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White male geek otaku. They...scream..."L'ARC~EN~CIEL!" They...is...white male geek otaku. They...is....they....is. I dunno man, there's something uber cool about watching non-Japanese fans scream "Haidoooo!" for once out here, probably because I'm in similar shoes and ... like. Wow. Like. WOW. That line of people outside 1st Mariner Arena waiting to see L'Arc, in Baltimore of all places, it makes me happy and jumpy just seeing that. There is hope for us non-Japanese puppies. L'Arc gives us hope.

And yet, L'Arc~en~Ciel Live in USA comes to us cleverly disguised in a CD case designed to look like porn. Thank you L'Arc, we finally know what you guys are real otaku of. I can't begin to tell you what sort of hamster gibberings I'm reduced to with the 12,000 strong crowd screaming in my ears as Hyde, Ken, Tetsu and Yukihiro do their customary pre-concert huddle. Wished I knew what Tetsu was going on about with his grandma, grandpa and older brother back there, but my really awful Japanese once again fails me. No need for languages though, as Laruku steps on stage to a/like a pulsating heartbeat, and the screaming goes intense. The Hyde summons the loyal.

As for the first song, it's Kuchizuke, and as if that man has to ask if we're burning with desire we'd like to give. Flaming stage! Fire! Fire! There's a moment at the start I'm worrying if Hyde spontaneously forgets how to sing in this live, because he's getting a reputation of just doing that, but no, no, he's hitting all the high notes, he's wiggling around like our favorite slutty wildboi, YES! And then Lover Boy! The Yukkie! The Yukkie! All must hail the Yukkie!

See, two songs in, and I already feel asthmatic. But if Buck-Tick is beautiful and Yemon is heart arresting, then Laruku is what happens when you stare at strobe lights for too long with gremlins pounding in your ears. The crowd is just so intense, and so close-up. The one other concert I've ever seen this sort of energy permeate everything with L'Arc is Realive Club Circuit 2000, where the crowd was much smaller, but the in-your-faceness was very similar. Take that mood, and have 12,000 people trying to smush themselves up against the stage now. *wheeze*

*Yukihiro worship* *Yukihiro worship* "Ride on Heaven's Drive!" *bouncehicky* *bouncehicky* *bouncehicky* No, this isn't one of my favorite L'Arc songs at all, but duuuuuuuude. Heaven's Drive.

Momentary cut scene to L'Arc press conference. "Were you aware of your popularity outside Japan?" They couldn't imagine.

Infamous Crab MC follows:

Fans: *Screeeeeeam*
Hyde: Hello America!
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hyde: Are you having fun?!
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hyde: Are you having fun?!
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hyde: Did you eat crab?!
Fans: *blink* *shout*
Hyde: Did you eat crab?!
Fans: *Shout*
Hyde: Crab?
Fans: *Shout
Hyde: I ate two!
Fans: *Shout*
Hyde: C'mon baybeeeh!
Fans: *SCREAM!*
Hyde: C'mon baybeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!

To be quite honest, I think he pronounced everything just fine. What is throwing everyone off though could be the non sequitur-ness of asking if you ate with if you're doing well. It's like asking "How are you?" and then "Have you eaten?" as a greeting (depending on your Asian language, sometimes the same thing), which I guess is weird when heard in English. That's just my take though, because it was either that or he ran out of things to say. ;)

"Next song. Spirit Dreams Inside." I should mention at this point Tetsu, Ken and Yukihiro completely rock out for the entirety of this concert. They're just cool. Yukihiro, especially, you can trust this guy to hold up the banner when Hyde forgets how to sing, Tetsu fades into the background and Ken wobbles, but when the band gets good, he just drives. I'm all praises for Ken, Tetsu and Yukihiro this time. But Hyde forgets how to sing again during this song, or specifically he's singing it with that "I smoke too much" grunge rocker voice that makes him yawp, growl and sound a constant flat. Hyde has a problem with wanting to sound like Kurt Cobain. One must whack him to his senses. (A borrowed quote from my unfortunate friend mokie: "But...Kurt was Kurt. Kurt could pull that off. On anyone else, that would sound like someone who's been gargling with glass.") I'm convinced it's not because he's lost his voice from oversmoking. It's really him singing that way. Because...

