, a complete gear-change insofar as musical styles go.  YUKKE (bass) was dressed as Sailor Mercury from “Sailor Moon”, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. He even went so far as to perform a transformation sequence where he ripped off a school uniform to reveal the trademark Sailor Soldier outfit beneath, which was hilarious. Miya (guitar) explained that his zombie Naruto costume was largely inspired by “The Walking Dead”.

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When SATOchi (drums) was questioned about his costume, which was a confusing mishmash of white body paint, stuffed animals strapped to his shoulders and a puppy dog hat strapped onto his head, he explained that he was meant to be the MUCC mascot Inuchi the dog. When questioned by Tatsuro (vocal) if it wasn’t embarrassing to have his nipples drawn on so huge, SATOchi was unperturbed. He said they looked cute. Tatsuro was dressed as a crow tengu, complete with a prosthetic beak. How he managed to sing so well with such a contraption glued to his face is pretty impressive. He even executed a harmonica solo with surprising expertise. The beak hardly seemed to faze him.

MUCC is always an excellent band live, exuding energy and giving the show a refreshing shot of heavy rock. The moodiness of their sound doesn’t stop them from having a lot of fun, such as when YUKKE went skipping around the stage deliberately giving the crowd upskirt peeks. At the end of their set SATOchi apparently had had quite enough of that, deskirting YUKKE just as he was about to leave the stage.

Dressed up like Marie-Joseph Sanson from the popular manga “Innocent”, Mika Nakashima took the stage for her surprisingly short, eclectic performance. Beginning with “GLAMOROUS SKY”, a song HYDE wrote for her back when she starred in the live action adaptation of “NANA”, Nakashima kept to center stage for most of her performance, often squatting or crouching.

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Nakashima is a mesmerizing performer who clearly loses herself in her singing. Her time onstage left no qualms in the minds of the audience on why she is one of the top female vocalists in the country despite her unconventional way of expressing herself onstage.

After quickly departing the stage, it was time for NicoNino MC Yamachan to present Halloween Collection.  Same as the days previous, only guest performers costumes were showcased. Kanon Wakeshimahad another cute, ghoulish outfit on that she said was was the character that she had designed herself for a card trading game called “War Of Brains”.

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AKi (SID) wore the same costume as days previous, Nikki Sixx. Hitsugi (NIGHTMARE) was dressed up in the same costume as day one. He was Gizmo from “Gremlins”. Hitsugi attempted to explain the plot behind the 1980s film, especially the bit about how you can’t feed the iconic monsters in the film after midnight or get them wet, but no one on stage seemed to get it at all.

As expected, the star of the runway was once again Shinya (DIR EN GREY/SERAPH). He’d put together an incredibly faithful, highly detailed and highly revealing Jolyne costume from “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure”. AKi took to poking Shinya’s exposed stomach, commenting on how good he looked.

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After the artists and Yamachan left the runway, the next act to take the stage was Golden Bomber. Here’s where things really started to get nuts.  The comedy band (none of the members actually play instruments, though Sho, vocals, does sing)  is famous for their theatrical live shows, and they did not disappoint this year.

After a dramatic monologue where Sho expressed to the audience that this year’s costume theme was “to do costumes that weren’t costumes”, the members were lit up by spotlights one at a time. They were all nude save for speedos with comical, miniature genitalia attached to the front in order to preserve their modesty but remain faithful to the inspiration of their not-costumes — that being famous sculptures throughout the world.

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Sho was the David, his face makeup highly contoured to give him a chiseled appearance. Kenji (drums) was The Thinker, who played up this image by occasionally dropping into the contemplative pose this sculpture depicts. He even went to far as to duck behind the drumkit to begin an impromptu game of mahjong with a group of sound technicians.

Yutaka (guitar) was covered head to toe in bronze body paint so that he resembled the MannekenPis, complete with water flowing in a high stream out of his false bits. A group of staff huddled around him at one point, catching the water in paper cups. Hitsugi ran out onstage to join them. Apparently he thought it would a jolly idea to actually drink the water. When asked by Sho how it tasted, he shouted “Delicious!” only to bolt offstage.

Jun (bass) was the only member who wasn’t practically naked. He had a box covered in what appeared to be AstroTurf concealing his body with only his head visible, as he was trying to portray the ancient Moai statues in Polynesia. Watching him struggle to perform hand choreography while in this getup with barely half of his arms poking out of holes cut in the sides resembled a T-rex doing the macarena. The audience absolutely loved them, and managed to headbang to the harder songs even while laughing like mad. It was truly a sight to see.

After a short reprieve where the attendees could compose themselves after such a display, VAMPS entered the hall in a procession that began at the far right of the hall, wove through the aisles between blocks of onlookers, then finally went up onstage. This gave concertgoers a good chance to see the incredible yokai — monsters from Japanese folklore — costumes the band had donned.

JIN (keyboards) was the most terrifying. He had a huge prosthetic neck and shoulders set atop him, and a realistic cast of his entire head on the end of an eerily elongated neck. This is the yokai rokurokubi. Ju-ken (bass) was the second crow tengu of the night. K.A.Z had his hair styled up like fox ears, depicting a kitsune, or fox demon. ARIMATSU (drums) looked very cool as a classic red oni, or demon. And HYDE came rolling out on a segway underneath a draped umbrella, zooming and floating around, doing skillful spins, as a yuki onna, or snow maiden. It was a really effective gimmick, if charmingly silly.

