GLAY EXPO: it has been 10 years since the last EXPO was held, back in 2004. It was only apt that this year, in their twentieth year together as a band, GLAY again held the EXPO. And this time there was a special mission: to show support to the tsunami-stricken areas in Tohoku (Japan’s north-east). On two days, September 19th and 20th, fans poured to the capital of Miyagi prefecture, Sendai, to witness the long-awaited EXPO. Hotels were fully booked, people from other areas in Japan were seen dragging their suitcases on the streets of the peaceful town.
The sold-out EXPO itself was held in Hitomebore Stadium (also simply known as Miyagi Stadium). The closest station was Rifu on JR line, but it still took tens of minutes to reach the place on foot. Alternatively, fans could pre-book shuttle buses from Rifu, Sendai, or Izumi-chuo stations, or just hire a taxi to go to the stadium.
As the name indicates, the EXPO is not only about GLAY having a concert. There were also a temporary museum (which, due to limited time and high demand for access, we unfortunately could not visit), activities, and food stalls, showcasing local foods from various areas in Tohoku. The area around was green with grasses and trees, and it changed into a giant picnic field of people merry-making. It was a grand party for all GLAY’s fans, the Happy Swings. The main excitement was of course the concert itself.
The doors to the stadium were opened two and a half hours before the concert started. Not only to make sure that everyone had ample time to enter, the time was also used as a chance for traditional performing art groups from Tohoku areas to perform. Fans then got a chance to learn about the traditional music, dances, and festivals from Tohoku. GLAY was not only paying a lip-service when they dedicated the EXPO for the people of Tohoku. No wonder banners saying ‘THANK YOU FROM TOHOKU’ were seen carried by visitors to the EXPO.
When entering the stadium, each fan was given a light wristband that would be centrally controlled during the concert. A couple of minutes before the concert really began, there was an announcer-lead ‘rehearsal’ to see whether the wristbands were working. They were, but since the day was still bright, the full effect of the wristbands was not seen yet.
Finally, with the rise of the strings of balloons over the arena (the balloons were not released, an eco-friendly step that we like!), the concert began! GLAY members – TAKURO on kamite guitar, JIRO on bass, HISASHI on shimote guitar, vocalist TERU, and their support musicians – dressed up in black clothes and white coats, took their positions, then opened the set with their latest single, BLEEZE. All fans stood up from their seats and began moving their hands and bodies according to the music. TERU shouted his characteristic “Come on!” to pump the audience even more. GLAY followed up the first song with the cheerful GLOBAL COMMUNICATION, and by the third song, GLORIOUS, they just couldn’t stay still on the center stage. GLAY members started running to the extension stages, which ran up to about a third of the stadium’s circumference.
The delight of watching the concert was enhanced by the very good graphics on the screens: not only showing what’s going on on the stage, but the screens also shows additional animations and the lyrics to the songs being performed. This really helped fans who wanted to sing along or to know what the songs meant.
TERU showed off his ability of playing taiko – and his barechest – before HIGHCOMMUNICATIONS, when he joined a group of traditional musicians for a ‘jam’. He then returned to the main stage and GLAY, along with the traditional musicians, launched the song, now made even more interesting with the traditional elements added. Amazing how the music instruments from different worlds blended together so well! TERU and fans alike jumped and moved their hands energetically to the beats and chanted the “oooh oooh oooh” together.
Next on the line was I’m in Love – this time, not only traditional musicians, GLAY were also joined onstage by the traditional groups that performed earlier before the concert. TERU called the groups one by one, mentioning the areas where they came from – Akita, Sendai, Yamagata, Fukushima, etc. It was really a tear-jerking moment of the concert, realising that this EXPO did not only pay respect to the departed, but also to celebrate the life of the people of Tohoku. Crowd turned into a massive choir, singing “I’m just in love, I’m just in love, oh, sing my life” together with the traditional groups, who waved and beamed the widest smiles to the audience. And when the song reached the part that should have gone “Thank you for your love!” TERU stepped up to the mic and shouted outloud, “THANK YOU! TOHOKU!” The song never failed to deliver some of the most beautiful and emotional moments in GLAY’s concerts, and that night the beauty and the emotions were multiplied.
