Luna Sea. It is a very simple name for a very talented band. The band formed in 1986 in Kanagawa Prefecture. There are five members: J (bassist, guitar, vocals), Inoran (guitar, vocals), Shinya (drums, vocals), Sugizo (guitar, violin, vocals), and Ryuichi (vocals, guitar). For anyone who has even dipped their toe into the Visual Kei scene, the name Luna Sea will ring a bell. The reason for this being the extremely important role Luna Sea played in helping build the basic foundations for the Visual Kei subgenre of rock. Though the band formed nearly three decades ago and the Visual Kei scene has shifted and changed significantly over the years, the staying power of Luna Sea is still tremendous.
It was easy to see as such at Kudanshita Station, which was the station closest to the Budokan venue. There were lines of people everywhere. They ranged from women waiting in a spiraling line to go to the bathroom before the live, to a sea of people climbing up the stairs and escalator of the exit. There were even some fans who held up signs for tickets – desperate to see such an influential band on an anniversary tour.
Upon leaving the exit, the mass of people just increased, as they headed up toward Budokan. Many of the fans were dressed in black Luna Sea graphic tees. Some fans went for more extravagant looks, with their hair puffed up and out and dyed red – a look reminiscent of Luna Sea’s past. While many of the fans present were older in age, there were still quite a number of younger fans and even some foreigners in the mix. The ever increasing crowd of people walked through the wooden gates of Budokan and up the slightly winding hill to the building above.
The Budokan venue was an old and traditional looking venue, with a history that dated back to the 1964 Summer Olympics, when it was originally created for use in the judo competition. It stayed as a purely martial arts venue until the 1970s, when The Beatles performed there. Since then numerous Western and Japanese bands alike have performed at Budokan, a venue which has marked the bands that have played there as famous. Bands have come to view a Budokan live as something honorable and Luna Sea played their live there with such a mindset in place.
Before the live started, Budokan staff walked around the venue handing out blue pom-poms and as fans waited, they readied those pom-poms for the encore. In order to accommodate all of the fans, the venue had opened all sections of the seating, even the sections behind the stage, and set up large two large TVs on either side of the stage to enhance the viewing experience. The stage itself was kept simple, with the only real stand-out object being the drum set, which was a glowing green.
As the flood of fans into the venue began to thin and the sound of fans clapping grew louder and more intense, the lights suddenly went out, indicating to all that the live was going to begin. Lanterns lit up in the corner of the stage as white lights spanned out towards the crowd, interspersed with small circular green lights. The band took to the stage from the right to the sound of a slow piano tune and the overwhelming cheering of fans.
All of the members, with the exception of Sugizo, came onto the stage dressed in sharp looking suits. Nothing was said as there was a flourish of white lights and the first song began. As the song came to the end the stage went dark and the second song started with a literal bang of a small set of explosions on the stage. During this second song fans sang part of the song solo, an occurrence which happened frequently during the live. The song ended with a guitar riff and then there was a quick MC moment where Ryuichi welcomed the audience and asked how they were doing. After that the band went straight into the third song.
Throughout the entire live the band moved around the stage extensively, often heading to the side of the stage or around the back to engage with the fans. It was a smart and efficient way to show fan appreciation, while allowing the live to move forward at a brisk pace with very little MC moments. The choice of songs for the set list made for a live that was nicely balanced and showed off the variety of different sounds the band had in their repertoire, from hard rock to melancholy ballads.
The mid-way section of the live stood out in particular. During the eighth song, NO PAIN, the screen of lights that hung above the stage was lowered down in front of the band. It shimmered white and images of children’s faces appeared on the screen. Then there were white and black images, some associated with war, and white lights traveled up the screen like fire. In the center of the white light and images a red square formed and slowly crept outward, taking over more and more of the screen as more red lights rose up the screen like flames. The red and white lights merge. The images of smiling children returned in the white light, and the white light ascended upward as if to symbolize the children heading towards heaven. The mixture of such images and lights with the slow song beat and heavy lyrics made for an unforgettable moment.
The fans were silent afterwards as the band began to play the next song. The screen remained down, wrapping around the stage and keeping the band members inside it. There was the sound of the soft and gentle pulls of the strings on an acoustic guitar and the haunting melody of a violin as the lights on the screen turned golden – rippling like a pond. The golden light then expanded looking more like a golden river flowing over the band as the slow song continued to play. The golden light eventually changed to blue, then purple, then red, then to a blue-green with gold light running through it. At the same time a light blue light shone down on Sugizo, who was intensely playing the violin. There was the added mixture of light drum beats and the occasional white light added to the mix of colors on the light screen.
