A(Ace) Celebrate Two Years at Sea at Shibuya BOXX
Shibuya BOXX was transformed into a pirate’s galley for A(Ace)’s Second Anniversary show on April 1. Fans may have thought it was an April Fool’s prank as a very convincing Jack Sparrow greeted them and offered a drink upon entrance, but the hall was decorated to match the theme, with canvas, rope, and a ship’s wheel. The video screen behind the stage showed a moonlit night at sea, rain occasionally spattering the deck while the eyes of the skull microphone glowed eerily in the dark hall.
A mysterious, cloaked figure appeared on the video to tell of the pirates and a curse. “You’re already in this world,” he cautioned. “If you read the next page, how the story continues is up to you.” A few strums of Spanish guitar brought the band on deck, and they began “Vanilla Sky.” The fans doubled over with the beats, and Toshi rocked so hard he was centimeters from slamming his bass into the floor. “Welcome to the anniversary oneman!” Nimo called as lightning-strike flashes of strobe opened “Night of the Knights.” The band was enthusiastic about performing the latest single, Rookie making emphatic gestures before his violin interlude. The fans leapt in the air with the repetitions of “Too late?” and the jumping continued for the crowd-pleasing “Masquerade.” Nimo shook his hips to the flamenco beat as the other members jumped, the lights on stage as red as the towels the fans twirled in the air.
“Please enjoy the show to the last! Listen to this new song.” “Haiiro no Tenshi”’s choral opening was matched by beaming pale light and operatic accompaniment from Rookie. The measured ballad had a mournful air, the quavering violin evocative in the silent hall. The band stayed focused during the number, hardly moving but that quickly changed for “Rhaphsody in Black” as fans pounded their wrists together and Rookie sawed on his violin in a strained crouch. Chouji and Toshi headbanged through the rapid, military-march style drum rolls, and Rookie added his voice to the chorus, the juxtaposition with Nimo sharp and interesting. The arrangement was full of staccato clacks and creative vocal turns, and the crash that opened “Mirror of Terror” flowed nicely from the sounds. The show continued with heavy rock drum and bass providing a heartbeat to the song. Chouji and Toshi twisted against each other as Nimo dropped into a throaty, not-quite-death-voice, the pink and orange lighting on stage bathing the band in a gaslight glow. The band then left, and the mysterious figure appeared again on the screen.
“You’ve made it to this page, an unknown world,” the man cackled. “From here you’re going to a deeper world, you must stay focused. Oh, what use are such words? Do as you like.” As the figure left the screen, Rookie took a seat at the piano and began to play the second new song of the show, “Abyss.” Another slow number, the song was an emotional piano and vocal duet and beautiful start to finish. Nimo has a gift for projecting feeling into his voice, and the song made full use of that talent. Then it was time for the other three musicians to take center stage. Shunji returned to the drum kit and picked up a strong beat, the crowd clapping along as he grinned and smirked. The quick pounding looked wild but demonstrated exceptional control and skill, and as he spun his sticks, Toshi returned and the pair began to lay down a sexy drum and bass duet. Chouji came out and Toshi flashed him a thumbs-up as he joined their groove. It felt like a friend’s jam session as they casually rocked out, grinning at each other and enjoying the chance to dominate the stage.
Nimo and Rookie returned for “FOOL’S GOLD,” fans pumping their fists and Rookie almost pinwheeling into the crowd as he twirled and played. “NU WORLD” let the band continue their smile-inducing performance, the members’ chains and scarves fluttering as they danced around. Nimo made eye contact around the room, connecting with the fans, and Rookie hopped up on the platform to direct the crowd with his bow, conductor of the choreography.
The sound darkened as pipe organ music opened “Kanaria,” the heavy strobe lights making the stage appear monochrome. There seemed to be a few missed cues in the number, but the band rolled with it, Nimo expression smoldering expressions as he shook his braided extensions.
“We’ve been looking forward to today! Is anyone here for the first time?” Surprisingly few people raised their hands, the crowd either shy or already quite familiar with A(Ace). “Today is our second anniversary. It’s like a birthday! Well, not my birthday, don’t ask how old I am.” This, of course, prompted the fans to ask. “That’s not what we’re announcing today!” Nimo laughed as they began the big-band number, “Viva la Casta!” Nimo shimmied as Shinji spun his sticks between notes. Even Chouji sung along as fans danced their way back and forth across the hall floor, everyone getting into the song’s swing. The stage lights glowed a sunset-orange, creating a striking image before the swelling final chorus.
“Last! Give it your all!” “NUDE” finished out the set, everyone jumping to the heavy beat. Rookie whipped his bow at the audience then dragged it along Toshi’s bass strings, finally moving center to give Nimo a hug as they finished the power number. The band then left, but the audience wasn’t finished, quickly starting up an encore call.
A(Ace) returned and dove straight into the seasonally appropriate “SAKURA,” the pink tinted light and disco ball creating the effect of cherry blossom petals fluttering around the walls. The understated song let Nimo’s voice shine, and the plaintive notes of violin resulted in a bittersweet performance.
“Are you enjoying the show?” Nimo asked. “NIMO!” a loud male voice called, making the captain laugh. “Timing is important!” he scolded. “I’m happy you’re calling for me, but “Are you enjoying it?” isn’t the right time!”
Toshi began to give announcements of upcoming lives, and A(Ace)’s appearance in Cure’s free paper, V-Splash.
“Where can we get it?” fans called to the stage.
“If I told you that, it would take half the fun out of finding it! It’s a free paper, so go look for it!” Nimo answered, making it clear he didn’t know himself. He then announced the new album and two special shows including a multiband event produced by A(Ace) on June 30 and an album release oneman on July 1.
“What day of the week is that?” the fans asked. Nimo didn’t know, but Rookie did. “Saturday and Sunday,” for a rare moment of the violinist speaking on stage.
“Who is happy it’s on a weekend?” Nimo asked, noting how many hands were raised. “Who isn’t happy? Who isn’t listening?” A few people raised their hands at that, and the male fan yelled again “NIMO!”
“Timing, guys!” Nimo chided, and they began “Koyoi Jyuusei ga Kikoenai Machi de.” Chouji and Toshi were practically cuddling for the friendly song, the guitarist leaning down to bite the bassist’s jacket. Rookie’s beaming smile matched the sweet sound of the violin, and he gave a wink as Nimo gestured for the fans to get revved up. The Irish shipboard jig “Shangri-La” had everyone bouncing around the floor. “We are A(Ace)!” band and fans yelled together, making the band’s A(Ace) symbol with their hands. The song rapidly increased in tempo as the fans jumped and the band played passionately.
There was a long wait before the second encore, and it was, as the saying goes, time for something completely different. Instead of a pirate captain, fans got Tezuka from The Prince of Tennis. “Tezuka!” fans squealed. “Call me “Buchou!” Nimo ordered. “I picked this costume because it was cheap. Toshi, his costume was expensive but no one recognizes him!” Toshi was cosplaying Tokiya Ichinose from the dating game Uta no Prince-sama.
The squeals then got louder as Rookie came out dressed as vocaloid Miku Hatsune. He waved to the crowd, looking shy for once.
“Since it’s cosplay, I thought we’d do that song!” Nimo announced, and they began the visual kei cover of “Zankoku na Tenshi no Teze (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis).” Jack Sparrow (almost a tribute to an absent crew-member) joined the cosplaying crew, waving an A(Ace) towel, and Rookie hopped on the platform to play the opening, only to break off halfway and modestly hold down his miniskirt. Everyone in the hall, staff included, sang along to the popular number, Jack Sparrow making a valiant effort to follow along with the headbanging and choreography. They finished with a big jump, and fans stretched their arms up to the band in adoration. “Let’s meet again!” Nimo called as the members departed.
A(Ace) has grown impressively over the past two years, and they continue to be one of the most inventive acts in the scene. We wish them smooth sailing as they release their second album and continue into their third year.
- Vanilla Sky
- Night of the Knights
- Haiiro no Tenshi
- Rhapsody in Black
- Mirror of Terror
- FOOL’S GOLD
- NU WORLD
- Viva la Casta!
- Koyoi Jyuusei ga Kikoenai Machi de
- Zankokuna Tenshi no Teze (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis)