SuG is a visualkei band that was formed in 2006 and consists of five members: Takeru (vocalist), Yuji (guitarist), Masato (guitarist), Chiyu (bass), and Shinpei (drums). All five of these men are extremely talented and I found that this concert did an excellent job of truly showcasing those talents.
The crowd of people that forms outside of a concert venue can really tell you a lot about the singer or band who will be performing. When I arrived at Toyosu PIT for SuG’s concert, I decided to observe the crowd. There were a lot of women, which was unsurprising, but also a good amount of men as well. It was nice to see. As for the outfits, there were a lot fans dressed in black and punk style, and yet, just as many decked out in pretty and cute lolita dresses. There had even been three girls with duck hats on. Sadly, I never got to find out if there was any real story behind that. The impression that I did gather from the crowd forming outside of Toyosu PIT was quite interesting. They made it obvious that SuG appeals across all genders and that they likely went through a large style shift (due to the cute and colorful appearances of some fans, to the cool and dark appearances of some other ones). I had only ever heard one song by SuG, “I Scream Party,” which was from their early, cute and colorful, days, so I was intrigued to see how the band had grown and changed since then.
I headed into the venue. Toyosu PIT gave the feel of a very small venue, one which allows the fans and the band to be fairly close to each other, but the seats also provided barriers that gave each fan ample room to breathe and move, head bang, and etc.
Before the band came on stage and the show started, a man dressed as a referee came onto the stage and explained the ‘Versus’ aspect of the concert. There were two teams, the White Team was Gokuaku SuG and the Red Team was Gokusai SuG. Each Team was given two rounds worth of songs, with about 4-6 songs per round and after each round the fans would clap and cheer and the noise level would then be calculated and displayed on the screen above the stage. I found it to be a very fun idea that was obviously based off of Kohaku Uta Gassen’s Red Team vs White Team music competition (a fitting idea for the time period of this particular concert, December 30th), but within a concert setting it would really allow for some nice band-fan interaction. So, now with all the rules set, a short video played up on the screen and the band finally made their appearance on stage.
They appeared like a group of ghosts, floating through the mist and flashing lights that were surrounding the stage. The first song of the night “Anarchy in the Real” set up an eerie atmosphere throughout the room. I knew in that instant that the band before me had changed significantly from the colorful and cute band I remembered them being from my high school days; however, I was excited to see this change. As the music transitioned into a heavy metal sound and the lights took on a predominately darker color scheme of red, I was ready to be shocked; regardless, my eyes still widened significantly at the unexpected chanting of “I WANT TO KILL, I WANT TO KILL!” In Japanese that made up the chorus of the second song, KILL KILL. The black outfits with skeleton bones on them and the dark nature of the song lyrics certainly sent me for a loop, as did Takeru’s excellent English pronunciation when he sung. It took me until about the fourth song, BLOODY MARY, to be fully adjusted to the new outlook I had on this band.
BLOODY MARY had a very steady rock beat to it, but there was also a mixture of other sounds: interesting electronic sounds in the opening, a brief light sound of a piano, and then a sudden, sharp blast of violin during the “Shut up!” portion of the chorus. It made for a fascinating listen and reminded me of why the only song I had known of SuG’s before this concert, I Scream Party, stuck with me for so long – it was due to the variety of sounds and genres being mixed into one. It was also during this song (BLOODY MARY) that I really took note of the screen behind the band. For this particular song, gothic images of satanic symbols and old school monsters flashed across the screen. It really set the atmosphere of the song and was helped along by the flashing lights. The use of the screen to not only set the mood, but also to provide live close ups of the band on stage or even direct lyrics on the screen were all immensely helpful for and successful at drawing the fans into the atmosphere of the song and make the viewing and listening process easier for someone such as myself, who is a foreigner and only knows Japanese as a second language. It made the concert going experience more tangible than they can sometimes be for foreigners.
