B’z LIVE-STREAM -long time no see-

I feel as though there’s an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) sentiment among overseas Visualists (particularly No/So Americans) that falls somewhere along the lines of, we’re unnoticed, our fandom unappreciated, our prayers left unanswered. As I recall, a little bitterness flared up summer of last year when GACKT announced his international debut– in Europe. Oh come on, we’re all a little guilty.

This is more or less a working hypothesis on my part — based on Twitter conversations, mainly, and fleeting observations; it’s somewhat sad, though. I highly doubt any fans are slighted or left unappreciated; actually I’m sure most bands would be stoked to perform for as many audiences as possible all over the world. Touring overseas is a massive undertaking, requiring visas and money – lots of money, as well as time, energy, and enough of a reception to foot the (considerable) bill. It’s a form of promotion a bit pricier than handing out fliers in Shibuya, I’ll say that much.

It’s actually come to my attention the past year or so how much bands are working to overcome this obstacle of time and space. Although I’m sure they understand that nothing, nothing will replace the exhilaration of being crushed up against the stage in a dingy little club, your favorite band inches, feet, yards from you, rocking out before your very eyes. However, there is a way to emulate universal inclusion.


Oh the joys of the 21st century. More and more artists and groups are catching on to the phenomenon that is live-streaming. It seems like pretty much anything and everything can, and is, streamed live on the internet. We can now watch real-time interviews, press-conferences, talks, events, and– you guessed it, live concerts.

If this isn’t the most legit use of the internet since its advent, then I honestly can’t tell you what is.

Although the fact of live-streaming via USTREAM doesn’t rate the front cover of The Your- City-Name Times, the content can still be pretty attention-catching. And this week, the content is certainly worth its weight in bandwidth. As it were, this Sunday will see the conclusion of Jrock megastar duo B’z‘s short North America stint,  LIVE-GYM 2011 – long time no see –. The performance, held in Los Angeles at CLUB NOKIA, will be streamed live for free via USTREAM, an answer (compromise) to the prayers of Visualists who don’t count on waking up mysteriously in a hotel in downtown LA on the 24th.

The concert will be streamed at 7PM local time (LA) — following is a list of the corresponding times in the major cities. I don’t envy Paris, but it’s well worth it.

July 24th – 7pm (Los Angeles)
July 24th – 10pm (New York)
July 24th – 11pm (Buenos Aires)
July 25th – 3am (London)
July 25th – 4am (Paris)
July 25th – 6am (Moscow)
July 25th – 11am (Tokyo)

Access the live-stream here. For smartphone (actual intellectual quality of said devices being a matter of opinion) users, go here.


Out of All These ONE Must Shock Us!

Back before Zero was a creep

It looks like the second round of summer releases have been announced. Have I ever mentioned before how stressful I find it that Jrockers all release their stuff on exactly the same day? There are like two dates in a given month when they’re allowed to release material. For June you can expect to go bankrupt on the 2nd and 23rd, so get ready, guys.

D’espairsRay // “Dead or Alive Complete Covers Album” // July, ’10 (Album)

For the first time ever, a Jrock band will feature nothing but covers of the one band probably everyone is perfectly happy going the rest of their life without ever hearing!
Just kidding. It’s true, I’m being uncharacteristically vindictive (I’m not usually vindictive, right?). I mean seriously. The actual news is that they will, in fact, be releasing a brand new album right in time for adding songs to the set-list for their world tour, which will kick off in the US sometime in August. But, y’know, please don’t let us know what the dates are UNTIL THE DAY OF.

Out of all this second round, I think this is the most exciting news. Although all we know at this point is that it will be released sometime in late July.  Love is Dead itched the darker aspects of my dementia, but I thought b-side Medicine (I haven’t figured out how to make backwards N’s yet) was a really cool song. It was congruous with the single, but also got heavy and angry to counter the dancey thing that preceded it.

Exist Trace // “Knife” // 6.2.10

I always look forward to these bad-ass babes. I’m sure they aren’t going to release a techno song.

Inaba Koshi // “Okay” // 6.23.10 (2 types)

A barely-optimistic title, but surely a single that won’t disappoint from B’z frontman Inaba Koshi.

Nightmare (ナイトメア)// “a:fantasia” // 6.23.10 (2 types)

What the hell was with them releasing an entire album with ONLY ONE SONG ON IT. That’s what they invented the “repeat” button for, hello Nightmare?

Ayabie // “Irodori – Tour Final Live @ ZEPP Tokyo” [title subject to change] // 7.14.10 (Live DVD)

To be honest, I haven’t really followed these guys since I got irrevocably bored with their Rikkaboshi +A album.

Rin //”As if Forever Exists” // 6.2.10 (3 types)

Kisaki’s new band.

Phantasmagoria // “Diamond Dust in Truth” (live DVD) // 6.23.10

Kisaki’s old band.

**Pick ’em up here**

For anyone who forgot:

Sadie just released some new stuff yesterday (4/28); a Singles Collection, and a maxi-single (which hopefully isn’t included on the singles collection…) called DRESS. The PV is pretty cool, and the song is awesome.
If you haven’t heard it yet, check it out:

D’espairsRay album release source: CDJapan

Video: shuujiHysteria

Inaba or Matsumoto? Take Your Pick

Following their highly elitist arena tour (I believe that’s redundant, however, seeing as these guys will never again perform in livehouses…) that wrapped up at the end of March, the B’z duo will part ways for the summer to pursue separate projects.

Starting off in early June, guitar monster Tak Matsumoto, who is well-known for his collaborations with western musicians, will kick of a nationwide tour in Japan alongside renowned American jazz guitarist Larry Carlton. They will play around 14 dates together in cities Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. Tickets are JPY 10,500.

