D=OUT’s Kouki Repays Fans with Birthday Performance
Many visual kei musicians occasionally venture into the world of solo works and events, and not always out of necessity but sometimes just for fun. Kouki of D=OUT has recently become one such artist. The vocalist decided to treat fans to a set of solo lives at Ikebukuro EDGE on his birthday, October 21, with one show in the late afternoon specifically for fanclub members and a non-fan club show in the evening. These concerts were titled “Kou no Ongaeshi” (Repayment of Fortune) in a reflection of the musician’s feelings toward those who have supported him. In addition, it was a day to provide a sample of his own ideas as an artist and a performer.
The full house was alive with the excited chatter of fans and background music by D=OUT. After a short preview video, the audience clapped to the opening music “Seiten no Hekireki” as they waited for Kouki’s appearance. The revealed stage seemed to be a bit empty, lacking the accoutrements of a rock concert—especially a drum kit. Instead, an acoustic guitar was the sole instrument in addition to a microphone stand and small camera.
The birthday boy rushed out to greet his fans clad in a turquoise suit jacket with matching knee-length shorts, black vest, and black leggings. “How is everyone? Let’s go!” he called before starting into “Shangri-la” in which he gave an enthusiastic and confident performance despite the lack of his usual stage companions. The vocalist visited all areas of the stage to make up for this as he sang and growled and even played air guitar along to one of the solos. “Is everyone having fun so far?” After the affirmative cheers, “Satellite TV” got the crowd dancing and jumping from right to left. Kouki sang out while swaying from side to side and added in some dramatic posing at his whim.
“Welcome to the show!” Kouki shouted. He commented on the cameras for the live broadcast on NicoNico and referred to the small stage camera as “Kou-camera.” He then went on to explain, “This is not a D=OUT live. This is a representation of my existence as an artist that I am putting forth with all of my heart and soul. Everyone, please bring your heart and your energy!” The vocalist then took time to talk about how it was his first time putting on such a performance although he had had ideas building up over the years. “Everyone, let’s have fun together! Thank you for being here, today!”
“Let’s go wild!” Kouki growled as he and the audience dove into headbanging for “Goku.” Amid the mix of growling, screaming, and melodic singing, he would point and gesture at the crowd to step up their game with more energy. The next song was definitely a rare treat as Kouki then stepped back to bring out his acoustic guitar—announcing that he was going to sing one of his favorite songs in a simpler, acoustic arrangement. After a few strums and plucks to check the tuning, he gave a joking warning: “This performance might be boring but I will do my best.” Played live with only a simple piano backtrack for accompaniment, “Taion” best showed Kouki’s passion and sincerity as an artist as he strummed and sang out, his signature tone full of emotion.
“And now it’s time for a karaoke tournament!” Though the majority of the night seemed to be just that, this announcement still drew many excited cheers from the crowd, prompting Kouki to ask, “You like this idea?” As a monitor and WiiU unit were brought onstage, Kouki shared comments made by fellow bandmates and staff members about this particular section of his solo lives. “Lately, I’ve been asked if this is really okay but I will use it to put forward my feelings.”
After a bit of searching, Kouki announced that the first song of his karaoke tournament would be Tokunaga Hideki’s “Matsuwa,” receiving comments from the crowd that it was a “cool and refined” choice. They clapped along as Kouki serenaded them. “Karaoke is fun, isn’t it? While this is karaoke, it’s not me doing an imitation. It’s actually my interpretation [of the songs]. Next, I will sing a song from this era of visual kei.” The vocalist gave out a quick growl before breaking out Malice Mizer’s “Au Revoir.” The serious atmosphere set up by the intro disappeared with Kouki’s dramatization of being lost. However, this did not deter from the quality vocal performance. Kouki hit all the right notes and further added his own style to the VK classic. The crowd seemed insistent that he at least give them a little BORN and so, after a brief hesitation, he complied with the start of the signature chorus of “RADICAL HYSTERIA.” The crowd shouted along to the sexual lyrics (often misinterpreted more comically) to which Kouki replied with a cool look into the cameras, “You can’t ride anything, here.” He then announced, “This next song will be the last of the karaoke. I’ve loved visual kei since I was young. This next song is not a single but from my favorite album of L’arc~en~Ciel’s: ‘I wish.’” The stage was flooded with blue light for the jazzy song while Kouki requested that everyone clap their hands. He was so caught up that he almost forgot to sing at one point but recovered gracefully.
“My birthday’s not over yet!” he asserted. He then shared a story regarding the then-ongoing annual Tribal Arrival tour; speaking of all the travelling, of the amazing responses from the different audiences, and in particular, about the rooming arrangements. “Usually, it’s me and Hikaru and then the ‘bikata’(‘beautification’/a playful pairing of names) combination of Ibuki and Reika. So, what does Minase do? Which room will Minase stay in? So we usually have a battle for where he can stay. The last time, I lost, so the room was really cramped.” Laughing off the surprised responses, Kouki continued with his story. “Lately, we’ve been using the janken (rock, paper, scissors) system to determine the rooming arrangements with Minase. I actually really like rooming with Minase so I tend to throw my hand late when we play. When Hikaru is not in the three-person room, he usually celebrates with a big cheer. It’s because he hardly wins. Having three people in one room can get a little crowded, after all.”
