LIVE REPORT: Versailles RENAISSANCE Europe Tour @ Islington Academy, London

[Editor's Note: VKH Press is still in the process of confirming the setlist for this live performance from official sources. The current setlist in this article has been provided from memory by the author. When we receive the official setlist, we will update the live report if necessary.]

Versailles' RENAISSANCE Europe Tour recently ended, and its seven successful shows helped spread the word: Versailles is reborn. For five years, visual kei audiences have known the members of Versailles as two units: guitarists Hizaki and Teru, bassist Masashi and drummer Yuki all performing as Jupiter, and vocalist Kamijo independently pursuing a solo career. Only now can they be seen together again, and Europe had the privilege to receive the first tour in or outside of Japan since the group's reunion. VKH Press was able to attend the performance in London at Islington Academy and witness the first image of their rebirth that Versailles has chosen to share with the world.

Just as the clock ticked to five minutes past the show's expected start time the audience took matters into their own hand. The call of "WE ARE..." originated somewhere from the back of the room , followed by a fast-growing chorus of "VERSAILLES!", ushering Versailles' signature entrance mantra in before the opening track "Prelude" actually began. One by one, the band members made their appearances. Their solemn and eerily wide-eyed expressions set the tone for the night of story telling ahead, introducing the characters and scenes that would appear in their creations. Kamijo called the show to a start with a scream of the band's name, and the first powerful notes of "Aristocrat's Symphony" possessed the room.

The first piece of the set was made up of songs found on the first two albums of Versailles' time together, stirring up an accumulation of emotional responses from the audience with the references to those early days, now from nearly a decade ago. "Aristocrat's Symphony" was followed by the song that was their debut major release back in 2009, "Ascendead Master". After a brief pause to address the audience ("Long time no see, UK!") Kamijo called for people to raise their voices: he called for shouts! Shout! "Shout & Bites!" It was up to the audience to provide those shouts throughout the song, except for twice when Kamijo gave the responsibility to Teru or Hizaki to lend their "BITES".

"Teru, voice!" Kamijo shouted. "Now YOU!" And the microphone was back out to the audience. Enjoyment had been high so far as the show had started with three favorites from the band's early days, but nothing had compared yet to the enthusiasm when the next song began and was none other than "zombie". Heavy and raw by Versailles standards, "zombie" was no relief for tired voices, but as Kamijo danced in a mysterious side to side pattern no one seemed to mind the demand for more of their energy. Whenever he didn't have to be singing, Kamijo led the audience in a clapping rhythm, with his hands held high above his head. As the crowd handled the shouting and yells, Kamijo leaned back and shot his arm into the air, shouting "Let's go!!" and performing the song in the new style rereleased last year.

It was in September 2016 that Versailles released a greatest hits album, hand-picking works that had been significant over their career together. The band remastered these choices to reach new audiences and reignite their fans from the past to explore their new direction and remember what they had been. This rebirth tour was the live version of that album, taking moments and pieces of music that had meant the world to listeners internationally and making it known that Versailles is ready to create more of those stories and experiences. The band eased out of their nostalgic first years with "Masquerade", a concept-rich music video release that was responsible for an increase in the band's audience in 2011, as well as the "boss walk" meme within existing fan circles. A self-aware Kamijo held up his hand for full attention and delivered the walk, with no less flair and panache than in the original PV, and the tradition was satisfied.

In a VKH interview last year, Versailles made the statement, "Lineage is us, Versailles". That sentiment was repeated on this night in London, when the band performed two songs from their upcoming album, which itself is titled Lineage and had recently been released to ticket holders of the band's February 14th Budokan live. Versailles brought two of the songs from their new album to their European tour, first playing "Inheritance", and later teaching the audience to sing along with the phrase "We have a lineage", for the album's title track.

