Yes. It’s the most expensive concert I’ve ever attended. And the abingdon boys school live at The Underworld Camden in Camden Town, London, UK on Nov. 12th 2009 was also the shortest concert I’ve ever attended. The boys performed from around 8-something until just after 10, and that included a short intermission. It was also the most powerful, crazy, and musically devastating experience of my, admittedly, live-performance-wise- pathetic- existence- so- far.
First of all, it took several months of planning and coordination and hard work at a 9-5 I’d already refused once or twice, and then 2 airports and 11 hours of travel time to get to this concert. You’d think I’d have been more prepared come the actual day-of. But I wasn’t. I didn’t get to the venue that early, and there was already a queue the length of the Nile. It kept growing, too, so I was glad I at least made it when I did. At least the perk of waiting a block and a half from the venue itself was that I got to stand right next to the tour bus.
We waited for about 1.45 hours, 1 and 1/2 of which lovely London skies decided to vomit profuse quantities of frigid, unforgiving British rain. Nobody was prepared, so by the time they started letting us in, everyone was pretty soaked… I guess that was our fault for not expecting typical London weather (even though I was most likely the only non-European/student in attendance) and the landlords’ faults for not expecting us for this soul-ravishing event and putting up awnings to protect our rock-steady skulleons.
The rain was only the second stupidest thing. Because I was kind of running late, and every self-service machine in the city looks the same, I only had precisely, including 1 and 2 pence pieces, 20 quid on me, I had to be unfairly choosy when it came to tour goods. The goods they had available were: a poster, postcard set, Europe-only compilation album Teaching Materials, an Ebisu tour T-shirt, a European tour T-shirt, and….I believe that’s all. 20 pounds got one of the European tour T-shirts.
The Ebisu T-shirt had a more manly shape, but during the performance Nishikawa sported the tour shirt, so I guess they’re unisex. Not that it matters to Jrockers, I suppose.
The venue was tiny. Minuscule. By the time we got in, the “dance floor” was packed, but since, y’know…I’m slightly….how to say….vertically challenged, unless I was able to stand near the front I wouldn’t really be able to see anything, it worked out okay to stand on the upper floor near the railing, even though some annoying girl standing slightly in front and to my left kept brandishing her arm devotedly directly in my line of vision, I was able to see alright.
There was a lot of energy in the place, and everyone kept screaming all at once as if the band was coming out every time a sound-crew member emerged wearing an Ebisu T-shirt. a.b.s. could probably just have played the CD and asked their sound-crew to head-bang on stage for an hour and a half and the audience wouldn’t have noticed. Just kidding.
When they actually appeared on stage…everyone went to hell. I remember it pretty well, I think, despite having died in that very moment. They were all dressed in their white and black STRENGTH-era outfits, waving and smiling. And you have no idea. No idea. Absolutely zero comprehension…of how incredibly beautiful these aliens from another planet are. There is no way they could possibly be human. They’re not. They had to have been beamed down from outer-space. The charisma, attitude, and attractiveness radiating from them could have powered Tokyo for ten years without so much as a flickering bulb. I shouldn’t be so surprised, but really when you look at pictures, how do you really know how attractive they are normally? I mean, between air-brushing and makeup and special effects, how much of it is real? Everything. And then some. Their presence, sheer, daunting confidence, and surety on stage was so overwhelming, well, I can’t even describe it.
Their personalities were incredible to see coming out in their performance as well. Hasegawa Kozy, the drummer, and IKUO on bass stuck to the shadows to give the official members full foreground– but the stage was small, so you could see them killing it anyway. Kishi was also set back behind the others, but his effect on the performance was so strong, he could have been at the front. SUNAO, Nishikawa, and Shibasaki held the very front. Shibasaki was quiet and reserved, as expected. SUNAO surprised me– he was untamed! He had a very powerful presence on stage, and it was like….”bloody hell, he’s cool”. With his wild black hair and some unforeseen, thick eye-makeup, he was like a guitarist so incredibly good he was sent to the abyss and then returned with a note from the devil proclaiming him just too badass to bear.
Nishikawa, of course, had tons of energy. He was tiny, to be sure. Small, but oh my. He was very active, dancing around, headbanging with the best of them, taunting the crowd, and shouting out to us a lot. He spoke in English, and he has an amazing speaking voice. He was pretty hardcore. He would say things like, “I love you, London!”, “Make some noise!!”, and “are you havin’ a bitchin’ time?!?!” To save us from severe emotional trauma and/or brain-damage, he assured us he wanted to come back many more times.
Well, that’s good for London, I guess. When are they coming to America?!
It’s unbelievable to actually hear the music performed live. Nishikawa adds a lot of ornamentation, screaming, etc that’s not in the recorded version. His voice is out of this world– so powerful and defined. The guitar-solos make you want to die (I actually think someone did faint, or get knocked out, or something, because at the end of the show Nishikawa was looking out at them saying, “Hey, are you alright? Are they okay?” He seemed kind of concerned, but there were no ambulances or fountains of blood, and they were in like the front row, so I’m sure even if they suffered minor (or major) physical pain they’ll survive). The set-list was powerful. They performed:
Via Dolorosa, Stay Away, JAP, Kimi no Uta, From Dusk Till Dawn, Strength, Freedom, As One, Innocent Sorrow, Nephilim, HOWLING, DESIRE, Atena, Valkyrie, and FRE@K SH0W, as well as a few others I’m sure I’m mentally misplacing.
I was disappointed to not be able to hear DRESS and LOST REASON, but the songs they chose were awesome, and to be honest, I’d rather listen to a.b.s play Christmas carols for an hour and a half than listen to any other band play a million different songs.
The second half of the concert (split by a brief intermission during which the band changed into tour shirts, and the crowd shrieked encore. I was like, they’ve played for 25 minutes, it’s not exactly the end of the concert… Paranoia or pandemonium…but whatever it was, it reigned.) got kind of crazy. Nishikawa mutilated the delicate psyches of desperate fangirls by spitting water over the crowd, strip-teasing and tossing his sweaty shirt into the audience, and then diving off the stage into the audience. He was promptly dragged down, and five security guys had to wrestle for several minutes with the crazy fans to get Nishikawa back on stage. (He looked pretty exhilarated after that. I guess some people play with fire and others…fans?).
They played FRE@K SH0W, and each member was introduced by Nishikawa, as they played an incredibly sick solo that destroyed any hopes I may have had for a normal, average life. Again, later Nishikawa introduced the members once more by calling out their respective role and expecting the audience to respond. I think about 3 people there knew Kozy Hasegawa’s name. Nishikawa seemed a little disappointed about this, calling out “…His name is Kozy Hasegawa!” Tell it, yo!
When it was finally time for them to leave, they all took some time to walk around touching people’s hands, waving, etc. It was really sweet and cool to see them interacting with the fans as much as possible, given the degrees of separation. Then they walked off, and the sound-crew came on to pick up. And something inside, I think it may have been my soul, curled up and died right then and there. But that’s alright. It was a small price to pay for so great a gift.