Buck-Tick Cosmic Dreamer Tour 2013
March 2nd at Tokyo Dome City Hall
March 3rd at Tokyo Dome City Hall
March 6th at Shibuya AX
March 7th at Shibuya AX
Live Report by Cayce

Buck-Tick’s Cosmic Dreamer Tour 2012: we were tempted to call it “The Tour That Never Ends.”  Two back-to-back shows on a Tuesday and Wednesday night at Akasaka Blitz, followed by a two-day break, followed by another two back-to-back shows on Saturday and Sunday at Tokyo Dome City Hall, followed by another two-day break, followed by ANOTHER two back-to-back shows at Shibuya AX on Wednesday and Thursday, which also happened to be the 47th birthday of dear Mr. Sakurai.  And as if that weren’t enough, they tacked on a tour final, too, in the form of an earthquake-support charity show, held a mere four days later, on Monday, March 11th (the two-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake), at the Nihon Seinenkan, the venerable live hall where Buck-Tick made their major debut back in 1987.

Do Buck-Tick ever sleep?  Do their fans ever sleep?  And more importantly, do their fans have any money left in their bank accounts at the end of the tour?  The answer to all three questions would appear to be a tentative “no.”  And this is why, no matter how much we will miss them while they take a long, well-earned vacation, we greeted the end of this tour with the teensiest, tiniest bit of relief.  At last, a chance to sleep, stay in on weeknights, and get back to work to start saving up for the next tour.  Plus, no matter how much “hoso-macho” [WATCH THE VIDEO!!!] muscle tone Sakurai has sweated, grunted and swelled himself into lately, he’s surely tired and wants a break…and even if he doesn’t, Imai’s hair certainly needs a break from being dyed a new color every two months or it will surely all fall out. Though then again, this may be by design, as it’s surely more difficult and time consuming to change a dye job than a toupee.

We’ve already written live reports about the Okinawa, Osaka, and the various seuxal comments given by Sakurai during MC sections in Tokyo, so we’re going to keep this article to highlights only, especially since basically, the costumes didn’t change, and neither did the set lists.  Buck-Tick don’t tend to change their set lists much over the course of a given tour, and this tour was no exception, though they made a few adjustments, including switching “Kimi no Vanilla” out of the main set and into the encores on alternate nights, adding “Adult Children” as a permanent fixture in the first encore, and swapping out “Coyote” in favor of “Lullaby III.”

On the other hand, one thing they did do was add a new band member! Though since they never revealed his true name, we’re just going to call him Masked Mike. Masked Mike is tall, skinny and silver, and often holds a microphone in his mouth. Once a mere inanimate microphone stand, he was brought to anthropomorphized life by Mr. Sakurai, and summarily subjected to all kinds of sexual advances at the hands of his creator.  Intermittently, Masked Mike has black feathers for hair, and he also has two Venetian masque mask faces—a silver one for Sakurai to sing through, and a white one with black lipstick on its puckered lips and silver flowers on its teary cheeks, for Sakurai to make out with.

Sakurai began to experiment with these two masks in Osaka, but soon incorporated them into a full routine which recurred throughout the show on every stop of the tour.  Sakurai held Masked Mike high over his head and paraded across the stage during opening number “Kirameki no Naka de,” mimed slitting Mike’s throat on “Lullaby III,” and danced a passionate tango with Mike on “Zekkai.”  Anyone who knows Sakurai’s history knows he was not the original creator of this stage routine, but in fact lifted it from the repertoire of an older, skinnier mime to whom Masked Mike bore an uncanny physical resemblance.  Yes, Mr. Sakurai, Cayce saw what you did there.  But given the context, we’ll call it “respectful tribute” rather than theft.

Mr. Sakurai performs with "Masked Mike."

The band members also involved themselves in a number of t-shirt marketing gimmicks over the course of the tour.  The color of Imai’s encore t-shirt changed every two days in accordance with the limited-edition color the t-shirt was available in at the goods booth that day. Fans who bought these special t-shirts were confused to discover that they had been deliberately printed inside-out.  Not only was this a more creative gesture than we’ve seen in Buck-Tick’s tour goods in the past, but it also added a bit of Imai-style DIY flair…in order to wear the t-shirt well, you first had to clip off the unsightly white label hanging out the back. Unfortunately, most fans failed to do this, and to them, we award the official NGS verdict of Imai Fashion Fail.  The same goes to every last fan who wore Imai’s galaxy print hoodie in combination with a Burberry coat…or indeed, every last fan who wore Imai’s galaxy print hoodie without being Imai.  Put your hands up, the Fashion Police have just arrested you.