Once he had finished his small narration, Kouki then looked over to one of the screens to read comments given by NicoNico broadcast watchers—giving him the idea for everyone to join together in a group death voice yell. “This is so cool! This is wonderful! Thank you!” Kouki riled the crowd into helping him introduce the next song. He began with “Life is…!” to which the crowd finished, “Rose-colored!” The resulting “Barairo no Jinsei” had everyone jumping. Those carrying towels swung them about, clearly having a good time dancing to the funky tune. Kouki had to exercise caution when attempting to jump on the podium as his height and the low-hung lights were not the ideal combination. Eventually, he opted for taking the “Kou-camera” off its stand so viewers could see more of the packed livehouse. “No matter where you are, please listen, okay? Let’s carry on together!” Despite a short delay, “MUSIC NIPPON” had everyone going wild once more with hair flying everywhere while Kouki aggressively danced around the entire stage and threw in another air guitar display. Before exiting, he expressed his thanks to everyone—including those who had caught the performance online. “Until next time!”
When it came time for an encore, the promotional video for the minimalistic version of “Taion” that Kouki had played earlier screened. In keeping with the simplicity of the arrangement, the video showed Kouki singing against a patterned brown backdrop, switching between different angles and scenes of him in the turquoise outfit and an alternate outfit of white, collared shirt and vest, and bowtie and slacks. The second costume reflected the lovely purity and simplicity found in the lyrics in contrast to some of the more glamorous images found in media and everyday life.
Once the screen had been rolled up and the curtain drawn back, Kouki re-emerged wearing the second outfit of the video. “Thank you for the encore call. From now on, this is our time!” The comment referred to the end of the NicoNico broadcast, limiting the encore to those in attendance. “I’m going to treat you to ‘Kanden 18 Gou.’ Today I am able to carry out performances like this because of the support from the other members and from you all. Because of everyone’s support, I am able to sing songs that can motivate others rather than songs of destruction.” After touching on his dislike of the hierarchal system in the music industry, Kouki expressed his gratitude once more to everyone—seniors and juniors included (“Because what matters on the stage is that everyone shares the same feelings”) before moving on to teach the audience the choreography for D=OUT’s new single. “Kanden 18 Gou” maintained D=OUT’s style of mixing traditional sounds with rock instruments as well as the electronic effects of their kabuki-disco concept. The floor took on something of a club atmosphere with plenty of flashing purple lights and the crowd danced accordingly. The bass and guitar solos could be heard more distinctly without the musicians present and Kouki fed the audience’s imaginations with imitations of his bandmates.
Before the end, Kouki took some time to reflect on the on day’s performances. “As I thought, the stage really is better with five people on it. This show right now is really fun but it is best with five people.” As such, he extended an invitation to the Nakano Sun Plaza oneman in late November where he promised a display of the chemistry between the five men which would make for an amazing show. “Today has already come to an end, hasn’t it? Thank you, everyone, for celebrating my birthday with me. The next is the last song.” This was met with many yells of protest but before the live was over, Kouki wanted to pass on a message. “It’s impossible to do really big things by oneself. It takes a lot of people to do amazing things. This is human nature. Everyone is like that. Even D=OUT has needed assistance. It means a lot to me to spend time together with you all. When the situation seems impossible—when it seems as if you cannot do anything—think of the important things and just carry on. Please treat me [and D=OUT] well from now on. It’s been the best birthday today. Thank you so much!”
“ONE” ended the show on a cheerful note with the inspiration that it is not just one person but everyone’s unity that it is important to treasure. Kouki held out his microphone to the audience for the last joined chorus of “We are the one,” during which all pointed toward the ceiling, sharing a warm sense of unity. Kouki wrapped up with an energetic round of chants: “D=OUT fever, yeah!” The crowd responded together with yells of “Hai! Hai! Hai!” and the show came to a close.
Kouki’s vision and ambitions were well-received through his birthday performances. He proved himself as a solo artist in addition to bolstering the reputation of his well-known band. Although it is unclear if he will perform solo again in the future, one thing is certain: D=OUT will continue to produce and evolve their kabuki-disco style as a placeholder in the ever-changing and varied visual kei scene.
Opening music: Seiten no Hekireki
- Satellite TV
- Taion ~Acoustic Version~
- Matsuwa (Tokunaga Hideaki cover)
- Au Revoir (Malice Mizer cover)
- I wish (L’arc en Ciel cover)
- Barairo no Jinsei
- MUSIC NIPPON
- Kanden 18 Gou
There are 16 photos in this visual kei exclusive.