Plastic Tree ~ Itazura Wonderful World at Akasaka Blitz

live report - 30.05.2008 22:00

Plastic Tree rocked their fairground world on a playful night.

For the night of 'Itazura Wonderful World' (Mischievous Wonderful World), Akasaka Blitz became a fairground. Behind the stage was painted an elaborate funfair with the faint outline of a roller coaster, and then above the stage a merry-go-round with antique horses was suspended motionless in front of the roller coaster. The theatrics of the set matched the crowd: for a band who seem less visual and more indie now, the crowd was decidedly of the visual style and more so than at your average indies band gig. The atmosphere was jovial with fans chatting together to the gentle background of British indie rock.

As five pm grew close Blitz began to fill with smoke that crept stealthily under our noses until the funfair backdrop was completely obscured. As the music started, green lights shone from the stage spookily through the mist: the screams became disembodied and as the band walked on they appeared like ghosts, hazy figures moving about in the smoke. With an explosive burst of powerfully melodic guitars, Yume no shima opened the live as the green became hot white, clearing the smoke and bathing the livehouse in light. Ryutaro's vocals were as pure and clear as on CD during the beautiful ballad; his voice has a unique quality live that sends shivers down the spine.

Yume no shima climaxed on a powerful note with reverberating industrial guitars, and went straight into the poppier attitude of Ruisen Kairo as Blitz became a forest of arms pounding the air. The climax of this first section occurred during the next song, egg, as Ryutaro dropped the guitar and broke out into full on vocalist mode; He strode confidently about the stage communicating with the crowd and eliciting the first shouted accompaniments to the songs. It was a neat opening from the calm of the first song to the flurry of energy in egg and then leading into Ryutaro's first MC of the evening, in which he thanked the audience and introduced the evening, all drawled in a thick accent.

Plastic Tree went back to a beautiful classic next and the first dulcet tones of Aoi Tori elicited sighs from the audience. The band gave a gentle acoustic version of the song and Ryutaro's vocals were a joy, full of anguished emotion. As it drew to a close two spotlights shone on Ryutaro plucking his guitar alone, the sound gradually growing in volume to become the introduction to the more upbeat Glider. Then as Ryutaro encouraged the fans to raise their hands, the band jumped into Zaza furi. A bright sound filled Akasaka Blitz, leaving the melancholy of Aoi Tori far behind as Akira joined in with the jumping audience.

Now fully energised, Plastic Tree took the time for a longer MC. As Ryutaro came forward to talk the room was filled with girls calling his name, to which he replied 'yes?' each time. The calling increased as did Ryutaro's responses to the point where the girls began to laugh at the comedy of the situation. From high on the second floor a girl shouted 'RYUTARO' loudly, to which he replied with equal volume causing the room to erupt with laughter. The playful atmosphere continued with some teasing of Tadashi as a 'countrified' melody played when he tried to talk. Eventually Tadashi was able to get some words out and he indicated the beautiful fairground decoration of the stage that tied in with the title 'Itazura wonderful world'. It was thus in high spirits that Plastic Tree dived into the opening of the super heavy, Psychedelizm that blended seamlessly by Akira's strong guitars into Orange. Electronica effects accompanied the heavy rock music, encouraging energetic dancing from the audience and Ryutaro, who pranced about the stage in an interesting dance. It seemed that the band were in a particularly chatty mood that evening as another MC followed, although they seemed to be struggling for words a little as they mused amongst each other, 'Ah it is spring, isn't it?' This open attitude, however, gave the live a friendly and intimate feel that made it particularly enjoyable.

From the beginning it had been a point of interest as to whether the merry-go-round horses at the back of the stage were painted or were models, and during Sanbika that question was finally answered as the merry-go-round came to life. It was an odd juxtaposition of horses bobbing benignly up and down and then the audience hurling themselves violently forwards. While the horses slowed down as Sanbika came to an end, the band did not waste any time as they powered through heavy numbers, Elegy and This latter saw Plastic Tree at their heaviest and one could draw comparisons to an almost Nirvana style grunge, particularly in Akira's guitar and Ryutaro's passionate vocals as he careered over the stage headbanging with a wild abandon. There was no pause either for the oldie, National Kid. The audience enthusiastically joined in with the chorus, building to a cracking finale that saw the whole band really rock out as Ryutaro stood spinning in a circle. Thus Melancholic started on a high of strobe lighting and energetic shouts of 'hey'. The disco ball began to spin, bathing the room in stars during the melodic verses and then back to the aggressive strobe lights for a killer bridge from Tadashi and Akira. Alone Again brought a sudden change of pace as the live began to wind down a little, although it was one of the most interesting performances musically of the evening. Smooth vocals contrasted starkly with stabbing guitar verses that made for a highly interesting sound. Akira's muted guitar solo was stunning too, adding further complexity to the song.

Sadly the time came for the final song, and Ryutaro introduced the song that would become the highlight of the evening, Harusaki Sentimental. A lone spotlight shone on Ryutaro singing the opening lines gently as a piano softly played the familiar melody. With a burst of lights the rest of the band joined him for the chorus. It was a passionate and emotional performance sung with heartfelt sincerity, and as the second verse began, petals fell on the stage. It was a magical and incredible performance that entranced the entire audience into silence until after the band had left.

Gradually though, as they gazed upon the empty stage, the calls for encore began crescendoing in volume until the entire hall was chanting for Plastic Tree's return. It took them around five minutes however to reappear and in typical fashion, they opened with an MC. Akira spoke for the first time that evening, giving his thoughts about the 'sakura service' during Harusaki Sentimental. Then it was Hiroshi's turn to speak and he managed to get some words out while Ryutaro pelted him with petals. He thanked the audience for their attendance and, since the lights were flickering he decided to thank the electricity for holding out too. As Ryutaro resumed control of the mic, the band began to play their first encore with some classic Plastic Tree in the form of Seiza tsukuri and then a beautiful ballad, Makka na Ito.

Again they left and again they kept the audience waiting for five minutes, which in terms of lives feels like an age. The resumption of lights on stage was greeted with a roar of happiness from the crowd. Ryutaro chatted a little with his bandmates over their future plans. 'Spring has come so quickly! There are so many things to do,' to which the audience merely replied with appreciative yells. No time was wasted however in introducing Picasso Gokko as heavy sounds once again filled Blitz and continued in Puppet Talk with pounding drums from Hiroshi. It was borderline metal and through the strobe lighting, the mass of heaving bodies appeared all the more chaotic. There was no interim in the drumming as Plastic Tree strode confidently into the rocking finale, ANGEL DUST. As the band said their final goodbyes, a playful Ryutaro asked the audience to do a one-clap applause in unison as they bowed out. It was all a bit bizarre and left a number of girls in fits of giggles. The stage had gone quiet and as people started to turn to leave, Ryutaro popped back into view, shushing the excited audience to yell 'next time' without a microphone.

Plastic Tree should be proud of the show they put on at Akasaka; Tightly produced and impeccably performed, the show also had a neat balance in the setlist and some real emotional surprises in those choices that ensured their Wonderful World would be hard to forget.

Set list:

Yume no Shima
Ruisen Kairo
Aoi tori
Zaza buri, zaza nari
National Kid
Alone Again, Wonderful World
Harusaki Sentimental

Seiza dukuri
Makka na ito

Picasso Gokko
puppet talk
Angel dust
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