Awoi’s Underground Black Rock Invades Tokyo
Their motto: The underground black rock. Osaka-based Awoi finished up their tour in Tokyo on May 19, proving they can hold their own in Tokyo. Ikebukuro Edge was filled to bursting with black-clad guys and girls ready to get wild.
The band chose to begin the night with a number gentler than their usual fare, “-desire-” featuring a catchy chorus and elements of pop firmly grounded by Otogi’s dark vocal style. Bassist Saki worked his own staging into the number, raising his bass high and sliding his fingers up the strings before the music dissolved into a slow, dark prayer. Returning to the energetic chorus, the song ended on a bright note and the crowd clapped the rhythmic entry to “darling.” Only at song number two, it was still early, but the crowd held nothing back, jumping with all their fresh strength until the lights burned red and Otogi ripped out his gripping death voice. Like a snake, Saki swayed to the sinuous bass while Sin jumped up on the drum kit, playing to Ryo. The final lyrics were pre-recorded, Otogi mouthing along with exaggerated expression. Shouts filled the momentary silence between numbers.
“Melancholy” came off heavier live than in recording, Otogi beating his chest as the crowd jumped through the instrumentals. On drums, Ryo sang along, slashing endlessly at the cymbals and spinning his sticks. “Kanashii Uta” began with a slow guitar solo from Shou, feedback ringing in empathy from Sin. “Tokyo! Let’s rock!” cried Otogi, heads flying in response. “Voices! Voices! Voices!” he cried and the crowd shouted out. The strong rhythm of the number had guitar and bass ruling over the verse melody. Otogi posed with a hand over his mouth like a crude gas mask, Shou bent low for the final, intense play-out.
“I love heaven,” Otogi muttered in introduction of the next song, “heaven.” Seven drum beats preceded a simple guitar line and gentle cymbals as Otogi sang over the top. With a shout of “Jump!” the guitars grew heavy and the crowd followed orders. The lazy green and neon blue lighting created an eerie, aggressive atmosphere and lasers split over Otogi’s head as he churned out some angry–and original–scat. Saki’s fingers slid up and down the bass strings in a dramatic display and Otogi took the melody up a third, drastically increasing the intensity of the piece. Drawing out the final note, he held and warped it through the introduction of the next song, contorting over different pitches like a monk chanting. The waver reached up into falsetto then became a ghostly, tortured wail as the music transitioned into the deep opening riffs of “Ashita.” The theatrics melded perfectly with the song, Saki dragging a hand over his eyes which stared wide as his fingers passed and Sin shook his head in irritation, a tortured grimace twisting his lips. Despite the movement of the chorus and the crowd’s brightly waving hands, the number maintained a mournful tone throughout.
The next transition consisted of painful, labored breaths from Otogi. The opening guitar riff broke into the music of “under a skin” during which the vocalist morphed into a demon overlord, clamping the mic in his mouth as he growled around it and scrubbed at his head with both hands. The lyrics “Crawling under my skin” were pre-recorded and Otogi wailed right through them, Ryo making huge slashes at the cymbals as if his sticks were whips. “Wana” was just as potent, the versatile number beginning with a high pitched scream and filled with demonic sounds and uncontrolled headbanging. Before the last notes faded, Otogi was laughing, a terrifying psychotic laugh that led into the militaristic opening of “NARAKA.” Otogi created a dull thunk by thumping the mic against his head while Shou’s growls added power to the number. The crowd was compliant as Otogi flicked his wrist once before raising it high in a military salute.
Beginning a dark monologue, Otogi reflected on ideals and imaginings. “Before this loneliness disappears, something must be born. ‘Fukaki Taidou.’” The number was simply staged, the band still as Otogi’s mouth opened wide and he whispered harshly. However, the tune transitioned into a gorgeous melody. Shou swayed into the hot guitar riff before Otogi began to shout the same monologue. Towards the end, loud, high-pitched guitars warred with the vocal melody, creating musical chaos. “Mizu no naka no Abyss” followed, the focus entirely on Otogi whose strong vocals rendered the music insignificant as he wandered the stage like a lost soul, reaching up for answers.
