There was something heavy, unseen, hanging in the air that 2014 January 12th evening in Shibuya WWW. It was supposed to be the finale of their tour (Code of Resistance), and usually the finale is something fans wait for, for its grandness as the closing gig. But there’s another reason to anticipate that day’s one-man—titled FINAL CODE—which was it would also mark the end of a chapter in ALSDEAD’s career as a band: after the one-man gig, the drummer that had been with them from the beginning would leave the band. Fans who came of course knew this; they were expecting it like an inevitable ending of the dream they were in.
WWW itself was a nice venue. Situated next to Spainzaka with its ‘Spanish stairs’ and shared a building with an art cinema, WWW was perhaps the best small-sized live halls RekON had ever been to in Tokyo. It was stylish despite its rather bare modern-styled interior with unpainted walls, and it was completely equipped for guests’ convenience. The show hall was divided into four tiers for the audience; although it was an all-standing hall, audience standing on different tiers can have a good view to the stage. It was a place that promised an unforgettable experience for the audience—a fitting place for a gig that everyone wanted to be unforgettable.
And the man for whom it would be the last gig entered the stage first, ahead of his friends: drummer Setsua, wearing the new stage outfit, for his first and last time. He was followed by guitarist Shin with his new, fresh-looking hairdo, bassist Yosuke, and singer Maki, his eyes looking sharply to the audience.
Not known for slow-paced songs, ALSDEAD opened their set with Faceless Believer followed by the single Puzzle. They then played song after song almost without gap, without saying anything. There was this moment of fear in RekON’s heart when we didn’t notice any meaningful exchange between Setsua and the other members. It was as if they just played and played, facing forward, the other three didn’t look at their drummer even once, except for Yosuke who several times turned his body towards Setsua. But even when he did, there was no exchange of glance or smile between them. RekON wondered whether there was something wrong going on. The question was still Why did Setsua decide to go? The announcement of his decision had felt rather sudden for us who had no ‘backstage’ access to know about what really happened.
We later felt relieved because what we feared of didn’t seem to be true. Maybe at the beginning of the gig, they were just too concentrating on getting it going. Maybe for them too at first it was difficult to accept that it was going to be their last gig with Setsua—so what they could do was just keeping it going, somehow. But when finally Maki talked, asked the audience not to forget this moment, and promised a long gig, somehow the atmosphere melted and became more and more emotional as time went on.
True to his character, Yosuke cheerfully kept the rhythm, often helping Maki leading the yells. He was very active, either jumping or swaying on his own spot, or running here and there, sometimes exchanging places with Shin. While Shin, an almost perfect opposite to Yosuke, played his guitar calmly, sometimes did not seem to care about anything except how his fingers moved on his guitar. But sometimes, he gave cute fanservice to fans, like this one time when he just squatted on the central platform with a hand supporting his chin, while Maki was away on Yosuke’s spot while the bassist was standing on Shin’s original position.
But the main focus that night was of course Setsua, who was clearly giving his all. He had already been one of the best and most powerful drummers in visual kei. That evening, it was justified to think that he was the best and most powerful. Whatever was going in his heart, he often cracked a smile behind his drum kit, looking to be thoroughly enjoying the performance. Somehow it all made things even sadder, with the knowledge of the soon-to-happen departure.
But of course the gig that evening was not all about melancholy. It seemed like ALSDEAD had decided to make the audience remember the gig not only because of the sadness they would forever associate it with, but also because it was very fun. An example of the superfun moments was when Yosuke and Shin put their instruments down, held a towel each, and lead the furi while Setsua shouted instructions. Yosuke made silly movements like aerobics—that nobody followed, of course.
Some of the most impressive moments happened during Peggy-O, itself one of the most-waited song in ALSDEAD’s gigs. Yosuke and Shin approached Setsua and his drum kit and played facing him. After that, they both moved to Maki’s sides. While continuing singing, Maki put one of his arms around Yosuke’s shoulder.
Then, when it’s usually Yosuke’s time to talk and lead the shouts, he said a happy new year to the fans and also thanks for remembering his birthday. Then he moved to the back, and took Setsua’s drumsticks from his hands, one by one. Yosuke continued the drumming (despite, of course, not as good as the original drummer), while Setsua stood up and moved to the front. As he passed Maki, the singer offered him his mic, but Setsua chose to use Yosuke’s mic instead. A small, laughable accident occurred though—Setsua bumped his head to Yosuke’s mic stand which was as tall as his head. Half-laughing, Setsua pushed it away. Setsua then lead the audience to shout ‘ALSER!’ instead of ‘Peggy-O!’ to Yosuke’s drumming. It must be an indescribable feeling for fans, shouting the name they were dearly called with by their favourite band.
