Annie’s Black Pray for…at Takadanobaba Area
The man behind solo project Annie’s Black is Sarino, ex. vocalist of Shelly Trip Realize/Tinc and the current frontman of Ninjaman Japan, and perhaps one of the most talented and least known bands in the current indies scene. That’s just one of the drawbacks of a band made up almost entirely of support members like Annie’s Black. The oneman at Takadanobaba Area was the final day for the current incarnation of Annie’s Black as the support artists of a year were to leave in search of other projects.
Organ music led to the curtain opening as fans were greeted by a smiling Sarino who instructed them to have fun until the very last. The band began with “Kousai” and the crowd was swept up in Sarino’s enthusiasm, raising and lowering arms as he led them in the movements to the song. “Call me” had an electronic intro, and Sarino sat as he sang out to the clapping crowd. The upbeat song had everyone moving, and a melodious section midway was carried by a strong undercurrent of guitar. Red lights flashed and the disco ball spun, casting glittering beams around the live house floor.
“Annie’s Black, Pray for…, on September 24th,” he announced the show’s title. “I want you to join your hearts. Oh yeah. Let’s enjoy it. The next song is ‘Urge.’”
The next three numbers went from cool rock to charming melody: “Urge,” “Cage,” and “Godless.” The last changed the pace with its almost symphonic opening and charming melody. The song was well balanced, with strong guitar contrasting the pretty melody and Shun singing harmony. Shigure got into a groove with his bass on the side. “Thank you!” Sarino said to the crowd as wind-like synthesizer music played beneath his voice. “Are you listening to everything? If you passed away tomorrow, would you have any regrets? This next song is filled with that kind of feeling. ‘Deep psyche.’”
“Deep psyche.” was a haunting ballad beautifully performed and enhanced by the gentle quality of Sarino’s voice, fading slightly on the high notes. The guitar rose to a crescendo as the bass dropped away completely, and Sarino’s voice joined back in, carried on the ivory notes of piano. Music box strains and the disco light cast glimmers throughout an otherwise black live house, setting the mood. “This song is special to us,” Sarino said. “Please listen with your heart. ‘if…’” A subtle spotlight was cast on the vocalist, his singing poignant but not overly dramatic, and a piercing electronic guitar solo somehow managed to work perfectly into the ballad. “Thank you,” he said as the crowd applauded again.
“I’m not an oya baka [parent who thinks overly highly of his own children]” Sarino began his emcee, “but I’m so proud of Diana [Annie’s Black’s fan club.] I’m extremely happy to have such wonderful fans!” He smiled at them and the fans beamed back, the mutual affection palpable. “We’re not a band who only makes songs that will make you cry,” he promised, saying they were now going to kick the live into high gear. “Let’s step it up!” He lead the crowd in clapping for “Akai Hiiru,” and the lights came up so Sarino could see the audience. “I wanna see your fists and hear your voices!” he yelled, “3-2-1, yeah!”
A jazzy intro lead to sudden widespread moshing. Shun once again took the harmony, and Sarino called to his members. “On bass, Shigure! On Guitar, Mori and Shun! Mosh! Mosh!” “Ambition” was heavy, with red, blue, and white lights alternating in quick succession. Guitar and bass were relentless throughout the song, but a slight pop lilt to the melody kept it from veering too far.
“Naked” had a groovy start and the crowd dove right in. An awesome guitar solo stood out, and the beat shifted to a dark hip-hop before a heavy-metal bass riff cut through the song. The crowd thrashed with the bass, and though it was a heavy song with a lot of elements, the rhythm stayed consistent, Sarino bobbing and rapping in his own little world.
“This has been a very special night,” said Sarino. “This is the last song for today. For the sake of the love between us, please listen: ‘Brand New World.’”
Instead of music, there was silence.
There was a problem with the backing track, and Sarino gathered up his mic lead. “I wasn’t expecting this,” he said, looking suddenly put out. “I’m not good at playing it cool, let’s turn it over to Mori.”