For “Wasurenagusa,” Otogi sat on his platform, the guitars striking a series of notes that always returned to the same strong pitch. The vocals were low and soft, the roles of dominance entirely reversed from the previous number though both vocals and music grew stronger and drew equal for the chorus. Acoustic plucking introduced “Shuuyatou,” Otogi singing a gentle melody. His voice began to show the strain but he fought through the vocally demanding ballad, pumping up the emotion of the performance.
“Tokyo, can you go on? It’s not enough yet, is it? Come at us with all you’ve got: ‘blind.’” Well revitalized after the ballads, both band and crowd were pumped. Otogi’s shirt hung open, thin scarf hanging down from his neck as he bent over to growl out powerful death voice. After the bright, exciting chorus, he whacked his head with the mic in an expression of approval for the crowd. For the next number, Otogi broke up his own vocal line with some chanting and for an interesting change, “kaleido” contained some female coloratura background over the metal riffs, the crowd clapping along. “We’re doing a heavy one now!” the vocalist warned. “‘Bastard!’” The song turned into a pure headbang-fest to Otogi’s special brand of shrieks and growls. He ripped off his shirt as the number ended, shouting the crowd into a frenzy.
“Suzumushi” was bound to be wild, Shou headbanging as vigorously as the crowd and adding his screams to the mix while Otogi repeatedly crunched the mic against his ribs, creating huge red welts. Kneeling, he challenged the crowd to make it to the end, though he looked the most likely to fall short. Even so, he set the example and rose to the occasion of the final number, “Aria.” A guitar driven riff opened the song. Otogi stood completely upright, still so as to pour his energy into the vocals, sweat glistening on his bare skin under the blue lights. With a grin splitting his face, Otogi breathlessly thanked the crowd and headed off in a euphoric stumble.
Though the crowd barely rested, shouting religiously for an encore, the band returned after a short while to an ethnic tune. “Let’s smash this encore!” Otogi declared. “‘Closet in my room!’” Rejuvenated, the vocalist punched into the intro, lazily spitting out the lyrics in a relaxed manner though his death voice was potent as ever. “Sunnyday” opened with the usual fantastic Awoi riffs. Shou echoed Otogi’s screams and Sin added his voice to the chorus harmony. While Saki calmly surveyed the scene, Shou rocked out to the instrumental. Otogi stalked over and circled around him then grabbed Shou’s guitar, slinging it around his own neck. Looking lost, the guitarist soon identified his responsibility. He handled the death voice like a pro but simply grinned apologetically during the melodic verse. Back on the mic, Otogi finished it up with an elated “Whoo!”
“Thank you for the encore,” he said, voice husky. “We were able to sell out Ikebukuro Edge for this tour final. ‘Congratulations,’ you’ll say, but they really are in order. We’ve sold out twice in Tokyo before, but this time it wasn’t just on last minute tickets. This is all thanks to you so we’re grateful from the bottom of our hearts.” Suddenly the vocalist laughed. “Whoops, I forgot to breathe.” After inviting the crowd to their shows in Osaka and Nagoya, he asked if the rest of the band had anything to say. “You guys are playing it cool today, huh?” he joked when none stepped forward. In a playful mood, he volunteered Ryo to rile the crowd up for the final number and the drummer stepped up to the plate.
Finishing up the set with standard Awoi fervor, “abelcain” sent heads flying one last time. When it was over, the band finally spared a few words for the crowd, each taking a turn to speak before they left the stage. “I wondered if this tour would be OK, but we sold out Nagoya last month and now Tokyo,” said Shou, left alone onstage. “That makes me really happy. Worrying and discussing, we toured on, the five of us going wild like idiots…” Speaking the native kansai dialect, Shou promised that Awoi would continue on and on and gather more and more people. He finished with a shout and the crowd responded instantly, sending him off with a roar.
When a band can pull off such a passionate concert away from home, they deserve sold out venues. Awoi’s “underground black rock” certainly made itself at home at Ikebukuro Edge.
- Kanashii uta
- under a skin
- Fukaki taidou
- Mizu no naka no Abyss
- closet in my room
There are 26 photos in this visual kei exclusive.