Buck-Tick Parade Tour 2007 
with Tsuchiya Masami and Abingdon Boys School
Tanabata live at Zepp Tokyo
Live Report by Cayce

B-T’s Parade live at Zepp Osaka last week was certainly a wonderful concert experience, but there is precious little in this life that can top Tokyo, and the city of wonders continues to uphold its reputation.  On such a fortuitous day, Buck-Tick’s home live in Toyko couldn’t fail to be anything less than spectacular.  

July 7th in Japan is Tanabata, the “Star Festival,” a Shinto holiday with a lovely story behind it.  The story goes that the weaver goddess Ori-hime was too serious for her own good.  She worked all day and all night and never had any fun, and her father decided it was time she should be married.  He married her to Hikoboshi, the farmer god, who was a similarly serious person—he worked in the fields all day without rest.  When the young couple met, however, things changed.  They instantly fell head over heels in love with each other, and began to spend all their time together having “fun” (use your imagination) and no time working.  The other gods grew angry, for suddenly they had no clothes to wear and no rice to eat.  Ori-hime’s father decided to take action.  He separated the lovers on opposite sides of the Milky Way, and forbade them ever to meet except one night a year, July 7th, when they cross the river to meet one another and spend their brief time together in each other’s arms.

Like most Japanese holidays, Tanabata gets celebrated in different ways in different parts of Japan.  However, traditional celebrations include the construction of bamboo racks at shrines a few weeks before the festival.  In the weeks prior to the festival, people will write their wishes on little slips of paper and tie them to the bamboo racks, which slowly dry out and are finally burned after the festival night.  The smoke carries the wishes up to heaven, where the gods will hear them, and hopefully grant them.  And today wasn’t just any Tanabata—it was July 7th, 2007.  A special day if there ever was one.

I mentioned in my previous live report that Zepp Osaka is not located in the city proper, but rather on a man-made island out in the harbor.  Zepp Tokyo is similarly located, on Odaiba, an island fabricated out of trash right in the center of Tokyo Bay.  Odaiba, however, is nothing like Osaka’s Sakushima.  Far from being the home of nothing but wildflowers and silent skyscrapers, Odaiba is the soul of Tokyo’s technology, living incarnation of the Bubble Economy, commercial paradise and futuristic dreamland.  It has its own train line, the elevated Yurikamome, which costs twice as much as any other train in Tokyo and dramatically approaches the island by soaring over the smooth arc of Rainbow Bridge, giving its passengers a fabulous view of the bizarre Fuji Television building (it looks like it was constructed out of giant Tinker Toys, and I believe there’s a pan shot of it in the opening sequence of the movie “Lost in Translation.”)  There’s a fantastic aerial shot of Odaiba in the Rendezvous PV, as well.

Zepp Tokyo itself is located right in the middle of Tokyo Mega Web, Toyota’s giant, free museum in which the cars of the future are exhibited (they’re all painted with cute designs, and you can even test drive them!)  Over the gates to the venue stands the Stream of Starlight Ferris Wheel, with its rainbow-painted gondolas ever slowly turning.  Though it has now been outstripped by the London Eye, at one point, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world.  There’s nowhere near as much space around Zepp Tokyo as there is around Zepp Osaka, with the result that, though Tokyo is larger, Zepp Tokyo feels much more like a regular little live house than Osaka does. 

With so many interesting things so close at hand, it was no surprise that there were far fewer fans waiting around the venue this time than there were at Osaka.  Nevertheless, I got to the venue a bit early again, hoping to go and see it and then spend the day before the live having fun in Candyland, and I ran into some like-minded fans.  This time, it was a large group of five girls in their late teens.  As they dragged me along to the Venus Fort megamall next-door for some lunch and shopping, they explained that they were new fans, but their mothers had all been Buck-Tick fans since the time they (the kids, that is) were born, and they were going to meet them now.  It gives new meaning to the observation, “Everyone and their mother is a Sakurai fan.”

There were four of them (the mothers), all sitting together in a café in the food court, showing each other pictures of Sakurai on their cell phones.  They were all normal-looking Japanese 40-something women, but for their Buck-Tick wristbands and  Buck-Tick bags with pink  Buck-Tick towels peeking out.  And to my surprise, when I introduced myself as Cayce, one of them did a double-take.  “Are you really Cayce?  The Cayce who translates all the lyrics to the songs?  I always see links to your site on B-T blogs!” 

