UNiTE Introduces New Drummer at Shibuya Kokaidou

Live Report

by Leela McMullen, chi.yow, posted October 4, 2014

While it was not their first time playing in Shibuya Kokaidou, UNiTE. ONEMAN LIVE -U&U’s Ano hi mita, Kiseki no Saki ni-Shibuya Kokaidou on August 16 marked the debut of UNiTE.’s new drummer. The atmosphere was a mix of excitement and curiosity as the large hall filled with fans toting colorful merchandise and lights which served to transform the venue into a brilliantly twinkling landscape as Sana (drums), Haku (bass), Shiina Mio (guitar), LiN (guitar), and Yui (vocals) strode out onto the uniquely tiered stage. The quintet gathered in a circle at the center for a brief moment to link hands before taking their places.

Once settled, the band immediately started with “REV,” a song from their September 17 release. Heavy guitars from LiN and Shiina Mio led the crowd through multiple rounds of wild headbanging while Yui sang out from atop his front podium. Spotlights continually rolled over Sana as he performed the rapid drum highlights sprinkled throughout the number. After a dramatic pause, the light melodies of “starting over” filtered through the speakers before Yui started calling out to the audience to get them jumping to the light, synthesized music. The vocalist utilized a bit of his rap skill as he strode about the stage, throwing in the occasional falsetto with his melodic tones while Shiina Mio encouraged fans to join hands as they jumped.

At this point, Yui gave a brief introduction of their new drummer. “So we have a new member who has joined us; this is Sana! With these five people, we’re going to keep doing our best together, so please keep supporting us,” Yui appealed. “Today, UNiTE. is going to be at our coolest, so are you all ready to bring it?” The vocalist called out for everyone to bring their energy more before the band started into “Destroy.” The energetic and poppy song sent the audience into a flurry of motion between the rows of seats, jumping as they moved from side to side in the limited space. As the freer members ran about the stage, Sana kept a steady beat from behind his drum set, pointing encouragingly at crowd members with his sticks when given the chance.

Haku opened “Yuki no shita” with a lively bass intro as Yui called for more clapping while commenting on how pretty the glow sticks scattered amidst the crowd were. These were especially noticeable as the vocalist launched into a flurry of choreography for everyone to follow along to the lighthearted rhythm. Fans continued to rise to the challenge of keeping up with Yui’s various hand signals for the lighthearted “AIVIE;” Sana’s drums once more giving cues for jumping. As they carried out the choreography, the crowd sang along to the cheerful backing track, adding to the positive atmosphere. Shiina Mio and LiN’s whining guitars introduced “Meaning,” during which Yui demonstrated his vocal range, calling out the lyrics with powerful energy and spirit. Nevertheless, it was quite obviously a guitar-based song and one particularly intense double guitar solo had the crowd rhythmically throwing themselves forward over the seats before Shiina Mio performed the winding outro.

In a change of pace, a peaceful harmonic intro filled the venue for “Kimi wa shiranai,” Yui requesting that the audience listen to another of their new songs before starting in with emotional lyrics. As the song came to a sudden end, Yui solemnly thanked everyone before lights imitating a light snowfall drifted about the stage for “snow slow.” While the scenery was not befitting of the summer season, the continuing peaceful atmosphere extended a much-needed cool-down period. As city images were projected onto the background, a nostalgic mood fell across the floor, punctuated by Yui’s sweet vocals. He was last seen dramatically falling to his knees as he uttered the last line while his bandmates played their parts around him, before once more being swallowed by the darkness. A dripping, otherworldly intro started “re:make” as the stage was re-lit, Yui calling out once more for energy to fuel their performance. The build-up was more gradual as winding guitar lines wove through the air; LiN sharing a dual spotlight with Yui for his guitar solo as the two looked over the waving audience from the center podium.

The stage didn’t remain dark for long as LiN suddenly appeared in the spotlight to address the crowd. Meanwhile, his bandmates slowly came back into view, surveying the audience as their more eccentric guitarist entertained the crowd with many humorous lines and puns. “You can’t really see all the details because this is such a big livehouse—well, this isn’t really a livehouse—but it’s so big that some of you can’t see very well, can you? That’s why you should use your voices! I want to hear you use your voices in a big way! Please let me hear them!” LiN’s requests of spirited yells were granted quite enthusiastically, the guitarist throwing a satisfied grin to the crowd once the desired volume had been reached.

This clearly marked the end of the calm as “Love_Duck_Core_Nothing” signaled an immediate dive back into a frenzy of neck-wrenching headbanging. Yui encouragingly called out for everyone to continue pouring their energy into the mildly bipolar song that contained a mixture of light, poppy melodies and heavy, crashing drumbeats. It was a more militaristic affair for “At traction S” with Haku adding to the dark overtones through his steady bass notes. Yui donned a dictator’s persona as he stood on the front podium, drawling out the lyrics as fans rhythmically threw out their hands in a succession of salutes.

“You guys aren’t finished yet, are you? Keep coming!” The vocalist screeched before initiating yet another choreography-packed song with the heavy, disk-scratch-accented “FCW,” starting out with a mass of fans quickly bowing over the seats in front of them and continuing with short, but invariably wild headbanging sessions. It seemed the band wouldn’t be content until their fans were visibly weary—or headless—as Yui shrilly called for “Heads!” in “Zetsubou creator.” The vocalist accented the downward spiral into darkness with mad cackles and evil laughter between rapidly-recited verses as Shiina Mio directed the crowd from side-to-side with his guitar riffs and gestures.

Shiina Mio then took a turn to address their “Us” (the name for UNiTE. fans). “So many people are here today, and among you, my father, mother, little sister, grandfather, and grandmother are here, too! Thank you so much, everyone, for coming! Although there are so many people here, the reverberations are great, aren’t they?”

“The reverberations are good, yeah?” echoed Yui before attention was turned to the eccentricities of LiN. Using the same phrasing, Shiina Mio directed the crowd to call out “LiN-kun is good, yeah?” in various tones and volumes, depending on who was doing the praising. “With this kind of feeling in mind, please remember, we’re counting on you!”

Haku came to the center of the stage to blow kisses to the crowd before towels were raised for the happy summer tune of “Cocky-discuS.” To add to the festivities, the audience was split down the middle for LiN and Shiina Mio to command in successive jumping waves. Following on, the choreography for “small world order” was less varied and demanding, consisting mainly of jumping to Sana’s drum beats. As the song wound down, all members gathered about Sana’s drum stand before launching into “Io,” Yui calling out strongly against the synthetic backing track as he strode forward, visiting the multiple podiums. Powerful winding guitars from LiN and Shiina Mio kept the energy high while Sana rapidly struck his drums, bearing a large grin as he watched the audience jump about.

A single central beam of light stood empty until Yui calmly wandered in, taking the moment to deliver a gentle speech. “There’s quite a few things I want to say but to start off with, I’m really happy to be onstage today. Thank you so much for coming tonight. Right now, the five people here on this stage are different from before but despite this, this stage belongs to us five until the end of the day. Everyone’s love and feelings, these are the reasons why we continue on and don’t give up. With these five people, never forgetting these feelings, we’re going to have a new start from now.” Following the vocalist’s heartfelt gratitude, “U -s m e h-“ served as a promise of the band’s continued dedication to their fans in this current line-up. Yui strolled behind the drums to give Sana a brief serenade akin to a small blessing of acceptance until it came time to perform the first set of rapped lines scattered thoughout the composition. Near the end, LiN and Shiina Mio performed one last synchronized over-the-shoulder guitar throw before the band departed from the stage, calling out their thanks.

Following a swift return to the stage in response to the encore calls, Sana was requested to introduce himself to the audience. “Hello, coming from Osaka, I am Sana! Yesterday, all day, I felt pressure for today. I’ve had a lot of fun so far because of everyone here. Thank you so much! I’ll continue to do my best from now on, so please keep treating me well.” Yui then invited the audience to take their seats, for UNiTE.  had quite the treat in store. Next to be introduced were guest support members for the special encore session that would feature re-arrangements enlisting the help of pianist/keyboardist Naoki and saxophonist Ruppa. The venue was transformed into a gargantuan jazz club, Yui taking a calm pose at center stage as he crooned out “scenes,” the underlying saxophone accents adding a playful, cool touch. Audience members were quick to add their own clapping to the catchy beat. Naoki then led into “Yakusoku” with playful notes on his keyboard—Yui singing the majority of the song with only the piano accompaniment to allow fans full appreciation of a more soulful style of vocals from the singer. “Qualia” then rounded out the encore with a cheerful melody, Yui telling a story with his hands as he sang with a colorful landscape playing on the screen to aid the narrative.