Setsua then returned to the drums, and again showed us why he was the drummer: the sounds he produced with his drum kit were just thundering. Yosuke also reclaimed his position and proceeded to again lead the shouts, but now the audience was confused whether to shout ‘ALSER’ or ‘Peggy-O’. Maki told him to make it clear what to shout—and the answer was ‘Peggy-O’. So that’s what fans shouted at the top of their lungs again.
During the main set, ALSDEAD performed their well-loved songs like Snow (RekON’s personal favourite, delicately beautiful both on record and live), Hacktivism, FLASHBACK, and many more. As soon as the main set was closed with Saigo no uso, fans shouted for encore. ALSDEAD returned, wearing the new band T-shirts. Maki and Yosuke wore the grey ones, while Shin and Setsua wore the black ones. (Maki later commented on how the T-shirt Setsua was wearing was too small for him.) The band launched one of their most representative songs up to date, IN BLOOM, followed by Fragile. After the two songs, Maki, Yosuke, and Shin disappeared from stage and let Setsua did his drum solo—his last for the band.
And Setsua gave his all! It was a long drum solo, and he banged so powerfully like a madman. His expression was difficult to decribe: it was so many things at once—there were anger, sorrow, enjoyment, so many things—and somehow it too was reflected in the sounds he produced. Some fans began crying. When the audience thought Setsua had finished and began to handclap, he stood up, walked around his drum kit, and hit the instruments one by one with his drumsticks. He even punched one of the cymbals with his bare hand! It was clear to see that he was really emotional. God only knows what’s going on inside his head at that time, getting ready to leave not just a band but friends that he had been with for years.
His friends returned to stage, while audience clapped their hands and called “Secchan! Secchan!”. Maki too looked very emotional now, and RekON thought we were not just imagining things when we saw how his eyes glistened, perhaps with tears he was holding back, when he said that it’s Setsua’s last drum solo. Some people in the audience could not help sobbing outloud. Setsua was laughing now though, showing the hand that he used to punch his cymbal. It’s now red, and probably painful. Inbetween breaths, Maki said “Please enjoy until the end. Please listen to us.” They then launched FLIGHT, a song very fitting for the moment.
When they had gone through the whole setlist, Yosuke & Maki went to backstage. Shin stayed on stage, while Setsua was still sitting behind his drum kit, maybe as part of the tradition as the one who would leave the last, just as he was the one to enter the first. Maki silently appeared again with a flower bouquet. It looked like it was a surprise, because he squatted hugging the bouquet so Setsua couldn’t see, while throwing a meaningful glance to the audience. Setsua smiled widely when Maki handed the bouquet, as Yosuke and Shin watched. Setsua was also given a shirt signed by fans. Maki hugged Setsua; Yosuke then hugged him too, but as usual he overdid it, and he fell to the floor. Setsua asked all ALSERs to keep supporting ALSDEAD, and Maki then asked audience to hold hands together. At Setsua’s ‘sei no!’ everyone jumped together. Lights were back on, and accompanied by handclaps, ALSDEAD left the stage. But the audience was not satisfied. Staff stood helplessly watching the audience that wouldn’t leave the hall although the exit doors now stood ajar. They kept shouting for encore—they just didn’t want the era of ALSDEAD as a four-man band to end yet.
RekON looked to the upper tiers and saw a (almost?) blind man shouting outloud with other fans, asking for more encore. This is what being a musician should mean, RekON thought; to touch with your music the hearts of everyone who can listen, even those who are not gifted with sight to judge you based on more than your music. ALSDEAD clearly had done that; had moved the fan so much that he decided to pull his efforts to come to that half-hidden live hall in busy Shibuya.
Finally, alone Maki returned to the stage, thanking the fans but apologizing for not being able to provide another encore. After saying “Let’s meet again,” he once again, for real, left the stage, his eyes to the audience, waving nonstop until the audience could see him no more. With a sigh, the audience let reality hit them and they began leaving the hall—they will most probably see ALSDEAD again soon, but of course it will be different.
There will be no Setsua.
We wish both Setsua and ALSDEAD success in the different paths they have chosen.
Setlist: ALSDEAD’s FINAL CODE 12012014
13.Into The Void
14.Life Of Sorrow
20.Saigo no uso