PENICILLIN’s Birthday & Valentines Celebration

Live Report

by Diana Tome, posted April 4, 2012

NUCLEAR BANANA rocked Tokyo with over two hours of old school rock’n’roll and outrageous emcees as PENICILLIN celebrated Valentine’s Day and their 20th Anniversary at Shibuya O-EAST. The show was the tenth of thirteen for the band’s 20th anniversary monthly countdown series  though first of a two day special and centered on the 2001 hot album NUCLEAR BANANA.

Fashionably late, O-JIRO and Chisato made their entrance to the heavy electro beat of “nuclear fusion” as the crowd rushed to get closer to the stage. All hands in the air, the audience hailed the opening bass lines of “JULIET,” a loud roar welcoming HAKUEI to the stage. The fabulous guitar and funky beat got the crowd moving as HAKUEI coolly danced to the rhythm, the words leaving his lips in a sharp growl.

HAKUEI surprised everyone by wearing the outfit from the 2001 “Sei MARIAN HURRICANE,” and that was the song that followed. “I haven’t worn this outfit in quite a few years!” he later confessed. The crowd went wild, moving to the song as Chisato and HAKUEI twirled energetically. HAKUEI stunned the audience with his impeccable voice control which he later explained he had been working on during the recent tour. This earned him appreciative laughter, and again he proved his unfailing showmanship as he took a hold of the crowd.

A growled “Let’s go Shibuya!” drove fans into a frenzy for the recent hit “Rosetta.” The guitarist and bassist took the front while the crowd danced, hands in the air. Hair flew to the fast paced drums before the hall went still, a music box echo in the background. The song resumed with intensity, HAKUEI’s voice gaining a sharp edge to it as he pronounced “A-ishi-sugi-tai!” (want to be overloved) pausing between each syllable and spitting out the last in restrained anger. The catchy chorus and incredibly fast guitar solos certainly made this one of the show’s highlights and proved that old songs are not always better. The modern slant and experimental portions brought something new to the band’s already diverse repertoire.

A short emcee gave Chisato the opportunity to get rid of his heavy leather jacket. “Good afternoon! Welcome to our 20th anniversary countdown live!” HAKUEI exclaimed, keeping it cool. From there, the chat progressed to an appropriate topic for the occasion: age. “I started music when I was twenty… O-JIRO started when he was nineteen. We couldn’t even drink!” HAKUEI, who is well known for his love of booze, exclaimed with a grin. “Let’s ask our leader to say something,” he continued, turning to Chisato. Under the crowd’s enthusiastic shouts came the conclusion. “Despite 20 years, we are still young!”

BLACK HOLE” sent the hall into a spiral of sound. The groovy beat rose with energetic drums and fast guitars only to ease suddenly, as if all energy had been drained from it. Up and down the song went, gradually gaining fire as the vocals became more demanding. The singing turned into growls that combined perfectly with the strong, fast paced drums and the feisty guitar.

The sweet yet demanding “Limit complex” followed, the slow acoustic guitar adding intensity while HAKUEI exhibited not only stage presence as he adopted dramatic poses to match the lyrics, but also impeccable vocal ability. Chisato fired up the hall with his fast, passionate solos, smoothly moving from the acoustic guitar to the electric one. With the guitarist in the lead, PENICILLIN moved on to the ardent “CROSS HEART,” a slow duel between guitar and bass warmly welcomed by the crowd.

Red and green enveloped the hall for “Bonnie & Clyde,” the ardent intro getting the crowd swinging. The guitarist and bassist thrashed heads to the steady drum beat before the band’s leader took the hall on a fast guitar ride that indeed reflected the song’s title. “Are you having fun? There are many songs we are playing today that we haven’t played in a while,” HAKUEI noted. “When I heard us play ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ I thought, ‘Damn, we are cool!’” he proudly confessed, causing the crowd to laugh. Feigned shock to the fans’ reaction caused him to add, “You have to believe in your band!” What followed was a cute interaction between HAKUEI and Chisato that contrasted with their cool and unfazed attitude while playing.

In a relaxed atmosphere, PENICILLIN proceeded to the lulling ballad, “never more.” The song opened to a soft piano intro, HAKUEI’s voice very clear and strong throughout the piece. The ballads continued with “Hashire melody,” one of the night’s highlights. The sweet yet determined piece was accompanied by smooth bass and blazing guitar that materialized myriad emotions, HAKUEI’s voice doing the rest as he half sang, half cried out the verses.