Hide, on the other hand, had designed a t-shirt with a more subtle twist—no, it wasn’t inside-out, but rather than one of those usual tight, constricting cheap t-shirt collars, it sported a wide, loose scoop-neck.  The better to show off the ultra-sexy mole on his ultra-sexy chest, my dear!  Hide’s special shirt was for sale throughout the tour, but Sakurai’s special shirts were only added on at the end, and two out of the three designs were available only for a single day each and sold out in literally five minutes.  This struck fans as a particularly grievous offense in the case of Sakurai’s birthday shirt, which featured the characters, “I <3 BT” in bold, gold Art Deco capitals, with the heart mark made over as a heart-shaped planet with Saturn-like rings around it.  Surmounted by the capital “I,” the heart-planet design called Vivienne Westwood’s orb logo strongly to mind, a design choice that must have been deliberate, considering how iconic Dame Viv’s clothing continues to be in the Tokyo underground.  This shirt had a loose scoop-neck too.  Thus, it was coveted by All The Fans.  Unfortunately for All The Fans, only a few of the fans ended up with All The Shirts.  In fact, we spied multiple fans buying stacks upon stacks of them.  Cayce to Buck-Tick’s management: that was a money-making opportunity gone to waste, you fools.  Next time, print up more shirts.

One novel factor in this tour was the choice of Tokyo Dome City Hall as a weekend venue.  According to Sakurai, Buck-Tick have never played at this venue before, perhaps because it’s unusually large for a live house—its three balconies alone can accommodate a total of 1000 people, while the arena can accommodate another 2000.  With such a large crowd, buying tour goods before they sold out proved just about impossible, and the wait for one’s number to be called felt interminably long, especially since Saturday was quite possibly the windiest day of the entire winter. The wide, tiled promenade outside the venue where the fans stood waiting functioned like a wind tunnel, funneling the frigid gusts that caught in the billowy excess fabric of all the Atelier Pierrot and Alice Auaa coats like the black sails of pirate ships, threatening to blow their wearers away to Tortuga.

Inside the venue, the trials weren’t over.  As it happens, Tokyo Dome City Hall is actually located underground, in the basement, sub-basement, sub-sub-basement, and sub-sub-sub-basement of the Meets Port building.  Getting down to the arena level required traversing four levels of escalators that distinctly lacked adequate signage.  In addition, since TDC Hall is styled like a Roman amphitheater, the various lobbies wrap around three sides of the hall, connected by various escalators and staircases, punctuated intermittently by identical drink bars, bathrooms, and banks of teeny-tiny pigeonholes pretentiously calling themselves “coin lockers,” which together formed an obstacle course good enough to be the stage for a Super Mario World game.  To make matters even more confusing, unlike any other live house Cayce has ever patronized, at Tokyo Dome City Hall, you must present your ticket stub to a staff member in order to enter the arena.  Woe to all the fans who’d managed to squeeze their ticket stubs into one of those tiny lockers!  They were all out 300 yen, forced to open and re-lock the lockers after extracting their tickets. Next time you go to a show at Tokyo Dome City Hall, don’t let this happen to you!

Unlike many other live houses, TDC Hall lacks a tiered floor, so fans standing at the back may have had some trouble seeing the stage.  On the other hand, the stage is wide and the arena is shallow, so it’s not that hard to get close to the front. Vertical crowd-control railings served as an effective buffer against excessive side-to-side movement of the crowd, but also prevented fans from moving away from whichever band member they had initially chosen to stand in front of.  And that was why, no matter how heavily the Acchan fangirls in Hide’s section piled onto the left railing in hopes of knocking it over and getting closer to Acchan-sama-chan, the railing obstinately failed to topple, and the fans were instead stuck pushing, shoving, and screaming at each other, while Hide, and the rest of us, conveniently ignored them.

Perhaps their antics were even immortalized on film, because one thing was for sure: this show is going to be the next Fish Tanker’s Only live DVD.  The whole stage was seeded with cameras peering voyeuristically up at the band members’ trousers.  So if any of you fans wondered why Sakurai was making all those sexyfaces at the floor in front of him, that was why.  And I think this is going to be a live film worth getting good and excited over—after all, in addition to Sakurai saying “Baby I want sex” in public, it contains Buck-Tick’s first ever filmed live performance of “My Baby Japanese,” and again, Sakurai hit the spot perfectly, employing the service of his mask servants to good effect, while still keeping his dramatic facial expressions visible.  All in all, I was sorry to see the fanclub-only section of the tour end so soon.

