Thursdays usually feel like just another weekday with nothing much to get excited about, right? Not so for 16th March 2017. A sizeable line waited eagerly outside MILLIAN Singapore, where a wide range of concert-goers can be spotted – there were many loyal fans who have attended their favourite bands’ previous concerts before, and the more enthusiastic ones amongst them went around engaging other fans and getting them to pen their signatures and well-wishes on the banners prepared for each band.
In fact, it became evident shortly that Japanese rock acts were able to draw broad support from across each band, and even from the followings of international rock acts as well – there were fans wearing concert t-shirts from bands such as MAN WITH A MISSION, ONE OK ROCK, and even Green Day! What can we expect from a concert like this one which brought together four very exciting and distinctive high-powered rock bands from Japan to perform on the same night?
Soon, the doors to the venue opened, and the excited fans got ready to enter the live-house, anticipating the entrance of their favourite rock bands. There was no hint of who would come onboard first; at least, not until our reporters noticed a familiar-looking plushie resting on the speaker.
Alright, now we know.
It wasn’t long before the audience could sense that the concert was officially going to begin! An announcement was made to be “prepared for band members diving into audience” – clearly, SPACE SHOWER RETSUDEN was going to be a performance like no other indeed, for the audible expressions of shock from the audience could be heard shortly. After all, which other concert would you expect to see the performers jump into the crowd?
The giant screen at the top of the stage flashed to introduce the next artiste on the concert, to the cheering of the audience. It was truly none other than Kyuso Nekokami. The introduction of One Piece‘s “We Are“ is played while the different members take their places at the stage.
Without further ado, Seiya Yamasaki (Vo) jumped into the heat of things, punching his fist into the air as they began their first song, MEGA SHAKE IT! Shinnosuke Yokota (Key/Vo) got into the energy of things as well, violently shaking his head back and forth as he slammed his fingers on the keyboard. The sheer power and energy was infectious – the audience began following suit, clapping and waving along to the music.
As the song came to an end, the sound of someone’s phone ringtone rang, and Seiya made a little rectangular gesture resembling a mobile phone with his fingers. It was none other than their featured song, Phantom Vibration. The audience was kept pumped up, following the animated hand motions and clapping between vocal segments while echoing along to the lyrical segments of the song. Shinnosuke also led the audience in his own way, screaming into the mic to jump together with him.
Without losing a drop of energy, they transitioned to the next song, Sagi-grapher, asking the audience to “sing along!“. In line with their reference to the lyrics, they paused in the middle of their performance to pose, with an exaggerated sound of camera flashes and clicks in clear reference to the song’s title. By the end of it all, Seiya was sweating profusely. Newcomers to Kyuso Nekokami would probably wonder, “how does anyone even have that much stamina?!“, but perhaps that’s part of the band’s appeal and how they managed to carve out a solid following.
The band pressed their faces into their towels, and introduced themselves. Aside from Seiya and Shinnosuke who had been singing or screaming, Kazuma Okazawa (Gt), Takuro Kawakubo (Ba) and Taisuke Sogo (Dr). Attempting to string together sentences in English, they thanked Singapore for the amazing energy and made an exaggerated speech about their band. They mentioned that they had received potato chips from fans as gifts and asked the audience to welcome them at the airport as well next time. Shinnosuke proceeded to ask if the fans were ready for the next jump in.
DQN, a song about Yankees, was the next song and Seiya had a raspy back and forth screaming session with the audience. “Yankee Kowai” (Yankees are scary) was screamed several more times, each time consecutively more distortedly and exaggeratedly, before the song came to an end. Happy Ponkotsu was the next song, a relatively tame rock song before their next insane act.
A crew member ran out to wipe Seiya‘s shoes before he climbed onto the audience’s hands and performed Bibitta while being held up by the hands of his fans. One lucky fan had the pleasure of being screamed into the face by Seiya during the song. As the song finished, Seiya was brought back to the stage and they took a breather before Shinnosuke asked his signature question…
“ARE YOU HAPPY?!”
The audience replied with vigour and he asked “Shall we dance part 2?“. After a resplendent answer, the whole band thanked Singapore one more time before the Chinese-styled rock transition to Onegai Shenron. Seiya was especially aggressive around the Kamehameha segments. As the song came to an end, the different crew members leaped into the audience and a crew member brought a yellow surfboard labelled “Flying nimbus” in Japanese and English. The other band members proceeded to carry Seiya out on the surfboard, as he screamed more “thank you“s to the audience and promised to be back next time.
