MORRIE – Half Century Anniversary of Flesh

Live Report

by Diana Tome, Melissa Costa, posted April 23, 2014

Blue spots and smoke set the large stage in a ghostly hue as the crowd gathered inside the hall, chatting softly yet anxiously. The night promised to be special with not just one, but three big names in the line-up: MORRIE had invited SUGIZO and Kiyoharu to share the stage with him, and on his birthday no less. These three influential VK artists together—two whom were in turn influenced by tonight’s gracious host—ensnared the senses within Akasaka BLITZ, but tonight would mark one more sensational reunion. Fans of Visual Kei and 80’ies hard rock alike would get their wishes catered to.

Finally voices raised as the lights dimmed, shouting for “MORRIE!” before dipping into silence as the support musicians took the stage. Six of them would be backing up the solo artist and they formed a talented, diverse formation: next to drums, bass and guitar, a large synthesizer was flanked by violin and saxophone as well as tambourines, immediately creating an enchanting, ethnic sound as MORRIE took the stage and they opened with “Kanki e.” MORRIE’s characteristic vocals filled every inch of the hall, emitting an air of cool confidence as he sang from the stage’s dead-center. Soon however he’d leave his spot to dance around as second song “ICARUS” featured salsa-like rhythms, visually making contact with the other musicians to show his approval as they responded perfectly to each other.

Up till now, the crowd had shown an enthusiastic but composed response but as the intro to hit-song “PARADOX” followed up, fans raised their hands and clapped. MORRIE had taken up his Gibson guitar and coated the tasty song with his smooth voice while the female violinist and sax player backed him up vocally in the chorus. Fierce solos from both the guitarist and the young saxophonist proved there was definitely lots of talent present on the stage tonight, until MORRIE showed everyone how it was done with his own guitar-solo during “Saru no yume”. Jazz, Gothic Rock and Pop followed one another in a mix as versatile as MORRIE’s voice, powering up to its full potential for “Shisen no kairaku” which he sang hauntingly, crooning and lingering. Spreading his arms, he broadened his stance and revealed more of the pristine white blouse underneath his black coat, beautifully contrasting his long black hair and pale skin. Now handling a white guitar, MORRIE pulled the audience from their trance with the hard upbeat “Inu”, howling out the lyrics beneath the red and blue spots while the fans threw their fists.

Momentarily tempering the mood, MORRIE now brought forth a black acoustic guitar and performed several songs in a mesmerizing setting that proved less is more. “Riding The Night” began with only drums backing up MORRIE’s voice and guitar until violin and sax joined in to the hair-raising falsetto of the chorus, both instruments lilting and crying with him. Heavy musical breaks and more memorable vocal-solos through “Killing Me Beautiful” and especially “Unchained” kept the audience swooning yet on edge, gazing at their idol in silence until the groovy sound of “Stranger” invited them to dance with him instead. Visibly enjoying himself, MORRIE honored his surrounding musicians by highlighting an exhilarating bass-solo and doing jazz-vocal improvising to the sizzling sax. From the ghostly cacophony of “Hunt” to big band blazers, MORRIE then definitely brought out the sex-appeal for the searing “SEX setsudan,” strutting along the edge of the stage seductively with his blouse opened further.

The stage back to black, the ghostly echoes of violin and a woman’s voice ringing out into the hall, the audience whooped in anticipation as a new figure appeared from the darkness and silently picked up his own violin. A single spot then illuminated MORRIE in his white blouse and next to him the elusive SUGIZO, in similar fashion but all in black. As MORRIE sang and played his acoustic guitar, SUGIZO let his violin cry trembling, shredding notes, the silver instrument shrieking until the whole band joined in for this intense version of “Cosmos no naka ni.” Having shown off his skill on one instrument, SUGIZO next picked up his guitar while MORRIE put his away, giving himself all the freedom to dance to the groovy sax-intro of “Memai o aishite yume o miyo.” SUGIZO made his guitar howl and screech in his trademark fashion, throwing his own head back in rapture while MORRIE blatantly flirted with him and the audience, singing back to back with him sensually. Together they competed for the last note in their duet, MORRIE cooing and SUGIZO’s guitar growling, until the vocalist stepped back and loudly announced “SUGIZO!” to thank the man for his brief but stunning appearance. SUGIZO grinned as the two artists shared a hug, receiving the audience’s praise before leaving the stage.

After many songs in quick succession, MORRIE now took his time to thank the audience for coming to his anniversary event. Very soon however he introduced another of tonight’s special guests; the audience cried out when MORRIE called upon “Kiyoharu!” and the other vocalist sensually swaggered up the stage to join him, hiding his face beneath his red velvet hat. “Good evening. And happy birthday,” Kiyoharu bowed politely to his host but MORRIE waved his pleasantries away with a smile, appearing more eager to continue the show and without further ado, he announced “The Godsend.” Kiyoharu smirked in approval while he stalked around the stage as if he was reading his territory and his ‘rival’, before closing in again and commencing their vocal test of power.

