V-ROCK FESTIVAL 2011: Best Stage Presence
All photographs courtesy of V-ROCK FESTIVAL '11.
Best Stage Presence: Michael Monroe
When Finnish performer Michael Monroe came out wearing a techno-electronic visor to a soundtrack suitable for a Western, it was hard to tell just what Saitama Super Arena was in for. What we got was a devil-may-care classic rock performance that showed the band’s years of experience and unexpectedly boundless energy. Monroe played a saxophone, strutted the stage, and threw his mic stand while the bass and guitar kept rocking like it was the ‘80s all over again. “Motervation,” with its hint of steel guitar twang and hard-hitting instrumentals, was a highlight of the set, while “Hammersmith Palais” was rhythmic and growling with the stage lights flashing “XXX” in true rock and roll spirit.
It was unfortunate that despite being on the main stage, the turnout for Michael Monroe was lackluster (though the fans who did show up made up for it with enthusiasm) which can only be expected when your most famous project disbanded before most of the attendees were born. Those who skipped out missed a rare chance to see a rock legend in Japan: the band had a charisma that filled the arena, and whether you were enjoying them for the energy or for the nostalgia, they were totally cool. Of course, half the bands performing in the event were more excited about this set than their own!
Nobody does cool like Italians, and DNR are no exception. Nobody really knew what to expect of this Euro-visual band playing parallel to GACKT’s act, Yellow Fried Chickens, and the stage-front was sadly empty for the most part, but as the set wore on, the crowd increased in a steady flow. It could have been anything from Axia’s pure-rock vocals and staging, to the famed Yellow Hearts guitar, copied from hide’s original, to the stoic gaze of keyboardist Seba whose activities in Japan have been drawing attention to the band.
“This is our last song, Tokyo, and we want to dedicate it to you all because Japan is the home of V-rock’n’roll,” announced Axia, bringing in the exciting final number, “Rock Princess.” As the band shouted “Go! Go! Rock princess!” the crowd followed suit, pumping fists to accent the rockin’ tune. The utterly cool aura of the band was broken only at the last minute when the mic was handed off to Seba who greeted the crowd in Japanese, “We’re DNR but… I think you already heard that,” and shrieks of “CUTE!” pierced the air.
Honorable mention goes to Born for keeping it cool in vinyl parkers with a hot stage ready for the rain.