The next act to be announced was 04 Limited Sazabys, and fans watched as the band members came out to prepare and tune their equipment, with RYU-TA (Gt/Cho) doing a little wiggle while a preview of their music played on the screen.
04 Limited Sazabys‘ sound was unmistakeable: inspired by punk rock acts in Japan and the United States alike, the band masterfully puts together vocalist GEN‘s noticeably high-toned, versatile vocals with a combination of instrumentals played by the other members RYU-TA, HIROKAZ, KOUHEI to create the right ambience and produce a signature feel that has come to define many of their works.
The audience was treated to the relatively gentler, slower-paced opening notes to the band’s first song, buster call, as GEN‘s long introductory notes flowed seamlessly into a fast-paced guitar segment that helped to build up the tempo as the crowd proceeded to raise their hands and rock along to the next track, monolith, a relatively more upbeat number. The band made up for the shorter length of their songs (more than half of their setlist for the concert was under 3 minutes per song) with a good flow between each song, while also performing more songs than the other acts in the process.
While striking a different chord from the previous act, 04 Limited Sazabys demonstrated a clear ability in bringing up the audience’s spirits through their selection and ordering of songs. Coming up next was fiction, building further upon the previous song with a yet-faster opening riff followed by an onomatopoeic “blah, blah, blah, blah” coupled with “kurai, kurai, kurai, kurai” (kurai means dark in Japanese). Guitarist RYU-TA wasted no effort in enthusiastically engaging the audience throughout, calling out to the crowd “repeat after me!“. He called out various phrases like “Tempo!“, “Retsuden!” and “Singapore!” before ending with a resounding “let’s go“, kicking out and finishing the song.
As they rested during the emcee segment, RYU-TA mentioned that the audience was “crazy” and was amazed (“Wah“) by how pumped up they are. GEN followed it up by saying they (04 Limited Sazabys) were a Japanese rock band, and they can make us go crazier. Proudly proclaiming his “sweet voice can take you higher“, he strummed the starting chords to Chicken race.
The song’s enchanting beats resonate in the crowd, clapping along without cue, and it transitioned seamlessly into Warp, paving way for more intense actions and “crazy” strumming as RYU-TA cheered the audience on for more clapping. GEN himself sang with as much “crazy” as his fellow members danced in their playing.
Just when we thought the energy could not get any higher, GEN brings it another level higher with Do it Do it – notable for having its lyrics entirely in English. Each time GEN sang the line “do it do it“, he did it with more emotion and energy than the last. With a great leap, he and the other band members posed at the end, though the energy he inspired refused to go away.
As the band took a quick breather, RYU-TA gave the audience a thumbs up, saying it was a Facebook Like, for how amazing Singapore has been. GEN followed it up by saying it was their first time here, and that it was a “lovely, beautiful country” and they wanted to come back. With loud cheers, GEN proclaimed that he “can’t wait till we meet again“.
The next song was midnight cruising, a slower song that flowed without notice into Terminal until the audience did not realise that they were swinging their arms to a different tempo. The smoothness of their transitions made their music not only engaging, but addictive, and the audience was cheering before GEN shouted “I love Singapore!” in the middle of singing.
With a wink at RYU-TA, GEN came to the song the audience had been waiting for, swim. Not only did it wrap up the slightly slower songs of midnight cruising and Terminal, but it also left us an impression that the band was leaving behind a meaningful message for us. They ended the song on a tamer note, taking a long bow at the audience before throwing their picks out for fans to catch. Drummer KOUHEI even threw one of his sticks into the audience. GEN thanked the audience again, and the other band members clapped as well.
The third act was THE ORAL CIGARETTES, and the band members came out to tune their equipment, with guitarist Shigenobu Suzuki pointing at the preview video, then pointed to himself and started mouthing the lyrics. Vocalist Takuya Yamanaka then came on stage in a black jacket with the words “School ruined my life” printed on the back, accompanied by bassist Akira Akirakani carrying a Space Shower TV towel in line with the concert theme.
Sounds from a thunderstorm could be heard, and before we knew it, the audience began to clap in increasing frequency as Takuya called upon the crowd to join in to participate in their first song – 狂乱 Hey Kids!! (Kyouran Hey Kids!!). An evident crowd favourite, this was also the opening theme for the second season of ノラガミARAGOTO. With a voiceover saying “tonight we honour the hero“, the easily recognizable guitar riffs and flashing lights made way for the opening of THE ORAL CIGARETTES‘ performance as Takuya‘s “flavour, flavour, flavour, just wanna hold your hands” readied the audience for the chorus!
Hearing this, one of our reporters felt that the band’s music could be described as something of a cross between the works of two other hit J-rock bands, GRANRODEO and MAN WITH A MISSION, perhaps pointing to the great degree of experimentation with style, presentation and musical technique that would come to characterize the genre. Once again, there was another voiceover “are you ready? I respect the hero!” after the first chorus, and the audience continued to chant “hey! hey! hey!” at certain parts of the song while waving their hands to the catchy rhythm. The guitar riffs that followed were just as much a signature part of their sound as the vocals and arrangement, but what perhaps made the biggest impression was their performance style – towards the end of the song, Takuya proceeded to bite the microphone in his mouth as the music drew to a close.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are THE ORAL CIGARETTES!”
The second song had a more ominous feel to its opening instrumentals, as members of the audience echoed along with the “oh-oh” that could be heard in between the vocal segments of CATCH ME that conjured a surreal imagery noticeably darker than the previous track. Takuya‘s smooth vocals were clearly demonstrated here alongside Shigenobu and Akira‘s accompaniment as he transitioned effortlessly from the chorus to a steady refrain of “don’t stop me; you can save me now“.
Soon, the audience began to jump along with the much faster beat of the following song, カンタンナコト(Kantannakoto; roughly translated as “something simple”), which exceeded all expectations that anyone could have of the band’s all-round mastery in coordinating challenging vocals with suitably paired, no less challenging instrumentals. Don’t be fooled by the song’s ironic title – this track was anything but simple, and the lyrics were certainly a mouthful! Takuya was practically rapping the opening verse in rapid-fire form, and even the chorus was fast-paced like no other song that night! During the middle instrumental segment, Akira proceeded to raise his guitar as the band members and audience engaged in a session of headbanging of epic proportions, before the tempo of the song slowed down briefly before rising again to a finish.
“You guys are amazing! Thank you very much! I came to Singapore three years ago, I’m coming again, thank you!” Takuya recounted his experience in Singapore and promised to his fans that he’d do his best, to loud cheers from the floor.
“Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh, oh!” It was impossible to miss the opening to the next song, as the audience sang along to this recurring line from DIP-BAP, accompanied by vocals defined by a hint of cynical resignation in its lyrics, with the emotional catharsis brought out effectively with recurring end-notes to its verses (“nai nai nai nai“) to emphasise this sense of futility. Once again, the audience got to witness the way THE ORAL CIGARETTES weaved together lyrics covering a range of complex themes with challenging vocal and instrumental technique and sufficiently catchy parts of the song to create a total experience for fans to participate in.
With the last “oh” marking the end to the preceding song, Takuya thanked the audience as the crowd began to clap as the fast-paced beat of Mr. PHANTOM played. The tempo of the song began to slow down after the chorus as a gentler accompanying voice could be heard before the music paused, giving Takuya the opportunity to call out to the audience again “I love Singapore!” before the song resumed. Following this was 起死回生STORY (literally “Resurrection STORY“) which offered a more energetic and determined vibe in contrast to some of the previous tracks, much like its title. Soon, Takuya tells all present to clap along around the middle part of the song, before engaging in a brief monologue segment questioning the purpose of existence before the final chorus, where the crowd sang along, unprepared for what would happen next: Akira proceeds to throw a towel into the audience!
“Thank you so much! I want to come again for SPACE SHOWER! I’m glad to see you!“
The lights dim as Takuya serenaded us with the slow intro of 5150, before the guitars ring out for the rock portion for the song. The crowd began to spontaneously sing along with the opening as Takuya pulls off his signature falsetto note for the chorus before ending it with a “5-1-5-0!” followed again by the memorable guitar riffs of the track, which sounded a more contemplative tone but without losing any hint of energy at all, perfect as the last song for their performance. Before leaving the stage, members of THE ORAL CIGARETTES proceeded to throw even more towels and guitar picks into the audience, to the exhilaration of some fans!