The last song of Round One of Gokuaku SuG was UMBILICAL. It stood out to me right away because all of the previous songs before this one had a very distinctive punk feel to them, but UMBILICAL sounded very visual kei. The beat was fast, but the lyrics were sung at a slower pace, Takeru incorporated slower, more dramatic arm movements, and his facial features became more emotive while singing this particular song. It was my favorite out of the first bunch.
The referee then came out at the end of round one. The fans did their cheering, which resulted in 109 dbpt, and the band encouraged them to cheer some more next time around.
In Round Two of Gokuaku SuG, the song that really stood out to me was Pimp my Cars. The song opens to a tune that is very similar to the one found in Tainted Love (specifically the electronic version done by Soft Cell in 1981). Whether this was done intentionally or not, I do not know, but the results of this tune being mixed with a rock beat was wonderful. The song was fun and freeing, with amusing lyrics like “Pimp my cars…Pimp my pride.” The addition of a female vocal also made it stand out from the rest and the visuals found in the video, which were rather tacky (pink cars, women, and big, green floating word art all flashing across the screen) just brought everything together. It was also during this second half of Gokuaku SuG that we saw more interaction between the band and the fans, such as Takeru would sing parts of the song and then hold out the mic to the audience for them to sing the next bit. The audience responded well to this, and many of them sang along. However, Round Two of Gokuaku SuG did not have many songs that really stood out to me. They were fun songs; funky, electronic rock dance party sort of songs, but nothing about the visuals, lyrics, or sounds really made them pop and really grab my attention.
After the last song of Round Two of Gokuaku SuG was played, and after the members dropped instruments or jumped down from higher parts of the stage and leaving for an intermission, the referee came out again. He talked with the fans and we learned that there was at least one fan at the concert that came all the way from Okinawa. Then a video went up on the screen. The video showed the band in their Gokusaku SuG personalities talking about previous VERSUS’ concerts and answering interview questions such as their feelings of having lost to the Gokusai SuG group and so on. The video added some comedic moments to the concert and also allowed someone such as myself, who is not overly familiar with the group and their dynamics, to get a clearer image of each band member.
Gokusai SuG Round One started with the band returning to the stage, coming in from one of the side entrances and making their way through the crowd, and wearing white and blue colored clothes. In Round One the song that stuck out the most to me was CRY OUT. The pace of the song was not necessarily slow, but it was one of SuG’s slower songs and the lyrics had a very powerful and uplifting message to it. The referee briefly came out after the end of Round One and the fans cheered. The cheering this time around reached 114 dbpt, which was certainly better than before, but the fans were still giving rather lackluster cheers.
Round Two of Gokusai SuG’s part of the concert gave us a lot of great songs and performances. It kicked off with Sakura ame, which was the closest song SuG had to a ballad during the whole concert, and which was accompanied by a beautiful video on the screen of cherry blossoms with a starry night sky backdrop, which eventually changed to show a variety of different natural landscapes around the world and the stars once again. Takeru put a lot of emotion into his voice when he sang Sakura ame as well. Then it moved into teenAge dream, which had a bit of a rapping segment to it, something which is also present in the 19th song, Mugen Styles and the Orange Range cover of Shanghai Honey. After teenAge dream was Vi-Vi-Vi, which consisted of a quick outfit change right before it, and had Takeru singing in a pink leather jacket.
During Mugen Styles there was rapping and the fans finally took out their sweat towels and fervently whipped them around to the music in perfect synchronicity. As for the Shanghai Honey cover song, I was familiar with the original Orange Range version and I liked how it mostly kept to the same beat as the original, but that SuG added a bit more of a heavy metal, head banging twist to it. That allowed for the cover song to be recognizable, but unique at the same time. The final song of Round Two of Gokusai SuG’s part of the concert was Koakuma Sparkling. It was a good song to end on, with a slightly different sound to the rest (there were horns and an almost ska light beat at times). All together the song was very fun and danceable, with the band dancing along and having a blast to it. The song ended with the Takeru jumping down from a higher part of the stage.
