LIPHLICH’s 2-day one-man in Tokyo, 07022014-08022014

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Why are LIPHLICH not bigger yet than they are now?

That is one big question that will be in anyone’s head after watching their live performances.  Known for their explosive and regularly surprising performances, LIPHLICH hold 2-day one-man gigs in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.  ReKon attended both days in Tokyo, and we didn’t regret it at all, although for the second day live we had to walk through slippery streets and heavy snowfall to get to Takadanobaba AREA, where the lives were held.  But let’s start with the first day, titled Kireinaru En’en

Takadanobaba AREA is a live house with a semi-legendary status, if not legendary, situated not far from the Waseda exit of Takadanobaba station (part of the Yamanote line/Tozai line).  The show hall consists of three tiers – usually two for the audience, while the third tier is for the engineers, goods stand, and guests.  Some fans might be allowed to stand on this third tier too.

The first day began some minutes past 7 pm; the curtain was drawn to a side, and one by one LIPHLICH members came to the stage, wearing their latest costumes.  They began their set with their new single HURRAH HURRAY – and somehow the fans, called Wendys, already knew the movements to the song.  If you have listened to or watch the PV for the song, you must know that a word got censored.  You might have been able to guess what the word is, but watching it performed live, somehow it felt like a revelation to watch singer Kuga Shingo shouted, “I fuck visual!”

The song was followed by a string of their older songs, Bokura no tsukaisute ongaku, KNOCK BLACK DOG JOKE, BABEL, and Guru guru jikoui, which enticed fans to headbang massively.  In some other VK bands’ lives, usually between songs, fans will keep quiet, and only on some cue – perhaps a headstart by the saizen fans – will they start shouting or menko-ing (calling names of band members).  But if you are among LIPHLICH fans, you are free to clap your hands or shout appreciatively inbetween songs.  It is also not unusual to hear fans shout or scream, albeit in a muffled way, when something very interesting happens onstage during a song.  Sometimes the appreciation shown by fans even surprised Kuga, who did not expect handclaps in some occasions.

The three instrument-playing members are all powerhouses: Maruyama Eiki and his thundering drums, Shindou Wataru who sports a 7-string bass with such grace as if the instrument has no weight, and Arai Takayuki (Takky to his friends, Arai-san to his fans) who always looks so energetic and happy when he’s playing guitar.  (In one instore, Arai told ReKon that he loves guitar so much that he plays it every day at home – if you think this is not an unusual remark for a guitarist, we should note that Arai said this in English.  Kuga and Arai can speak a bit of English with fans if they don’t happen to be good in Japanese.)  Arai also often provided comic relief, being the bundle of sunshine he is.  He made the audience laugh by imitating the way Wataru talked on stage.

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On the first day, LIPHLICH also performed the two songs in HURRAH HURRAY CD, Piropo (which was really fun when performed live) and the jazzy Nouri no doro, during which Wataru changed his bass for a contrabass.  A bit surprising but LIPHLICH left out Miss Luminous, which is one of their most representative  songs up to date, perhaps for reasons of keeping the flow of the whole set.

Kuga showed what a frontman he was through the whole gig – exuding a sexy masculine charm with a touch of feminine aspect (and we are not talking about the make-up).  Even when he just stood on the platform with one hand on his hip, his presence was compelling – it’s hard not to look at him.  Either leading the audience to dance during their ‘disco number’ Fiddle-De-Dee or counting in Federico 9, or singing or shouting or screaming (Kuga does not growl), or licking the microphone wire, with sweat flowing down his face, Kuga simply stunned.  He seemed to honestly enjoy what he was doing – he couldn’t stop smiling.  Sometimes he just fell to the floor, or lied on the platform, displaying his long legs.  His voice especially shone during the closing song of the main set, Kodai ni sasagu, when he sang to a background of minimal music.

LIPHLICH disappeared to the backstage for quite a long time, as if not heeding their fans’ plea for them to return for an encore.  But then when they did appear again, fans came to understand what took them so long: they changed their HURRAH HURRAY costumes with black suits, white shirts, and glasses.  This, of course, made fangirls scream.  Intro to GLORIA BAMBOO was heard, and members of LIPHLICH took turn leading the audience to shout ‘G, O, GLORIA, B-B-BAMBOO oh yeah!’ many times before they finally really launched the song.  Kuga, looking really excited and happy, dragged Arai, who was doing a solo, from his usual position on the stage and half-threw him up the platform to become the center of attention of the audience.  The glorious night ended with MANIC PIXIE – always a great song to get crazy to.  Kuga took off his tie and threw it to the audience – one lucky fan is perhaps sleeping next to it right now.  Lastly, the four members of LIPHLICH stood together holding hands, then bowed to the audience as a sign of gratitude before calling it a day.

