IKUO Solo Live Tour “R.E.D. ZONE”

Live Report

by Chika Yoshizawa, Mio Nagasaki, posted April 22, 2014

An additional show for the solo tour of IKUO (BULL ZEICHEN 88, Rayflower) was held at Hatsudai DOORS on March 26, 2014. Different aspects to and of the career bassist’s band activities were shown in his solo performance by which the audience was overwhelmed and irrevocably drawn in.

The crowd started clapping to the opening music as blue light gently washed the stage. Soon, the stage was dyed red to suit the show’s title, “R.E.D ZONE” and the three support members—drummer Kei Yamazaki, keyboardist Daiki Kagawa, and guitarist SUNAO—appeared together. Lastly, IKUO hit the scene after the three support members warmed the floor up with clapping. Unlike most musicians gone solo, IKUO kept to the bass position at stage-right rather than usurping the center. In keeping with the theme, his red hair and red bass contrasted favorably with a white costume that dramatically absorbed the colors of the lights.

Right away, IKUO impressed the crowd with high-speed slapping in the intro of “N.S.R.” Although he was frantically slapping the strings, IKUO didn’t ease up on vocals at all and the crowd responded to his sound by raising their hands. Even so, the highlight was the bass solo in which the soloist took the center at last. Amid dark growls, IKUO wowed the audience with fast slapping accompanied by showy fingering and plucking.  In “RED ZONE” which was the title of his first solo album as well as the current tour, IKUO enjoyed the rhythm a little more, swaying to the groove. Since the song had no lyrics, the melody was created by guitar in the chorus but otherwise it seemed as if the bass sang the tune instead. Deep, wistful notes resounded in the solo section while the other instruments contributed mild sounds that made the bass stand out. Afterward, heaviness struck the floor at once and the dynamics approached crescendo at a burst.

“Welcome to IKUO’s solo tour, R.E.D. ZONE! I went back to basics after the interval since the previous live at Nagoya. Now I’m wound tighter than a spring. Please enjoy the show today!” After the greeting from IKUO, “What’s up?” began with a vocal solo, continuing on into a cozy, mid-tempo number. A powerful drum solo connected through to the last section of the song and IKUO put his soul into the vocals, accompanied by sweet, smooth keyboard notes. A low sound then echoed in “PIT INN GROOVE,” playing up a dark, beating tune. IKUO, released from singing, enjoyed playing his bass, seeming most at ease. The crowd seemed to really enjoy the groove of the number and they confirmed it with cheers, exclamations, and applause, which arose naturally at the finish. The atmosphere then grew gentle as keyboard sounded out mildly amid a blue haze of light. IKUO changed it up from the previous, aggressive approach on bass to a gentler style in “THUNDER BIRD” which once more featured a unique arrangement in which bass formed the melody. The soloist put his feelings into each note, preciously stroking the strings to make each sound.

“The final day came at last,” he said. “Let’s go easy since this is an additional show, today. May I drink alcohol? No, I won’t be able to play the bass!” The crowd laughed at the lighthearted jokes until IKUO took off with another piece. The rhythmic tune was overall bouncy in “TRY AGAIN” and the anime theme featured a chorus full of momentum. IKUO gave the guitarist some time for a solo but played aggressive bass alongside before singing out powerfully then switching to a sweet falsetto. “UNI-ZONE” struck up with gripping keyboard followed by energetic slapping. IKUO showed off various techniques such as plucking at the neck of the bass while Kei had the spotlight all to himself in the drum solo, beating robustly. It was such a powerful display of drumming that cheers arose in the middle of the solo.

“We would like to share with you some memories of this tour,” IKUO began before asking the support members to begin. Kei talked about running during the tour. He had asked IKUO to go running with him after the shows but IKUO quickly refused and suggested push-ups instead. As a result, they would do 35 push-ups together after the shows. Daiki then announced his “tour, best 3.” In one of them, he revealed he had broken his ribs at a hotel during the tour. IKUO sympathized as he had hurt his lower back during a BULL ZEICHEN 88 show and had had to go to the hospital emergency room. Sunao also talked about an accident that had happened on tour.