The soothing nature of the song came to an end with the crash of the drums, which made a sound like thunder. Each beat of the drums caused a color to race up the light screen as it finally lifted back to its original place above the stage. There was an intense guitar solo as wind whipped up around Sugizo. After that, all of the band members, with the exception of Shinya, left the stage. Shinya riled up the fans and got them cheering his name. He got the fans pumping as he pounded on the guitar and the fans shouted his name. This continued for a while until there was an explosion of smoke on either side of stage and the other band members returned in far more rocker friendly outfits.
The next song was fast paced and rocking. It ended with Shinya throwing out his drumsticks to the crowd and another band member tossing a water bottle as the stage went black. Intense light shows, smoke explosions, and wild songs that had all the fans jumping and headbanging all led up to the last major song before the encore – Rosier.
Rosier was released in 1994 and topped the Oricon Singles Chart at #3. The song was a hit back then and it remained a hit still as the fans cheered loudly as the opening chords reached their ears. It was a fan favorite. Many of the fans sang along for the vast majority of the performance. It ended with Ryuichi shouting “Thank you!” as the fan left the stage in order to prepare for the encore.
Since the staff had handed out the blue pom-poms to fans, specifically indicating that they would be used during the encore, there was no prompting for an encore by the fans. Instead, they took out their cellphones/smartphones and placed the puffed out blue pom-poms in front of their phone screens. The combination of white screen lights and light blue pom-poms as the fans waved them back in forth while singing the Happy Birthday song made the whole venue look like it was a giant birthday cake. They continued to sing Happy Birthday to Luna Sea to commemorate the anniversary.
The band members returned to the stage in more relaxed clothing. Ryuichi opened the MC moment by thanking the fans as the other band members threw water on, and water battles to, fans. Sugizo flung the shawl that he had been wearing throughout the entire live out into the crowd. Leading the MC moment into the first song of the encore segment of the live, Ryuichi stated, “It [the Happy Birthday moment] looked very beautiful. Enjoy a bit more with the encore too!”
The fans, with blue pom-poms in hand, raised their arms up into the air as the song started. The beat was simple but catchy and Sugizo played up the camera for the fans. At the end of the encore song Shinya once again threw his drum sticks into the crowd and the live shifted to the last and longest MC moment of the live. As Ryuichi went through each of the band members, stating their instrument and name, they each did a small instrumental solo. Most of the discussions and talks centered on reminiscing, with Shinya noting that the glowing green drum set was a callback to the green drum set he had when all those years ago when Luna Sea first started. They wrapped up the last MC section with the announcement a new album that would be released this year to fan excitement and cheers.
After they finished playing WISH, they left the stage – fist pumping and pointing to fans as they did so. There was a small period of time when the fans chanted for an encore, and Luna Sea delivered. They played MOTHER, a song that brought a sense of beauty and calmness over the fans. White lights shone down on all of the band members as Sugizo sat down on the far left of the stage and Inoran on the far right. Inoran began to play the acoustic guitar while Sugizo, wrapped in a black cloak, played the violin. The lights then shifted to a dark purple – the mood set. The crowd was silent as they watched and listened to the song playing out before them. Wind blew Sugizo’s cape, which sparkled under the light, as he played and rainbow lights fell upon the audience. The song ended and slow piano music started to play.
The piano signified the end of the live, with the band heading off stage. J tossed a towel, though it landed on the camera to the amusement of the fans. Sugizo sprayed water onto the fans and threw water bottles up into the crowd. He even pointed to one fan on the second floor of the venue and flung the water bottle straight to them with ease. He also chucked a pick into the crowd, blew air kisses to the fans, and waved good-bye. But that was not the last of them.
The whole band came back on stage. They held hands and all of the fans did too, as everyone jumped together. Sugizo took out his camera and recorded the fans, while Shinya flung out one drumstick and then another. The second drumstick headed for a woman near the stage. She dropped it and Shinya picked it up and handed it to her. Sugizo took a selfie with the crowd while Shinya continued to toss a plethora of drumsticks into the crowd. Once Shinya ran out of drumsticks, he left the stage, leaving Sugizo as the last. Sugizo sprayed some more water onto the fans and threw the last remaining water bottles to the crowd. Finally, he sent one last kiss to the fans, bowed, waved, and then left.
1. Metamorphosis ~Beginning Part
6. The End of the Dream
8. NO PAIN
9. I’ll Stay With You
10. Dr. Solo ~Bass Solo
11. BLUE TRANSPARENCY
12. I for You
14. TIME IS DEAD
16. Metamorphosis ~Ending Part
1. Anthem of Light