Buck-Tick Cosmic Dreamer Tour 2013
Special Extra “We Love All”
Charity Show to Support the Victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake
March 11th, 2013 at the Nihon Seinenkan
Live Report by Cayce

The Nihon Seinenkan is one of the older rock venues in Tokyo, with a long and vibrant history of hosting overseas acts as well as home-grown artists.  In the early 80’s, large live houses without seats were nonexistent in Japan.  Therefore, all large concerts took place in seated venues like the Seinenkan.  Unlike today, however, security was lax, and fans would quickly jump out of their seats and rush the stage, which proved to be very dangerous.  The seats became a lethal obstacle course as the fans clambered over each other to try and get close to the front.  To my knowledge, no one was ever killed at a Buck-Tick show, but after a fan was killed in a particularly violent crowd stampede at another concert, the rules of concert-going were altered forever.  Realizing that seats were a serious liability in a free-moving crowd, concert venue designers introduced the modern large-scale standing-room only live house.  In fact, the first venue of this kind to be built was none other than Club Citta’ Kawasaki, where Yagami Toll’s birthday show was held last August.  Since then, security at seated venues became much more strict.  And this, my friends, is why you are not allowed to leave your seat at a hall show.  Lonely as it may be to be stuck in the back corner of the hall, Buck-Tick really do not want to be responsible for the Lady Skeletonification of any fans.

Anyhow, playing a show at the Seinenkan used to be a really big deal.  It was the venue of choice for popular indie bands, and was also the place where Buck-Tick celebrated their major label debut.  So all in all, it was a fitting location for the end of this extended 25th anniversary tour, even if there were drawbacks, like limited seat capacity and an inconvenient date.  The Seinenkan is a small venue, with a capacity of just 1360 people—about the same as Akasaka Blitz, the smallest venue Buck-Tick ever play at in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area.  Furthermore, this show was dedicated to the two-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and all the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to earthquake relief support, so clearly the band wanted to hold the show on March 11th proper, but as it happened, March 11th proper fell on a Monday night, probably not most people’s first choice for a night out.  However, even though it was Monday night, every last Buck-Tick fan wanted to attend the show anyway, and due to the limited number of seats, most of them couldn’t get tickets.  A great many fans lost out on the ticket lotteries and were reduced to negotiating with dafuya (yakuza ticket scalpers) for discounts on their exorbitant prices.

The dafuya weren’t very forthcoming.  One of the fans I spoke to (let’s call him Enfant Terrible) took this quite poorly.  He’d hadn’t been negotiating with the dafuya for himself.  In fact, he already had a ticket.  He’d been negotiating on behalf of his female friend, who I’ll call Desperate Girl.  The refusal of the dafuya to lower prices for a lady made him extra mad.

"You can't lower it just a little more?" Enfant Terrible asked the dafuya.

"No, I'm sorry, twenty is as low as I can go." (Twenty, meaning, twenty thousand yen.)

“Hang on,” Enfant Terrible said to the Dafuya in Question.  “I’m going to get your boss on the phone here.”  Enfant Terrible then proceeded to pull his phone out of the pocket of his trench coat and call the dafuya’s boss.  “He’s here, want to speak to him?”

The dafuya obliged, but nonetheless still refused to knock his price down low enough that Desperate Girl could afford it.

“I’m sorry, I did everything I could,” Enfant Terrible said to Desperate Girl.  The show was due to start in ten minutes.  Desperate Girl was left to wait outside the venue while Enfant Terrible went inside to see the show.

However, five minutes later, Desperate Girl was seen entering the venue.  She came over to Enfant Terrible, beaming.

“I got the ticket!” she said.

“Well done,” said Enfant Terrible.  “What happened?”

“He decided to lower the price after all.”

“Really!  Must be because he found out I know his boss’s boss."

"You know his boss's boss, too?"

"Yes, I know his boss's boss.  Unfortunately his boss’s boss is currently in the midst of serving a two-year jail sentence, so I couldn’t call him, but I guess it did the trick anyway.”

And this, my friends, was how Desperate Girl ended up with a much better seat than Cayce, Not Greatest Translator.  Because, noble as we are, we’d managed to get our ticket the honest, random stroke of luck way, and random strokes of luck like this often offer bad seats.  But bad seat or no, I’m glad, because paying yakuza for tickets to a charity show seems especially wrong.

