After nine long months, Buck-Tick is back, and boy are we glad to see them again! According to Sakurai, they rescheduled the tour because they didn't feel they were in any kind of mood to play a good show, and they were worried the fans wouldn't be in the mood to enjoy a show, either. While at the time, I thought a good Buck-Tick show might be just what everyone needed to get their minds off their troubles, looking back on it now I think they made the right decision. In Tokyo in the weeks after the earthquake, aftershocks happened several times a day, train service was erratic, blackouts were frequent, food was missing from store shelves, businesses were operating reduced hours, and everyone was trembling in fear and anger about the nuclear accident. While certain problems that began that day won't be solved for years or even decades, things are a lot calmer in the capitol now. Life is a lot more secure. It's a good time to go to a rock show.
Rescheduling the tour meant that a lot of the rescheduled shows fell on weekdays, and that the order of the performances was switched such that some of us who couldn't manage to get tickets to the tour final the first time around discovered that magically, we now had tickets to the final show without having to do anything, and the final shows will be at Zepp Tokyo, not Akasaka Blitz...personally I think it's a wise choice; Blitz is an intimate venue and it can be really hard to get tickets to shows there. But despite the fact that the November 23rd show was the first of the rescheduled shows in the Tokyo area, and that they'd conveniently placed it on a national holiday, only a handful of fans showed up much in advance of the door time, to sit shivering on the brick walls lining the wide staircase beside the venue and get glared at by skaters on the temporary ice rink next door. Once inside the venue, however, it almost felt as if the intervening months had never happened...but for the fact that Imai is spinning quite a different DJ set this time than last time, featuring a lot less Django Reinhardt and a lot more Allison Mosshart, singing everything from the Dead Weather's fantastic grunge-blues number "Gasoline" to The Kills funky-folky-hip-hoppy "Gettin' Down," to a remix of "Satellite" off The Kills fantastic new album Blood Pressures, which definitely isn't as good as the original song. (Oh Imai, won't you please bring the Dead Weather to Japan? I want to see me a Buck-Tick vs. Dead Weather showdown.)
When the band came onstage at last, to the same stage entrance music as they'd used before rescheduling the tour, they were even largely dressed in the same costumes, with Sakurai in his shiny leopard-print coat and Imai in his horrible plasticized horizontal-stripes hipster jacket that now, I suppose, he is only wearing ironically because hipsters are totally over wearing brightly colored plastic jackets now. As usual, Yutaka came onstage first, looking distinctly older and heavier than he did nine months ago, no doubt due to the Law of Conservation of Buck-Tick Mass, which states that the total weight of the five band members must remain constant at all times. When Sakurai was at his heaviest Imai was at his most anorexic, but now with Sakurai and Imai both looking slim but healthy, Yutaka has to pick up the slack, or should we say, fat. Luckily, a round face looks good on him and he's still all smiles.
The one big fashion surprise came to us courtesy of Sakurai's hair. In 1988, with the release of Taboo, Sakurai stopped wearing his hair up, and was promptly asked by magazine writer bimbettes, "why did you stop?" Sakurai's answer? "Because I felt like it." The real reason? Because he was sick of being typecast as "that guy with the hair that sticks straight up." Soon the other members, excluding Toll, stopped wearing their hair up. "When will you put your hair up again?" they were asked. "When we feel like it," was their answer. And now, a whole twenty-three years later, here comes that day. Dear Mr. Yagami will always win at mohawks, but Sakurai was making a very respectable effort at the old Buck-Tick style, with his shorter, blacker hair combed back from his face and sprayed up into a bristling crown that took us all swoonily back to 1980's London. Back in 1988, the hairstyle I might call "the yellow dandelion" didn't do much to flatter Sakurai's looks (though perhaps they didn't require much in the way of flattery.) Now, however, at age 45 and with black hair instead of deader-than-dead-straw bleached hair, Sakurai had fans gasping and screaming as he took the stage. Could the paint-it-black dandelion possibly look that good? Yes, oh yes it can.
And no, there are no photos, cell phones and cameras are banned at all Japanese concerts and it's for the better. You can stroke the screen of your iphone every minute of the day, you don't need to do it while Buck-Tick are onstage. There will be photos once they get released by the press.
The set list stayed largely the same as the earlier shows on the tour, featuring a number of songs off Razzle Dazzle, a number of them not quite as good as "Sakuran Baby" which for some reason the band is still refusing to play. The projection screen of swimming sperm is long gone but Sakurai hasn't forgotten his dance moves, and when "Kyoki no Deadheat" came along, he was swimming up a storm, and enthusiastic enough to sex up the utterly forgettable "Mugen" with self-stimulation completely inappropriate to the tone of the song. Luckily, the show took a darker turn with "Zekkai." It's particularly poignant considering the circumstances of the earthquake, and how quite probably, some fans never lived long enough to attend the rest of the tour, mercy be on their souls. Many of the fans remaining broke into silent tears.