With now two influential vocalists on the stage, the following duets were a real treat for both eyes and ears. Kiyoharu’s drawling, smoky yet velvety voice mixing with MORRIE’s ardent intonation showed their similarities in technique, making it a true feast for fans of both their works. The jazzy, sultry music fit perfectly to the mood and the two artists didn’t skip a beat while teasing and flirting with one another, much to the delight of the audience. Bass and piano turned the heat up even more during “Hakai shiyou” as MORRIE’s blouse-buttons had given way completely and the vocalist showed off his upper body, purring “Let’s go…” Clearly both men were experienced in visual entertainment, competing for the attention of the audience as well as the sax player as she was invited to the center for another marvelous solo. Finally MORRIE shouted out Kiyoharu’s name in gratitude too and the latter momentarily sank to his knees before him, reverently thanking his fellow artist and inspiration before leaving the stage with a skip.

Back on his own, yet far from alone as he was still surrounded by his talented musicians, MORRIE edged on the audience by shouting “Are you ready for more songs?!” and giving them what they asked for. The heavy “Nagame no ii anata” was followed by the irresistible pop-sound of “FARCE yo towa ni” and neither MORRIE’s voice nor body showed a single sign of fatigue. As silence fell, suddenly a single fan piped up with “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you-“ which was quickly picked up by the other fans but MORRIE merely smirked and said the next song would be the last, unlocking a loud ‘Awwww!’ from the hall. Unfazed, MORRIE and his band returned to the ethnic sound they had mastered while the stage bathed in dream-like colors, making “Kokodewanai dokoka” a truly hypnotic finish.

Once the stage emptied, encore-calls were swelling into full volume in no time at all and soon MORRIE re-appeared, seating himself before calling on his guests. Kiyoharu and SUGIZO joined and sat on either side of him, amused by how they were called forward (“Kiyo-chan… my mother calls me that,” Kiyoharu laughed) although SUGIZO excused himself from talking at all today.

Then MORRIE announced two more special guests and the audience cheered loudly when “CRAZY” COOL-JOE and YOU from DEAD END entered the stage and sat with their vocalist. “This is great, isn’t it?” MORRIE smiled as he looked around his collection of musicians. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. This is ‘HEAVEN.’” With SUGIZO and YOU on acoustic guitar and JOE on his remarkable bass, Kiyoharu opened the song with his velour voice until MORRIE and the violin joined in, turning this acoustic highlight into a most magical moment. Rising again, MORRIE gave his guests SUGIZO and Kiyoharu another firm hug and thanked them for tonight’s participation. Both artists left with deafening cheers while the DEAD END members remained, setting up their instruments and the crowd’s cries turned into a full roar once MORRIE announced the next song to be “CRASH 49”. Soon BLITZ was fully submerged in the inescapable sound of the 80’ies hard rock band and its unique vocalist. The fans rejoiced and threw their fists, showing their enthusiasm until the very end and JOE and YOU left the stage again, satisfied.

After honoring the DEAD END members, MORRIE did the same to his support musicians as he invited them back for the last songs, calling each one by their names. He announced the next song, “Yume utsutsu,” saying it was the first time he sang it since the come-back. Baffling everyone with his flawless vocals once more, MORRIE then let everyone in on his secret to a good life with a final sincere emcee. “When you feel like this, you know you’re alive, right? I think happiness is the meaning of life, and being able to make music and sing for this long is what forms my happiness. Because I do what I love.” Touched, the fans clapped and let themselves be swept away by the last song “Ato wa no to nare yama to nare,” forming a worthy finale as a final display of MORRIE’s talent and the skills of his musicians. All joined MORRIE’s side to bow gratefully to the audience together – until SUGIZO, Kiyoharu and YOU and JOE interrupted the moment by bringing a birthday cake on stage, candles lit. MORRIE grimaced, yet visibly pleased, he leaned towards the cake to blow out the candles. “… Well? Aren’t you going to sing for me now?” he joked as the fans stared in anticipation before bursting harmoniously into the Happy Birthday song. Smiling, MORRIE blew out the candles, celebrating his birthday with his fellow artists, friends and fans, being able to look back on a long and successful career while looking ahead to an exciting future.

Set list

  1. Kanki e
  2. ICARUS
  3. PARADOX
  4. Saru no yume
  5. PANIC no me
  6. Shisen no kairaku
  7. Inu
  8. Ano hito ni au
  9. Riding The Night
  10. Killing Me Beautiful
  11. Unchained
  12. Disquieting Muse
  13. Stranger
  14. Hunt
  15. SEX setsudan
  16. Cosmos no naka ni
  17. Memai o aishite yume o miyo
  18. The Godsend
  19. Hakai shiyou
  20. Nagame no ii anata
  21. FARCE yo towa ni
  22. Kokodewanai dokoka

Encore

  1. HEAVEN
  2. CRASH 49
  3. Yume Utsutsu
  4. Ato wa no to nare yama to nare

Diana Tome saw her life change when she came across X-Japan's Blue Blood. A big supporter of old school visual rock, she believes visual kei is a lifestyle and philosophy that goes beyond the clothing and the music. With a background in headhunting and psychotherapy, Diana completed her M.A. in Psychology from I.S.P.A. in Lisbon, Portugal. She now lives and works in Japan committed to keeping the VK/V-rock flame alive.

Melissa Costa began her visual kei adventure in 2005, but was already a fervent visitor of concerts in the local rock and metal scene since her early teens. Seeing many bands perform in both Europe and Japan became her dream occupation. Melissa is about to finish her B.A. in Japanese Studies at Leiden University of The Netherlands. Her passion for languages and writing made her want to pursue a journalistic career, and now she is in Tokyo to bring the heat of the live-houses to you.

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