Review: Luna Sea at Yoyogi National Gymnasium

by Ryotaro Aoki

Special To The Japan Times

Luna Sea celebrated its 25th anniversary by holding a special concert, “Luna Sea 25th Anniversary Live -The Unfinished Moon-,” on May 29 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

The date marks exactly 25 years since the rock band first performed in public at a small venue in Machida, Tokyo, called The Play House back in 1989. Tickets for the show at the over 13,000-capacity arena sold-out in minutes when they first went on sale earlier this year. The evening, which featured a mix of classic hits, including “Rosier,” “True Blue,” “Gravity” and “Storm,” as well as songs off of new album, “A Will,” proved to be emotional for both the band and its fans.

As the house lights went down, a video chronicling the band’s history began to play on large displays behind the stage. Starting with 1989, the years flashed by on screen with pictures corresponding to that era. Upon hitting the year 2000, when the band saw its “curtain call,” the pictures stopped and just years flashed across the screen, eliciting a burst of laughter from the audience. At 2007, the year Luna Sea performed a one-off comeback show, the images resurfaced and brought us to the present.

As the video faded out, Kate Bush’s “Babooshka,” a track used to open shows in the band’s early days, played over the loudspeakers.

“I wonder how many people recognized it,” Sugizo told me later. “We were using that song when we still played live houses. We use ear monitors, so I heard Kate singing in my ear right before we started ‘Anthem of Light.’ It felt like Kate was congratulating us.”

The band appeared one by one on stage and launched into “Anthem of Light,” the first track off of “A Will,” and continued on to “Tonight,” a single off the 2000 album “Lunacy,” to the accompaniment of exploding fireworks.

“Yoyogi, are you having fun?” shouted vocalist Ryuichi as he took off his sunglasses, causing squeals from the audience. His stage persona ranges from boyish and charming to charismatic and aggressive. This night was no different, featuring his typically edgy call-and-response prompts.

Despite the band’s flamboyant rocker image, Luna Sea’s shows are surprisingly simple. Flashy pyrotechnics and video projections are kept to a minimum. Instead, the band focuses on the music, from Sugizo’s screeching guitar solos and guitarist Inoran’s beautiful arpeggios to Ryuichi’s powerful, thick vibrato and operatic vocals. Drummer Shinya and bassist J also share a mid-set jam session, which has become a tradition at Luna Sea concerts over the years.

A highlight of the evening began with a brief violin solo from Sugizo, which led into the slow and epic “Moon” from the band’s self-titled debut album. It was accompanied by a magnificent mirrorball that immersed the entire arena in rippling waves of light.

Another high point was the ballad “Mother,” the final and title track off the band’s fourth album. It came during an intimate second encore that saw the large displays behind the band turned off. Only the members’ individual performances echoed throughout the arena.

Bands with a long history who get back together often have trouble balancing past hits with current artistic goals, but Luna Sea didn’t have a problem juxtaposing its hits with tracks from “A Will.” The show was a nod to Luna Sea’s 25 years in the business and a tease of the good stuff that’s still to come.