More details of the upcoming double A-side single were announced onscreen, revealing the new incarnation Dark UNiTE.  for the promotional video of “ice” which carries a theme of cannibalism just in time for the approaching Halloween holiday. Yui’s whispered “Itadakimasu (Japanese pre-meal ritual)” restarted the live with this very song. LiN gave the audience hints towards the choreography but otherwise, fans simply chose to throw themselves into the mix.

A wild yell from Yui sent everyone into another headbanging frenzy for “world wide wish,” the pace unrelenting as the vocalist insisted, “That can’t be all you have! I know you have more in you!” The challenge was on as Haku travelled about the stage to aid his bandmates in riling up the crowd, nodding in approval to each section passed before moving on to his next targets. Shiina Mio even took it a step further by hopping off stage in order to check on those further away. After a final session of hearty headbanging, the rowdy song finally came to an end as the stage fell into darkness once more.

“There were so many feelings felt today—so many amazing feelings. This was especially true today with Sana joining us so that we are five people again. It’s like another miracle has occurred,” Yui asserted. “As for the theme of miracles, there are a lot of ways to think about them. Miracles gave me the strength to never give up so I believe that on this night, with these five people, we will make a new miracle. From now on, we’ll definitely do our best to continue to spread happiness for everyone.” On that note, Eniver” began the official closing of the concert. Yui requested for the audience to sing along for the spirited final number an it lit everyone’s faces with brilliant smiles. As they proceeded to the last verse of chorus, Yui fell silent to have the audience take over in singing, each repetition growing in volume as the vocalist cried out for more, with the final round consisting only of the crowd’s voices ringing throughout the space. Yui took back the reins with a powerful a capella recital until the instruments came back in for the finishing blast.

Before departing the stage one last time, the band requested for a commemorative group photo to be taken, as well as a unified jump. Last to leave the stage, Shiina Mio took a deep bow of gratitude before giving a quick, emotion-laden final address of, “We’re continuing to do our best, so from here on, please continue to support us!”

It can be difficult to fill the shoes of previous band members—especially those with quite the established fan base—but this show proved that Sana is up to the task of bringing his own charm to the band as UNiTE . continue on to the next stage of their career. With the announcements of two successive one-man shows in connection to the September release of REV/ice, as well as a Christmas live in the works, UNiTE.  are back at full strength and show no signs of slowing down in 2014.

Set List

  1. REV
  2. starting over
  3. Destroy
  4. Yuki no shita
  5. AIVIE
  6. Meaning
  7. Kimi wa shiranai
  8. re:make
  9. Love_Duck_Core_Nothing
  10. At traction S
  11. FCW
  12. Zetsubou creator
  13. Cocky-discuS
  14. small world order
  15. Io
  16. U -s m e h-

Encore

  1. scenes
  2. Yakusoku
  3. Qualia

Encore 2

  1. ice
  2. world wide wish
  3. Eniver

Leela McMullen is a strong believer in the philosophy "no music, no life." Having traversed the range of Japanese fandoms, she found her home at last in visual kei and has made it her mission to share what she loves most with the world. Leela completed her B.A. in Japanese language from Griffith University in Gold Coast Australia. She now lives and works in Japan, striving to bring you the goods, hot from the scene. Follow her on twitter for juicy hints of upcoming articles if you've got a bit of Japanese language under your belt! http://twitter.com/#!/LeelaInTokyo

Chi’s interest in visual kei stems from her love of art. The unique aesthetics in combination with the wide range of musical styles within the genre have been what has kept her interest in the visual kei scene for over a decade. The main image her friends and classmates have of her is with a camera in hand, face behind the viewfinder or screen. This image is also occasionally combined with memories of running around her to avoid getting into her panorama shots.

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