However, the tour itself just went on and on, my friends!  And oddly, it seemed that in the fans’ minds, not all the tour dates were created equal.  Shibuya AX, where the concerts on the 6th and 7th of March were held, is quite a small venue, and I’d assumed that as such, tickets for both nights would be in high demand, but not so.

Absolutely everyone wanted tickets for the 7th, but they were as elusive as the chemical element Seaborgium…no one was selling them, or even creating them in laboratories.  At the same time, everyone had extra tickets for the show on the 6th, and they were all trying to sell them off, but no one was buying.

In fact, we actually attempted to sell a few tickets to the 6th ourselves, just for kicks, but to no avail.

“If you had an extra ticket for the show on Acchan’s birthday, I’d buy that,” said more than one fan.  “But if it’s the show on the 6th, I don’t care.”

You might think, if you had, like, you know, a brain, that if you didn’t have a ticket to either show, seeing Acchan on March 6th would be better than not seeing him at all.  But no.  Apparently, no matter how sexy you are, if it’s not your birthday, none of your fangirls want to see you.

This is why, after one of our buyers bailed out at the last minute, one of our tickets to the show on the 6th actually went to waste.  Fans, I’m disappointed in you. Letting a Buck-Ticket go to waste is a crying shame.

And unfortunately for the fangirls who turned their noses up at the gig on the 6th, they missed the chance to witness a rare and highly entertaining phenomenon: Sakurai throwing a hissy fit onstage.

The show started off well enough. The band couldn’t have been in higher gear. Imai was tearing up his guitar, Hide was winking and licking his lips at girls in the balcony, and by the time “Climax Together” rolled around, it looked like Sakurai might be just about ready to jump off the stage and go tearing through the audience (though he stopped short of actually doing this.  He just had that sort of look in his eye.)  But then somewhere in there, something went wrong.  Because Buck-Tick perform with recorded tracks of the synth and backup vocals, they need to have clockwork precision timing. Toll gets a click in his ear monitor and drums along with it; the instant he misses a beat, the entire song could be thrown completely off course. Sakurai, too, performs with ear monitors, meaning that the stage isn’t set up in such a way that if he took the ear monitors out, he’d be able to hear himself. Those of you who have ever performed music with amplification know that getting the sound balance set up right can be a tricky business, and not being able to hear your own sound makes performing well difficult at best and impossible at worst.  And of course, the more technology you use, the higher the chances are that something will go wrong.

It was hard to tell what failed in this case, but it was obviously something to do with the ear monitor system.  Something about the timing of “Climax Together” sounded a little off, and when the band came back onstage to play “Inter Raptor,” Sakurai kept adjusting his earphones, clearly unsure of something.  Non-verbal eye-to-eye communication with the staff in the wings proved unfruitful, so when the song had finished Sakurai stepped off stage for a moment to see if he could get the techs to fix the problem.  Though Imai spent at least twice as long noodling on his guitar as he normally does, it seemed that the techs hadn’t solved things to Sakurai’s satisfaction.  We in the audience could hear him singing perfectly well, and he sounded beautiful, but he was clearly distracted.  Though the next song in the lineup was “Adult Children,” his big number, he didn’t seem to be able to get himself into the right mindset to perform the song up to his own standards, and when Imai’s guitar solo rolled around, rather than flopping down on the stage or shaking his head in terror, he just stood stock still in the middle of his platform, pouting like a pocket-sized rain cloud.  With the rain machine above him, it was almost like he had his own private storm cloud right over his head, though the techs did not take the hint and turn the rain back on (that might have been the last straw.)

The band finished up the encore all right, but when they came back out for the second encore, whether or not the problem was fixed, Sakurai had had enough.  He made some cursory efforts to perk up on “Alice,” but gave it up again on “Physical Neurose,” and during the instrumental break, now in full on Pissy Mode, he actually flung the microphone clear across the stage.  Tech staff rushed out to hand him a new mic in time for the last song, “Iconoclasm,” but no matter how valiantly the other band members played or the fans cheered, in Sakurai’s mind, the show was over.  Without even bothering to sing the last chorus, he dropped the microphone again and ran off the stage, without saying goodnight to the audience.  The other band members pretended it hadn’t happened, and played the song through to the end, but perhaps Imai gave him a good scolding in the dressing room later.