But since Yutaka already had his standup bass out and ready, there was only one song that could follow "Zekkai" and lighten the mood--"Lullaby III," of course. I'm guessing the fans will never vote it onto the new best collection, but all I have to say is, if you don't vote for it, y'all suck. This is a great song, and Sakurai even pulled out his old Tenshi no Revolver boa for the occasion (sure not to get caught in his hair now that his hair was pointed safely out of the way of the feathers.) The band members weren't at the height of their energy levels, but while, with the exception of Sakurai, they stayed fairly mellow all night, they were practiced and ready and made no mistakes.
Unfortunately, it wasn't always possible to hear their studio-perfect playing due to the sound troubles the venue was having. Halfway through the set, Sakurai pulled out his earphones and tapped at his microphone.
"Can you hear me?" he asked the audience.
"KYAAAAAA!" they screamed, but he didn't look convinced.
And for the record, as a vocalist if you are not getting your own voice fed back to you through the monitor, you have absolutely no way to tell if the audience can hear you or not. (Cue the Dead Weather's song "I Can't Hear You" if you have not heard this song listen to it immediately.) But soon it wasn't just Sakurai's problem, soon Hoshino was having problems, too.
"Are you okay, Hide?" Sakurai called, as Hoshino ran off stage and returned with a new guitar.
Apparently he was okay, and they rounded off the set with the red hot rock of "Makka na Yoru" and "Jonathan Jet-Coaster," interspersed with the tear-inducing "memento mori" and a very beautiful, somber, stripped-down version of "Rain."
Overcome with excitement, fans started screaming for an encore as soon as the band left the stage, but long minutes passed and still the band wasn't coming back. Venue staff ran frantically back and forth across the stage. More sound problems! It was taking them long enough to fix whatever the issue was that the head staff member had to come out and make an announcement.
"There's trouble," he said. "But we should have it fixed in a few minutes, so if you'll just wait patiently for us, we'll give you your encore."
And amazingly enough, this being Japan, they actually did have it fixed within five minutes. More Hoshino guitar troubles! But with a pop and a buzz, Hoshino's guitar came back online, and now the band was back onstage and slamming straight into "love letter." The sound balance had gotten an overhaul, and now Imai's vocals were huge, filling the whole hall without him really trying, a welcome change from straining to hear him all night. After "love letter" came "Spider," which Sakurai announced in an exaggerated haunted-house drawl of a voice.
"Spiiiiiiiiiiideeeeer!" he called, then started laughing at his own joke.
And then they were offstage, then back again for the second encore, with "Kuchizuke SERIAL THRILL KISSER," the cheap synth-heavy album mix, which in my opinion is a lot less fun to listen to when performed live than the single mix is, but at least the song is strong enough to make both versions satisfying.
The night was winding down. Toll had already thrown an autographed banana into the crowd, and now it was the last encore set (we could tell because Sakurai had changed into a tour t-shirt.) But he had one more surprise in store for the crowd before the band finished with "Rendezvous." Sick of wasting the potential inherent in his clothing choice of that flimsy kilt-over-tights combination, with a smirk and a flourish, he pulled the kilt straight off, and proceeded to parade around the stage in nothing but his t-shirt, belt, patent-leather high-heeled boots, and skin-tight matte-black Batman hose. There's this thing called a "dance belt" that male ballet dancers wear to keep everything "under control" as they fearlessly take the stage wearing nothing but tights, but, Sakurai isn't a ballet dancer and he doesn't own a dance belt...apparently he prefers to "let it all hang out," as it were. Just to add to the excitement of the fans in the first few rows.
"...A lot of things happened, but well...see you again soon," he said, and the audience laughed.
On the way offstage, Toll inadvertently slapped his little brother's posterior, and giggled to the audience about it once Yutaka had bounced away.
Well, shucks. What a rendezvous.
01. Dokudanjou Beauty
02. Baby, I Want You
03. Madman Blues
04. Razzle Dazzle
05. Kyouki no Deadheat
09. Lullaby III
10. Tango Swanka
11. Hamushi no You ni
12. Memento Mori
13. Jonathan Jet-Coaster
15. Makka na Yoru
16. love letter
18. Kuchizuke -Serial Thrill Kisser-
19. Alice in Wonder Underground