Before long, IKUO called in a guest vocalist for the next song and Eijiro from BULL ZEICHEN 88 instantly heated the crowd up with his entrance. The floor was a wave of bending bodies as Eijiro shouted inflammatory encouragement along to the dark sound of “OVERLAP.” IKUO’s vocal stood out in the catchy but powerful chorus while Eijiro continued inflaming the audience—putting his arm around IKUO’s shoulder as they sang together. “I had said on vocals—but actually he was on screaming,” IKUO joked when the guest took his leave. Next, he called in another vocalist: atsuko from angela. She wore a punk outfit and danced energetically, taking over from IKUO to happily sing “Break Out the World.”

“Do you want to get crazy?” After the shout, IKUO took firm control of the bass strings for “Sono Hikari he.” The strobes symbolized its heaviness and the tune streaked through in a breath, giving way to “LONG WAY” in which IKUO used his eyes to egg the fans on as he sang and created an unusual, plucked rhythm on bass. Finishing the set, “V Kei Pokunai Kyoku” started with a deep sound after the title call. The crowd danced to the enjoyable song mixing metal, rock, and pop. Each member appealed to the fans with solos triggered by IKUO’s introduction and, of course, IKUO’s own solo ended with splendid slap-bass.

Instead of encore calls, the crowd persisted with calls of “IKUO!” until the soloist returned alone, clad in into his tour T-shirt. “This is a lot of fun! Although there were only four shows in total, I had fun at every single one. When I support other bands, I miss my band—and when I play in my bands, I miss my support activities—but I just happily play music in my own way. Enjoying music is my motto. I was able to know a different kind of pleasure today. When I joined TMR, I wanted Mr. Nishikawa to boast of me as a support bassist. That was one of my motivations. I am proud of my support members for today. I thought so all over again after I started my solo activities.”

After delivering his feelings of gratitude, IKUO took up his white bass for “prestissimo.” With bass alone, he created a wide variety of sound by controlling the rhythms, low sounds, and high tones as if there were drums and guitar playing along. Then, regretting that sequencer trouble had prevented the crowd from hearing his kitten voice during the very first number, he decided to play “N.S.R.” again. After satisfactorily showing off his sweet, cat-like vocals, IKUO then showed off some dominant bass.

He then handed the bass off to his assistant for the last tune “READY STEADY GO” and dedicated himself solely to vocals. In this last number, he was able to dance and sing at last and he freely riled the crowd. “R.E.D. ZONE is over! Thank you very much!” he shouted. With the exception of the keyboardist who had broken his ribs, the support members joined the soloist for a set of push-ups. Kei easy did 35 while IKUO tried hard to reach 35 even though Sunao clearly cheated. Wiped out from the physical exertion, IKUO cried, “I’m filled with emotion!” and loathe to leave the stage, he stayed there by himself for as long as he dared. At last, he left the stage with a kiss blown to the crowd.

IKUO obviously enjoyed everything from providing the bass and singing of the music to the chatty emcees. If this additional show wrapping up the tour was any indication, future solo activities can be expected from this joyful and exceptional artist with more music, more fun, and more passion to come.

Set list

  1. N.S.R
  3. What’s up?
  9. Break Out the World
  10. Sono Hikari he
  11. LONG WAY
  12. V Kei Pokunai Kyoku


  1. prestissimo
  2. N.S.R

VK Exclusive

There are 16 photos in this visual kei exclusive.

Chika has been interested in visual kei music since VK bands first began holding free lives the Hokoten area in Harajuku. She was too young to go watch them back then in the early 90s, but the scenes on TV caught her eye. Since then, she has loved the passion of VK music and, of course, music in general. She majored in English literature in Japan and learned to speak English in the UK. After graduating from university, she has worked for both American and Japanese companies in IT and as a translator and continues various translations today.

Mio Nagasaki is a freelance photographer lending her time, skills, and love for the genre to ROKKYUU Magazine.

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Your Comments

  1. feila

    OMG Thank you so much for this report! I really wish I was there…
    Great report, great photos, my favourite is the one with him jumping high!
    Thank you, again~

    • Chika.Yoshizawa
      Chika Yoshizawa

      I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article and photos!
      Thank you very much!