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Sep 19

[live report] L’Arc-en-Ciel Makes “XXX”

Being an enormously popular band has its perks. For one, you can afford the massive screens, pyrotechnics, and an 18-piece string ensemble necessary for your epic cinematic live performances. For another, you may be able to single-handedly take back a sequence of letters that is synonymous with the porn industry.

While I don’t think the latter is exactly their goal, L’Arc-en-Ciel is back with their 20th L’Anniversary Tour and new single “XXX” (pronounced “kiss kiss kiss” for those of you who want to keep at least one foot out of the gutter). The band brought their fans a visually and orally (tee hee) stimulating experience on September 11, 2011 in Saitama. Sure the set list had a deja-vu moment or two from their L’Anniversary shows in May, but let’s consider this the preview for their world tour coming up in 2012.

The differences in this performance were slight, but subtly profound in their execution. Hyde’s a capella voice opened the show, clear and simple as he sang the first verse of “Farewell.” Then the backlights went up to reveal a string ensemble sitting on what looked like a former set from Clash of the Titans. They stayed on stage for the next few songs, even in numbers that didn’t feature live strings in the recorded versions. Probably more than any other type instrument, the strings have the uncanny ability to cause the audience to change emotions on a dime. The melody for “My Heart Draws a Dream” is effective on its own, but add the live violin family and you have a tear-jerker on your hands. Though the electric instruments drowned them out slightly for much of their performance, the former orchestra geek in me still tingled with excitement.

Another sonically stimulating aspect for the fans who have seen L’Arc-en-Ciel more times than they’ve seen their own parents were the minute changes in instrumentations of certain songs. You can’t blame guitarist ken for wanting to change up the riffs in “STAY AWAY,”which the band, by my count, has played half a billion times live.

But when a band like L’Arc-en-Ciel plays in a huge stadium like Saitama Super Arena, sound can’t be the only thing that carries the show. Projected behind the band on a massive screen were some of the most vibrant effects this side of the Wachowski Brothers. They ranged from a Technicolor portal, reminiscent of Doctor Who’s opening sequence, to a somber digital forest punctuated by red lightning, to a speedometer revving up to an ungodly speed that only a Vin Diesel blockbuster could portray. The entire experience was cinematic yet artsy at the same time, almost like a high-definition indie film with a killer score.

And that brings us to the skin flick that is “XXX.” The song itself is sharp and edgy, much like some of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s work from the earlier half of the last decade. The video displayed while they performed the song live was sharp and, well let’s just say, boney. Deep in a lounge version of the Garden of Eden, L’Arc-en-Ciel is lost in a forest of lanky model limbs. The girls writhe with anticipation or perhaps hunger, seductively glaring into the camera while passing around a golden apple. A yellow snake slithers onto the scene to grace a few flat-bottoms. The whole experience felt like a skinemax movie you’d accidentally flip to with your parents in the room, making you feel dirty and ashamed.

But it’s good to titillate fans every once in a while, especially when a band does it in more ways than one. Expecting L’Arc-en-Ciel to deliver in the music department is a no-brainer, but when there are a few audio-visual perks, their shows become exceptional. These are the aspects that will translate best to overseas audiences who may not understand Japanese and only know L’Arc-en-Ciel as that one band that’s done a ton of anime songs. Let’s just hope no one expects to see some real XXX.

Official L’arc-en-Ciel website – http://www.larc-en-ciel.com/
L’arc-en-Ciel World Tour mailing list – http://www.larc-en-ciel.com/en/information/20th/

photo credit: KAZUKO TANAKA, HIDEAKI IMAMOTO, TOSHIKAZU OGRUMA

1 comment

  1. Kylie

    WOWOWOW looks like Yuki-kun’s made the transition to a Final Fantasy character, eh? And old Hyde looks like a Johnny Depp wannabe!!! Chap wants to be in Pirates 4??? lol

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