The Music Box

Utada Hikaru, known by her stage name Utada in Europe and the U.S.,  returned to the U.S. recently to play a few performances. Utada is one of Japan’s best-selling artists, and I felt as though it would be a wasted opportunity not to see her when she was in town. Famous for songs in both English and Japanese, she attracted a crowd rather unlike anything I had ever seen outside The Fillmore. I got to the venue as doors were opening at 7 p.m., and it wasn’t until a good bit after 8 that the end of the line was finally ushered through the doors into the venue.

The crowd was varied – a lot more diverse than the crowd I see at most other concerts in this country given by Japanese artists. Utada even commented on it during her performance. However, the crowd was also a very polite one, very friendly and not at all rude or violent.

I had heard Utada’s music before the show, and to be honest hadn’t been blown away by it. It was good pop to me, but nothing above and beyond much of what I heard from a lot of other Japanese pop performers. However, Utada’s got great charisma and presence up on the stage, and her voice is dead on. Especially in a venue like The Fillmore, where the slightest hint of a pitchy tone by the artist seems to get magnified a thousand fold, it’s important to be right on. And Utada was.

Making quips in between songs, she commented to the crowd that the people up front that had waited since 2 a.m. out in front of the venue were “so crazy!” and even gave a brief Japanese thank you to her fans that had come all the way across the world to see her. She also commented that she noticed that as soon as she finished any performance, there were already videos of it up on YouTube. Utada also asked that we tweet and type nice things about her. I would have done that anyway, but just for her: Utada, you were fantastic. You’ve made me a real fan. You are also a true classy lady, and I hope you come back to New York soon. We love you!

Anyway, the crowd had a tremendous time, and I even managed to snap a few pictures of my own before the security made me check my camera — no pictures were allowed! (Oops! They didn’t tell me at the door, but the great security member that led me down to the coat check apologized, saying by the time they got to my section of the line, they seemed to have stopped saying anything.)

Official Website
Official MySpace

Here is Utada “in the flesh,” as it were:

IMG_0894 IMG_0895 IMG_0899 IMG_0901 IMG_0903 IMG_0911 IMG_0912


Okay, to start off my camera is officially dead. Which means that even though you can find two blurry cameraphone pictures that I tweeted last night over on my TwitPic, I’m not going to bother you with them here. I tried to turn it on at the show last night though and it beeped at me a lot and then just kind of … stopped functioning entirely. If someone wants to buy me a really late or really early Christmas present, that would be wonderful.

Last night was the first Dir en grey show I’ve been to in two years. I honestly haven’t been feeling their newer music (MARROW OF A BONE and UROBOROS were less than thrilling in my own opinion), so I’ve skipped out on their last few U.S. tours. However, they were doing three gigs in New York and people that I’ve known through the Internet for years, but still had never met in person were flying in for the week, so I decided to go to their last show down at The Gramercy Theatre last night.

The opening act for Dir en grey was a band called Suicide City. They were pretty cool, actually. They added me on MySpace a while back, but I had never seen them live before. Most of the other hardcore Dir en grey live show attendees seemed to know them too, so I take it they’re regular New York Dir en grey openers. They had great energy, and did a great job warming up the crowd for Dir en grey.

Dir en grey though – their concerts are still amazing. Even though I didn’t know any of their new music, I still had a great time at the show. To be honest I feel as though they were missing something that they used to have a few years ago, but they still just put so much into every song, and seem to have such a great time up there! They were smiling for most of the show, which was just great to see.

I was in a minidress and high-heeled boots, so I didn’t venture too far into the pit, but I left my usual concert post by the bar and went in for a bit to headbang and rock out with some of my friends.  It’s almost impossible not to just let go and kiss a stranger or headbang or just let loose a little at one of their concerts. I think that may be why their shows appeal to so many young people.

They also did a signing and meet & greet after the show – after all of the shows, actually – which I think is really great. I didn’t stick around, since to be honest it’s not really my “thing,” but such a level of accessibility from a band that sells out so many of their shows, and from a group of guys that are really so private, is wonderful to see.

01. Sa Bir
02. Obscure
03. Merciless Cult
04. Red Soil
05. Stuck Man
06. Agitated Screams of Maggots
07. Repetition of Hatred
08. The Deeper Vileness
09. Bugaboo
10. Toguro
11. Glass Skin
12. Inconvenient Ideal
13. Vinushka
14. Dozing Green
15. Reiketsu Nariseba

16. Amber
17. Kodou
18. Ugly
19. Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koto

NOTE: Please correct the setlist if there are any mistakes. I honestly snagged this off of since I was too busy having fun to record the setlist. And as I mentioned, I’m not familiar with their newer work, so I stopped trying after a while.

Suicide City’s Official Website
Suicide City’s Official MySpace
Dir en grey’s Official Website
Dir en grey’s Official MySpace

{8 November, 2009}   New Look

I updated the format of this blog. I think this is easier to read (I hope). I also updated the “About” and changed things around a little.

In terms of concerts coming up that I’ll be writing about, I only have two definite shows lined up so far:
2009.11.14 – Dir en grey @ The Gramercy Theatre (New York, U.S.A.)
2009.12.06 – Samy Deluxe & Tsunami Band Live @ Kampnagel K6 (Hamburg, Germany)

And have a Sunday video from one of my favorite  Japanese women, speaking of “New Look.” Happy Sunday!



Edit on 12 Nov.: More events added, along with an events page!



{14 September, 2009}   Miyavi

For some reason, I really wanted to go to Japan with this post. Maybe it’s because it’s the music scene I’m most comfortable with and it felt weird not having a post with a Japanese artist yet, I’m not sure. I was considering entirely different musicians though, to be honest. Then I logged onto Twitter and saw all the early birthday greetings and realized that this was the perfect musician to cover in this post. The artist I’m covering turns twenty-eight tomorrow – technically today in Japan.

Miyavi started out at the age of 18 in the visual kei band Dué le quartz with the stage name “Miyabi,” which means elegance. In typical visual kei fashion, his clothing and presentation straddled the line between masculine and feminine, and he definitely has more photographs from that era in skirts than he does in pants. After the band dissolved, he set out on his own, changing his name to Miyavi. His music and visual style changed significantly, and it took a very experimental almost punk turn. His indie albums Gagaku and Galyuu are definitely my favorites.

He signed with PS Company and eventually Universal Music Group in 2004, and his first major album was called Miyavizm. Many releases later, his appearance and musical style have changed considerably.  In 2007 Miyavi made his U.S. debut, and joined the Japanese superband S.K.I.N (Gackt, Yoshiki, Sugizo, and Miyavi).

Since then, he’s come back to the U.S. sporadically, as well as touring in Europe. In March of this year, he married the Japanese singer Melody, and in July their daughter Lovelie Miyavi Ishihara was born.

Now with that very brief background, enjoy his song Selfish Love. I love his guitar work in this song.

et cetera