Plastic Tree’s Third “Tent” at Budoukan
On April 14, Plastic Tree brought fans under their visual tent for the third time at their Nippon Budoukan tour final. The stage, decorated as a circus tent, matched the theme of the live and the mood was subdued as the band appeared behind the gauzy curtain.
Deep bass greeted the audience as the curtain drew back and the band began “Itai Ao.” The yellow and blue tones gave the stage artistic flare as they performed the lulling number. After a long pause came the upcoming single “Kuchizuke” and Ryutaro took a guitar to accompany the slightly more upbeat song. Roses bloomed onscreen as projected mosaics on the ceiling rotated in rhythm with the music.
Ryutaro showed his intensity in “Melt,” pacing the stage with microphone gripped tightly as the crowd screamed and waved for the popular song. Akira’s rock-guitar lines and the twirling and movement on stage were a wake-up after the previous, relaxing numbers and when the song ended abruptly the crowd called for more.
“Yayayaya!” drawled Ryutaro. “We’re back, Budoukan! The four of us are here!” The crowd yelled for drummer Kenken, who, due to illness, had been forced to sit out the other tour dates. “Welcome to our tent. Night is coming.”
“E to Se to Ra” was gentle, the moon on the video screen gradually growing fuller as if a month were passing in the span of the breathy song. Lights hit the drum kit with Kenken’s strong beats, and the song gradually grew in power, finishing in a crescendo. Ryutaro’s guitar opened “Sanbika,” strobes flickering onstage to match the song’s beats.
Light brushing of cymbals and a laser field spreading out over the crowd set the tone for “Joumyaku.” The drum beats were accompanied by jets of blue-green flame. Ryutaro’s voice was husky as the song ended in a final burst of power from all the instruments.
“It’s April 14. The weather forecast is…rain! Hahahaha!” Ryutaro seemed almost too happy as he addressed the probably still-damp crowd. “I prepared it, amazing, right? Sorry,” apologized Tadashi. Ryutaro began to absent-mindedly strum his acoustic guitar, the crowd quieting to prepare for a song. A moment later he explained that he meant nothing by the strumming, swiftly changing the subject. “I didn’t catch a cold this year but I’ll play a feverish song, anyway.”
That was “３７℃,” the lights dimming for the low-key number. A ‘60s rhythm and soothing yellow lights gave the song a lullaby feel, the acoustic guitar blending nicely with the other sounds, and Ryutaro’s voice was shuddering slightly before coming in strong for the final chorus. The pace quickened for “Gerbera.” Fast guitar, half-spoken lyrics, driving drums, and a bit of ‘70s classic rock flavored the song, making it memorable. The vocalist marched around the stage, pointing at members of the crowd as they all waved.
Tadashi took the microphone. “Enjoying yourselves, Budoukan?” The cameras panned out to show the crowd on screen. “Today is the final of the Ao no Unmeisen tour. This show is Tent ‘MaruSan.’ If it’s Plastic Tree and Budokan, it has to be ‘Tent,’ yeah? Let’s make it a good day!”
“What I hear is, people are having a good time!” Ryutaro commented. He called back and forth with the crowd before trying to start the next song. Unfortunately, the computer wasn’t cooperating. “Looks like our computer isn’t doing well. It’s totally broken. We’ll have to improvise until it wakes up. Where did everyone come from today?”
The fans shouted out a few places as the computer issues were worked out. “It’s fixed!” Tadashi announced, and Ryutaro grinned. “A round of applause for our computer! Are you ready to clap, Budokan??”
Electronic chimes and computer backing gave “Uwa no Sora” a fun and upbeat tone, green lasers accenting the futuristic feel. Fans bounced and clapped, Tadashi and Akira grooving along. “Ai Yori Aoku” kept the pace, Ryutaro and Tadashi walking up the wings to greet fans on the sides of the hall. The repetitive chorus was easy to sway to, and Ryutaro held the microphone out to let the audience sing before joining back in for a heavy final chorus. He continued to roughen his voice through the next numbers, the audience pumping their fists and waving as the show took a heavier turn.
