live report - 20.03.2009 12:00

ONE OK ROCK's took ZEPP Tokyo by storm with another high intensity and exciting live to kick start the Emotion Effect Tour.

The crowd was young and vibrant, chattering in animated voices as they packed themselves into a sold out ZEPP Tokyo. The atmosphere was buzzing, the excitement running high in anticipation of ONE OK ROCK's biggest show to date.

The chatters turned to roars once the SE began with a full force of techno and metal. It set a heavy tone for the live to come and the already excited crowd went into a frenzy with the beginning of CONVINCING. A forest of arms powerfully punched along with the band's skillful playing of the pop-rock opener. TAKA's stage charisma was magnetic from the get-go, dancing confidently on stage and communicating to the audience through gestures. Ryota joined in the dancing as Yoru ni shika sakanai mangetsu (The full moon that blooms only at night) and then Kaimu (Nothing) followed. After some guitar twirling marvels from Alex, the heavy beats underpinning the songs took hold, as the first of the crowd surfers rolled over the audiences' heads. The band was big on audience participation that night; TAKA's screams of "Tokyo!" were greeted by loud cheers and later the audience had their first chance to sing along with the band.

In the short break, TAKA grabbed a megaphone for the next song, 20 Years Old, holding it as if he were rallying troops. Despite the theatrics it sounded a little incongruous with the flow of melody, although TAKA's voice was still as strong and perfectly on pitch as ever. The guitarists worked the stage well too, making themselves apparent in the background with a neat instrumental 'battle' between Ryota's bass, Alex's guitar and Tomoya's drums. Ryota's bass became a prominent feature of the next song, Doppelganger, with a rather Offspring sound pervading the melody. ONE OK ROCK's ability to create great things by combining western punk rock sound and Japanese seems to be increasing every time.

After a strong opening, the band took a short time-out for their first MC. "The day we have waited for has arrived! Thank you everyone for coming!" TAKA greeted the audience. He introduced Toru who spent some time getting the crowd to scream "yeah" at them, first girls and then boys although he made the boys scream three times with a repeated yell of "otoko!" The fervor in the room had been upped, leading ONE OK ROCK effortlessly into Reflection, a song that showcases perfectly TAKA's talents for English pronunciation. The dramatic finale with its powerfully screamed end led straight into Break My Strings. Suddenly the mood went rather gothic with moody chord progressions and urgent drumming fueling this metal sounding number. Although the music was beset by a couple of feedback issues, the power could not be denied and the moment of pause before a wonderfully dramatic and heavy breakdown sounded fantastic live.

The change from such heaviness required a short break and as the stage went dark, the names of the members were called out from the audience in earnest. As the lights returned, a subtly plucked guitar that soon became a gently strummed introduction brought a huge cheer. Etcetera was clearly a crowd favorite as their voices singing as one could be heard above TAKA. TAKA's soft whispers midway through made for a lovely change of pace that lead to more solo wonders from Alex.

Hitsuzen Maker (Necessity Maker) was preceded by a short MC. Toru told the crowd that 2700 people were present that evening after which he pointed out a number of cameras around the room. "Until the end, show your good faces to them!" he shouted. Ryota decided to join in with a gentle tease, asking Toru to give his example of a 'good face' before TAKA gave a more serious speech about how much the evening meant to him. To walk on the same stage as many great bands, he said, made him feel rather proud. The crowd all cheered very loudly, making the atmosphere for Hitsuzen Maker seem all the more excitable. The well sung breezy verses with the energetic chorus made this a good post-MC song. Things then took a funkier turn with Yumeyume (Certainly) and some fantastic bass lines from Ryota. TAKA pointed to a giant disco ball that began spinning, illuminating the jumping audience with stars. It was Toru's first time to rap this live, and he did so delivering his lines confidently and with ease.

After some further heaviness the band launched into the signature ballad from Kanjou Effect, Living Dolls. The grand sweeping sound of the music seemed muted for the live, with the song taking on a more raw and poignant feel. It was a beautiful rendition that left the audience speechless for a while. This moment of silence gave way for another, longer MC. "I can't believe I am standing in ZEPP, I don't know what to say!" TAKA began. He sounded a bit emotional as he gave a long speech on the development of the band; how they had all turned 20 that year and that they were all trying their best with the band. "From here on, let's make a beautiful world with songs." The MC was a little interrupted though by some commotion in the audience as a couple of girls had fainted in the crowd. They were pulled forward and out of the crush by the security guards, while the band stopped to ensure they were okay. "Does anyone feel ill?" TAKA asked the crowd, half jokingly. One guy nervously raised his hand though, leaving both band and fans in a small amount of shock. As the boy was hauled out of the crowd, he got a cute "otsukare" (thank you for your hard work) from TAKA. As everything returned to normal, ONE OK ROCK announced that next, they were going to play a new song. It was very well received. The song had a light, positive beat with a playfully punk attitude and included some neat chord progressions that all in all formed a rather enjoyable new song.

From then on they stormed through the final few songs blitzing ZEPP with energy and noise. The ever fun to watch Ryota became even more so as he followed TAKA around yelling "you can do it!" at the vocalist, echoing the song title, You can do (everything), while Alex's skills continued to impress through the addictive energy of Koi no aibou kokoro no cupid (Partner in my love, cupid in my heart). JUST marked a momentary change in pace, with its slower melody. The brief stop in the melody that preceded the climax of the song always sounded a little strange on CD but here it was perfect, setting up the finale moment perfectly both for the song and the set. Viva violent fellow ~ utsukushiki moshpit (viva violent fellow ~ beautiful moshpit) was a roaring penultimate offering. The members drew out the introduction as Toru and Ryota worked the crowd into high spirits before launching into the main melody. Viva Violent Fellow was a particular highlight; played live, all the energy in the song could be released as band and audience danced enthusiastically. As the bridge was played, TAKA got the audience to scream with him, leaving barely a quiet moment throughout.

The live was then closed by Naihi Shinsho (I keep it inside). It was perfectly energetic as all last songs should be. Alex moved to the middle, occupying TAKA's spot to play before being joined by Toru and Ryota in the centre while TAKA leapt around the stage. As the song entered the final moments, TAKA left the singing up to the audience so he could headbang, and together, the voices of the ONE OK ROCK fans carried the live to its powerful end.

Encore shouts began shortly after and loudly. The band did not take long to respond and after a few more words, they began to play Koubou (Beam of Light). The small moshpit at the front had gotten bigger and as the band played the rocky melody, their fans jumped about with unstoppable excitement. 'We have one more song' TAKA announced as Koubou drew to a reverberating end. The finale was Keep It Real. Toru rapped his way confidently through the verses that segued beautifully into the methodical riff of the chorus. As the audience sung the lyrics in one clear voice, Toru's gentle strumming was joined by Alex and the beats of Tomoya's drums in a wonderful moment before the music thundered to an end.

"Thank you!" TAKA shouted as the group downed their instruments and came together in the centre of the stage. The five members held hands for a bow with a shout of "thank you." The crowd returned with appreciative cheers. Toru had the final words, "Today, we are the happiest people in Japan." After such a stunning display of live music, one suspects the audience was not too far behind him.
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