A whole wall of flowers, balloons, and messages from other artists and creators lined the walls while spiraling crowds of fans and guests alike lined the stairs – that was the sight that greeted you upon walking up the hill to the Nippon Budokan venue on September 2nd, 2017. The outpouring of flowers and fans was to mark not only the 10th anniversary of the visual rock band SuG, but also to send off the band on their final live before an indefinite hiatus.
The Nippon Budokan is a large and circular venue, with a ground floor full of seats and two levels of seats that rise all the way up the ceiling. It is a massive space, but as more and more fans and guests poured through the doors and filled up the seats, the smaller and more intimate it became. As the band tested instruments, Lady Gaga music played throughout the arena and a clear view of the stage could be seen. Across a small, black elevated platform was the word “Heavy” written in white. In the back of the stage was a large screen that had HEAVY written in white, with POSITIVE ROCK written over it in purple cursive.
Once the venue was packed full, the lights went off and a video began to play. SuG appeared on the screen briefly, with grey and pink swirling colors in the background, only to disappear and be replaced with a clock that first showed January 12th, 2007 and then quickly started ticking quickly through the dates until it stopped at September 2nd, 2017.
The pink and grey colors eventually morphed to a pink and purple theme and with a flash of white light the reached out towards the crowd, the title of the first song Agaku flashed across the screen. The first three songs of the night are fast paced – quick beats, some piano sounds, and some small instrumentally focused sections. The lights are kept to greens, reds, blues, and yellows and flash out across the stage and over the fans frantically. The screen displays images of song lyrics, red smoke, a woman in greyscale with a pierced tongue, occult like symbols, and other interesting images. All the while Takeru and the other band members roamed around the stage –riling up fans.
Before the fourth song started, and the live went to another level in pumping up the fans, there was a very brief MC moment with Takeru. He talked about how they, as a band, were dreaming of this – to play at Nippon Budokan someday. He thanked everyone for being at the live that night and that they were all in this moment together. It was then that purple spot lights lit up the arena and dancers in purple rushed up the side stairs on both the left and right of the stage. They lined up, wearing pants and SuG band T-shirts, and stayed on their respective sides of the stage. The dancers consisted of men, women, and children and the stage came to life with movement.
Orange and purple lights flashed around the room as the band members faces popped up on the large screen, with each of them taking up a section of the screen. Decorative flower like spot lights shown down on each of the band members as they sang or played their instruments. All of the thanks for the fans and guests being there with them at Budokan was poured into every song that was performed.
During the 6th song of the live the dancers switched out from the men, women, and children and were now just women. The women dancers were dressed all in white – white hats, white T-shirts or tube tops, and white pants. Their appearance had a more hip-hop style than the purple band tees from before, and that change in genre with the dancers was reflected in the songs. At the end of the song the dancers joined Takeru at the center of the stage and jumped up in the air with him as he shouted, “Jump up!” During the 7th song, Mugen Styles, there was the blending of piano, rapping, and a slightly heavier rock beat. As soon as the song began, the dancers took out the band towels and started swirling them around in the air, the fans followed suit, all while jumping and shouting, “HEY!” along with Takeru. Meanwhile the background displayed scenes of a cityscape and people skateboarding. When the lights changed from the white, green, and blue theme to red, the heavy rock took over and the headbanging along with it. The song ended and the dancers left the stage to a sunset on the screen.
After this, there was a very short MC moment. Takeru once again brought up their happiness as a band to be able to perform at the Budokan and to share it with everyone who has supported them. He also took this moment to segue into the slow, emotional ballad of Sakura Ame. A pink cone of light surrounded Takeru as purple and pink lights lit up the stage and a sakura tree appeared on the screen behind him. The music video for the song played in the background as the lights on the stage changed into sakura petals falling around the SuG. White and purple spread across the screen as the song came to an end.
The calm ballad nature continued with the next song, though the calming atmosphere was immediately erased with the flash of white light and torches lighting up all around the stage. On the screen there were images of old European buildings and of laundry hanging out to dry under the trees. It was a soothing imagery to go with another relaxing ballad. When the song came to an end and the torches went out, the rest of the live went into an overdrive of energetic and fast paced songs. The dancers returned to the stage, sometimes men only and sometimes women only, with their dance moves ranging from hip-hop to more artistic arm movements and even to some robotic-like dancing.
After the 14th song, FRIDAY!!, came to an end there was another, slightly longer, MC moment. Takeru started it off by asking, “Are you having fun?” and then noted, “What a beautiful sight [this is].” The band members talked and chatted with each other and with the fans. Shinpei wanted the fans to shout loudly and Chiyu really got them all riled up. Takeru then gave a message in English, “Thank you for coming today. [This is] our big, most huge, huge, huge dream!!” The other band members teased Takeru about his English and they found themselves reminiscing about when they first formed as a band ten years ago. They had talked about wanting to one day play at Nippon Budokan, and were asked “What kind of band do you want to be?” The MC ended with a shout of “Let’s make this live the absolute best!”
