A(Ace) Bid Farewell to Japan Before Conquering Europe
A(Ace) bid a fond farewell to Japan before launching their Absolute Conquest of Europe tour. The weather was suitably rainy for the notable band of ame-otoko(Rain-men), and it wasn’t only outside the venue that was damp. Inside, Boxx had once again been transformed into a pirate ship with a video screen lulling the waiting crowd with wind and waves. A home-grown fictional pirate, the character Ace from One Piece, manned the door but as the audience came on deck, the video scene was abruptly cut off and a hooded figure with glowing eyes appeared. “Welcome. This boat is cursed. If you ride it, you’ll never return. But don’t worry. This boat is moved by your strength so there’s no chance it will sink. Enjoy the ride, and have a nice trip.”
A(Ace) boarded to raucous music with instant energy for the high-impact opener, “Night of the Knights.” Vocalist Nimo started with a scream, pulling the crowd to him with charisma. Rookie’s sharp violin notes gave structure to the number but during the chorus all of the members threw themselves around wildly. “I can’t hear you, BOXX!” Nimo yelled. “Give me more!”
Violin and bass lead the intro to the feel-good “NUDE.” Rookie whipped his bow at the crowd as Chouji and Toshi gave a nice bass and guitar duet and the lights made the braiding on the costumes sparkle as they moved. The pace then shifted for “Haiiro no Tenshi.” The song was like a gentle ocean night, still but deep, as measured guitar and drums restrained the emotive melody. Nimo took the microphone stand and leaned out into the crowd, his voice and the high notes of the violin in harmony. After the smooth number, “Rhaphsody in Black” was choppy, but the rattling drum and castanets got the crowd headbanging.
“LOVELESS” was an interesting construction of music with marching drum and clapping, encouraging the crowd to “get the rhythm.” The music then took a gothic turn with operatic notes and the band jumped forward as the song ended with a scream and the hooded figure appeared again.
“The world of darkness is spreading. We are going to the deepest place in the ocean, the darkest place in the night. You won’t be able to see or hear anything.” Lonesome piano cut through the darkness and the figure paused. “Can you hear that? I suppose something can be heard after all.”
Rookie sat at the piano playing a soft melody and was soon joined by Nimo’s vocals for “Abyss.” The vocalist sounded like he’d been saving up for the number, his voice projecting and reflective against the lyrical piano notes. When the pair exited, they were replaced by something completely different as Shunji came out to start rollicking drum rolls. A(Ace) is a band kind enough to give its support members a moment to shine, and Shunji was soon joined by Chouji, whose wailing guitar was pure rock. Finally, Toshi joined the party, the fun and funky no-frills jam a nice change of pace from the rest of the show. The crowd clapped along, but it was clear the boys on stage were having the most fun. The energy and friendly feel continued even after Nimo and Rookie returned for “Black Butterfly” and “Yoake no Anthem.”
Surprisingly, it was Toshi who took the mic for the emcee. “What’s my name?” he called. “Fire Bass!” Rookie answered with a cheeky grin as Nimo attempted to get center stage back.
“Recently, my hobby is picking on Toshi. Anyhow, welcome. Maybe some of you didn’t come yesterday. It was also named for the rain but it was sunny! Today it’s raining, though. That’s my destiny.”
“Yep,” Toshi agreed suddenly.
“You pick really random places to tune in,” Nimo remarked.
“I totally listen. We’re talking about rain, yeah?” Toshi defended.
“Anyway, I wanted to ask, who’s noticed what’s special about today’s set list? Do you have the album? Today there’s a trick! If you haven’t figured it out, go home and listen. You’ll see we’re playing in the exact album order…”
“You’re just going to say it?” Rookie was aghast.
The captain backpedaled then tried to distract with impersonations of the frozen-faced skull-mic and a water bottle.
“If you’re having trouble with the emcee, you can just say ‘next song’,” Rookie suggested.
With that, they moved to the infectiously upbeat “Shangri-la,” a merry jig that had everyone in the band and crowd jumping. Nimo grabbed Chouji to bounce in time and Rookie showed an unusual talent, putting his bow between his teeth to hold it while plucking his violin strings to create a banjo-like sound before whipping out a tin whistle. The number primed the crowd for the wild instrumental, “Reel of Fortune.” The music opened with gong-like drum and Rookie’s operatic tones, giving the song dangerous undertones. Even without lyrics, the music was an expressive caterwaul kept tight by sharp bass and Rookie’s direction. The musical ride continued with Shunji’s speedy and technically skillful drum solo, the rousing beats calling Nimo back to the stage.