With such a great performance on the first day, what was left for the second day, Kirenairu Kaibun?  As if to make the question harder, the second day was shadowed by a disaster: Nature decided that 2014, February 8th should be the day when Tokyo received its greatest snowfall in the last 20 years or so.  Roads were blocked, snow piled up quite high, many trains were delayed or even stopped operating.  Some bands like UNiTE postponed their events that day for reasons of safety.  But through Twitter LIPHLICH said their gig was still a go, so ReKon went once again to Takadanobaba AREA.

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We still did not know anything about what LIPHLICH was going to serve for us that day.  Would they just play a different setlist, because there were still many of their songs that hadn’t been performed?  Would it be worth all the efforts of half-sliding on icy streets to get to this place, with the risk of not being able to go home should all trains stop while we were inside the live house?  To make thing short, LIPHLICH did not disappoint at all, and ReKon was in for one of the greatest treats in our (alas, still short) livehouse-hopping career.

The black curtain was drawn aside, to reveal LIPHLICH members sitting on chairs, on a stage decorated like mansions you might have seen in horror movies—if you are a LIPHLICH fan, of course you’d automatically connect the setting with Maslow Mansion, with Kuga perhaps acting as the manager or owner of the mansion.  All members were wearing outfits that drew inspiration from Victorian costumes; Kuga adding final touches in the form of a top hat and white gloves.  Wataru stood supporting his contrabass, while Arai, putting on a serious face, sat with his acoustic guitar on his lap.  Maslow Mansion, with a new jazzy arrangement, opened the session.  While the rock version is a sure command for energetic movements by Wendys, the jazz version kept them silent, enjoying both the song and the atmosphere LIPHLICH was building up.

Maslow Mansion was followed by It’s a good day to anger, the fiery anger in the song turned into funky grooves.    And it’s difficult to describe the beauty of what they performed next: River West, that somehow got smoothly transferred into the acoustic realm, with Arai’s acoustic guitar replacing the sounds of electric guitars in the original recording.  Another jazzy rendering – this time of My Name Was, now felt so laid back   brought the first session to a close.  LIPHLICH asked the audience to wait for a while before the next session began.

A while turned out to be quite long, but again it’s worth the wait.  As soon as the curtain was again drawn to the side, Eiki hopped to the stage, wearing black WWII-military uniform-inspired outfit with red armband, followed by Arai and Wataru who wore similar costumes.  Wataru let his long black hair flow freely that day, and took the time to pretend to be a real military officer.  Each time a member showed up, fans screamed, and the screams got even louder when finally Kuga himself stepped on to the stage, with hair combed back.

If anyone thought nothing that night could top the opening jazz session, LIPHLICH proved that they were wrong.  If on the first day they were amazing, on the second day they were insanely amazing.  As an appetizer for the next session, they played an extended version of MANIC PIXIE for perhaps 20 minutes – pumping up Wendys’ energy to the max.  It felt like they just would not stop taking turn to lead fans to shout “Hey hey hey hey hey!”  At one point Arai took off his guitar and handed it to a roadie so he could hold the microphone on the center platform to lead the yells.  Surprisingly Kuga walked to the roadie and asked for Arai’s guitar – so here’s another bonus for the night’s attendance, Kuga playing guitar!  When finally MANIC PIXIE ended, LIPHLICH’s members were already sweating all over, but now their usual wide smiles – hidden away during the first session – were on full display.  They looked so satisfied and happy.

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But of course the night did not stop there.  Songs after songs followed; some of them were the same with the songs in the previous night’s setlist, but performed with more vigour and raw emotion tonight.  LIPHLICH gave out the best they could – it was a dangerously delicious sight, watching the four guys performing almost hitting their limits.  Arai’s eyeliner melted into black tears, smearing down his face.  Kuga did not even care anymore that his hair was now a mess, that his belt kept on coming off (Arai’s belt too came off and he decided to completely took it off and threw it behind).  At one point, Kuga fell to the floor and panted, asking the audience to wait and give him a break for 5 counts.  Wendys laughingly didn’t put mercy on him; they really counted, “1… 2… 3…” but before they finished saying four, Kuga was already on his feet again, ready for the next song.