Jiyuu he no Shoutai is what's after that, and I don't think he's having problems with any of the high notes in this at all. And Jiyuu he no Shoutai comes with a whole slew of moments where he must do the dangerous falsetto. L'Arc does a pretty hard-hitting set for this concert, but kudos must go to Hyde for keeping the energy high. (He's such a pretty little tart.) He bounces and twirls and butt waggles as hard as his fandom, and it works. Tetsu and Ken are both kings of their respective corners too. Yukihiro, I can't stop praising this guy, even if he is always hidden at the back for the most part, he makes his presence very well felt. I've heard a number of different versions of live Jiyuu he no Shoutai at this point, and every time, it's impossible not to let him just take over your heartbeat.

Cut scene of L'Arc in a photo shoot for their 2005 calendar. Hyde gets the niftiest trenchcoats. Yukihiro hands him the crazy long belt-bits before he trips and falls on them.

I should mention I really like the lead-in to Eien. I'm rather fond of this ballad out of Smile, even though Smile wasn't a very good album for L'Arc ballads at all. It's not as dark as the best of them, but the bell tolls before the band kicks in, and the true capacity of Hyde's gorgeous voice revealing itself, adds so much. Hyde's voice is a thing of awe here. His plainitive wailing is spine-tingling, and even if it is nowhere close to Ibara no Namida or Finale in effect, the sheer power behind what he can do still silences even my most gremlin-like of inner critics. He can sing. I hated the distortion over his voice in the album version of Eien, so it makes a huge difference to hear him neat.

Ballads of Laruku past are in order though, since the next song is Kasou. This has to be the most perfect version of this song I've ever heard, even compared to the album. It's just perfect. The concert suffers, in my view, as a performance of one of the most lackluster of L'Arc albums to date, even though lackluster by L'Arc is still usually very good, and there are a few solid songs on Smile, that do make good lives. If they were doing this same concert, in this manner, for Real, or Ray/Ark, or even Heart, I think the feel would've been much stronger. This is not to say L'Arc aren't giving their all though, because this is no fault of theirs in that they are giving a hella lot (even if Hyde can manage to sound a tad broken), but it's just that the choice of songs isn't working for me from the sense that I don't think it's the best reprsentative of their full abilities. That said, this concert only really picks up for me from Eien and onwards, when L'Arc delves into a more concrete mix of old and new stuff.

Hitomi no Juunin would be one of the new ones. It's actually another song from Smile I wasn't particularly into, but the Hyde has just belted three songs in succession, all ballads, where he sings with a perfect Hyde voice in a concert where he began the first six or so numbers with patches of forgetting how to sing. And I've fallen in love with him all over again.

*press conference* "Smile is your first album in several years. How did the time between help you focus?" *cutscene* Wonderful Yukihiro practicing, and Ken lying on his side in Hyde's spot on stage napping.


More L'Arc in practice. "What keeps you coming back together to keep making the sort of music that you do?"

*Hyde gargles more glass*

Hyde: Are you having fun?
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hyde: Yeeeeeeeah. I am Evangelion.
Fans: *snicker*
Hamster: (No, you're not. But Tetsu would love to be a pilot candidate.)
Hyde: You know, Evangelion.
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hamster: (Tetsu should be the one doing this MC...)
Hyde: Going berserk, y'know...
Fans: *SCREAM*
Hyde: Yeah, America! Going berserk!
Fans: *SCREAM*

It's clear by the second half of the concert, we have reached that point where Hyde could be talking about toilet paper and everyone would still be hyped. I don't quite remember hearing this much screaming in L'Arc's recorded Japanese concerts, maybe it's just me, but I really like this. The screaming is loud.

And when you hear the rumble of a car and you know it's going to be Driver's High, you just know you've hit the good part. Driver's High is such a fan song, it really is. Nearly every recorded concert I've seen where this is played, they have fireworks flaring up whenever it's on, and the guys all loosen up and have globs of fun too. Hyde is now bouncing around like a rabid cocker spaniel, fans are bouncing around with him, Tetsu goes to play to Yukihiro, Yukihiro does the drums of chaos and Ken smashes and kicks his guitar (it was the guitar's fault, but it still looks cool).

Feeling Fine. I'm not sure, but I think Hyde mixed up some lyrics in this one. I quite think I heard pauses in this song where there shouldn't have been. (Notation: Cute moment during suspected mess-up where he does an "OK" sign to the camera.) Something really weird about this concert is how it has, up till now, felt a bit like a home video compared to the massive productions of previous L'Arc concerts. There's a point in Driver's High where you actually see scenery run with the camera man out the side of the stage behind the audience, that, and throughout the concert, you also see some of the cameras take very odd angles, as it looks a bit like the camera man was momentarily tugged by one of the fangirls. It's got its own charm. The downside of this is that there weren't really quite as many essential close-ups of the band as I'd like, and the way the cameras keep moving about can get pretty chaotic on the fast songs, as seen here.

