XXX’mas with Orochi and Yamamoto Super Session!
“This is a three-piece band from Sapporo,” santa-girl costumed emcee Natsuki Fujiwara announced as the members took the stage. At first glance they seemed very gothic, coming in dressed in black with very little makeup, and their three pieces consisted bassist SHOGO, guitarist RYOJI, and drummer SHUJI, with no vocalist to be found. The introduction music was heavy, perfectly timed for headbanging with a sharp clapping sound. Though the look was simple, the sound was very visual, answering the question What happens when you take the long instrumentals of bands like X JAPAN to the logical conclusion? You get songs comprised entirely of bass riffs, guitar lines, and drum rolls that work in the context of songs but become repetitive when that’s all there is. GYZE is a young band, and said in their emcee they’d like to be more active this year. Though not yet polished, they seem to be heading in the right direction.
The emcee returned to announce the next band, whose appeal point is their muscular drummer. Mikage turned out to be another three-piece rock act with bassist, drummer, and masked guitarist-vocalist whose goatee and hairstyle made him resemble a Japanese Johnny Depp.
“Today Yamaoto came to our rehearsal: he said it was good, so I guess we’re okay” they said, clearly pleased at the rock legend’s approval.
Areas opened with an announcement that there was band crossover–Orochi’s ex-guitarist was now a member of pop-rock act Areas. The casual clothing was no doubt a big change for the guitarist, but the music was solid and engaged the crowd. The band really showed their personality in “Tatoeba Sekai ga Owaru Made,” playing with big grins and bouncing movement. “Merry Christmas!” vocalist Ryu announced. “This is our first time at cyber and we’re welcoming Kimura Yuuichiro from Orochi! Please support the new Kimura-kun.”
The next band was XIE (pronounced “shy”), a ten-member band who rarely appears with a full lineup. Even with only six members in attendance, Cyber’s stage seemed overly crowded and the bassist was almost hidden in the wings, but the group put a lot of power into the performance. “Thanks, see you next year!” Vocalist Aoi waved as the eccentric and enjoyable band left the stage.
“Next is Samurai Visual Rock Band Orochi! They’re dressed even more outlandishly than me!” Fujiwara announced.
The set opened with Lord USHI-WAKA standing on the platform singing the opening of “Phoenix” a capella before all the members joined in for heavy headbanging beats as the vocalist chanted hypnotically. His dark makeup matched the feel of the opening number as the other members took turns to point at the audience and take a turn on the platform, playing heavily.
“Who wants a glow bracelet?” Lord USHI-WAKA offered, handing colored bracelets out to the crowd. “One by one now, pass them to the back. We can’t do it if you’re slow.” Fans put on the bracelets and raised their arms in the air as they waved to the slow opening rhythm of “Profusion of Flowers.” The measured pace gave way to snappy drumming and jumping, Yuki-mura spinning and jamming with his guitar as the bassist took the front of the stage. Lord USHI-WAKA sang out over heavy cymbals as the band set into a final round of headbanging with flashing strobes.
Lord USHI-WAKA then held his hands in a position of Buddhist prayer, singing in a high voice while leaning on Yuki-mura as the support guitarist encouraged fans to bark and throw themselves at the stage. Lord USHI-WAKA then pulled out a katana (thankfully fake) and proceeded to run through a series of deliberate movements with the blade in time to the music of “Hannya-Invisible Demon.”
Soft guitar from Yuki-mura and a twinkling disco ball set the mood for “SAKURA.” Lord USHI-WAKA pulled out his dragon flute and played for the ballad number and the audience held Japanese-style fans that they lifted and lowered with the beat, accented with Japanese chimes.
For the final song, “Sun of Empire,” the audience was treated to bubbles blowing across the live house, and fans waved their arms, occasionally catching and popping the bubbles. The nicely paced song was a solid end to the set, with the band showing full energy until the very last.
Yamamoto Super Session
The final act was the Yamamoto Super Session, led by Japanese rock legend Kyouji Yamamoto. Bassist Shotaro and drummer Glico rounded out his group. The first song opened to applause as the curtain drew back to reveal Yamamoto all in tiger stripes. He played with a groovy sound as the three jammed together, and it was impressive how just three people could have such huge stage presence.
The second song had an almost Western feel with the bass purposefully restrained as the skillful guitarist put the instrument through its paces. The song picked up a more complex and heavy beat with the drummer setting the tone, and the bass became a nice complement to the plucked guitar chords. The three played off of each other so well it was hard to believe it wasn’t rehearsed.
“I saw the whole rehearsal. Young bands are so good! Have the number of good bands really increased that much?” Yamamoto praised his companions for the days’ event.
The third song was a ‘70s acid trip with trance waves of guitar and a wavering echo to Yamamoto’s voice, the epitome of classic rock. The fans were entranced as he worked the instrument, making almost cello sounds, then a wild shriek like a haunted house soundtrack. He hit the guitar’s neck, using all parts of instrument to create wild sound before the song came to a close.
“Maybe they know B’z?” Yamamoto suggested, offhandedly citing one of the most notable bands in the Japanese scene. “Everyone here is so young they have no idea what we’ve done!” He started playing the James Bond theme, to which Shotaro countered with the theme of Ultraman.
“Any suggestions from the audience?” The crowd conferred before deciding they wanted to hear something really classic: a song from a project three decades ago where Yamamoto and Shotaro collaborated. After some hesitation, the group agreed to try, and when they got started you wouldn’t have been able to tell there had been a question of could they do it at all. The sound was solid rock, Shotaro especially enjoying himself, but the fans were most excited of all, no doubt thrilled to be hearing a song they’d never thought they’d hear live again.
Time was running over, but the band wasn’t ready to give up the stage. Shotaro skillfully took the lead for another ‘70s number, then ran his hand along the neck of the instrument prompting a shocking flare of fire. “We’ve gone over time, but we want to do one more!” The drummer picked up a jazzy upbeat tune: jump, jive, and wail with a rock twist! Shotaro sang the second verse as the audience clapped with hands overhead. They finished with a big jump together to wild applause.
Finally, all the members of all the bands crammed together for a big final group performance of “20th Century Boys,” all the while passing around beer and bouncing on and around each other as they sang with varying degrees of success.
There was one final surprise for the fans: because it was Christmas, they were giving away a guitar signed by all the members. The lucky winner was decided via a live house wide competition of rock, paper, scissors, and for her it was a merry Christmas indeed!
There are 37 photos in this visual kei exclusive.