V-ROCK FESTIVAL 2011: Best Staging
All photographs courtesy of V-ROCK FESTIVAL '11.
Best Staging: Ali Project
As far as staging goes, Ali Project really take the cake. After all, it’s one of the most visual aspects of the band. That isn’t to say they had the busiest stage, however—it was the best designed. With violinists arrayed on either side of vocalist Arika Takarano, the stage’s minimalist approach allowed us to focus entirely on the diva’s rose-embroidered, massive golden hair. For those up-close, or watching on the big screens, the mic-stand really stood out with its glittery vines and resting butterfly. Then out came the Nazi-themed dancers who performed something akin to “The Macarena” as Arika sang operatically over surprisingly noisy music. Blinding coloratura gave way to “Yuukyou Seishun Ou,” and the dancers vanished, so instead the eyes focused on the sheathed katana slowly gliding through the air in Arika’s hands, which she unsheathed for the finish.
“When we showed up in the first lineup for this festival, a lot of people asked ‘Are they even visual kei?’ but I think we are,” the vocalist assured the crowd, who obviously seemed to agree. “These are my normal clothes, after all,” she added. Just to emphasize the point, she tossed the vinyl trench-coat, revealing a glory of red leather corseted leotard and laced red bracers. If that isn’t visual, then what is? Once again, the dancers returned to accompany her through the final numbers and the set ended with “GOD DIVA” in a tableau where the dancers and violinists surrounded Arika as she sang an aria reminiscent of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (which was subsequently destroyed by wicked rock violin!)
Versailles are roses of the visual kei world, and their staging reflects their elegance and style. The band brought the audience into their world before they even stepped onstage, their drum kit and microphone stands draped in garlands of roses to prepare fans for the visual feast to come. The band emerged to operatic music wearing venetian masks, spotlighted and glittering, before jumping into their instrumental-heavy set. Costume details are a hallmark of Versailles, from the cross decorating Hizaki’s back to the subtle rose patterning of Kamijo’s coat, and the lighting was so well done that even up in the stands, glints of gold and the movement of the fabric and epaulets were apparent.
When all the members twirled in unison, their coats, capes, and skirts fanned out together in a glittering swoosh, and it would be hard to find something more dramatic outside of a Takarazuka (Japanese all female cabaret theatre) production. It wasn’t only their costumes that shone, though, Versailles themselves proved adept at using the stage and creating an atmosphere for the audience with their performance. The band played off each other by leaning and posing for maximum dramatic effect, creating one photogenic moment after another. Tres belle.