Tetsu comes bounding up to do a brief solo at this point before they launch full-tilt into Stay Away. It is strange and weird how nice his skirts are. His skirts and Hyde's trenches make my day. Stay Away is another one of those really fun, loud, quirky L'Arc songs, and another huge fan-staple that gets the band wandering all over the place. Hyde moves up behind Tetsu for a nipple pinch. I don't think I've ever seen a concert with L'Arc fanservice before, not even in the early recorded concerts. This has been so far a concert full of strangenesses, and I don't mean by location. Hyde also clambers up one of the speakers on Ken's side for a bit, to do his patented happy-schoolgirl-buttwaggle. Hrrrrrrm. No good close-up of said happy-schoolgirl buttwaggle, traded for okay shots of Ken and Tetsu. Hyde and Tetsu also do a little flailing and spinning right before Ken's solo. There is a very keen close-up of Tetsu from near the end of the song with an orgasmic mug. Tetsu's just really good for this song.

In fact, Tetsu does it again in Revelation, where he has a nice bit of his own too. I don't know what Hyde's yelling into the audience here, but they're very hyped, and yelling along to the chorus at full bounce. At Ready Steady Go, Hyde orders the crowd to "Jump! Jump!", which they're glad enough to do. Ken and Hyde both wander right to the edge of the stage, offering some fangirls (they're pretty much all girls at the front, it looks like) a touch of their pretty boots. Er. Ken gives us much blissed out face over here. (We suspect he's finally munched enough gum to make up for the lack of nicotine. Ken is certainly seen chewing quite profoundly throughout the show, in lieu of not having cigarettes.) Hyde continues shouting "Are you fucking ready?" and offering the finger to anyone within range. He also does another one of his speaker climbs, resulting in another pretty Hyde buttwaggle. We must not diss the power of a Hyde buttwaggle.

The end of Ready Steady Go is the cue for Laruku to take a breather before the encore. The camera follows them backstage Ken seems to be saying the crowd was "Sugoi!", can't make out anything else they're saying, but I also think Hyde was asking for a smoke. Yukihiro seems wiped, and we haven't actually seen too much of Yukihiro in this concert (pity, we can hear him damn well, but he doesn't get quite enough love). Tetsu is busy trying to mop up his neck. For some completely wrong reason we get an extreme close up of Hyde's armpit hair. No, you really don't want to ask. Everyone is pretty roasted. Hyde actually picks up his sunglasses and props it on his head (except he's backstage, and there's no sunlight anywhere), then grabs the nearest (tiny, flimsy) piece of paper and fans himself primadonna-style with it. In the meantime, the crowd is screaming "L'Arc~en~Ciel!" ...

Returning backstage: Tetsu has changed into a sweaty banana Mukimpo shirt, the sign we shall see thrown fruit. We follow them back out on stage, and the crowd is screaming as one gigantic entity. Hyde does another round of rousing the audience with "Yeah!" and "C'mon baby!". L'Arc then launches into Honey, another obligatory crowd-favorite, and we see the boys mashing the crap out of their guitars, always a good thing. Hell, I love Honey, and Ken does the most un-sweet backing of "Oh, my sweet..." in this version that's really funny. Yukihiro is clearly enjoying himself out back. We finally get a good camera shot of him with a happy face towards the end of the song.

The other obligatory crowd-favorite we haven't heard till now that finally shows up is Blurry Eyes. At least three of really big hits played at this concert (played at just about all their concerts) are also themesongs from major anime shows. These would be the theme for DNA2 (don't know how to lift up the 2 properly here), Driver's High is of course the themesong from Great Teacher Onizuka (huge wherever it goes and high adult comedy; I recommend it if you haven't seen it yet), and their most recent went-into-an-anime song is Ready Steady Go, the theme from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Full Metal Alchemist). Not to mention, Spirit Dreams Inside would be the theme from the Final Fantasy movie. I would have loved to hear Niji, not just the L'Arc themesong in a big way, but also an end theme for one of my favorite anime shows of all time, Rurouni Kenshin. But I suppose Niji is an ungainly sort of song to sing in such a fast-moving set, it's big apart from being slow, though it would've been cool. I'm a picky fan, he?