Inside the hall, the charity goods were already sold out well before the show even started, and the fans were already bursting with excitement.  But as the lights went down, “Theme of B-T” came on over the speakers and a projection of the poster for the show appeared on the scrim in front of the stage, they all stood up and started screaming.  Like everything from Lingua Sounda era Buck-Tick, this poster ties in very closely with images in the song lyrics, in this case, the line “Palm to palm, our fingers touch” from “Yumemiru Uchuu”—the poster features the outstretched fingers of two hands, touching.  But the poster wasn’t the special part. As a seriously old-school venue, the Seinenkan is home to some seriously old-school tech tricks that nonetheless can still wow today’s audiences.  The special part came when the scrim was raised, to reveal the stage, where something was missing…there was no drum set in sight!  In fact, there was nothing at the back of the stage at all, but for…could it be?

A mohawk was growing out of the stage!

The fans screamed and cried, completely beside themselves, as Toll and Yutaka rose out of the floor on a slowly moving platform.  None of the other members could beat that entrance!  Imai and Hoshino walked on from the wings like normal people, and though he took his sweet time about it, so did Sakurai.  When the band members were all assembled onstage, the lights came up, and the band broke into “Memento Mori.”

It was amazing that even on a Monday night, the excitement in the crowd was already as high as if this were the second encore of a Saturday night show…but perhaps it was simply due to the surprise of Imai’s hair, which had changed over the weekend from blond to Kool-Aid blue.  It definitely looked good on him, but…between you and me, I’m not sure you should be drinking that Kool-Aid, Imai.  Not if you want to keep having hair.

“25 years ago, maybe you all saw a similar scene,” Sakurai said by way of greeting making reference to the concert Buck-Tick played at the Seinenkan to honor their debut.  At this, the fans cheered even more, but all I could think was that 25 years ago, Sakurai would never have been able to pull off Captain Hat so well.  Loath to let it go, he’d brought it out for this show, too, and donned it again during “Lady Skeleton.”

Though there had been fan rumors of a completely different set list for this show, the band didn’t actually deviate that much from the songs they’d been playing on the rest of the tour—after all, when would they have had time to practice, anyway? However, there were differences.  The rain machine was all set up and ready to go, but they didn’t turn it on during “Yasou,” so Sakurai had a chance to perform completely dry, bathed in virtual moonlight.  It’s hard to top the realism of the eerie mist from that rain machine, but it was also nice to see another take on the song.

As for why they’d held back the mist on “Yasou,” we found that out soon enough. After a beautiful performance of “Adult Children,” Imai and Hide switched to acoustic guitars, and the mist began raining down on Sakurai, to herald a very unusual new addition to the set list—“Nocturne Rain Song”!  I thought Buck-Tick would never be able to top the performance of this song that they gave at At the Night Side 2012, seeing as they were outdoors, actually being rained on by real rain at the time.  But inside the Seinenkan, under fake rain, the song was no less haunting.  During At the Night Side, Imai played swooping whammy-noises on his electric Stabilizer, but at this show, he chose to play acoustic guitar instead, freely improvising ornamentations while Hide played the main chord progression.  It’s a little ironic that while experimenting with electronic sounds is one thing Buck-Tick is most known for, they reach their most persuasive level of heartbreaking sensuality when all of them play acoustic instruments.  All the same, as electronic music grows ever more packaged, to the point that passable samples, beats, and hooks can be created by any hack with some spare time and a fancy computer, acoustic prowess is increasingly becoming a much better indicator of an artist’s charisma, skill, and vision.  Buck-Tick gets full marks on all counts.  This performance of “Nocturne” was spine-chilling; as much so as their performances of “Coyote” and “Mr. Darkness and Mrs. Moonlight” have been.  Cayce to Buck-Tick: oh please, would you consider releasing an acoustic album?

As a side note, I’ll also say that I’m very tickled by how much they seem to love this song.  They perform it all the time, and even selected it as the background music for the trailer of their movie (a weird choice, when you think about it…why “Nocturne” rather than one of their most recent singles, or “Climax Together”?  I can only think it’s because they were sick of hearing their latest singles and decided “fuck it, we like ‘Nocturne’ better.”)  Not too shabby, for a song that was only ever released as a b-side, and never made it onto any studio albums!  Cayce to Buck-Tick: oh please, would you consider releasing a comprehensive b-sides collection?