She’d been a fan of Buck-Tick since the very beginning, and after spending some time living in the UK, she spoke some English, but I was quite shocked that she’d spent enough time poking around the international  Buck-Tick  internet to know who I was.  What a magical surprise!  I told her I was indeed Cayce, Not Greatest Translator.  And I’ll risk sounding cheesy by quoting “Rendezvous” and saying “thank you, from my heart” to everyone who visits this site.  Please come back again!  I’m so glad we get traffic from all over the world! 

Pretty soon, we went down to the front of the venue to stand around waiting for tour goods.  Just like at Osaka, there were all sorts of fans—one particularly notable young man has earned my official title of “mini Sakurai.”  But for his shorter stature, he could have, in a dark room, fooled anyone there into believing he was actually the man himself.  His haircut was perfect, his shoes were perfect, and he was even wearing tight black leather pants and a hideous shiny gold and purple button down shirt.  Sadly, however, I have no photo to display. 

Tour goods didn’t go on sale until 4PM, and for a Japanese show, the line was almost vicious.  Goods were the same as last time, but for the venue-specific t-shirts: the Zepp Tokyo live t-shirt design was red and white on black, following the band’s tradition of red as the Tokyo tour t-shirt color.  Soon after the goods went on sale, the venue staff began to call line numbers.  Due to space constraints, the line stretched all the way down the street for more than two blocks, but it all went exceedingly smoothly.  Once again, hats off to Japanese live venue staff and their politeness and professionalism.  On the way into the venue, I passed four large bouquets standing at the doors:  one from Sugizo to Tsuchiya Masami, one from Sugizo to Buck-Tick, one from GLAY to Buck-Tick, and one from Theater Brook to Buck-Tick.  Directly inside the venue, there were three more: one from MCU, one from BMG Japan, and one from Music On! Television. 

Inside, Zepp Tokyo and Zepp Osaka are veritable clones, though Zepp Tokyo is quite a bit larger, and there is standing room at the back of the second floor.  Also, the Tokyo fans were much more rowdy than the Osaka fans.  An advantage or not, depending on your point of view: the greater the crowd energy, the greater the chances are for getting close to the stage…if you don’t get killed in the process.

The stage setup was the same as at Osaka: nothing but the Parade Banner, this time reading “PARADE Tsuchiya Masami.”  Paying more attention to the background music this time, I realized it wasn’t actually Frank Sinatra, it was a series of Frank-Sinatra-esque schlocky covers of classic rock songs.  I marveled as first the sentimental, big-band version of The Cure’s “The Lovecats,” then Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life,” and finally Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” came drifting out of the speakers.  Sorry, but I prefer Robert Smith.  And then it was 6PM, and the lights went down, and we were reminded that cell phones and cameras are absolutely positively hands-down forbidden, and Tsuchiya Masami came onstage.

At this point, Tsuchiya Masami is quite a bit over 50, but, like so many Japanese men, he looks nowhere near that.  I gather he’s been a friend of Sakurai’s for a while, as they collaborated on some songs which appeared on his album Mori no Hito quite a few years ago (lyrics and translations available here.)  He also wrote the music to Sakurai’s solo song “Shingetsu.”  I’ve liked his music for years, but now I’m a born-again fan.  He came onstage dressed like an Anne Rice vampire in black and white pin striped pants, a high-necked white shirt with a cascade of ruffles and lace down the front, and a long, cream-and-gold brocade coat, his hair bleached blond and set up into little spikes.  He spent about five minutes alone on stage tuning his guitar, and then he was joined by the most eclectic session band I’ve ever laid eyes on: female bassist Tokie in a long purple dress, female rock drummer Higuchi Shouko in jeans and a tour t-shirt, and half-Japanese percussion sensation Steve Etoh in a white bondage jacket with a white feather boa streaming off the top of his bald head.  Without saying anything, they launched into a long instrumental piece heavy on the taiko drums, incorporating Tsuchiya’s signature mysterious, twisting guitar lines.  In addition to playing hard-rock-style, Tsuchiya also used the same glass harmonica distortion as Imai did on his midi guitar for the Sweet Strange Live of “Kalavinka.”  Dig it, baby.  This piece went on for at least 10 minutes.  Then, Tsuchiya addressed the audience.

“Hello, Tokyo.  I’m Tsuchiya Masami.  You just heard my song ‘Dan-dan-dan.’  It’s easy to remember the titled because that’s the taiko rhythm, right?  It goes ‘dan-dan-dan’ just like that.  Tonight is the first time I’ve played that song live. Actually, with the exception of the Buck-Tick cover I’m going to perform in a minute, all these songs are new songs.  Enjoy!  Now, I’m going to play a song about Spiders, and Spain, and Pirates…yeah…Spain…and Pirates…and Spiders…here it is!”

He was as good as his word.  This song was also instrumental, incorporating three basic riffs: a Spanish-sounding guitar riff reminiscent of “Malaguena,” to start off with, then a funky, hard rock riff (I’m thinking that was the pirates…also, I think someone else is in on the Depp/Sakurai pirate plot to take over the world…) and then finally a tight, delicate riff (spiders.)  Then, the song finished, and Tsuchiya spoke to the crowd again.

“So the next song I’m going to play is a cover of Buck-Tick’s ‘Mienai mono wo miyou to suru…gokai, subete gokai da,’ damn that’s a bitch of a title to remember.  I actually originally decided to cover this song because of the title, but then I listened to it and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s actually a good song, lucky for me!’  Anyway, it turned out to be really hard to play, so I was in deep, and I hope you’ll forgive me tonight if I make any mistakes.  But this time, I’ve practiced 100 times, to make sure it’s perfect for you!  So, here goes!”

Tsuchiya struck his guitar, and guess who ran out onto the stage?  Sakurai himself, in an immaculate black suit.  He went right down front and center, to unbelievably wild cheers from the fans, grabbed the microphone, and proceeded to perform the aforementioned ridiculously titled song (album version) with the backup from Tsuchiya and his session band.  Before the last instrumentals had finished, though, he had once again disappeared into the wings.  Still, what more could we have hoped for? 

Tsuchiya addressed the audience again as he finished the song.  “I practiced 100 times and then this interloper comes in and all my effort goes to waste!” he said, and the audience laughed loudly [edit: years later Tsuchiya Masami himself informed me that he wasn't kidding, he'd really had no clue that Sakurai was going to come out onstage and sing the song, it was an honest-to-god surprise.]  Tsuchiya then proceeded to play one more rocking instrumental song with his session band, and then they all exited, leaving Tsuchiya alone on the stage.  “I’m all alone now,” he said.  “Still, I hope you like this song—I only just completed it last night!”  This time, it was a soft, gentle ballad, and it had lyrics, too.  “Even when the past and the future both disappear, that light of eternity is still pouring out of your eyes, into everything,” Tsuchiya sang, a quiet, contemplative expression on his face.

Although his set had been very short, it looked like he was ready to leave the stage.  He finished singing and said, “Today is Tanabata, right? Before I leave, I’d like to play a short, little piece of a song—something for Ori-hime and Hikoboshi.  They can only meet once a year, but they must have so much fun tonight.  I don’t think you’ll recognize this little clip, but maybe if two of you do, you’ll meet and fall in love.  Listen well.  And Sakurai-kun is not going to come back on stage, so don’t worry about that, either.”

With that, he began his last song—a little riff on his guitar, repeated twice softly, and then once loudly, then softly, then loudly again.  It sounded terribly familiar, but even so, I couldn’t quite place it.  Then, he plucked out the melody to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ once, before leaving the stage.  We didn’t get to hear those Mori no Hito songs after all…but there were a few surprises yet to come.

As some roadies moved Tsuchiya’s equipment off the stage and new equipment on, (and removed a fainting fan from the front of the pit) some more roadies removed Tsuchiya’s name from the banner…but something was wrong.  Instead of putting up Buck-Tick’s  name, they posted Abingdon Boys School.  That could mean only one thing…we were in for a surprise third act!  Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise since I gave it away at the beginning of this article, but you know what I mean.  In no time at all, the lights were up again and the mystery was solved as the four members of Abingdon Boys School, fronted by Takanori (alias T.M. Revolution) entered in identical red and yellow striped “school uniforms” along with their session musicians.  Takanori, wearing a large pair of nerdy glasses, hailed the crowd. 