Back to the song, Hyde does a perfect rendition of Blurry Eyes too, hitting all the good notes. I miss the times he actually yodel/shrieks (don't know the exact word for this sound, though I'm sure there is one) at the start of Blurry Eyes instead of using a whistle, but it's a very good version of Blurry Eyes still, and during the long pause in the middle of the song, Hyde can also be seen leaning on a speaker roaring at the audience. Of course, we do know pauses in the middle of Blurry Eyes are Tetsu MCs, right? RIGHT!

"Do you want to eat my banana?!"

See? No need to use Evangelion. Just use a universal language.

Hyde comes in at the end of Blurry Eyes to tell the audience, "I had a great time tonight. We love you!" *eyelash flutter* "Thank you, America!" *swaaaaaay* "We love you Baltimore! Thank youuuuuuuu!" He's such a girl. ;)

"Next song." *CHEER* "Last song." *SIGH* -- "Pieces."

It is a beautiful rendition of a great song. The band was excellent completely throughout. Watching the crowd, remember, 12,000 strong contingent of non-Japanese fans, sway to the blink of lighters to this was excellent. It defies any puny explanation. After the song, Yukihiro disappeared offstage, but Hyde did another "We love you!", Tetsu threw in a couple more bananas, and Ken offered picks. Ken stayed the longest, ending it all with "See you!" The camera follows him backstage, where we see Ken get a big pile of towels...a latrine...skip that...(did someone say something about a CD?)...Tetsu whipping out his cellphone, which has a photo on it, "Ojii to Obaa-chan" (that's what that was about)...Hyde finally finds his cigarette...and Yukkie (there he is!) is also busy puffing away and making fish faces. The crowd leaves the stadium, and it darkens to nothing.

So...what to say? Quality-wise, L'Arc~en~Ciel Live in USA is, compared to a fairly large number of their previous recorded concerts, more closely resembling a homely (I'm trying to avoid saying "home video" again) feature. It's good if you'd like a recording of L'Arc at close quarters with their fans, in a comfortably-sized setting. If you're a fan of their Smile album, certainly, the set list would include all the songs from that and a few more hardcore staples no L'Arc fan should miss. Since L'Arc is said to be releasing their new album soon, I have doubts they'll release anything else from the Smile tour after this. Now that said, L'Arc Live in USA is a good concert, but for the price, may not be worth the kopeks. If you'd like something similarly at close quarters, with the same raw energy involved, then I suggest you go direct for Realive Club Circuit, which had a solid production and a more robust set list. There are no real features on the DVD to speak of, beyond a basic play list (there are no audio accommodations for 5.1 systems for example, though sound-wise, it's difficult to say if one would actually need it here). The first press edition I got holds no conceivable extras beyond a plastic DVD case, so unless other purchasers get discs wrapped in tissue paper, I don't see what the fuss is.

But, as a matter of mental jumping around and flailing wildly to some favorite L'Arc songs, this is truly not bad. Hey, they played a great set, even if it wasn't the most diverse or old-school or what-have-you selection ever. I personally wouldn't have minded seeing more old songs on this, but it is a Smile promo concert, to an audience that may not have been familiar with the range and breadth, so when you think of it that way, they did do a great set. Now, my ears. They ring.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
He bounces and twirls and butt waggles as hard as his fandom, and it works.

I completely misread this the first time around...
Jan. 10th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
Heeeeeey! Those are fascinating butt waggles!
Jan. 12th, 2005 07:24 am (UTC)
I was thinking more of the hardness of his, erm, fandom...
Jan. 13th, 2005 05:59 pm (UTC)
surfed in from larc comm...

^-^ I quite enjoyed your review~ I'm so glad they released it on DVD, as my fried & mangled brain could hardly remember the actual live event.

Larc en ciel commented that this DVD would have the look of a 'bootleg', I don't think they really intended to have it released.
Jan. 16th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC)
Well, they're not far off on that description. It does have the look of a 'bootleg'. The entire film has a kind of archive footage quality, and it's very homely besides. Adds some charm, but has it's drawbacks too. Works in the sense of, "We filmed this with minimal help! Look, we're so rocker!" Though the price really doesn't justify too much of that.

Glad you enjoyed it, and thank you for reading. :)
Jan. 14th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)
...this is all I remembered of Otakon. (Not much...but I did recall Hyde was a girl.) Which is why I'm planning on buying the DVD. Ehehehe.
Jan. 16th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC)
It is clear that any woman who has ever seen Hyde move, and likely some of the menfolk as well will definitely remember him best as a girl. It's pretty hard not to do. ;)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )