A(Ace) Set Sail on “evilalive” at Ikebukuro Cyber
The eclectic music of A(Ace) at Ikebukuro Cyber offered a little something for everyone. The stage, styled with a ship’s wheel before the vocalist’s podium and a black ribbon-draped skull on the microphone stand fit with their pirate theme even as the sounds of a gale at sea greeted the crowd.
As the fans waited, murmuring amongst themselves, a voice-over muttered warnings of the perils of the journey ahead. The lights went down and the voice issued a cackle. “Oh! Looks like everyone has gathered! I can’t guarantee you’ll keep your lives. Still here? Impressive. I guess you aren’t bothered about losing your lives, then. Well, let me teach you something: If you combine your hearts and put your all into it, you might just make it through. Oh! Looks like ‘those guys’ are on their way… Make sure you set sail without regrets!”
The band raised anchor with “Black Butterfly,” their most recent single. A crowded opening instrumental showed off their skills and highlights, violin making a strong impression. Meanwhile, the high tones of the chorus melody filled the proverbial sails with Nimo’s proud voice. “Let’s make today the best show ever! You’d better do your part!” he said, the crowd stepping up to the plate, fists and voices flying which explained the vocalist’s huge grin throughout the final, fast section of the song. Then came A(Ace)’s very first single, “Vanilla Sky,” bassist Toshi and violinist Rookie Fiddler jumping as enthusiastically as the fans to the fast-paced music. Rookie only abandoned his leaping to play out some high trills over the top. Guitarist Mucho Gracias, however, preferred to dive forward with the fans on the heavier notes.
The outro led into “Rhapsody in Black” through which the crowd’s clapping sounded like the clack of castanets. Mucho Gracias backed up Rookie’s violin on guitar with a final, dramatic flourish. The lights faded out instantly, pinpointing the guitarist who sat upon a stool for a dexterously played Spanish guitar solo which proved a perfect prelude to the following treat.
“MASQUERADE,” the Spanish themed piece from the world music concept album, the White Album, made jaws drop in homage to the accuracy of its Spanish flair. Nimo’s vocals in the chorus featured a stylistic tremor as he sang “Odore, odore, odore, Masquerade!” (Dance, dance, dance, masquerade!) The tune leaped and danced while the crowd swung red scarves. The sizzling, Middle-Eastern themed “Goddess” followed with Rookie Fiddler’s violin wringing an impression of traditional instruments throughout the introduction and above the soaring, extended notes of the chorus. The only dampener was Nimo’s occasionally flat notes, the new song and its extreme range still a challenge for the vocalist in live performance.
Following the blackout, Rookie appeared at a piano hidden at the edges of the stage. Starting with a slow and gentle feel, his piano solo escalated at once into heavy bass-laden notes and swift runs before lightening again into “G Koukyoushi FREEDOM i tanchou” as Nimo stepped up to the mic and began to sing. On piano, Rookie leaned in and out of the music, only Nimo’s fluttering hand expressing the fluidity of the vocal line. The final key change produced shivers before darkness enveloped the stage once more.
It was only fair for Toshi to take his turn on bass, then. He began, sitting on a stool and playing out a deep, moody bass solo. The balance was not perfect, the bass notes too much for the speakers to handle, and so the guitar-style play didn’t come across as well as it could have. However, the second half of the solo was brilliant, drums kicking in and Toshi jumping up to slap out an awesome groove. The segued number was “Nu Fools Gold,” Nimo executing a very delicate little spin on a high trill to open. Exciting and upbeat though it was, the number was not on par with the melodic standard of the set so far: On the instrumental side, however, it was pretty full on with strings running in contrast to just about everything else, heavy bass and drums in the foreground. Mucho Gracias and Rookie took opposite ends of the stage-front for a cute guitar vs violin play-off.
“It didn’t rain today!” Nimo declared after solidly greeting the crowd. “Looks like ‘he’ lost for once!” he exclaimed, referring to Toshi’s affinity for making it rain. Meanwhile, as he talked, Rookie kept up a constant pluck and hum on the violin and when Mucho Gracias pitched in with a strum or two, Nimo scolded him. “Quit that! You know, I feel like this happens often, this undermining of my speeches…” In answer, Rookie crawled up behind the vocalist, producing a bubble-blower and framing Nimo in a shower of bubbles. “Shouldn’t this happen in the encore?” asked Nimo, at a loss. “You guys are really prepared,” he commented, only half grumbling.
Rousingly British “Grafton Calling” resumed the set, yet another example of the band’s expertise in producing spot-on tunes from around the world with rattling drums, patriotic melody on the guitar, and the rollicking caper of the tin whistle reproduced by violin. Then, spirits were lifted even further with “Yoake no Anthem,” an exciting number with a celtic lilt. “Can you hear my voice?” sang Nimo, the crowd signing back “Yeah!”
“Let’s hear your voices!” he cried greedily, leading them in shouting to the opening of “Viva la Casta!” The jazzy number, born from the music of New Orleans, featured some great bass and neat jazz vocals. Despite the dark tone of the verses, Nimo sported an indomitably cheerful expression as he skillfully picked the complicated melody out of nowhere, in complete contrast to the music. It didn’t take much to get the crowd moshing. “You guys at the back can do better right? Let’s see it!” he prompted. “Go!” The crowd danced from one side of the floor to the other until, “Last! ATAMA!” Nimo yelled, flopping down to head-bang. “Back! Middle! Front!” he cried. “All of you come at us with everything!” Strobes fit to induce epilepsy burned overhead and the crowd went nuts, A(Ace) not far behind. Mucho Gracias’ very normal rock guitar had the sound of something brand new after so much unrestrained originality while Rookie sawed away at a high tune. Toshi matched the crowd’s vigor in thrashing out the final chorus, while violin shrieked into the outro. “Go on! It’s okay to mess up your hair!” Nimo teased, watching proudly as the fans went for it.
“Ouvertura,” the finale of the White Album, was a fun, fitting end to the set with a high melody that the crowd sang along to without hesitation. The lyrics had a feeling of island mystique, inducing images of waves washing over the sand. Nimo held out the mic and the crowd sang along splendidly, for which he screamed out a heartfelt “Thank you!” The fans put their fingers together to make hearts but Rookie made triangular “A”s back at them with a twinkle in his eye. One girl squealed with delight as the branch of purple flowers Toshi threw landed in her reaching hands, Mucho’s picks flying out into the center of the crowd.
It was no time at all before A(Ace) responded to their fans’ calling voice, returning for an encore. “Mu-sama!” shouted a score of girls. The guitarist held up a hand as he skulled his lurid red drink. Nimo, meanwhile, laughed about the girls fixing their hair. “That’s right, you’d get in trouble with hair like that at work,” he teased before changing the subject. “There’s only twenty copies left of the White Album.” By the end of the night, that figure was reduced to zero but there was still more to look forward to. “We went ahead and decided that November 11, 11/11 will be A(Ace) Day. After all, there’s nothing else on that day, right?” To the band’s dismay, the crowd reminded them that the day was claimed by Pocky. But they didn’t mind sharing, especially not when a free concert was announced to be held on November 11, right around the corner at Ikebukuro Black Hole.
The first number of the encore was a lovely ballad written just for the occasion called “Ship “Friend of Mine”.” Violin and vocals entered in duet with light kick-bass and cymbal taps to bind them together for a gorgeous piece of music, gracefully sung.
Rookie and Mucho Gracias “Koyoi Jyuusei ga Kikoenai Machi de,” by playing at each other downstage, the violinist playfully dragging his bow along the guitar strings. When the number concluded, Nimo yelled out to each section of the crowd once more before the finale, “Nude,” came in with some remarkable melodic runs from Rookie, turning heavy with the entry of guitar and bass and then freeing up under the vocal line. The violinist made rock hands at the crowd, then delighted them with some half-hearted loving… one hand twisting into a C against his bow. He then turned his hearts on Mucho Gracias for the guitarist’s final vibrant solo. “All of you raise your hands!” Nimo requested. “On bass, Toshi! On guitar, Mucho Gracias! On violiiin… Rookie! On vocal, Nimo!” Even support drummer Tetsuya got a mention. “Let’s meet again next time! This was Ace!” Rookie’s violin whined away until the very end, Nimo applauding back at the crowd to show his appreciation. In one hand, Mucho held a stuffed monkey and in the other, a snake which he wrapped around his neck. As the band sunk into a bow, he held up the monkey to wave goodbye, the curtains closing upon their bent forms.
Still only a year old as a band, there was a slight question of stamina but Nimo’s voice tiring by the end of the show was nothing experience won’t fix. In this visual world where appearance sometimes overshadows talent, A(Ace) are one of those rare bands who have it all, so get make sure you get on board before this ship sails and leaves you behind! Remember, remember the eleventh of November.
- Black Butterfly
- Vanilla Sky
- Rhapsody in Black
- -Gt solo
- -Piano solo
- G Koukyoushi FREEDOM i Tanchou
- -Bass solo
- Nu Fools Gold
- UTAGE Grafton Calling
- Yoake no Anthem
- Viva la Casta!
- Ship “Friend of Mine”
- Koyoi Jyuusei ga Kikoenai Machi de
There are 24 photos in this visual kei exclusive.