“I’m very cool,” Mori agreed, so cool that he said he washed his clothes in whiskey.
“I can smell it,” Sarino joked, making a face.
At last the source of the trouble was revealed by drummer Takafumi.
“It was all set up for a dramatic entry, but… I had the volume turned down to zero,” he admitted, and Sarino laughed, his good humor restored.
“Brand New World!” Mori yelled, and they launched into the cute and catchy song. Sarino held the mic out to the audience as they sang “woah”s back at him. “This has been a great live!” he yelled over the music. “Let’s always be together! More! You can do better!” The crowd sang along even louder, Shun joining in the harmony. The fans were a bit behind the band with their contribution, but the members adjusted and managed to bring the song to a unified close.
After deep bows, the band took off and the audience began calling for an encore until Annie’s Black returned to dramatic music. “Are you ready?” Sarino called, and the audience clapped to the digital beat. “Extinct” was strong and mature, highly listenable, and the dance melody had everyone moving.
“Thanks for the encore!” Sarino said upon finishing. “Originally, Annie’s Black broke up and I thought about quitting music. But it made me think deeper, about what kind of music I wanted to make, and now I’m with the best band, on the best stage, with the best fans. I’m so thankful. I want you to listen to this next song, this is very special to Annie’s Black.”
The next song was a reworking of “amid the despair,” played earlier in the set, this version more spirited and cheerful. The disco ball began to shine during the guitar solo and continued as Sarino sang unaccompanied, and the lights fell on the last chorus, Shun singing along at the end.
“Thank you!” Sarino yelled with a huge grin. He took a big bow before the members jumped together with a huge crash and took off.
One encore wasn’t enough. Soon the crowd was calling for the band to come again. Mori was the first to return, popping open a beer and jumping slightly as it fizzed up.
“I thought you said you were drinking whiskey?” Sarino teased. He then introduced all the support members: drummer Takafumi, who was ribbed about messing up the most important point of the live, then bassist Shigeru, who told the audience it was his first and last time to take the microphone for Annie’s Black.
Then it was time to introduce the “whiskey character,” guitarist Mori. “That was a pain!” Mori exclaimed. “You know, back before I joined up, I had long hair and a beard. I thought, am I really okay to do visual kei? But I want us to play together for the next thirty years! It’ll be Annie’s Silver!”
Sarino couldn’t contain his laughter at that. “Next, guitarist Shun. Really, you could say he’s even more of Annie’s Black than I am.”
“Shun? I’m Namihei,” The guitarist pointed out. “I hadn’t planned on doing more than playing guitar [in Annie’s Black] but I started writing songs and recording. Ryouhei…”
“Ryouhei?” Sarino interrupted, and Shun frowned.
“Crap, I screwed up! Namihei.”
There was more laughter, and Sarino took the mic again. “I plan to continue Annie’s Black so I’m counting on you all for support. Can you join your hands with us? Can we become one?” He turned to check on the drummer for a moment, perhaps making sure the sound was ready, then turned back to the audience.
“I’ll sing for your future. ‘departure.’” The catchy song was reminiscent of an anime theme, and AREA came alive as the fans waved glow-sticks. A heavy rock interlude lead into a dramatic chorus, and Sarino held a final pose as the bass and band played out to the last. Everyone joined hands for a last big jump.
“1-2-3, wasshoi!” Sarino screamed, giving the Japanese festival yell, then he went to each side to greet fans, Shun grabbing the opportunity to tickle his side. The band wandered around the stage for a minute, hugging, clasping hands, and looking tired, pleased and overall grateful for the performance. They left the stage together and the lights came up.
Though it was the last show with those particular support members as a unit, Sarino has hinted that a new incarnation of Annie’s Black is already in the works. Make sure you check out Annie’s Black if you’re into good music of all kinds.
2. Call me
3. amid the despair
7. Deep psyche
9. Akai Hiiru
13. Brand New World
En2. amid the despair (LAST)
There are 39 photos in this visual kei exclusive.