Now before you fangirls get all up in arms about how I must be off my head and making this shit up, or how you “don’t want to believe Acchan could ever do such a terrible thing to his fans,” I’ll tell you three things.  One: this actually happened, I didn’t make it up (Blog-Tickers who were at the show can corroborate.)  Two: this kind of behavior is actually very rare for Mr. Sakurai.  And three: it is rare, but he has been known to behave this way before.  During the spectacular fail that was the opening show on the Memento Mori tour, after tripping over Yutaka’s bass cable and falling on his ass, right at the rousing beginning of “Memento Mori,” Sakurai angrily picked up the mic stand and threw it all the wy across the stage, so hard that it nearly went into the audience to cream some fangirls (mercifully, it did not.) That incident was never filmed, though it, too, really happened and I didn’t make it up. However, the incident in Koriyama during the Mona Lisa Overdrive standing tour, where a fangirl grabbed Sakurai’s leg so hard she tripped him and he fell on his ass, so he threw down the microphone and stopped singing, appears in the At the Night Side tour documentary.  Fact is, the guy’s not perfect.  Occasionally he gets angry. And on March 6th, the eve of his 47th birthday, perhaps a creeping feeling that he was getting old didn’t help things.  

But ultimately…why should a fangirl be upset when her chosen baby Japanese did something out of order?  It’s a golden opportunity to Mete Out Discipline.  Send that vocalist back to Boot Camp!  Whip him into 50 shades of spanking good shape! Show him who wears the hat in the relationship.  You know what I’m sayin’ ;)

Luckily, by the time the next evening rolled around, the band all seemed to have decided that last night was nothing but a bad dream.  They were surely tired, and so were we, but this being the official final stop of the tour meant they could let out all the stops without holding back.  Sakurai had even brought back his baby strippppper hat for good measure, and wore it with glee during the pelvis-shaking sections of “Lady Skeleton."

If fans though that something crazy and out-of-this-world would happen at the show just because it fell on Sakurai’s birthday, they were disappointed—it was more or less a show like any other, without any changes to the set list.  Fans began singing happy birthday before the first encore, but when Yutaka finally came back onstage, he gestured for them all to quiet down.  The real happy birthday didn’t happen until the second encore.  Staff members wheeled Sakurai’s cake onstage, and Sakurai came out, beaming.  The cake was large and flat, but the candles that adorned it were small and spindly, with the exception of two big fat ones shaped like the digits 47.  As a vocalist with great breath control, naturally Sakurai had no trouble blowing them all out in one breath.  From the audience, it was impossible to see the cake design, but of course, it showed up on Imai’s blog later—an edible rendering of the latest anime chibi Sakurai from Love & Media Portable.  Those chibis do a good job of capturing the essence of the band members, but I still prefer the “Alligator Acchan” that Imai drew to grace Sakurai’s previous stage cake, during the Razzle Dazzle tour.  For one thing, that portrait was drawn in chocolate syrup, and I’d much rather eat chocolate syrup than black food coloring.

When the cake candles had been extinguished, Hoshino Hidehiko did the honor of presenting Mr. Sakurai with his birthday bouquet; a massive mountain of blood-red lilies, roses and dahlias, wrapped up in pink moscato paper.  For some reason, all the online music news websites reported this transaction as “Then Mr. Hoshino gave Mr. Sakurai a giant bouquet,” making it sound like the bouquet was a personal gift from Hide, rather than a gift from the whole band…though perhaps they used this angle in their reporting because soon afterwards, Sakurai sidled over to Hide, clamped an arm around his shoulder, and subjected him to an intimate level of fanservice he usually reserves for Imai and Yutaka.  Welcome to the Club, Hide.  The whole crowd cheered wildly.

Right in character, after being presented with his cake and bouquet, Sakurai began jokingly moaning into the microphone, to herald the beginning of…what else?  “Kimi no Vanilla,” of course.  Sakurai continued to embrace the giant bouquet through the whole song, and it was heavy and unwieldy enough that it pretty much prevented him from coming out from behind the mic stand to tease the fans…but on the other hand, its round, tight, pink bottom proved to be an ideal prop for demonstrating various sexual gestures.  The encore continued with “Dokudanjou Beauty,” and when Sakurai at last put his first bouquet down to come down to the edge of the stage and interact more with the fans, some enterprising fans in the front row tossed him a second bouquet.  This fan bouquet was much smaller and made mostly of white and pink gerbera daisies, but like the first bouquet, it was wrapped in pink paper.  Unlike the incident on the Warp Days tour DVD, where Sakurai took the bouquet offered to him by a fan and threw it back into another part of the crowd, at another fan, this bouquet he graciously accepted, and soon he was dancing around with bunches of flowers under each arm, grinning like a lunatic.

The show ended with “Ash-ra,” which struck me as a bit of an odd choice, but must have been Sakurai’s pick. And this time, he sang the whole song through to the end, blowing kisses to the fans before leaving the stage. In fact, he even came back out onstage briefly, to bid the fans a second goodbye. He never does that! Perhaps the fans who refused tickets for the show on the 6th were onto something after all.

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