Anyhow, “Nocturne” was followed by “Zangai,” complete with a full-on downpour, courtesy of the rain machine.  Ah, how sorry I will be to see that rain machine go. On the Seinenkan stage, the rain and the flashing white lights made it look like the band were staging a live-action version of the PV, and it’s hard to get cooler than that, kids.

Given the occasion, it was clear Buck-Tick had to end the set with a song to honor the memory of the earthquake victims.  I’d been expecting they would choose “Kyokutou Yori Ai wo Komete,” but I guess they’re maybe a little sick of that one, too, because they didn’t play it.  Instead, they played “Rain.”  Before the song started, the scrim lowered again, partially hiding the band from view, like the mist of a heavy downpour.  As the song began, hugely magnified images of falling droplets and puddles began dripping across the surface of the scrim, making the band members look as if they had shrunk down to Thumbelina size and were playing in giant raindrops.  This song only reaches its true potential when performed live, and the key is that unlike so many rock ballads, it’s not the least bit overdone.  Sakurai kept a restrained, somber but intense tone throughout.  As the song progressed, the raindrops were gradually replaced by clouds, and then at last, by blue sky.

I think that perhaps, given what I know about Sakurai’s sense of humor, that there was a little, tiny hint of a joke in the choice of this song to end the set.  From the rainy Night Side, to the rain on the Parade, to the Cosmic Dreamy Rain Machine, this whole year in Buck-Tick has been just about nothing but rain.  Why not end the tour with rain, too?  But joke or no joke, it was a lovely choice of song—quiet and personal, rather than big and epic, in an oblique way, it called attention to the ongoing grief from the human tragedy of March 11th, that hasn’t gone away, and never will.

Here’s the thing.  It’s not just that the parents of those orphaned children aren’t coming back to life.  Fukushima isn’t going to be clean again, not for thousands of years.  Whole communities were wiped out, not just by the destructive force of nature, but also by the destructive force of human hubris and folly.  I realize that a live report isn’t the best place to say this kind of thing, but I feel compelled to, because discussion of the real legacy of the earthquake has been just about absent from the media, both in Japan and overseas.  There’s a big, big lesson to be learned from this massive tragedy, that has yet to be learned by the power players in Japan, or in the world at large.  That’s unacceptable.

The hubris of our technological “innovations” have so insulated us from nature that we forgot: nature is still bigger than we are, and we are a part of it.  It can destroy us, and it will, unless we learn to live sustainably, close to the earth, in sync with its rhythms.  The more glass and concrete and computers a city is made of, the harder it is to rebuild—compare the aftermath Japanese tsunami to the tsunami in Indonesia and this becomes all too clear.  How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to maintain our wasteful, materialistic lifestyle?  “Economic growth” is the prime argument being used by the nuclear power industry to justify their continued existence, despite the fact that seven billion of us share this small planet, and land contaminated from nuclear accidents can’t be cleaned up.  And as long as there are nuke plants, there will be nuclear accidents.  They are unavoidable.  There is no way to prevent them, because humans are fallible by nature and eventually, inevitably, we fail.  And money is worthless when the air, water, and soil have turned to poison.

This is the whole world’s problem, and it will not go away.  In any small way you can, you should be standing up and saying no.  It was people who created these destructive, unsustainable systems, and just as we created them, we can change them into something better—but first, we need to open our mouths and speak out about the problems.  No matter how small and powerless you are, I guarantee you, there is some way you can contribute.  Give it serious consideration.  After all, if it were you, looking up to face that ten-meter high wall of frigid water come to sweep your life away, what would you wish you’d done better?  Would you wish you’d bought a new PlayStation, a new iPhone, a new SUV?  Or would you wish you’d spent less time staring at screens and more time out in the sun and the rain, with the flowers, with your lover, with your family, your friends, with your children?  What will it take, to shift the focus of our society away from wanton consumption, and towards living full lives as human beings?

There’s tangential way in which this question is related to the theme of “Rain”—the unbearable feeling of regret that comes with knowing you caused pain to someone you love, the regret that we have so little time and yet you wasted some of yours on pointless anger and fear, rather than learning forgiveness and faith.  The exhortation to take off your shoes and dance in the rain.  But these days, if we’re going to dance in the rain, we should do so with caution—the rain’s all full of cesium now.

I get it: everyone’s afraid of change, and no one wants to make sacrifices.  No one wants to face up to the true moral of 3-11, that the Status Quo Is Not Working, because to address the problem will be difficult, and it will be painful.  But the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nukes have warned us.  The alternative is death.

If you think I’m overreacting here, you are either in willful denial, or you haven’t been paying attention.

Start paying attention.

(Okay, getting down off the soap box now.)

Anyway, Buck-Tick, as a largely apolitical band, have not made any overt statements about post-earthquake Japanese politics, but nonetheless, the influence of the earthquake is visible in their work.  Death is real, we are very small, life is all we have—those are the big themes on Yumemiru Uchuu, and they manifest in a much more direct, brutal way than on any other album the band has ever recorded.  The abstractions are gone.  This album is made entirely of concrete images.  They are thinking about these things.  Since that day, everyone has been thinking about these things.

Since last fall’s hall tour was so very, very dark, I was glad that they kept the tone of this show mostly upbeat.  When they came back out for the first encore, they played crowd favorites—“Climax Together,” “Alice,” and “Love Me.”  For the second encore the continued in this vein, with “Speed” and “Miss Take”…though of course, “Miss Take” is actually quite a dark song.  But on this day, a moment of silence was in order.  Around the country, people had stopped what they were doing and spent a moment in silence at 2:46 PM, the exact time of the quake, but my place of employment hadn’t seen fit to do this—shame on them.  I was both pleased and moved when Sakurai addressed the audience after the last echoes of “Miss Take” had died out.

“For the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, let’s offer a minute of silent prayer,” he said.  Toll stood up from his drumset, and as one, facing the audience, the band members silently bowed their heads.  With white spotlights shining out from behind them, they looked strangely powerful, larger than life.  The fans all bowed their heads, too, pressing their hands together in the Buddhist prayer position.  Many of them were crying silently, but some were actually snuffling. Along with the band members, the whole hall stayed completely silent for a full minute.

When the minute was up, without saying anything, Sakurai raised his head and gazed up toward the ceiling, raising his arms and spreading them out in the shape of a cross, as the band began to play “Yumemiru Uchuu,” and all the fans who hadn’t started to cry yet burst into tears.

At this show, there was no projection screen except for the scrim.  However, rather than lowering the scrim and using their usual projected images of the nebulae and the star child, instead, the backdrop itself began to light up—little pinpricks of light, like the stars coming out at dusk.  They grew brighter and brighter, until at last, during the bridge, they shone out silver, twinkling like outer space.  It was one of the most beautiful stage effects I’ve seen on the whole tour.

When the song finished, Sakurai waved a wordless farewell to the fans, and strode off stage.  The song ended and all that was left was the continuing feedback of Imai’s guitar.  After six months and nearly sixty concerts, the tour was over.

But wait!

Sakurai was coming back onstage!

Could this be for another bow?

Before the fans had time to react further, suddenly, all the lights came up, and with a sound like a firecracker, massive white confetti streamers exploded over the crowd, covering them in a spiderweb-like net of crepe paper.  But what song could this possibly be?  Why, “Sexual XXXXX,” of course!

The band took it at a breakneck tempo.  So much more accomplished than they were when they debuted, but no less enthusiastic, they couldn’t stop themselves from grinning, and all the fans jumped and screamed and stood on tiptoe to sing along.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect end to the tour.  After all, isn’t this Buck-Tick’s REAL message, in a nutshell? (No pun intended)?  When faced with tragedy and disaster, the best thing to do is Get It On.

“SEX!” Sakurai cackled as the song finished at last.  He strode offstage, and the other band members followed him, and now the tour really was over.

As the Japanese like to say, Otsukaresama Deshita.

Now, here’s hoping the Buck-Tick members get their middle-aged-man asses to Hawaii.  Or wherever it is they most want to vacation.  Which is, according to Fish Tank,

Toll: WAII HA [Hawaii spelled backwards]

Hide: I wanna go somewhere warm...

Imai: That obligatory springtime secret hot spring jaunt

Sakurai: Nagasaki.

Yutaka: We already went to lots of cities on the tour, so...


Hm. At least Toll, Hide, and Imai have their priorities in line!  Nagasaki seems like quite a humble, local destination for a post-tour relaxation trip, but perhaps it’s more exotic than Yutaka’s House, Tokyo, Japan.  Anyway, there you have it.  Have fun on your "vacances," Buck-Tick members.  We’ll be waiting for your next album when you get back.  Itterasshai.

Set List

SE. Theme of B-T
09. Zekkai
10. Yasou
14. Zangai
15. RAIN

~en 1

~en 2
19. Speed

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