This is a report of Karma-Shenjing's first and final oneman before a pause in activity. I thought some people on this community might be interested in reading it, but I'm snipping it so people on my FL don't get it twice.
The band have updated their website with the US live as the only upcoming event, so people who can make it there are very lucky!
I was a little apprehensive about this live, since the band have said that they will take a break after this and have hinted that they will be moving in a different direction from this point. Although I do not follow them regularly, I have seen them live many times, so the idea of not seeing them again for an indefinite period is very sad.
Club Bahama is a very small livehouse, holding only about 100 people or so. I came in past halfway and had ticket #41. It took awhile to get inside as tickets were only sold by advance reservation and our names had to be checked off the list one by one. Inside, the stage had been decorated with a small Chinese lantern on either side, and some shimmery Chinese decorations along the back.
The livehouse hasn't got a stage entrance, so the staff separated the audience in half to make an aisle and the bandmembers came out one by one: Yuu (bass), Shino (guitar), Ikuto (lead guitar)... and eventually, after a bit of wait, Rairin (vocalist). The stage is really just a low platform one step up, with wall on either side and no backstage area that I am aware of. It's a close intimate space without air conditioning or fans. On eye level with the band, it's almost too intimate, too quiet, too close. I didn't want to look into their eyes and they were all trying to look ahead without really looking at us. Rairin put his hand up to signal the start of the backing soundtrack, but it took a moment too long to start, and I could watch them breathe and blink and it was as if I could almost hear their hearts beating. They seemed tense and excited.
The first set was of the slower songs, and I was filled with nostalgia, remembering the very first time I saw them, back when Rairin had blonde hair. Tonight he had his hair all up and wore a white Chinese dress; Ikuto was in red brocade and a black corset, Yuu was of course in Blue and Shino wore his usual red outfit. I'd gotten a little confused at first, because when I saw a dark pig-tailed head come through the audience initially, I mistook it for Rairin, whom I'd last seen with that style. My thoughts went something like, 'Oh, Rairin has his hair in pigtails again, and also he's grown about 15cm... oh, wait, that's Shino...' They all looked beautiful though, amidst the glowing lanterns and lights all shimmery on the gold stage decorations and Rairin's bracelets. After about 45 minutes they stopped playing and the audience parted to let them leave for an intermission.
After a little while, Shino and Ikuto returned, wearing their suits from their recent photoshoot, though I think without the jackets at this point. I was surprised to see them take up acoustic instruments, and even more surprised when I realised Ikuto was going to sing one of their songs himself. I know that he writes a lot of their music, including the backing tracks and also does backing vocals and is the band leader, so he is quite multi-talented. He sang in a very heartfelt way. His voice is smoother than Rairin's, a little warmer. Listening to his voice with the acoustic guitars definitely gave me a different understanding of the song.
After they left, Yuu and Rairin came out wearing oversized white business shirts; Rairin was positively lost in his, still wearing gold bangles, dangly earrings and glittering makeup. They were smiling, but I couldn't really imagine what they were going to do. And whatever I might have thought of, I really wasn't expecting a karaoke soundtrack to start up! I'm sorry, I don't know the name of the song even though I knew the melody. They each took turns singing a verse at each other and joining together on the chorus, clasping hands at one point and finishing the last verse with their arms around each other, all smiles and laughter. I have to say it was the cutest thing I have ever seen them do... actually I think the cutest thing I have ever seen a band I like do on stage, ever. They ended with a long embrace and many cheers from the audience. And incidentally, Yuu has a great voice and should sing more often! He never sings at all, I had no idea he even could.
After this, the band returned to perform their harder songs, all in their suits. I have to say that Shino took center stage here. While certainly never shy, I had never seen Shino behave quite as he was tonight, mostly because I had not seen the band play for several months. I had noticed the last couple of times that he seemed to be more vocal about leading the crowd during the heavier songs, but I wasn't really expecting the full transformation to all-out hypergenkiness. Pigtails swinging, he headbbanged and smiled away, encouraging the audience to saku him. He even showed us how to call his name (Shino-samaaaa!) using the usual fangirlish intonation, which was pretty funny. It was amusing but so clearly an act and I am not sure how I felt about it. He's a little awkward, a little too loud, uncontrolled, but it does counterpoint well with Rairin's more elegant, reserved manner. I could clearly envision him being in an oshare band, and I can't help but think they are headed in that direction.
The other members of the band also gave an energetic performance. Rairin did his sword dance perfectly without bumping into anything, and in an inspired moment decided to plunge it right into the ceiling. At one point Yuu came out on raised part in front, having to double over because of his height. He put his hand over Rairin's head, showing all the space there, and Rairin managed to pull himself up to be tall enough to (barely) touch the ceiling. Ikuto played intensely; while the other band members always seem intent on their individual performances, Ikuto always seems to be aware of all of them. Now that I think about it, I have almost never seen him make a mistake, though he's the one who takes it hardest if things don't go well.
There was no big announcement at the end, they played one of their earlier songs and seemed relaxed and happy by then, having got through the entire live with no mishaps whatsoever! They left without incident and the audience got in line to buy the special dvds that had been promised for this event.
We were told that the dvds would feature their US performance from last year, and indeed it does. I was really excited about this because I had longed to be there. I was surprised that it also included (very blurry) footage from one of their most recent performances as well as what had to have been one of their first lives, with their previous bassist, a pink-haired Shino and, dare I say, a fatter Rairin! They all looked so young and not nearly as good as they look now. There are backstage clips and a few other things. It's not really professionally done - a dvd-rom with sleeve probably printed at home, and some of the footage is blurry - however the menu is quite professional and I really recommend getting a copy if they make it available again.