Frederic was the last act, but they were anything but the least. No, in fact, they had the most varied musical background, ranging from pop and funk to rock and jazz. By this point, the audience could really use a break from all the high-energy songs, but Frederic had anything but low-energy songs prepared for us.
They kicked off with Rererepeat, adding a little more guitar and rock to the originally funky and somewhat electric style of the song. Still, the guitar was as effective as the electronic kazoo sound as keeping our attention to the song. It seemed like we never changed song, but we did – to KITAKU BEATS.
Surprisingly, they kept the funk of Rererepeat and slid it into KITAKU BEATS, giving it a new edge of listening that both the audience and band enjoyed. Cheering and clapping at this point was bread and butter to the audience. As if understanding our lethargy from earlier cheering, Frederic chose gentler songs to start their act, but we still pushed on, encouraged by the catchy beats.
It seems like dance was the theme for the first half of their act, for their next song was none other than Night Step, which brought a mix of disco, funk and rock to our ears. Where there had been more rapid, energetic hand pumping in the earlier songs, there was now smooth hand waving.
As they took their break, bassist Kouji Mihara introduced themselves as Frederic. He praised the audience, calling them “wonderful” and hoping to bring Japanese culture to Singapore. It was as if he laid his trust in all of us as he proudly announced that they would come back for Space Shower again. His brother, vocalist and guitarist Kenji Mihara, agreed, saying that he also loves Singapore and that we should all party tonight to celebrate.
Elated with the audience’s response, they began Owarase Night, a pop song with an interesting mix of rock. The audience pumped their arms into the air to the beats of the song, familiar with the high-energy element, but bobbed their heads to the added pop mix. Not only did the band finish this song with a bang, they went into Oddloop without a blink of an eye. The audience waved their arms from one direction to another during the chorus, like the dance featured in the music video. The addictive beat lingered for only a minute longer before we hear Kenji exclaiming into the mic.
“Japan music is number one! We are Frederic! Frederic is number one!”.
Kenji led us to the next song on the “pop” half, Only Wonder. The audience shouted along with him at certain parts, their stamina having close to no limits at this point. With an epic drum finish, Kouji thanked Singapore once again, and a nearby fan at the front presented a banner to them. With a heavy step, Frederic left the stage.
The audience, however, was not done with the concert, screaming “encore” for close to ten minutes. Frederic came out again, taking their places and Kenji scratched his head on what to say.
“Japanese understand?“, he said in Japanese.
Some members of the audience raise their hands and start cheering.
“English understand?” he said in English.
More of the audience joins in with the cheering and hands held high.
“Chinese understand?” he said in Chinese, much to the shock of some of the fans.
“We are from Japan, Frederic, and we will sing one more. Thank you for loving Japanese music. Many kinds of music. Kyuso Nekokami. (04) Limited Sazabys. Oral Cigarettes. We all come to bring Singapore Japan. We will come back. Thank you, we will definitely come back.”
The audience cheered loudly in response, but the noise dimmed quickly, as a single spotlight focused on Kenji. In a ballad style, he sang the chorus of Hello Goodbye, before the rest of the band guides us back to the rock style of the song. As we sang out “hello, goodbye” with him, it was as if we ourselves were ending the concert with a final show of enthusiasm. In response, at the end of the song, Frederic’s members took what would have been the longest stage bow out of all the bands that performed that night.
Some of the audience called it the best Thursday of their lives.
Some even still had energy to dance after Frederic left the stage for real.
But for most of the fans, that was hopefully the beginning of many more SPACE SHOWER RETSUDEN Singapore concerts.
1) MEGA SHAKE IT!
2) Phantom Vibration
5) Happy Ponkotsu
7) Onegai Shenron
04 Limited Sazabys
1) buster call
4) Chicken race
6) Do it Do it
7) midnight cruising
THE ORAL CIGARETTES
1) Kyouran Hey Kids!!
2) CATCH ME
5) Mr. PHANTOM
6) KISHIKAISEI STORY
2) KITAKU BEATS
3) Night Step
4) Owarase Night
6) Only Wonder