A(Ace) Bring the Party Ship to Hamburg’s HEADCRASH
The day the good ship A(Ace) came to Hamburg, on July 7, the carnival of the Schlagermove was also in town. The Reeperbahn, where the venue HEADCRASH is to be found, was full of rambunctious crowds, making merry with bright colored clothing and free flowing beer. It was a perfect day for a trio of Pirates to play and entertain their own crowd with color and fantastic music amid the Absolute Conquest of Europe tour.
HEADCRASH doubles up as a club and as a result the staging was rather simplistic without any adornment. The music that preceded the band, an aptly themed mix of stormy sounds, with voices narrating tales of the sea was well suited to the small space, with a feeling as if the crowd were aboard a galleon. What this meant for the fans was a gig with a real intimacy despite the fact that A(Ace)’s grand sense of music sounded as if it could easily stretch beyond the four walls into the party in the Reeperbahn beyond.
The evening began as a great swell of music filled the air, a female voice introducing the group, “No one knows where they came from; they will appear out of nowhere and disappear again.” This grandiose movement became energetic Spanish guitar and the audience clapped along in anticipation. Nimo shouted out “Are you ready?” and with the lightning fast notes the violin, introduced the crowd-pleasing “Vanilla Sky.” The performance was confident from the off, with the band working their audience well, encouraging arm-waving and cheering them along with cries of “Germany, are you ready? Here we go!” The drums came through more distinctly in the live setting and a great drum roll set off the next song, “NU World.” While on CD this appeared flat and unremarkable, live the bass line was stronger and funkier, and the pop sensibilities of the tune took off. The chorus particularly roused the crowd, with many singing along.
Nimo had seemed very open to communicating as best he could from the beginning, as he addressed the fans in English with his first emcee: “Hey Hamburg! Are you enjoying? I studied German just a little. Guten Tag!” The fans smiled and called out encouragingly. “Today we are so excited. I’m sure you are so excited. This is an amazing night!”
The emcee led into one of A(Ace)’s more standout pieces from the album, Tales for the Abyss, “LOVELESS,” and the performance did not disappoint. Whereas the recorded version is full of electronica and cyber elements, the arrangement here had a Caribbean feel to the beat before the full force of the operatic vocals and metal riffs took over. With its strong melody and resounding chorus line, “LOVELESS” made for an impressive show, and while the vocals in the chorus did lack a certain power, Rookie Fiddler’s violin, played with such rapidity, was quite the marvel. It was followed by the equally emphatic, “Night of the Knights.” The band began to join in with their audience’s movements. Toshi bent forward at the waist in time to the music, in the movement known as oritatami while Rookie Fiddler jumped with the rhythm of the crowd’s air-punching.
The party atmosphere was relentless. After a short violin solo from Rookie Fiddler, the music changed direction with the flamenco sounds of “MASQUERADE.” With the carnival melody and a band prancing about with boundless energy, it rather felt like the crowd should have all gotten into a big conga line together and danced around the room. It is not often that a gig is entirely fun throughout, but somehow this one was managing it.
It seemed appropriate at that point however, after such a whirl of energetic music, to slow the pace down, and A(Ace) did so with “Mirror of Terror.” This deeply ominous piece, all rallying chants and heavy bass was chilling live, with the wail of the violin in stark contrast to the throbbing bass line. The crowd stood enraptured, so much so that the departure of the members for the bass solo was barely noticed. Unlike the slightly throwaway feel of the violin solo earlier, Toshi took the stage alone with confidence, each note from his bass taking on the reverberating quality of an electric guitar. Drummer Shinji led the beat in while Toshi encouraged the audience to clap along before launching into a slap solo. Rather than posturing with the bass, Toshi and Shinji managed to bring the funk with their assured mini-jam. It was almost a shame as it came to an end, and the screams from the crowd reflected that sentiment. The members returned as the bass and warped guitar sounds became the dark, chugging riff of “Black Butterfly.” The addictive 80s inspired melody was played with swagger and although Nimo’s vocals got lost in the verses, he hit the high notes of the chorus with apparent ease. The scintillating breakdown of drums and guitars of the end of the number continued with Shinji’s drum roll into his short solo. The band remained and in their euphoric state, got into the solo as much as the audience. This beat continued as a jazz piano joined in, leading to the next song, “Viva la Casta!” The music traveled a further 50 years back from “Black Butterfly” to the 1930s. The boisterous swing of the music sounded as suited to the Bright Young Things of that prohibition era as it did to the modern visual kei fans of Germany who danced along with wild energy. “Can you hear me? I can’t hear you!” shouted Nimo, arms affecting exaggerated movements as he encouraged his crowd to shout louder and punch harder. This they did even more once “Kanaria,” the final song of the main set, began. Going all out for one final flurry, even Nimo tried his best to join in headbanging with the audience. Despite the short set–a mere 9 songs–the gig did not itself feel overly short, such was the high level of the performance. That said, another one or two songs would not have gone amiss.
The encore shouts were loud and brief and the band had not even changed when they returned. In a nod to the area, or perhaps due to the night being equally occupied by the Schlagermove, Nimo wore a fluffy pink cowboy hat with diamante on the front in the shape of a tiara. He looked as if he could happily fit in with any of the myriad hen parties getting started outside. He introduced this hat as his new costume, to the delight of the girls in the front row who beamed up at him. “Are you enjoying? Are you with us right now?” he asked. The crowd responded as expected with a great cheer. “Ok, so let’s enjoy this together!” cried Nimo, leading into the first encore, “NUDE.” The pirate theme was ramped up with Rookie Fiddler’s violin playing a Gaelic melody. This was accompanied by some wild headbanging on Rookie’s part. That he did both at the same time was an impressive feat. A(Ace) saved the best for last though, breaking out the fantastic, bonkers “Shangri-la” as the final song of the night. It began lovely and subdued, with hypnotic light guitar notes and Rookie’s operatic vocals, but soon enough, the manic sea-shanty came at full force. Some in the audience linked arms to do a jig in a circle while Rookie Fiddler decided to stop playing his violin in the regular manner and, placing the bow in his mouth, he strummed the violin like a guitar to match the guitar solo.
It was crazy, bizarre and ridiculous but one hell of a way to end a concert. Breathless, the band took their final bow, and gave their thanks to the audience. The party was going on out on the Reeperbahn for sure, but all A(Ace) fans knew where the proper party had been at.
- Vanilla Sky
- NU World
- -Violin Solo-
- Night of the Knights
- Mirror of Terror
- -Bass solo-
- Black Butterfly
- -Drum solo-
- Viva la Casta!
There are 16 photos in this visual kei exclusive.