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Jul 02

[live report] L’Arc-en-Ciel – Fulfilling a Teenage Dream

Someone’s been reading my diary. More accurately, someone’s been reading my diary from high school.

As an awkward,emo 16-year-old, there were three things I looked at with great longing to participate: L’Arc-en-Ciel concerts, The Matrix, and marching band. The latter’s easy to explain: I was an orchestra geek, and the violin wasn’t exactly the best instrument to traipse around football fields with. The Matrix was, well, the best movie ever made, but unfortunately not real. (Or is it?)

L’Arc-en-Ciel is a different story. I’ve rehashed this confession of my utter fangirlish glee over a few articles before. But had you asked my high school self if I would ever be able to see one of their shows live, I probably would have broken down in tears and bemoaned my fate of being stuck thousands of miles from Japan. At that time, I know I wasn’t the only naïve resident of L’Arcdom who thought the band would never in a million years perform in their home country.

Oh how wrong we were.

L’Arc-en-Ciel spent the bulk of the last 12 months touring Japan and the world, playing stadiums that only exist in most rockstars’ wet dreams. And if there’s any band that can get away with booking New York’s Madison Square Garden or Hong Kong’s Asia World Expo Arena, it’s this one.

But let’s get back to me (it’s always about me). I was lucky enough to go to their May 26 show, one of the last two dates on their 20thL’Anniversary World Tour 2012. Tokyo National Olympic Stadium – probably the most enormous venue in terms of actual square footage I’ve ever been to -was filled with eager, screaming, rainbow-colored fans. As the sun set over the Tokyo skyline, it was almost easy to forget we were about to see a rock concert.

It also didn’t help that the show opened with a fake news announcement warning the world of a UFO brandishing cartoon faces of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s four band members. This was followed by a helicopter swooping overhead, but believe it or not, that didn’t get the biggest reaction from the crowd. Within moments, a color guard bearing flags of various rainbow colors marched in. The beats of a drum line came instrong behind them right before the brass section started playing “Niji”. The actual members of L’Arc-en-Cieltrucked in on a parade float, stopped dead center in front of the stadium seats, and practically said, “Tada!”

This whole spectacle was ripped right from the depths of my teenage mind. Brass band, helicopters, and L’Arc-en-Ciel: every teenage girl’s dream! And without a rain cloud in sight! (See my article on the downpour we experienced during May 2011’s L’Anniversary shows.)

Now what about the actual music? There’s a problem with performing in a sports stadium of that size. Olympic Stadium is probably the largest oval in existence (citation needed), and when something is designed to be long and wide with the actual stadium seats rather low to the ground, the sound essentially has nowhere to go but out. As a result, the music felt distant. This was no fault of the band, but it did rob some precious nuances out of the songs, especially in terms of hyde’s voice. It also caused a slight sound delay as the majority of the audience had an extreme sharpshooter’s view of the band.

I have no doubt in my mind the team that designed this show had that in mind because the grandiosity of the concert was entertainment in and of itself. Along with the marching band making occasional reappearances for songs, there was a cheerleading team and commercials for fake, L’Arc-en-Ciel inspired products between a few sets. The best one might have been of an elderly woman squeezing two marshmallows as she reminisced about her deceased husband. (Yeah, don’t ask.)

Sound problems aside, it all comes down to the level of fun. L’Arc-en-Ciel isn’t the deepest, most serious band in existence, and that was probably why I loved them as a teenager. I thought they were all poetic and existential and totally got me then (much like my feelings toward The Matrix), but in actuality, they’re entertainment with gleams of intensity that are there to make L’Arc-en-Ciel more than just teen-pandering pop culture fluff. And that’s why, along with the hundreds of thousands of fans around the world, I still enjoy them today.

L’arc~en~Ciel Official Website – http://www.larc-en-ciel.com/en/index2.html