L'arc~en~Ciel - IndigO2, London
It’s taken twenty years for them to set foot on these shores but it seems that now’s as perfect a time as any. Celebrating this monumental anniversary, the foursome of L’arc~en~Ciel - its members now approaching their mid-40s - haven’t lost any of their bravado. The seasoned arena players arrive in London to greet a sell out crowd of predominantly Asian fans and local student types who braved the inflated ticket prices. Those tickets may have cost a year’s worth of tinned beans to some but there’s no arguing that tonight L’arc~en~Ciel provided enough bang for the bucks. At close to two and a half hours the rock veterans, backed by a giant display screen of computer generated, often psychedelic imagery, blitzed through a set list of classic hits and new melodies taken from their twelfth studio album Butterfly.
You can certainly forgive a little egocentricity on their part, as evidenced via some of the highly polished effects-driven segments (the somewhat cheesy sci-fi introduction of vocalist hyde - all lowercase, these things are important - punching through a glass screen did manage to cause a few laughs in the back) but they’ve certainly earned their reputation for putting on extravagant shows, embracing their status whilst remaining humbled by their fame. It’s all clear when watching hyde take command of an audience who I don’t think even he expected to be so loyally driven. The IndigO2 is no slouch of a stage, it was maxxed out as if it was an arena - pyrotechnics, surround sound and all - and in a way it felt better for it. Despite the heavy turn out there was an air of intimacy, whereby everyone felt within a breadth of the group and there was still room to move. The fans knew the songs, sang along to Japanese verses and jumped up and down on every mark. Hyde himself confidently strutted his stuff, gyrating his hips and flirtatiously gesturing to the crowd; a real crooner of his generation, whose sentimental vocals were on absolutely superb form tonight.
The overall synergy of L’arc~en~Ciel is pretty much benchmark stuff; they’ve honed their craft to an art, with tetsuya and ken passing the baton between themselves effortlessly and yukihiro showing himself to be a machine on the drum kit - all would showcase considerable skill during their solo numbers. With such youthful energy and childlike enthusiasm you’d be hard-pressed to believe they weren’t twice as young and as seriously as they took their performance these guys weren’t shy to provide a touch of silliness in the process. Some breaks between songs came in the form of some personal anecdotes: ken regaled us with his trip to the London Dungeon and his fondness for Bond movies, while tetsuya - donned in a union jack blazer - obsessively rambled on about bananas. “Would you like to suck my banana or lick my lollipop?” he asked before throwing bananas into the crowd. Weird? Perhaps. No more unusual than later squirting the audience with a banana gun to the sounds of Enya!
After fifteen numbers the band exited stage and like true rock stars left us waiting for a good ten minutes before the inevitable encore. Four tracks later and it really was time to say goodbye. Hyde’s face projected onto the back wall said it all: a face of overwhelmed emotion, his eyes almost appeared to well up as he thanked a legion of fans who surely exceeded his expectations. L’arc~en~Ciel left an indelible mark on London tonight and the promise of a return leaves much hope for one of Japan’s greatest contributors to modern rock.
‘Ibara no Namida’
‘Good Luck My Way’
‘Drink It Down’
‘Hitomi no Juunin’
‘X X X’
‘My Heart Draws a Dream’
‘Ready Steady Go’