By Sam Frank, an ALT who taught English in Hiraizumi-Cho, Iwate-ken, from 2002-04 and worked in Shirahama-cho, Wakayama-ken as a JET from 2004-06, for JQ magazine. He currently manages the New York division of UnRated magazine and works as a project manager/Web producer at Arrow Root Media.
A few years ago I went to the MTV Video Music Awards in Japan, and noticed something interesting. Whenever categories came up where American artists went against Japanese artists, nine out of ten times, the American would win, and not even be in attendance to accept the award. It seemed so unfair to compare American artists to their Japanese counterparts when you think about how many American bands have sold out stadiums in Tokyo while most Japanese bands that tour America have a hard time filling up mid-size venues such as Roseland Ballroom and Irving Plaza in Manhattan. That comparison doesn’t seem quite so unfair after watching L’Arc~en~Ciel (French for rainbow), a band formed in Osaka, cement its name in rock history as the first Japanese band to perform at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden on March 25.
In celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary making music together, hyde (lead vocals), tetsuya (bass), ken (guitar), and yukihiro (drums) have taken their dynamic visual spectacle around the globe to thank fans in true rock star fashion. The show got underway with an epic opening video displaying the band members’ names carved in platinum scrolling across the screen before showing a beautiful butterfly landing in Hyde’s glove-clad palm.
As the excited crowd eagerly waved their florescent glow sticks in anticipation, L’Arc~en~Ciel stormed the stage backed by the enchanting piano intro to “Ibara no Namida” (いばらの涙). The instant the spotlight dropped on hyde, the Garden erupted into a surge of screams and cheers for the international superstar. Juxtaposing band members with various computer generated ethereal images, songs like “Good Luck My Way,” the theme song to 2011′s FullMetal Alchemist The Movie: The Sacred Star of Milos, “My Heart Draws a Dream,” and “Honey” all came to life in a fresh and exciting way. The visual narratives added another level of interactivity to each song, which is why concertgoers who might not be familiar with songs like 1999′s “Driver’s High” will remember it as the song that opened with a revving engine sound, pyrotechnics, and images of white smoke spreading across the three gigantic LED screens.
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