More on Kuga, because we think this fantastic performer deserves a lot more mention: he clearly loved singing and performing, and he looked to be very proud of and happy with his band members.  Each time another member was doing a solo part, he would look at them lovingly; he’s their admirer.  When in one song he was standing with Wataru on the center platform and landed a kiss on the bassist’s cheek, we did not think it was fanservice (although of course it made some fangirls scream).  It was more like the result of raw emotions exploding.  And when Kuga also played guitar in John & Jane Doe and Merry ga kirau no gogo kane, it added to both his personal sexiness and the fun noisy level of the band’s music.  He’s clearly one of the best vocalists in the scene right now.

HURRAH HURRAY was now put at the end of the main set, and today the shouts for encore were even louder than the previous day, a sign that the audience too was truly moved by the fiery energy LIPHLICH radiated.  Suddenly from behind the still closed curtain, the intro to A good day to anger was heard, and so was the whispering voice of a man, ‘Here we count down, tick-tock tick-tock.’ (The line is supposed to be near the end of the recorded version of the song.)  The stage was revealed, and again fans screamed to see the surprise waiting for them: all LIPHLICH’s members already stood on stage, but with Eiki singing (and wearing glasses), Wataru playing guitar, Kuga taking care of Wataru’s 7-string bass, and Arai behind the drumkit!  And here’s a thing about LIPHLICH: even when they changed positions, LIPHLICH was still amazing.  You would think that Arai’s original position was indeed a drummer!  And even when Eiki could not sing as good as Kuga (Kuga had to help him with some lines when Eiki seemed to run out of breath or forget the words a bit), he did quite well.  Although after he finished singing and walked back to his drumkit, laughingly Kuga showed his lyrics sheet to the audience…

They were back with their original weapon of choice, and they still had two songs to serve to their fans tonight: old favourite VESSEL and, once again, MANIC PIXIE.  Fans didn’t seem to mind at all to again swing their hands and arms around, and LIPHLICH too let forth all that they had.  It all got too hot even for Kuga, who eventually took off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt.  When it’s all finally, truly over, everyone was spent, panting, but all had a wide satisfied smile on their faces.  Eiki, though, was really emotional and looking half crying; he somehow lost all his strength; Kuga came over to him, laughingly lending a hand, and Eiki had to hold on to his band’s vocalist to be able to walk to the front.  Seeing this, worried fans called his name, cheering him up, “Eiki! Eiki!”

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To thunderous hand claps, LIPHLICH bowed deep.  One by one they said thank you and left the stage; Eiki being the last, sitting through the whole time his friends expressing their gratitude.  But at the end, he stood up, walked on to the platform and shouted a loud “Thank you!”

LIPHLICH may not be the biggest players (yet) in visual kei scene nowadays, but this is something that we believe: greatest does not equal biggest.  LIPHLICH are truly a unique, powerful force in the world of visual kei; a must to be put in your list if you plan to visit Japan and watch some visual kei acts.  Theirs is music that has not limited itself in a fixed genre; an honest, unpretentious voice worth listening to.

LIPHLICH first day (07022014) setlist

  1. HURRAH HURRAY
  2. Bokura no tsukaisute ongaku
  3. KNOCK BLACK DOG JOKE
  4. BABEL
  5. Guru guru jikoui
  6. HENPIG
  7. My Name Was
  8. Nouri no doro
  9. Daikeikaku
  10. Piropo
  11. Negusame ni BET
  12. Fiddle-De-Dee
  13. FULL COURSE wa sakasa kara
  14. Houchou no DELICATESSEN
  15. Maslow Mansion
  16. It’s a good day to anger
  17. Federico 9
  18. Kodai ni sasagu

Encore

  1. GLORIA BAMBOO
  2. MANIC PIXIE

LIPHLICH second day (08022014) setlist

  1. Maslow Mansion
  2. It’s a good day to anger
  3. River West
  4. My Name Was
  5. MANIC PIXIE
  6. HENPIG
  7. Midarabi
  8. John & Jane Doe
  9. Merry ga kirau gogo no kane
  10. Room612
  11. Yumemiru hoshikuzu
  12. Federico 9
  13. My Name Was
  14. GLORIA BAMBOO
  15. HURRAH HURRAY

Encore

  1. It’s a good day to anger
  2. VESSEL
  3. MANIC PIXIE
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