The mood changed for “PARANOID,” red lights accompanying the funky guitars and headbanging. The crowd swayed to the hot beat, the drums steadily pushing through the impressive guitar and bass. “Dramatic” best described “Hi no tori” as HAKUEI adopted theatrical poses and commanded the crowd which swayed and thrashed heads to the beat. “Nuclear Banana has many songs, doesn’t it? And it has many ballads,” he noted, adding with a laugh, “they are easy to sing.”

Toumei ningen pulsar ~Youkai Keiji Series Part II~” got the crowd moving and singing to the soft rock beat before “Void” fired up. The show continued in heavy fashion to elaborate guitar and steady drums while the front man made full use of the stage, dramatically exaggerating each movement. Guitar and drums took the honors for “Hammer head,” Chisato helping with the death voice and plucking a feisty, vibrant tune that ignited the fuse. The catchy chorus was contagious and the crowd yelled and jumped, giving it their all.

With a yell, HAKUEI announced the last song. The crowd headbanged through “Inazuma” while the band moved around tirelessly and O-JIRO pounded the drums hard with a beat that got the audience tossing heads violently. The song ended with Chisato on his knees and HAKUEI spitting water on the crowd.Not ready to go home yet, the audience immediately demanded an encore, shouting the words like a mantra.

Suddenly, the encore call was replaced by the crowd singing “Happy birthday dear PENICILLIN” over and over until the band returned. As the birthday song reached an end and the hall clapped, the band, obviously touched by the warm display, showed their love with the appropriately titled “Ai no uta” (Love song).

The warm ballad engulfed the hall, HAKUEI’s voice growing demanding as whispers turned into growls for the finale. The lights came up and a piano version of “Happy Birthday” echoed as a bear shaped strawberry cake was brought in. “Let’s all blow out the candles at the same time,” Chisato suggested as he faced the audience. Paying no attention to the suggestion, HAKUEI cut in and blew out the candles himself, Chisato giving him a stern look to the crowd’s amused laughter. Proving that age doesn’t mean much, HAKUEI kept up his antics, asking the roadie who came in to take the cake away, “Were you born 20 years ago?”

One by one they took the mic to thank the fans and nostalgically comment on their 20 years as a band. Support bassist HIROKI and keyboardist NAOMI also took the opportunity to congratulate PENICILLIN’s long and prosperous career. “Now from THIS mood,” HAKUEI added teasingly, noting the emotional atmosphere both on and offstage, “We will move on to a lively mood!” After a short instrumental intro, the air cleared with “orb.” Band and fans moved robustly to the tune. Suddenly, all stopped, giving HAKUEI time to slowly sip his beer. With a grin, the vocalist got back to work, growling and jumping to the fast drums. The song ended and PENICILLIN bid farewell, only to return one last time for the grand finale.

Casually, the band engaged in yet another hilarious emcee, with HAKUEI constantly teasing Chisato and his ever nostalgic speech while O-JIRO tried to ease both parties. With a vibrant “Let’s go!” they dove into “BVB.” The audience pumped fists while the members sang a verse each in a song that brought the hall together for an explosive ending. “I thought we would be doing this for ten years yet it’s been twenty!” HAKUEI exclaimed. “If we go on with this feeling we have here today, we will be here forever, a safe place you can always return to!” Between claps and cheers, O-JIRO and Chisato brought the song home, band and fans joining voices as they counted down from twenty. PENICILLIN left the stage to bows and waves.

It was a memorable show that testifies PENICILLIN as one of the most successful bands in the visual kei scene, still rocking after twenty years on the road. As the band pointed during the show, “It’s not an easy task. It takes a lot of hard work to make a band continue for such a long time,” but after such a show, one thing was clear: It is definitely worth it! Stay tuned for more daring rock stories as we hope to see the band through their thirtieth and even fortieth anniversaries! Check out the gallery for photos from the second day of Valentines celebrations.

Set List

Opening:  nuclear fusion

  3. Rosetta
  5. Limit complex
  7. Bonnie & Clyde
  8. never more
  9. Hashire melody
  11. Hi no tori
  12. Toumei ningen pulsar ~Youkai Keiji Series Part II~
  13. Void
  14. Hammer head
  15. Inazuma

Encore 1

  1. Ai no uta
  2. ~ Birthday Ceremony ~
  3. orb

Encore 2

  1. BVB

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.

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