Review: Japan Night at National Olympic Stadium

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Thirteen musical acts bid farewell to a dream venue last week as the National Olympic Stadium closed its doors for good.

The stadium, which was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, has been a mark of mega-stardom for acts big enough to sell it out.

One such band, L’Arc-en-Ciel, headlined the second day of a pair of concerts called Japan Night on May 29.

The visual-kei rock act used impressive lighting in its dramatic stage show, which included the songs “Honey,” “Driver’s High” and fan-favorite “Ready Steady Go.” While the members’ hair and clothes are reminiscent of the Motley Crue-era of metal, decades into his career lead singer Hyde still has the swagger of a man born to play arenas.

Also on stage that night were techno-pop group Perfume and hard rockers Man With a Mission. Particularly impressive, though, were rockers Sekai no Owari. The band came out on stage accompanied by a cast of characters in rabbit masks for a set that explored fantasy themes in both its visuals and music. One song, “RPG,” imagines the group’s relationships via video-games, and lead singer Satoshi Fukase’s vocals have the flair of emo acts like My Chemical Romance even if the backing music is a much tamer form of indie rock.

The previous installment of Japan Night was headlined by folk-pop act Ikimono-gakari, who delivered a crowd-pleasing, and predictably safe, performance. The group’s longest ballad “Kaze ga Fuiteiru” (“The Wind Blows”) saw that night’s performers, as well as the audience, join in and sing its ending.

Among the eight acts also taking the stage that night were former Funky Monkey Babys member Funky Kato, Yuzu and Gospellers.

An 18-piece band called Yell for Japan Special Band was specially assembled to back the acts on the first night. Led by Seiji Kameda of Tokyo Jihen fame, it included a horn and string section that were able to adapt to the main performers’ diverse musical styles. In some cases it made the material sound better, especially with Funky Kato.

With the National Olympic Stadium gone, the storied Budokan might be the only “dream venue” for up-and-coming young bands. With time, though, perhaps the replacement stadium that is being built for the 2020 Games will end up filling that role for a new generation.