It’s only natural to expect a purely spectacular performance when you take two of the biggest names in visual kei and have them go head to head on “rock day”. On June 9th, SUGIZO and INORAN ignited Zepp Diver City with another round of their “BEST BOUT” shows.
The show began in darkness with the curtain still drawn. A slow piano was playing in the background. Light projected toward the audience so the stage was largely obscured and when SUGIZO took the stage, his shadow was all that was visible, looming impressively over the crowd eagerly holding their breath. Using a looping pedal, he began to play a melody on his electric violin, carefully layering each strain. Then he was joined by the unmistakable shadow of INORAN and the crowd couldn’t hold back their excitement anymore.
With his guitar, INORAN added to the melody and the two played back and forth seamlessly. The stage finally lit up, making them visible. They moved to stand at opposite sides of the stage then exited the stage amidst the screaming crowd.
Then it was the start of INORAN’s portion of the show. His support band took the stage first while the crowd clapped along to the upbeat drum beats pulsing through the venue. INORAN skipped onto stage, hair spiked in true punk style and stood at the center of the stage, surveying the crowd with pure excitement on his face. He kicked off his set with “Beautiful Now”. The solid rock and roll sound swept up the crowd in no time and everyone threw their hands in the air, swaying in time to the music.
“might never see, might never reach” kicked the pace into a higher gear and the entire room was jumping and chanting along. Plumes of smoke danced across the massive screen at the back, adding to the raw atmosphere. Immediately following with “Rightaway”, he moved around the stage and worked to get the crowd even more pumped up. His vocals were especially clear during this performance and carried over the dancing audience.
At the end, the stage faded to darkness and the fans let loose, screaming their appreciation.
When the lights came back up, INORAN confessed to the crowd how much he had been looking forward to this event.
“Me and SUGIZO are actually good friends but I’m looking forward to crushing him!!”
With that, the crowd went into a frenzy and he used the excitement to move into the next song “Awakening in myself”. INORAN’s voice took on just the right husky and sincere tone that kept the song from sounding too soft but still let it retain its emotional feel. “2Lime s” switched the mood to something a little darker and sultrier.
Purple and blue lights flooded the venue and trippy polka dots and stripes decorated the screen at the back. The whole room sang the “la la la” parts at the top of their lungs and the atmosphere was fun and vibrant.
At the end, INORAN spent a bit more time talking to the crowd, asking who was seeing them for the first time (and was surprised when quite a number of people raised their hands). He joked that the order of performance ended up being oldest first. He eventually started to talk about his experience in LUNA SEA.
“When I just started LUNA SEA, I had no technique, no style and I had a shitty personality. I really thought I wasn’t enough. As for SUGIZO, we were both guitarists but he had technique, style and a good personality.”
“Because he was there, I was able to do my best. Because of SUGIZO, I’m able to stand here.”
He continued saying that each member of LUNA SEA managed to build their own separate bands and families and being able to do a battle of the bands was a really amazing thing. He called SUGIZO out then and the two of them faced each other. They both took mock Street Fighter poses then pulled each other in for a hug.
The next song was “raize” performed together with INORAN singing and SUGIZO on guitar. Their years of experience working together was evident in the ease in which they played off of each other’s energy on stage. At the end, INORAN thanked SUGIZO and they shared another hug before he left.
INORAN was all smiles when he admitted, “I can’t help but be happy. We love each other so it’s not really a battle.”
The punchy, punk vibe of “grace and glory” had the room dancing and the fun continued with “Get Laid”. The drummer began pounding out the riffs and INORAN had the guys in the crowd sing the lyrics “get laid” while the girls responded with “oh yeah”. The mood was full of fun as the audience continued to scream the lyrics at the top of their lungs throughout the performance.
INORAN concluded his set with “All We Are”, asking the crowd to sing along with him once more. The screen projected black and white images of power lines, buildings and trees like you were driving in a car. Everyone had their hands in the air singing as one. Then the music cut, turning it into acapella before the instruments joined in again, taking the performance to the end. Amidst the applause, INORAN introduced his excellent support band and told the crowd to go even crazier for SUGIZO’s performance.
Transforming the venue into his own experimental playground, SUGIZO took the stage. His presence was unmistakable as he entered amidst blast of electrical noise and sporadically flashing lights. He thrust his hand in the air, displaying the Vulcan salute and the entire audience followed suit. He began with the first half of “TELL ME WHY?”, instantly capturing the crowd’s attention with bright lights, smoke and a kaleidoscope of images flashing across the screen.
No longer in need of his vocals, he removed the mic stand and from that point, he performed with each song blending seamlessly into each other without any noticeable breaks.
With two drumsets as part of his arsenal, the beats were intense and raw with no room for a lack of energy or enthusiasm. Images of swirling galaxies were projected over the mostly dark room. SUGIZO himself performed half in shadow, letting the sound of his instrument speak for him.
Switching to his violin, he infused even more mystery and grace into his performance of “FATIMA”. Using the loop pedal, he layered slow melodies over the upbeat pounding of the drums. With every stroke of the bow across the violin, he would pause to gesture elegantly. Despite the dark, it was impossible to look away from him.
“THE EDGE” brought INORAN back out on stage and the two masters joined violin and guitar once again. This time in SUGIZO’s enigmatic style as they played back and forth. Upbeat guitar riffs and slow violin strains bounced off each other and the stage was bathed in purple light. When the performance ended, SUGIZO returned to his guitar and continued with “Lux Aeterna”. This time the instruments resembled that of a thunderstorm. The pounding drums and rolling grey clouds projected on the screen was the thunder and SUGIZO’s sharp electric riffs, the lightning.
“ENOLA GAY RELOADED” brought out SUGIZO’s firm anti-war stance and featured a rapid collage of powerful images and video. Beginning with a woman in a hijab praying and then scattered videos of nuclear bombs being detonated. SUGIZO waved a massive flag as the words “Stop the war” flashed on screen. The final message at the end of the song was “No more nukes. Pray to music.”
“DO-FUNK DANCE” worked to lighten the mood with its barrage of rainbow colored lights and punchy rhythm. The crowd threw their hands in the air again, waving to the beat as he wrapped up with the last half of “TELL ME WHY?”.
After he introduced his support band, they left the stage. A video announced SUGIZO’s upcoming single set to release in August and his new album set to release in November, along with a tour for the last quarter of 2016.
Much to the crowd’s disappointment, there was no encore due to the lack of time but both INORAN and SUGIZO returned on stage for a final round of applause.
INORAN suggested that they definitely do this again and the audience voiced their full approval. They thanked their staff and held hands for the final bow.
- Beautiful Now
- might never see, might never reach
- Awaking in myself
- 2Lime s
- raize (with SUGIZO)
- grace and glory
- Get Laid
- All We Are
- TELL ME WHY?
- Final of the Messiah
- The EDGE [with INORAN]
- Lux Aeterna
- ENOLA GAY RELOADED
- DO-FUNK DANCE
- TELL ME WHY?
Photo credit: Tanabe Keiko (SUGIZO), Suwaki Rie (INORAN)
Many thanks to SUGIZO, INORAN and staff for this opportunity!