The first song VAMPS did was a haunting take on “HALLOWEEN PARTY”. The song had been rearranged to sound similar to traditional Japanese folk music. HYDE even mimed playing a flute, and he changed his vocals to be nothing but as breathy falsetto for a creepy but lovely effect. Little bobbing lights on strings that were meant to represent spirits floated around the stage. HYDE’s set design and production sense continues to be top notch. The next few songs were much harder rock, but none of the members seemed at all encumbered by their elaborate costumes as they rocked out.

During “BLEED FOR ME” HYDE sat upon a large black throne, surrounded by a couple dozen drowsy-looking yokai splayed all over the stage. It was an incredibly atmospheric, even seductive number. For “VAMPIRE’S LOVE”, HYDE encouraged the crowd to turn their phone lights on so as to emulate a sea of stars. K.A.Z really got into his guitar solo for this song, kneeling on his knees as he executed it flawlessly.

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The song that brought the house down, however, was “DAMNED”. HYDE was rigged up and lifted above the audience at the end of the catwalk, an absolutely massive, gauzy train attached to the back of his kimono flowing out behind him as the whole hall filled with confetti snow. It was as if HYDE was actually conjuring up a snowstorm from the force of his singing. It was undoubtedly one of the coolest things I have ever seen done during a concert, and the whole audience cheered like crazy when the song finally came to an end.

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The attendees had another chance to catch their breath before the final big act, YOSHIKI and HYDE. YOSHIKI was dressed as Priss from “Blade Runner”, though with a notable increase in the amount of PVC in the outfit. As the curtain lifted he was playing the X JAPAN classic “Kurenai” before HYDE joined him onstage. YOSHIKI flowed seamlessly into the song “Jojoushi”, a L’Arc~en~Ciel tune that earned screams of excitement from the audience. HYDE’s vocals were soft and lovely, a stark contrast to his usual VAMPS vocal style.

After the song finished, HYDE and YOSHIKI took some time to speak together. HYDE inquired as to YOSHIKI’s health, to which YOSHIKI volleyed the very same question back to him. HYDE laughed, and pointed out that everyone was worried about YOSHIKI, not himself. They discussed YOSHIKI’s recent surgery and how his recovery was going for a short time. It was after that, when HYDE was politely thanking YOSHIKI for attending, that YOSHIKI told HYDE, “I’d do anything for you.”  This cued much preening on HYDE’s part and lots of shouting of approval from the audience. HYDE even playfully asked YOSHIKI to repeat it so he could hear him better in a not-so-coy ploy for attention, sticking his tongue out at everyone when YOSHIKI acquiesced.

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The last song the two performed together was “ENDLESS RAIN”, an absolutely gorgeous rendition of the X JAPAN classic. YOSHIKI and HYDE have very good chemistry. Dueting seems to come to them very naturally, and is a pleasure to watch. The entire hall was singing at the slightest encouragement from HYDE, with lyrics displayed up on the large screens to help those who might not be so familiar with the tune. A round of applause followed, with the two sharing a fraternal hug at the end.

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All the artists who performed that day then joined YOSHIKI and HYDE onstage, with lots of respectful and adorably awkward bowing from much of them in YOSHIKI’s direction. As per usual, some friendly banter followed. YOSHIKI was encouraged to put his prop whip to good use, but when his prodding of Hitsugi proved unsatisfactory, HYDE grabbed the whip and chased Hitsugi down with it. When YOSHIKI commented on this unruly behavior, HYDE laughed and told him that it was only a response to the company he was keeping at that moment. Golden Bomber had donned fresh body paint, but expressed dismay that Makuhari Messe had no shower facilities to clean up in afterward. When HYDE asked them what they’d do, Sho nonchalantly decided that since it was likely still raining outside (it wasn’t) they’d just all go outside and stand in the rain to wash off.

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Everyone then joined in a rousing and final performance of “HALLOWEEN PARTY”, passing candy out into the audience. YOSHIKI wandered into some of the tighter corners of the hall after a few minutes of hesitation, apparently happy to make his own path when the main aisles were insufficient for him. The show finished with everyone in high spirits, with HYDE shouting “Happy Halloween!” to fans as the poured out of the hall. How VAMPS and their guests will top this year at Halloween Party 2018 will prove quite a challenge.

 

SET LIST

BREAKERZ
01. WE GO
02. GREAT AMBITIOUS
03. GOD
04. Shakunetsu

MUCC
01. Freesia
02. Fuzz
03. KILLEя
04. HEIDE
05. Ranchu

MIKA NAKASHIMA
01. GLAMOROUS SKY
02. Yuki no hana
03. BLOOD
04. AorB

Golden Bomber
01. #CD ga urenai konna yononaka jya
02. Dakishimete schwarz
03. Yan ya yan ya Night ~Odoroyo Chiba~
04. Yokubou no uta
05. †the vkei ppoi kyoku†
06. Memeshikute

 

VAMPS
01. HALLOWEEN PARTY ~yokai version~
02. EVIL
03. CALLING
04. BLEED FOR ME
05. DEVIL SIDE
06. B.Y.O.B.
07. VAMPIRE’S LOVE
08. DAMNED

YOSHIKI X HYDE
01. Jojoshi (L’Arc~en~Ciel)
02. ENDLESS RAIN (X JAPAN)

HALLOWEEN JUNKY ORCHESTRA
01. HALLOWEEN PARTY