If there’s ever a time to do the Vulcan Salute outside a Star Trek convention, it’s at a SUGIZO concert. The guitarist, violinist, and songwriter started doing the Salute during LUNA SEA shows back in the day. And for some reason fans have adopted it as the most logical way of greeting him. Perhaps it’s because, between his unbelievable finesse with the guitar and brilliant arrangements, SUGIZO is some kind otherworldly genius. But unlike the characteristically emotionless humanoid alien, his show on December 22 was a whirlwind of spirituality and wonder.
Much of the set was a cross between a pseudo-religious trance and a good old-fashioned jam session. From the conga drum to the electric violin to Russian vocalist Origa’s haunting siren call, the songs and performance was more world music than straight rock, but unlike anything I’d heard before. One of SUGIZO’s more subtle tinges of genius is his ability to make simplicity so complex. He takes a rather straight-forward guitar riff and carefully places an African-style drum beat over it. When the mood hits, maybe he’ll put a single vocal line extended for eight bars. Wait a few minutes and he’ll start sawing away at his fiddle, creating notes in perfect succession of each other. This is minimalism, but minimalism layered 500 times over itself.
All of it was undoubtedly thought over with painstaking precision, as there was no room for any instrument to be misrepresented or misused. Yet at the same time, each song flowed so naturally, it was as if the music just spontaneously emerged from SUGIZO’s mind, permeated through the air, and danced around in the audience’s brains.
The visuals mimicked the music’s mantra with Rorschach tests, a vortex that may have shown me the path to enlightenment, footage of protests and Martin Luther King Jr., and (the icing on the cake) the exquisitely elegant belly dancers. This optical package created a narrative. Besides Origa’s occasional vocal lines, there were almost no lyrics throughout the nearly three-hour show. As some of the numbers were about ten minutes long, the music was in danger of wandering, and without something to look at, the audience’s attention may have strayed away from the stage and on to how cold Zepp Tokyo was that night.
On that thought, genius comes with a price. The music is not something you will get stuck in your head. It’s not easily digestible. It’s not going to appeal to everyone and not everyone will “get” it. But going in to a SUGIZO show with an open mind, you could find yourself in awe of how wordlessly and effortlessly the man can create a concert. By the end, you’ll be throwing up your hands in the Vulcan Salute and in your best monotone saying, “Live long and prosper.”http://www.sugizo.com/ Photos by Keiko Tanabe