“NU WORLD” was a more traditionally poppy but still charismatic performance though A(Ace)’s unique sound was shown off to better effect in the last song of the main set, “Ship “FRIEND OF MINE”.” The rhythmic number had subtle bass and classical violin accents, the marching drum beats giving a feel of anticipation as vocals soared.
“Thank you very much!” Nimo called as the band left. When they returned for the encore, Nimo apologized for giving away their planned set-order surprise then bullied Toshi to take another stab at emcee for the announcements.
“…On August 6th! …In Shibuya!”
“Eeeeeeh?” chorused the fans, apparently more knowledgeable about the live details than the bassist.
“Via Shibuya?” Nimo tried to help.
“Um, yes, head towards Shibuya…and keep going…to Ikebukuro! At…can I read this?”
“It’s the alphabet,” Nimo encouraged, helping him sound out the English word.
“Edge?” Toshi tried in a small voice.
“That’s right!” Nimo then took over and told the fans that the culmination of their European tour would be the final at Ikebukuro Edge. Toshi then announced the next song, but didn’t move from center.
“Does this mean I have to play bass?” Nimo questioned as Toshi began to sing a song by Japanese classic rock singer Himuro Kyosuke, looking very intense.
“If he wasn’t the bassist, he’d be a singer,” Nimo said, prompting Rookie to suggest a part change.
“Who wants this one?” he teased, holding up the violin.
Nimo was up for that challenge in a sense, putting on a frighteningly accurate impersonation of the violinist.
With the comedy portion of the live finished, the lights went red and they were a moment from starting the encore when Rookie called a dead-halt. Nimo had forgotten something important: the introduction of the support guitarist assisting the band in Europe. Kentaro came out to greet the crowd.
With all the members now arranged, they started the smoky “Viva la Casta!” twin guitars giving the song a more forward feel than usual. Ace–the character–jumped onstage to join the band, whipping around a band-signed One Piece t-shirt to throw to the crowd as the members threw themselves into headbanging. The ship then took a musical berth from New Orleans to Spain for the much-anticipated “MASQUEARADE.” The fans doubled over and headbanged as Nimo shook his hips and pranced and Chouji bounced along with the rhythm. Rookie smirked as he played the distinctive string lines, and Nimo belted the last lyrics, carrying them nicely into the heavy “Kanaria.” Nimo growled as Toshi played cool bass, and Rookie held the skull microphone out over the crowd, letting the glittery fabric attached to it wave like a flag.
The band still had more left in them, and after a short break offstage, they returned for a second encore. “I have something serious to talk about,” Toshi said. “We’ll be in Europe for a month, and there are a lot of shows, so we’re going to do our best.”
“Even though we’re going to be gone for a month, we’re going to be doing something great,” Rookie said, pointing out that it was a chance for the band to challenge themselves. “When we come back, we can take that and you’ll get the benefit of our improvement! So wait for us!” He made a cute peace-sign. “And for Nimo. If he cuts his hair any more he’s going to look like a monk!” Despite an improvement in hairstyle from the previous day, apparently Rookie couldn’t resist continuing to tease Nimo about the unfortunate cut.
“Stop talking about my hair! I’m sure some people think it’s fine. You know, someone was even talking in the office. I overheard and thought it was something really serious, but they were just concerned about how it would look in magazines. I think some people came out today just to see my hair,” Nimo sighed. “But on a serious note, please be good fans and wait for us!”
The clear sound of “Ouvertura” was refreshing, the members giving their all for the last song. Nimo knelt down to look into the fans’ eyes, and band and fans alike sang along to the latin chorus. The calming number was a fitting goodbye and as the sound died away, the crowd called for the members. Toshi gave the audience a round of applause, and Rookie gave them an even bigger treat as he tossed out not only his water bottle, but his tin whistle.
The hooded figure appeared again to address the departing crowd. “You’ve made it back safely. The world of light is beautiful, I can see you all. It is time for us to part. Please return safely to your world, I look forward to when we can meet again.”
No doubt fans will be expressing similar sentiments as they wait patiently for the pirates’ return from Europe.
- Night of the Knights
- Haiiro no Tenshi
- Rhapsody in Black
- Black Butterfly
- Yoake no Anthem
- Reel of fortune
- NU WORLD
- Ship “FRIEND OF MINE”
- Viva la Casta!
There are 36 photos in this visual kei exclusive.