Surely as a way to emphasize that lineage for as long as they had the audience's attention, Versailles played another song that had been recently remastered to have a new role in their rebirth: "After Cloudia". This piece is as joyful as it is tragic, and the beauty and ardor in the melody stand in contrast with the story of loss told in the lyrics. The audience held their hands high and sang along with wide smiles and tears on their cheeks, and the same expression was easily found everywhere in the crowd. There was never only one sound for too long at a time. The set list took a dark turn again with "Gekkakou" and "Judicial Noir", songs that speak of passion, man-made deities, and the  ever-present danger implicit in interacting with the characters in their vampiric universe. The vocalist left the stage for "Silent Knight", an instrumental that covers a lot of ground musically and showcases the talent of each of the musicians. Teru performed mesmerizing solos with his guitar held vertical and away from his body, always with a shy smile, as if he was surprised at the applause that he received. Regardless of what he was playing, Hizaki was elegant and moved effortlessly in his heavy and decorated gown, bringing another level of awe to the experience of watching him perform. Standing back-to-back, they played a captivating duet. Each guitarist's sound was enhanced far more by their complimentary playing than by their guitar duels. "Silent Knight" captured several of these moments.

The romance that runs alongside these dark themes was kept alive with a performance of "Philia". The hope in this song contrasted strongly with much of what had been played earlier. Before continuing, Kamijo shared with the audience that this was his third time playing this venue in London. "I remember this place," he said. That was enough for the applause to begin, as the audience recognized the tease to the lyrics of "Remember Forever". The uplifting atmosphere was still settling when the last song was announced to be "Red Carpet Day", which suddenly launched the show into full power again. Teru and Hizaki were immersed in the technical demands of the opening, and Kamijo fanned the audience back to a frenzy. Every voice played a part in this driven song. Yuki commanded the rhythm with his drums and leaned close to the microphone that had been set up for him, while Kamijo simply loaned Masashi the chance to shout into his. The audience was commanded to jump while the chant of "Red Carpet Day" continued, again and again, until Kamijo announced "Last chance! Jump!"

If this had been the true end of the show, the audience would have been left without Versailles' signature theme, "The Revenant Choir". There was a shout for an encore, and the fans had faith that this song would be performed. More of the same "We are Versailles!" chants began, but now they had become a promise that the audience was starting to understand this concept of "Lineage", a new word to expand Versailles' story of a close-knit clan. It was a celebration when Yuki returned to the stage, and the band was cheered on for all of the time that they spent arranging their instruments and situating themselves.

The next song was not what had been expected. Instead, the music that began to play was a gentle piano melody—the opening notes to "Sympathia". There was a quiet cheer across the floor, but it was quickly silenced, allowing for Hizaki and Teru to play their guitar parts uninterrupted, and for the powerful song to have full command of the room. Although there are heavy segments, "Sympathia" is a largely emotional and sentimental work. Light up roses were switched on to their blue and green glows and held high (with Kamijo bringing his out as well), and the crowd and stage swayed back and forth together.
Finally, it was here. Complimenting their opening song, which had been "Aristocrat's Symphony", was the finale: "The Revenant Choir". Now that the story had been retold and the themes had been reopened, it was time for the bottom line of the Versailles experience, told in the chorus of this song: "Our clan's blood will not stop forever." This is repeated in the lyrics, and was repeated by Kamijo once again when the song had concluded. He said, with emphasis, "Versailles is reborn. Our clan's blood will not­ stop forever." The audience had been taken through an initiation—the second time for some who had known Versailles before, and perhaps the first time for some newcomers. Each person who had engaged in the music, from the opening track to the close of this concert, had been taken through scenes, sets, stories with characters brought to life by the dedicated performers on stage. After shouting in rage and crying tears of sorrow along with the protagonist, the crowd had been given "The Revenant Choir" as an invitation, and had played their part in this story by singing along willingly.

Versailles' rebirth has come with the release of a greatest hits album, and now the live-limited release Lineage. By their actions and words, they have made it clear that they intend to have a bright future by keeping the past alive and using it to create more, together again. To anyone who is looking forward to what is going to come from Versailles, they will need your support to continue. This set list made the statement that to prepare for the band's future, fans can feel comfortable reaching deep into their past, and that this reborn Versailles will still uphold the same works that they have been remembered for in the five years that they spent away.

For more on Versailles' preparation for this tour and their plans for the future, click here to read VKH's most recent interview with Versailles!

For news and more information about the band, keep following VKH and click here to visit Versailles' OHP.

Aristocrat's Symphony
Ascendead Master
Shout & Bites
After Cloudia
Judicial Noir
Remember Forever
The Red Carpet Day
The Revenant Choir
Share on Google Plus
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment