Versailles at O2 Academy Islington, London

live report - 21.02.2017 00:01

Versailles bring their extravagant brand of visual kei glamour to London.

Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet- returned to Islington’s O2 Academy on January 29th for the UK stop of their European Renaissance tour. The fans have spent a good while queuing in the cold and damp, and are glad to get inside the venue tucked away in the corner of an Islington shopping centre. They’ve come well-prepared for the evening, armed with roses and dressed to impress in the style of their visual kei heroes. The stage isn’t quite as well-dressed. The setup at the Academy is strictly functional tonight, without the roses draped everywhere that are a feature of Versailles’ live shows.

As show time approaches, chants of “We are Versailles” begin. The gothic strains of Prelude ring out and the chants intensify, turning to screams as KAMIJO takes the stage, resplendent in a dark frockcoat elaborately embroidered in gold, complete with scarlet-lined cape which he swirls dramatically. He prowls back and forth, hand aloft, flashing the rock horns, whipping the crowd up. His bandmates join him one by one. MASASHI swaggers on like a pirate, clad all in black with a tricorn hat sporting an outrageous plume of feathers. TERU is next out, the medals adorning his blue and silver jacket glint under the lights, while YUKI quietly takes a seat behind his drums. Finally, HIZAKI arrives, greeted by cheers and screams, in an elegant red and black gown.

With everybody hyped up from the entrance, Versailles launch into the opener, Aristocrat’s Symphony. Initially, the frantic, fast-paced guitars slightly overwhelm KAMIJO’s deep, melodramatic vocals but the sound soon balances out and the crowd get their first chance to enjoy HIZAKI and TERU’s dueling guitar solos. With barely a pause for breath, vampire love song ASCENDEAD MASTER follows. HIZAKI and TERU again trade intricate-yet-effortless solos before combining for an impressive duet.

After the rapid-fire opening, KAMIJO takes a moment to greet fans. “Welcome to Versailles,” he cries, throwing in several utterances of “bonjour”. With that taken care of, he prompts the crowd to “Shout, shout!” for the next number, Shout & Bites and they’re happy to oblige, waving their roses in the air for good measure. There’s a short pause after Judicial Noir as KAMIJO speaks: “Let’s play together and make a special night.”

The stage is bathed in sickly green and yellow lights for zombie. The heavy, pounding verses and death metal screams get the crowd jumping again. Another heavy number, Gekkakou, keeps the furious energy going. This track is Versailles’s melodic take on thrash metal, full of aggression and screamed vocals, which HIZAKI tops off with a most unladylike kick.

After this blast of thrash, the band take a quick breather and KAMIJO introduces a new song called Inheritance. At first listen, it seems to have a slightly more conventional rock sound than Versailles’s usual classically-influenced melodic power metal. It’s the first of two new tracks played tonight from their upcoming mini-album Lineage ~Bara no Matsuei~, which’ll only be available to those attending Versailles’s show at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan in a few weeks’ time. Fans will surely be hoping this album gets a wider release soon.

KAMIJO suddenly disappears backstage, leaving HIZAKI and TERU front and centre for the epic instrumental Silent Knight. HIZAKI dazzles with his array of technical skills and TERU impresses with a high-speed tapping solo, brandishing his guitar vertically. The highlight, however, is the duo’s high-velocity synchronized solo.

KAMIJO returns for MASQUERADE and MASASHI gets his moment in the spotlight for a tricky, tapping bass solo. It’s not all extravagant showmanship and melodrama tonight though. KAMIJO takes a moment during After Cloudia to have some fun. He grabs a photographer’s camera and larks about snapping photos of the crowd and HIZAKI, leaving the photographer fretting over the fate of his expensive kit.

KAMIJO then takes a quick rest, sitting down in front of the drums. The main lights come on and he steps forward for a brief MC. “We are back in Europe, back in UK. We are back in this place. I remember this place. Here is our castle!” This draws appreciative cheers from the audience.

The lights fade again and Versailles head in to the final few numbers, including the second new song, Lineage. This one also has more of a straight rock edge to it and KAMIJO coaches the crowd for a singalong with the unfamiliar chorus. The Red Carpet Day is the last song of the set. HIZAKI scampers and pirouettes from one side of the stage to the other, ensuring everybody gets a chance to see his last few shreds. They finish with a flourish, twirling in unison, and the crowd watch them depart backstage with KAMIJO’s high pitched cries of “UK! UK!” ringing in their ears.

The crowd strike up their chants of “We are Versailles” again and the band returns to the stage after a few minutes. “I am so happy, thank you very much. Let’s make our dreams come true!” says as the band hold their roses aloft. As the melancholic ballad Sympathia begins, the venue is transformed into an undulating sea of illuminated roses, gently rippling to the rhythm of the song. KAMIJO makes a flamboyant show of kissing his rose and flinging it into the crowd.

The final number of the night is The Revenant Choir, a sprawling rock opera of a song, during which KAMIJO gives each band member an intro and one last opportunity to showcase their skills. In the build-up to the big finish, he scatters rose petals into the audience and shouts “Last song – headbanger!”

Amid the cheers and applause, a fan hands KAMIJO a Union Jack flag they’ve prepared, emblazoned with the Versailles logo in gold, which KAMIJO and HIZAKI hold up for all to see. KAMIJO drapes it around his shoulders as he strides back and forth, offering his thanks to the crowd. The band can’t seem to tear themselves away from their fans, each member taking their turn to say thanks.

All five band members line up on stage to take a bow and after prompting a chant from the crowd, leap into the air together in time to one last “We are Versailles!” The photographer, happily reunited with his undamaged camera, takes a photo of the band and the crowd posing together and with that, they leave the stage. YUKI and TERU throw their drumsticks and plectrums into the crowd as they depart, giving some lucky fans an exclusive souvenir of Versailles’ British renaissance.

Set list

01. Aristocrat’s Symphony
02. ASCENDEAD MASTER
03. Shout & Bites
04. Judicial Noir
05. zombie
06. Gekkakou
07. Inheritance
08. Silent Knight
09. MASQUERADE
10. After Cloudia
11. Remember Forever
12. Philia
13. Lineage
14. The Red Carpet Day

Encore

01. Sympathia
02. The Revenant Choir
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Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet- 29/01

Versailles -Philharmonic Quintet-  
London - United Kingdom
O2 Academy Islington
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