The sun kept sliding to the west across the sky, and as the day rolled into night, the wristbands were lit up, to wonderful effects! Their lights could change and blink, arranged and controlled to fit the songs. GLAY returned to stage to perform a new song, Hashire! MIRAI, followed by a short movie that took on JIRO and HISASHI’s eternal rivalry. In the movie they’re shown to be preparing for their stand-off – in various silly ways, of course. The two of them then returned to stage, presenting their ‘battle’, in the form of a duet of BLACK MONEY. Which did not really count as a battle, of course, but fans still laughed to see they pretended to be enemies, as usual.
Then during the two next songs, FAME IS DEAD & Kanojo no “Modern…”, GLAY rode two carts that circled the stadium so they could reach the far end. JIRO and HISASHI were in the same cart that started moving from kamite side, while TERU and TAKURO were in the other chart starting from shimote. At the end of FAME IS DEAD their carts met in front of the S stand, the stand farthest although opposite from the stage. Each cart then completed the full circle during the next song.
A string section accompanied GLAY in the next phase of the concert, adding the atmosphere to the selection of heart-touching songs, started with VERB and Beautiful Dreamer. The audience got a kind of bonus during Be With You, because instead of the single version, HISASHI played the album version during his solo. Next up was SAY YOUR DREAM, which was like a statement from GLAY: don’t be afraid to dream. They too had dreamed, and they’re seeing their dreams coming true.
During Bible, TERU used one of the carts again to circle the stadium while TAKURO went down to the arena. From the shimote side, TAKURO ran and touched the hands of people in the front row, to kamite side, where he finally kneeled down while playing his guitar. The main setlist was closed by Ikiteku tsuyosa – ‘The strength to live’. It’s a very strong positive message that GLAY was sending: “I can believe in human and life – always, forever.”
GLAY then excused themselves from the stage. But while they’re away, a fireworks party entertained the audience who were waiting for the encore, making everyone excited again, forgetting their tiredness. If they did feel tired, anyway. Then the wristbands in arena lit up to form the logo of GLAY EXPO. Such a marvelous sight!
The encore started with an animation on the screens, showing cartoon GLAY members as heroes, going through the timeline of their major events from the very first EXPO, in their submarine. Near the end of the timeline (which corresponded to the present), they met a black monster, who was sad. The monster used to be the flame on a giant torch before it fell from it. It wanted to return there!
To the screams of the fans especially those in N stand, GLAY re-appeared on the upper parts of N stand, with TAKURO bringing a torch. They marched to the spot under the EXPO flags, and TAKURO lit up the giant flame behind the stage. The members then walked down the steps of N stand to the stage to start the encore. Fans who sat on the N stand – behind the stage – screamed and tried to reach out to the members as the band passed them by. TERU giggled through the mic to see the enthusiasm – he asked everyone to be careful.
During the first song in the encore, Kimi ni aetara, JIRO cried earnestly. We could see his tears streaming down his face and how he sobbed. JIRO had to step back from his microphone stand, probably to prevent the sound of his sobs entering his mic. It is such a rare occurrence to see JIRO crying like that – he too was so moved!
GLAY proceeded with the last two songs of the encore, many people’s favourites, HOWEVER and BELOVED. There was so much love in the air — the simplest way to describe it is that GLAY is truly the people’s band. These last 20 years, they have been spreading love and positive messages to the people, and the people have immensely been loving them back.
EXPO 2014 was brought to an end as GLAY rode the cart again around the stadium, throwing signed frisbees as TERU read the schedule of their upcoming tour. After that, when they’re back on the main stage, they asked everyone to hold hands and JIRO lead the audience to count and jump together. One by one they left, waving and saying thank you. TAKURO, as the leader, left last after bowing and hugging himself for a very, very long time, as if wanting to have and cherish all those 20 years in his arms. People just seemed unable to stop handclapping and shouting thank you at GLAY.
More fireworks coloured the dark night sky as fans, a handful by a handful at first, left the stadium. And at the gates, their glowing wristbands were exchanged with a special rubber bracelet. A memento to be brought home from the EXPO – along with the wonderful memories of the night. Happy 20th anniversary, GLAY – keep spreading love!
Setlist GLAY EXPO 2014
- GLOBAL COMMUNICATION
- PEAK hateshinaku SOUL kagirinaku
- MISERY (hide)
- I’m in love
- Hashire! MIRAI
- BLACK MONEY
- FAME IS DEAD
- Kanojo no “Modern…”
- Beautiful Dreamer
- BE WITH YOU
- SAY YOUR DREAM
- Ikiteku tsuyosa
- Kimi ni aetara