“Melancholic” was, judging by the enthusiastic waving, a song the fans had been waiting for. Kenken gave huge strikes of the drum as the strobe was used to good effect, illuminating the stage and creating a renewed sense of energy. Tadashi threw himself into playing, and while Ryutaro’s voice was sharp in places, he sang with power and passion. Without even needing prompting, the crowd joined in for almost the entire song.
“You guys are amazing!” Ryutaro said. “During the tour we thought, ‘The cherry blossoms around Budokan are really beautiful, we should all go see them together,’ but we weren’t sure we’d get here. So thank you.”
Pink lighting lent a seasonal atmosphere to the spring song, “Harusaki Sentimental.” Ryutaro’s voice had an emotional tremble as he sang, and a huge cloud of paper cherry blossom petals began to blow over the audience, fluttering down with the lovely melody. There was slight laughter as the paper settled in fans’ hair, clothes, and bags towards the end of the song, and then came a huge round of applause. The mood then shifted from sweetly sentimental to creepily apprehensive. The video screen showed guro-kawa (grotesque and cute) characters–babies floating in space, for example. Plucked guitar notes turned into an instrumental whine that contrasted with Ryutaro’s simple singing in “Andro Metamorphose”, the band’s movements sharp like puppets being moved around a playroom. The performance ended the main set on a definitively Plastic Tree note, and the band exited.
“Did you call us?” Ryutaro asked, returning to the unmistakable encore call. Each member was given a moment to speak, starting with Akira.
“All you useless people who gathered from across the country… I’m happy. All you useless bangya, us four useless idiots have come on this useless tour and done our useless best, we didn’t do this alone. I’m truly grateful to all of our staff and you and all the people who’ve helped us.
Tadashi was next. “This was a spring tour, so we were able to see a lot of spring sights. It was really interesting. As Akira said, many people helped make this tour possible. This is our 15th year. It hasn’t all been good times, but I’m amazed we’ve gotten through our troubles, so please keep supporting us!”
Everyone was excited to hear Kenken speak. “I’m back!” he yelled as the crowd greeted him with equal enthusiasm. “Thanks to all of you I was able to come back. I’m so nervous my mind is totally blank right now! I can’t even express my gratitude. I feel like I’ve put my whole life into this show as a drummer.” He turned away for a moment, starting to cry. “I prefer smiles, so please cry with smiles! I caused our staff a lot of trouble, and I’m sorry. But I’ve safely returned.” As he tried to compose himself the tears didn’t stop, and he continued to cry with a huge grin. “From here on, I’ll express my feelings through drums,not words!”
“Since I’m last, can you call for me?” Ryutaro asked. The fans obliged. ““It was a long winter but I’m glad it’s now spring. This time on stage is my everything, so I’m truly thankful.”
He then had a special request, asking the crowd to do something he’d never done before- an arena wave. As arms went up all around Budoukan, Ryutaro watched intently. “Huh. So that’s a wave. I guess even at this age there are still new things to experience!”
The encore showed Plastic Tree have earned their place as forefathers in the visual kei genre. “Hate red. dip it” and “Puppet Talk” were hard performances filled with heavy guitar and growling vocal inflections. While the audience moved and slamming with the beats, streamers exploded over the crowd.
“This was a nice hanami (flower viewing party)!” The band took a moment to take in the view of the crowd before jumping together and waving. Kenken leapt into Ryutaro’s arms before leaving.
The crowd were treated to a video of “Kuchizuke,” and the screen then shifted to Akira and Tadashi. The fans began to scream as they realized the members were walking around the arena. They took to the stage and synthesizer joined their instruments as they played an atmospheric, if endless, intro to “Kuuchuu Buranco,” lit by dark blue lighting. When Ryutaro emerged, the reason for the long wait became clear. He was dressed as a classical pierrot from French pantomime, hair wild and face fully painted. He performed the number in paralyzed movements like a broken puppet, creating a lasting final impression as the curtains closed on Plastic Tree’s Budoukan circus tent.
- Itai Ao
- E to Se to Ra
- Aoi Tori
- Uwa no Sora
- Ai Yori Aoku
- Ruisen Kairo
- Harusaki Sentimental
- Andro Metamorphose
- hate red.dip it
- puppet talk
- Kuuchuu Buranco