A bang of the drums a second later and the music was back in session. At one point during the live, right before Sick’s, each band member was given a set of dancers, who would move from their side of the stage to the band member that they were assigned to. Each group moved in different ways: from hip-hop, to traditional dance, to robotic, to a more stylized dance, and each group only moved when their assigned band member played their instrument. Once every dance group was next to their band member Sick’s kicked into gear. The high energy levels were then kept up throughout the rest of the live, all the way until the encore, with an extra boost of energy coming from the 10th Anniversary Medley section. The fans cheered, sang along, and went wild with each new song that they performed moving from to the next without a moment’s break.
The last song before the encore was 39GalaxyZ. The song began with the dancers returning to the stage, silver pom-poms in hand, as the fans whipped out their band towels. There was a lot of back and forth singing between Takeru and the fans during this performance and towards the end of the performance Takeru’s face appeared on the screen. It was faded out with video footage of the audience behind them. Everyone was singing the song together as white stars fell from the ceiling. As Shinpei gave a last “bam” on the drums, Takeru jumped down from the slightly elevated platform he had been standing on. All of the band members bowed and blew kisses as they left the stage. The screen then reverted to how it was before the live started, as the fans waited and called for the encore.
When the band walked back on stage, the only one who had changed their wardrobe was Takeru. Before this the band had been dressed in black and white outfits but now Takeru was sporting a bright pinkish brown jacket with leopard print that made him stand out on stage. After performing the first song of the first encore, there was a splash of rainbow colored lights a shout of “This is out of this world, thank you!” from Takeru and the statement of “Each member will now talk from their heart, please listen.”
Shinpei went first, at first he started with how he really couldn’t think of anything to say. But then stated: “I’m very happy. Everyone moved around the stage, we all had a good time. Honestly, I was anxious; I wanted everyone to have a good time. Everyone did their best. I’m truly grateful to and for everyone.” It was at this moment that he started crying. The fans were visibly upset, so he reassured them, “I’m truly happy. Really, I’m fine. I’m very happy. Thank you everyone.”
Chiyu kept his thoughts short and sweet, similar to his written comment about the hiatus and the then upcoming Budokan live. He stated how he did not want to convey “I’m sorry,” but rather “I’m thankful.” He was happy that everyone was able to express their gratefulness to and for each other. “Thank you so much.”
Yuji went a similar route of keeping his comments brief, “Thank you everyone. Thank you to my band members for these past 10 years. You are all so precious to me. That’s all.”
Masato did not shy away from the fact that there had been tough times and issues. But he also ended his thoughts by stating “Everyone performed beautifully. I’m extremely thankful to and for everyone and all the support we have gotten from everyone, not just here in Japan, but all over the world. I love you. Thank you!”
Last to talk was Takeru. He thanked everyone for these past ten years and got very teary eyed and emotional as he talked. Stating how the fans, their support, this music – it had saved him so many times over the years. He ended his thoughts with “I never thought I would be up here on a stage like this. It’s like an anime or a movie. We were able to make our dreams come true. You guys can too. Please put those feelings into the next songs. Being here, in this place, it makes me so happy. Please, sing with me.”
The fans were overwhelmed by the raw emotions of the band that they did not respond all that much at first. But as the music continued to play and as the band ended the first Encore and started the second, this time with Takeru donning a purple band T-shirt, the fans put their all into enjoying the music. The band members also put all of their sweat, blood, and tears into their final performances – moving even more actively across the stage and Takeru not trying to hide the tears or raw emotions in his voice.
As the last song, Tokidoki Suteki na Kono Sekai, began there was a flash of white light and a bang as silver confetti was shot out into the crowd. The fans snatched up it up and held it tightly in their hands as they headbanged, jumped, and swayed to the beats of the song. All of the dancers were now on the stage, and they all held black fans in their hands, some even held flags that they waved around the stage. With the closing of the song Takeru took one more moment to thank the staff and fans who had supported them throughout these past 10 years, took the microphone away from his mouth, and shouted one final “Thank you!” As Shinpei slammed the drumsticks down for a final time, Takeru took his final jump down from the elevated platform and crumpled to the stage. The emotional experience of the draining and invigorating all of them, as they took their bows, threw picks into the crowd, and waved a final good-bye and left the stage.
SuG’s live DVD is currently available for pre-order on cdjapan, and will be released on December 20.
M03. 不完全Beautyfool Days (FukanzenBeautyfool Days)
M04. Toy Soldier
M05. 小悪魔Sparkling (Koakuma Sparkling)
M07. 無限Styles (Mugen Styles)
M08. 桜雨 (Sakura Ame)
M09. 無条件幸福論 (Mujyouken Koufukuron)
M10. Howling Magic
M11. セッション (Session)
M13. 契約彼女、生贄彼氏 (Keiyaku Kanojo, Ikenie Kareshi)
M15. gr8 story
M16. ☆ギミギミ☆ (Gimme Gimme)
M19. 10th ANNIVERSARY MEDLEY
〜俺式Continue (Oreshiki Continue)
〜R.P.G. -Rockin’ Playing Game
〜武士道 -bushido- FREAKY (Bushido –bushido – FREAKY)
〜Fast Food Hunters
〜Crazy Bunny Coaster
EC2. teenAge dream
EC3. CRY OUT
EC4. Smells Like Virgin Spirit
EC5. LOVE SCREAM PARTY
EC6. ときどきすてきなこのせかい (Tokidoki Suteki na Kono Sekai)