“Hey, all of you!  We were in the area, about half an hour ago, and we knew Buck-Tick were doing a live here, and we knew were weren’t supposed to show up but then, we couldn’t join in this tour originally, and so we talked to Buck-Tick and they said, sure, fine, if you want to, so, well, here we are!”  A cock-and-bull story if I ever heard one.  They surely had the gag planned from the beginning.

Abingdon Boys School opened with one of their own songs, and the younger fans in the audience went wild.  Is the nubile Takanori more fanciable than the elder, unshaven Masami?  I never would have thought it of a posse of Sakurai fangirls, but you learn something new every day.  After this song, A.B.S. played their cover of Buck-Tick’s song “Dress,” doing an admirable job even though Takanori felt no need to make use of Sakurai as a guest vocalist. They finished the song, and apologized before playing just one more song of their own, after which they left to make room for Buck-Tick.  No matter, the fans absolutely adored it.  

The crowd spent a tense few moments trembling in anticipation as the roadies scurried through the darkness to put Buck-Tick’s name up on the banner.  In another moment, the stage was empty again and the lights came up and flashed to the hard, electronic beat of “Theme of B-T.”  The band sans Sakurai came out sooner than they had at Osaka, and Imai, hair still long and fluffy, played wailing distorted noises on his guitar while the other members stood silently.  Then, the intro was over and they started playing, yes, you guessed it, “Angelic Conversation.”  Sakurai waited until the last possible moment to appear, and then waltzed onstage, now dressed in the same all-black ensemble he was wearing last weekend.  The show had begun. 

As he finished the first song, Sakurai stood up on his little podium so that the whole house could see him perfectly.  “Hi, Tokyo!” he yelled, and next thing, the band was playing “Baby, I Want You.” Even though the set list was the same as in Osaka, the show wasn’t any less fun or exciting.  The band were energized and playing beautifully. It was all going smoothly until, about halfway through “Baby,” Sakurai, with an awkward expression on his face, pulled his coat off and tied it like a long skirt around his waist.  Was he trying to start up a new fashion?  Everything seemed fine, and he kept right up with the teasing the audience (though there was to be no hair-pulling or buttocks-groping, sorry, Tokyo fangirls.)  He even changed the lyrics to the song a little at the end, finishing by singing “Baby, it’s you…” and pointing out into the crowd.  However, after “BUSTER,” he addressed the audience again.

“Hi, Tokyo babies!  Um, my pants just ripped, but I’ve got my coat on, so it’s all okay!  If you see…anything…well, I’m really sorry!”  He reached down and patted between his legs in a reassuring sort of way.  Everyone laughed.  I guess now we all know just how tight those pants really are.  And then, it was straight into “My Fuckin’ Valentine.”  No need to get too excited, nothing lewd showed, except perhaps for Imai’s theremin playing.

Japanese rock fans have a reputation for being docile and polite, but in my opinion this reputation is undeserved.  By the time “Girl” started, the crowd in the pit had gotten almost as bad as the crowd at some American Dir en grey shows I’ve been to.  Most of the fans weren’t really fighting with each other, though there was some of that—mainly, they were just pushing towards the front.  Still, I had a sudden distinct pang of sympathy for bone-in, packed-in-salt-water sardines.  And yet despite this, most of the fans still managed to do the “Girl” dance, and when “Nocturne –Rain Song–” started, they largely abandoned pushing to just stand and listen in awe.

They started pushing again, though, when Sakurai said “Here’s a little song for Tanabata.  Rendezvous!”  Yet again, shame, shame, shame on you who deride this song.  It is nothing short of fabulous live, and it gets better with every hearing. 

Next, of course, was “Spider,” and this time, in addition to wiggling his hand in the air like a spider, Sakurai had decided to turn his ripped pants into a running gag.  That’s what twenty years of rockstar-dom does to a person: he could have left the stage at any time to put on new pants, and everyone would have waited for him, but instead, he chose to dash to the back of the stage every so often, turn his back on the crowd, and check on the damage.  When there wasn’t time for that, he’d attempt to feel it through his coat and pretend like he was just acting sexy.  Saw right through you, sorry.  Those pants are destined for the garbage.

