Versailles Live at O2 Academy, Islington
“Boy band” was the atmosphere at Versailles’ Holy Grail World Tour in London, as a long queue snaked through the shopping mall near the O2 Islington Academy and out into the high street. Not to mention the wild cheers that greeted even the sound check. For London’s visual kei fans, Versailles was no ordinary treat.
As the lights went down and the grandiose opening music boomed, the screams–louder even than what you’d hear in their reserved Japanese reception–reached their crescendo and the members came on stage. Between chants to the refrain of “Versailles,” more screams greeted first Yuki, then Masashi, then TERU and HIZAKI (both resplendent in white), and finally Kamijo.
The live opened in high octane fashion, with the riveting “MASQUERADE.” Its fantastic beat was set to thunderous guitars and ominous gothic strings, and then came the heavier moshing of “Ascended Master.” Versailles engaged with their audience from the get-go. Kamijo led the choreography with typical theatrical movements, although the audience seemed too caught up in their frenzy to follow.
Such is the energy of Versailles music that they take numerous short breaks to talk to their audience throughout. The first contained Kamijo’s only full English emcee of the night. “London!” he wailed in his characteristic fashion, his voice climbing to extreme pitch at the ends of sentences. “Long time no see! I wanted to see you! How are you? I want your Bonjour!” The request recalled Kamijo’s famous habit of addressing crowds with a “Bonjour honey” which he had carried with him since his Lareine days. The crowd responded enthusiastically, and the “Bonjours” flew back and forth as can only happen outside the land of the rising sun.
The show continued with another song from Holy Grail, which marked the difference between this and Versailles’ older work. “Judicial Noir” began with intriguing scoopy guitar sounds that led into a driving melody. It felt more alt-rockish than their more operatic sound, a testament to the metal concerts the band has been appearing in. “Glowing Butterfly” similarly involved elements that saw the piece grow from cyber sounds to hard driving rock and a much poppier chorus.
After “Glowing Butterfly,” the members left the stage to prepare for Kamijo’s solo performance of the beautiful “Love will be born again.” Kamijo’s pronunciation of the song–which was sung entirely in English–was rather impressive and he certainly showed he could work the crowd alone, swaying to the beat of the audience’s roses, aloft in the air, before kissing his own and throwing it out for one lucky person.
It was not a perfect concert however, as the epic “Faith and Decision” was overlong and overblown. It started promisingly as an instrumental piece with some beautifully expressive string bending from HIZAKI but once the vocals began, the beauty of the piece waned. At times during the show, the sound levels felt off, as Kamijo appeared to struggle to be heard over the powerful bass and drums, despite his strong vocals. It was a shame, but the fans didn’t seem to care at all, offering Kamijo a Union Jack flag mid-song, which he draped on the drum kit.
Despite these issues, Versailles put on a fine performance, particularly for the rousing final burst, which started with “Vampire.” During the glorious gothic affair Kamijo teased the audience, telling them “I want to suck your blood!” Versailles even managed to sneak in an unscheduled song that sprung powerfully from a growling call and response.
The set finished on one of Versailles’ catchiest pieces, “The Red Carpet Day.” The drums went on an all-out assault while HIZAKI’s staccato strings led to a stunning solo that sent shivers down the spine. The hall had become a hot mass of moshing beneath the red lights as the piece was extended beyond its original bounds for repeated growling and forward-flinging of bodies.
“Come on boys!” Kamijo yelled as the piece came to a close. He was drowned out by rapturous whoops and cheering. HIZAKI was so overcome with emotion that he almost leapt into the crowd before leaving the stage.
The encore call was not long in the answering. “Thank you!” yelled Kamijo exuberantly as they reappeared before Versailles began the encore with a gentle ballad, “Remember Forever.” “Let’s sing together,” Kamijo told the audience and they sang sweetly in unison. “Remember Forever” made a perfect first encore piece, melodic and soothing, its spacey ‘70s beat a contrast to the earlier madness.
At last, the evening closed with “Philia.” “You’re amazing!” Kamijo yelled, before saying in English “Over your limit!” a few times. He invited the fans for one last fling before a fast drumbeat got everyone, band included, head-banging. Pointing seemingly to each member of the audience, Kamijo’s expression as he locked eyes with his fans was one of deep gratitude. Amid the throwing of picks, the elation of Versailles at the response of their London fans could not be disguised. TERU even made heart signs at those boys and girls who had stood by his side of the stage, leaving a lasting impression long after they had left the stage.
London is only one of many stops on Versailles grand world tour, Holy Grail. But on the basis of this performance, it looks like it’ll be a very memorable tour indeed.
- Ascendead Master
- Judicial Noir
- Glowing Butterfly
- Love Will Be Born Again
- Faith & Decision
- Destiny -The Lovers-
- Red Carpet
- Remember Forever