After the last song, the referee came out on the stage again, but with the band members present this time. The fans cheered for Round Two of Gokusai SuG. Even with the SuG band members cheering the fans on, they did not provide an overly large cheer, though it was slightly higher than the previous round and came out to be 121 dbpt. It, nevertheless, could have been (and should have been) higher, in my opinion, but the fans simply were not in the overly cheering mood that night (perhaps simply due to all the traveling and the fact that this is prime sick season). After that slightly lackluster cheer calculation, we were given the overall scores for Gokuaku SuG (White Team) and Gokusai SuG (Red Team) over the course of the whole VERSUS tour. In the end, Gokuaku SuG scored 2,906 dbpt and Gokusai SuG scored 2,917 dbpt. It was a close call, but Gokusai SuG (Red Team) won and in order to celebrate that victory, we were given an encore performance, B.A.B.Y.
B.A.B.Y. was a good, solid song choice for the first encore, since the song incorporated a lot of the different sounds that were heard throughout the concert: rock, rap, and even a bit pop-ish but with a heavier rock bit right in the middle. Once B.A.B.Y. ended, the band exited the stage and a video was played on the large screen above.
The video that played talked about the bands thoughts on the tour they had this year and on their goals for next year. Takeru in specific mentioned how he wanted to work on his voice and vocal range, and I agree with him. I think his voice has a very interesting and distinctive sound to it, but that not enough of the songs SuG plays really allows for Takeru to practice and show a large vocal range. SuG as a whole, however, is very talented and I think this was demonstrated throughout the entire concert. The band never relied heavily on ‘fanservice’ actions such as queer-baiting (band members kissing) or overtly sexualizing any one band member (Takeru does lift up his shirt a bit in a tantalizing way, but it is done quickly and not focused on for long), instead we get moments in-between songs, or even during many of the songs, where the band members got to truly show off their skills on their respective instrument. It was enjoyable to see a band so focused on the actual music they were playing. (Though, there was a brief bit at the end of the concert where the band members threw items out into the crowd, such as Shinpei throwing one of his drumsticks or Masato throwing some guitar picks and falling rather adorably).
After the video was over, there was the usual chant of “Encore! Encore!” and they, of course, obliged their fans in new black leather outfits. The second encore we got consisted of two songs: gr8 story, which encompassed that colorful, light hearted SuG I remembered and Smells Like Virgin Spirit, which encompassed the darker, hardcore SuG I grew to like over the course of this concert, and which I enjoyed immensely.
When the concert finally came to a close there was applause, but not nearly as much as there should have been. SuG played a strong concert, packed in a lot of songs, and provided the fans with a lot of well-made videos and enjoyable content (they even ended this concert with a small video stating that there was going to be a new tour next year), but many of the fans just did not have their cheering up to par, which was a bit baffling to me and some of the other press present.
Before entering the venue and experiencing the concert and the band within it, I based my expectations of what was to come on the fans. The assumptions I made were on the mark for the most part, though I feel as if SuG went above and beyond what I had been initially expecting. When I was leaving the venue I found myself putting the fans behind me and placing the band center stage. Thinking about the concert, I heard and saw a lot of experimentation, change, and adaptability within SuG’s music and that intrigues me a great deal. Singers and bands that never expand or change up their music, which simply become masters of one specific genre, are boring to me. They do not provide themselves with any challenges, but with SuG I saw and heard a lot of challenge and potential. It makes me excited to see and hear their future work.
SuG at Toyosu PIT, Tokyo, Japan Setlist
Gokuaku SuG – Round 1
- ANARCHY IN THE REAL
- KILL KILL
- FLY WYVERNS
- BLOODY MARY
Gokuaku SuG – Round Two
- Pimp my Cars
- SCREAM IT LOUDER
- ZIG ZAG
- heavy + electro + dance + punk
Gokusai SuG – Round 1
- Fast Food Hunters
- CRY OUT
Gokusai SuG – Round 2
- Sakura ame
- teenAge dream
- Mugen Styles
- Shanghai Honey
- Koakuma Sparkling
- gre8 story
- Smells Like Virgin Spirit