Romance,” however, deserved a more serious tone.  Sakurai draped his black and gold scarf over his head, making himself look truly undead, and this time, he sang perfectly the line he missed last time.  “Ah, your knife eats into my chest,” he sang, and mimed it so well that we could practically see a flash of silver beneath his fingers.  He also made sure that “Nightmare” was superbly full of his theatrics, pulling on his own hair as he sang about going mad.  The other members of the band, too, seemed more energized than last weekend, and ran around on the stage, right up to the edge, so that all the fans could scream at them in love and adoration.

Finally, it was time for “Iconoclasm,” the last song of the first set.  As the song began, Sakurai yelled “to hell with this!” and put his coat back on the way it was meant to be worn.  Imai, however, ran right over and knelt down in front of Sakurai, blocking his lower half from the view of the fangirls.  He leered and grimaced at the crowd as Sakurai was singing, lifting his hand up to his face with his fingers in the shape of a V and licking between them with an expression that clearly said “fuck off!”  Then, however, he returned to his own side of the stage, and Sakurai was left unprotected.

Oh those sad, sad pants.  I hope they weren’t too expensive, because one thing is sure: they are dead now.  I hope they got a proper funeral. The right inner seam from crotch to knee had ripped completely open, and, though he’s not usually one for stripping in public, Sakurai was no longer trying to hide it much. Instead, he knelt down right near the edge of the stage, reached his hand down, and stroked his bare inner thigh while laughing at the fans and rolling his eyes back in his head. Yes, Sakurai’s thigh is all you might have dreamed it would be: unmarred by unseemly scars, extra nipples, purple body hair, or heart-shaped tattoos that say "Mom" in the middle.  And no, I do not have a photo.  

It took the band a lot longer this time to come out for an encore, but everyone knew why. Come back out they did, though, Imai wearing a BUCK-TICK On Parade Fest t-shirt as a little sales pitch, and Sakurai in a fresh pair of pants which may or may not have belonged to him, and a Zepp Tokyo Parade tour t-shirt. He rubbed once again between his legs with a relieved look on his face, and we all knew he was thinking “Thank God, balls still on.”  Everyone laughed.

Diabolo” flew by, and then, once again, the band played “Montage.”  After that, it was “My Eyes & Your Eyes,” and last, “Speed,” with no help from either Tsuchiya Masami or Takanori, but still amazing.  The band came right to the front of the stage once again, and the water flipped off Imai’s hair right into the eyes of the crowd.  Sakurai reached out and touched all hands within reach, smiled, waved, whirled around, and ran off into the wings.  Then Imai was off in a shower of picks, followed by Hidehiko, leaving the stage empty but for the two brothers.  Yutaka, who had done nothing but beam at the audience the whole time, came down to Sakurai’s microphone stand and said “Arigatou!” with one last smile before running away as his brother threw out three drumsticks in quick succession to the fans wild screams of “Anii!”  And that was that. 

I found myself utterly soaked to the skin and covered with bruises in a blinking, stumbling crowd of similarly dazed and drenched fans.  I couldn’t find any Tsuchiya Masami CDs for sale as I staggered towards the door, but then, I didn’t look very hard. Everyone was smoking in the lobby and the air was nearly unbreathable. Out in the fresh night air under the Stream of Starlight, I found myself reunited with my friends from earlier in the day. Everyone was exchanging concert stories.

“I was in the fifth row, man, and it was fucking awesome!” exclaimed one.

“Aw, I was further back, but wasn’t it great?  U-ta is so adorable!” said another. 

“Sakurai’s pants ripped!  I couldn’t believe it!” said one of the mothers.  “Still, I don’t think he showed it to anyone…”

“Actually…” I began.  I guess it had only been visible to the fans right in the front.

“What?  What?!?” they chorused.  “You saw it?  You really saw it?  What was it like?”

And this just goes to show that fans are all the same, regardless of age.  Three things seem to be universal in life: death, music and…sex.  And that’s the message B-T has been trying to get across to us all along.

Set List
SE~ Theme of B-T
5. Girl

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