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Apr 02 2018

LUNA SEA ‘LUV’ing Osaka (live report)

LUNA SEA
LIVE TOUR 2018 “The LUV -World left behind-”
Osaka Festival Hall, March 24th 2018
Live report by Michelle Minikhiem

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Back in 2011, LUNA SEA crashed like the waves of its namesake back onto the shores of the music scene with the digital download single “Promise” after a ten-year drought. Since then, the band seems to be working as hard as they can to make up for lost time. Their 9th album, LUV, was released this past December. Their Osaka show on their 18-stop tour to support the album showed off the strength of the new release while ensuring that their many die-hard fans got their dose of nostalgic classics.

It’s honestly a pretty wild time for anybody to be into visual kei at this period in history. Bands that the world thought they had lost in the early 2000s, like LUNA SEA, have been slowly coming back together to relive and in no small part, recreate those glory days.

LUV is a solid addition to the LUNA SEA discography. The opening track, “Hold You Down” is what the band chose to also open the show with, accompanied by psychedelic and pixelated graphics projected behind the band on a giant screen. It was the next song, “TONIGHT” that the band seemed really excited for. Guitarist Inoran even went to far as to fistbump a fan during this song; a big guy who ecstatically raised both hands into the air afterward. This seemed like Inoran’s jam. He was front and center for most of it.

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The whole of Osaka Festival Hall was jumping for “Dejavu”. Bassist J and guitarist Sugizo flanked the audience on the small wings to either side of the audience. Sugizo is an absolute machine. Every movement is so precise and deliberate while he is playing. Everything he does has purpose. That might be why vocalist Ryuichi so enjoys getting up in his business, face all up close and personal with Sugizo’s guitar, as if inspecting his playing. He had the freedom to do this mainly because he didn’t even have to sing the chorus; the audience was happy to do that for him.

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Things got heavier with “Rouge”. The stage flooded with smoke ahead of the flashing of hellish red lights. An excellent solo reminded everyone of why Sugizo is one of the most respected guitarists in the industry. After, Ryuichi noted that it had been nearly 30 years since LUNA SEA got together. He asked if there was anybody in the audience who were seeing the band live for the first time that night, and the whole band was surprised by the fair number of hands that went up.

“Brand New Days” is a bop. Double disco balls flanking the stage projected sparkling light everywhere while Ryuichi egged everyone on to clap to the beat. Inoran looked like some kind of disco prince as he stood in front of one of the glittering mirror balls. Even if you haven’t been that into LUNA SEA before now, there is at least one song in their arsenal to get your toe tapping.

The first real ballad of the night was “chikaibumi”. The lighting designer for this tour knows what they’re doing. Both this song and “Limit” had stunning light design. It looked like a Lisa Frank illustration up there, all vivid greens, violets, aquamarine and electric blue. Sugizo was serving some serious drama, half-way voguing. Ryuichi is nothing if not consistent. He sounds just as he did 20 years ago. He is taking care of that signature voice, for sure.

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“gravity” may have been the best song of the night. J kicked back against his amps and drummer Shinya took a bit of a break as Sugizo broke out the violin and Inoran grabbed an acoustic guitar. After a stunning transition halfway through the acoustic arrangement back to electric, J and Shinya both came back as a line of torches behind the band ignited. A passionate vocal performance from Ryuichi combined with this arrangement really packed a punch.

The next song, “yamibi”, gave “gravity” a run for it’s money. This is another song off the new album, but is so epic you could easily mistake it for classic LUNA SEA. The arrangement, the string acoustics between Inoran’s acoustic and Sugizo’s violin, Ryuichi’s soulful vocals, it was a godlike combination. Absolutely gorgeous. Some of the best stuff of the night. Every time Sugizo stopped playing for even a moment, sweeping his bow dramatically downward to point at the stage, the audience absolutely screamed his name.

The craziest thing that happened that night was Shinya’s drum solo, a rendition of “Ride the Beat, Ride the Dream”. Lasers, a cool robot voice spouting something nonsensical, some kind of half-gargled image on the screen of a man with a skeletal deer head in an infinite walk cycle combined with crazy, percussion-heavy EDM. It was like the whole building had been teleported to a completely different concert. If you played this at a club you could seriously get down to it.

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J followed it up with a bass solo in a silver letterman jacket, sing his deep, sexy tough-guy voice to get everybody riled up. J likes to hang back for most of the show. He does his own thing all night, rocking out like a man half his age over next to the drum kit, headbanging and posing dramatically. His solo was a nice change of pace.

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Seemingly cued by the high energy of the drum and bass solos, the energy definitely increased after that. “TIME IS DEAD” really got the audience hyped up as they chanted the name of the song over and over, hands up and headbanging along with the band. Ryuichi threw some jazzhands at Sugizo during his solo, something he seems fond of doing at apropos moments. The two of them have some great chemistry onstage. They embrace and tease one another often, sometimes going so far as to use ridiculously polite language like ‘sama’ with one another.

“ROSIER” seemed to exhaust the entire band as they gave 110% in absolutely crushing this classic tune. Inoran laid his guitar down tenderly, as one might a lover, and gave the frets a tender kiss before heading offstage. Shinya beat himself and his drums into a panting, sweaty mess. Sugizo dragged it out as long as he could, laying his guitar on the stage and smacking it to let that final note reverberate around the hall with increasing intensity.

The band returned to the stage after an enthusiastic encore call. Sugizo was holding up that trademark Spock hand while Inoran flashed a hang-ten with his tongue out. Ryuichi jerked his thumb at the both of them as if to call attention to how goofy they were being.

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The venue was filled with an explosion of silver streamers during “WISH”, the entire place slowly filling up with blue light as the band’s logo lit up on the screen behind them. Sugizo got his phone out as things wound down, probably snapping selfies to upload to Instagram later. In a touching act of solidarity, the band joined hands as the audience did the same with everyone standing beside them, bowing deeply and leaping up into the air on the upswing.

There are still stops left on this tour. If you have a chance, check one out. LUV has a lot to offer both long-time fans and new listeners alike, and is only improved upon in a live performance.

Set list:

  1. Hold You Down
  2. TONIGHT
  3. Dejavu
  4. Rouge
  5. Limit
  6. Brand New Days
  7. chikaibumi
  8. gravity
  9. yamibi
  10. I for You
  11. drum solo (Ride the Beat, Ride the Dream)
  12. bass solo
  13. Be Awake
  14. JESUS
  15. DESIRE
  16. TIME IS DEAD
  17. ROSIER
  18. EN1. So Sad
  19. EN2. PRECIOUS…
  20. EN3. WISH

LUNA SEA Official Website: http://www.lunasea.jp
LUNA SEA Twitter: https://twitter.com/LUNASEAOFFICIAL
LUNA SEA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lunaseareboot