PENICILLIN – Final at Shibuya O-East

live report - 27.01.2010 11:01

On December 13, 2009, PENICILLIN impressed at the final show for their TOUR2009 hageshiku fuka cell.

PENICILLIN is a machine that for the last seventeen years has been turning to the rhythm of around one album a year. Driven by the creativity of their leader CHISATO (guitar), the name of the group is more often associated with their vocalist HAKUEI, who is also making a career as a fashion model (with the brand BLACK PEACE NOW). Indeed, he participated as a model at Japan Expo 2007 in Paris, then returned for Japan Expo 2008 during which he performed with his other band, machine. That performance provoked some intense reactions due to its brevity and nasty sound. However, seeing PENICILLIN in Japan for the final live of their cell tour (new album cell was released on November 4th) was a very different story.

HAKUEI, a two-faced artist

Following the departure of the previous bassist in 2007, many thought the group was dead and buried, but they underestimated these three acclaimed musicians: CHISATO, HAKUEI and O-Jiro (drummer). Accompanied by bassist Hiroki (from The ROMEO with Daishi ex. Psycho Le Cému), the band played more than twenty songs for a concert that lasted nearly three hours. Evidently PENICILLIN doesn’t do anything halfway! But unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the most anticipated member, HAKUEI. The vocalist's talent isn't even a question. On the evening of December 13, 2009, HAKUEI delivered a perfect vocal performance. But it wasn’t until halfway through the night that fans were able to see this singer, considered one of the most charismatic guys of the visual kei scene, change his passive attitude and become more active, which was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, he has a dashing style, that night comprising a top hat, red cardigan with leopard print, long plaits which gave him a metal music style, plenty of tattoos and a svelte profile.

Aside from HAKUEI’s performance, there were some gratifying points, including the punch of CHISATO, relentlessly moving from one guitar solo to the next on his ESP V-series without any hesitation, as well as O-Jiro’s strong drumming and more reserved but good-natured attitude. Also worth noting was session member Hiroki’s great performance, bouncing around the stage like a jumping jack and playing his bass with remarkable agility. We would have liked to have seen more ardor from a well-known visual kei star like HAKUEI, but halfway through the night we were able to see a smile on his face, showing an irrepressible pleasure, the heart of communication between an artist and his audience.

What about cell and the new songs?

During this final at Shibuya O-East, PENICILLIN played all the songs from cell, their last album, except AI. The first song played that night, WARP, really got the crowd in the mood with its punk rock style. The two songs they shot PVs for, Momoiro gene and BLACK HOLE, also hit the bull’s eye, especially the second one. This song, with its light, demented sound and catchy chorus launched by a romantic break, was already one of the hits from their earlier work and a top song on the album. Its antithesis, WHITE HOLE, another hit from earlier, was a pleasure to on stage with the sensual voice of the vocalist, its high refrain and CHISATO’s dexterity during the guitar solo. He played like a heavy metal guitarist (even if his crepe paper skirt from the Momoiro gene PV was a little tasteless), but transitioned from metal and punk riffs, tapping and speed picking solos without batting an eyelid. It's not too surprising that this guitarist has been a support member of Acid Black Cherry, a project well known for its talented guitarists (such as Daita or YUKI from DUSTAR-3).

They then gave us a pleasant surprise with BABY JUMP, a more nervous song during which CHISATO howls the back-up vocals. This number drove the audience and the musicians to intense headbanging. Probably one of the best moments of the concert was the ballad Toki no hahen, which was played during the first encore. HAKUEI seems to hold this song in his heart since he asked for the audience's support. The style of this song is not too common in PENICILLIN's discography. Playing with his breath, the fashion model added a certain sensual, melancholic touch to his singing. The other songs from cell, such as psycho and Junk DNA, were less noticeable, not extraordinary but not bad.

And as for the oldies...

Among the oldies of the live were Tsumetai kaze (a real gem), DEAD or ALIVE and x.x.x. Each song was warmly welcomed by an evidently very loyal audience. But it was on Inazuma that the main part of the final ended, and for this song PENICILLIN really fired up the crowd. Even HAKUEI took off his cardigan to throw himself into a vigorous headbanging session with the audience before spitting water to them, while CHISATO and Hiroki held out the necks of their guitars to the crowd. During the encore sessions (with such songs as the greatly appreciated FOR BEAUTIFUL MAD HUMAN LIFE), the members appeared closer than before, especially when CHISATO and HAKUEI embraced each other during REALxxx. The band also drank beers to toast with the crowd, saying “Shibuya kanpai!” Two encores were initially planned, but with such a warm ambiance and fervent crowd, PENICILLIN played a third encore, a final epilogue.

This live was a real success even if it took a while to get going. Indeed, we prefer to remember the HAKUEI from the second half of the night. cell turned out to be a great album on stage, thanks to a well prepared set list. Additionally, PENICILLIN's members didn’t lack for humor as they gave their MC during the breaks. Talented musicians, a group with a real visual kei sound in a music scene losing its vitality, names that make fans of the 90s sound (or the early 2000s) dream, that’s how we sum up PENICILLIN.

Set list:

3. Momoiro gene
5. marionnette
6. Junk DNA
7. make love
8. MAD
9. psycho
10. Tsumetai kaze
11. JUMP#1
13. x.x.x
15. Inazuma
1. Toki no hahen
2. Otoko no romanZ
1. Toki no kakera
2. REALxxx
1. Fly
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