Not long after Matsumoto wraps up the encores in in Tokyo on July 3rd, vocalist monster Inaba Koshi will be preparing for a 20-date nationwide solo tour titled Koshi Inaba LIVE TOUR 2010 ~en II~. Inaba has released several works under his solo project, all of which are strong pop-rock releases that will take the house down this summer, no doubt. Inaba will be on the road through October. Tickets start at JPY7,500 and go up to 10,500.

I’m pumped to see these guys going so strong the past couple of years. They had some terrific releases in ’09, including the mind-blowing Ichibu to Zenbu/ DIVE double A-side, and a full-length album, MAGIC. And not only are they keeping the quality releases coming, they’re balancing studio work and live delivery with mastery. The only downside to all of this touring is that it makes prospects grim for any new singles this summer…Although, I guess you never know, do you? J-bands have interesting abilities to defy the passage of time and release things that shouldn’t have been chronologically possible.

…By the way, if you haven’t stopped by recently, check out their homepage. It’s been updated with new pictures, etc. The guys are still some of the classiest, coolest rockers out there, for sure.

Image credit: jayz24

Video credit: tintintin9314

Ain’t No Magic– B’z Madness Is All Real

Although they claim, via the title, that their 2010 tour, LIVE-GYM 2010 “Ain’t No Magic” is, well, not magic, B’z fans know better.

Since the beginning of January, B’z, the iconic classic rock duo that has been enchanting fans for the past 25 years, has been touring select Japanese cities for their 2010 tour LIVE-GYM 2010 “Ain’t No Magic“. They got started with 7 dates in January, and will carry on for another 12 dates through February and March.

2/12 Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome

2/13 Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome

2/17 Nagoya Dome

2/19 Nagoya Dome

2/20 Nagoya Dome

2/24 Kyo-Cera Dome, Osaka

2/26 Kyo-Cera Dome, Osaka

2/27 Kyo-Cera Dome, Osaka

3/3 Tokyo Dome

3/4 Tokyo Dome

3/6 Tokyo Dome

3/7 Tokyo Dome

Tickets Charge (Tax included): “SS” Seating 1,2000円, “S” Seating 9,000円, “A” Seating 8,000円, “B” Seating 7,000円, “C” Seating 5,500円

Open and Start times, Tickets

Whether you’re attending or not, check out the super “kawaii” theme song they composed for the tour. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a tour getting its own theme song, but hey, that’s the least it deserves!

B’z ひとりじゃないから -Theme Of LIVE-GYM-


Official Website

Simply… B’z

B’z was born in the height of the Japanese rock boom, in the early eighties. Although B’z followed on the heels of big-wig (literally) bands such as Buck-Tick (1984-present), and X-Japan (1982-1997), these bands were veering off into the creation and development of the scene we know of as Visual Kei. B’z was founded by guitarist Matsumoto Tak and vocalist Inaba Koshi in an effort to create something different from what was filling the music scene. Where many bands were using heavy electronica in their music and big band status, Matsumoto and Inaba felt that there were two things that comprised the soul of rock music, and these could not be replaced or imitated: Guitar and the human voice.

Kudos to them. Matsumoto, already an established soloist, began doing tryouts for vocalists shortly after the release of what would be his last solo album (at the time), Thousand Wave. Enter Inaba Koshi, then an aspiring amateur taking voice lessons and preparing to become a math teacher. Although I can’t vouch for the truth of this information, apparently Inaba silenced his dream of teaching when he discovered he would have had to cut his hair.
Inaba tried out, and the two immediately bonded and agreed to start a duo, which became B’z. Kind of a funny beginning for the top selling, most renowned, internationally famous band in Japan ever.

Matsumoto and Inaba in the early days...sensei's in rock

Where Visual Kei was digging its roots deep in the music scene, it seems only a few musicians were exploring pop and classic rock (think Yutaka Ozaki of great national fame)– at least only a few were doing it with any lasting style (Japan was about as cool as anywhere else in the 80s, perhaps even slightly more awkward because of its intense cultural transitions that had taken place, so it’s pretty amazing that we’re still listening to their 80s, 90s and Today so to speak). B’z came in, with Matsumoto’s monstrous guitars and Inaba’s high, strong vocals and powerful wails, and paved the way for Japanese classic rock and pop as we know it.

On September 21st, 1988, B’z debuted with the album B’z and the single Dakara Sono Te o Hanashite.
They debuted in a time where most Japanese bands believed it was necessary to perform live immediately after releasing an album. However, B’z had figured out their game plan, and did not perform immediately after the release of B’z. Instead they waited it out, making more music, refining their style and quality, and creating enough material that they could perform, and perform well, for at least 90 minutes.
This campaign resulted in another full-length album: OFF THE LOCK, released May 21st, 1989. After the release of LOCK, they decided to tour. Thus began LIVE-GYM, kicking off in Nagoya, infecting Osaka,and looping back up to Tokyo to completely overwhelm Eastern Japan with the need to listen to B’z.You have to remember that, at this time, awkward shoulder-pads were popular.

I could go on for page after page listing their chronology, year to year, month to month. But I won’t. Now that you have an idea of how they came to be, let’s address who they are and where they stand in the music scene.

At the beginning, B’z was very contemporary in sound, relative to their musical peers such as T-Bolan. However, they quickly started to discover their own influences and inspiration, and their music took form in a way that hasn’t been seen much elsewhere in Jrock. B’z is a classic western-style rock band. Tak Matsumoto has refined the long-haired, leather-jacketed, Levi-jeans of the a-typical American rocker to that point that even the western rockers look less “rock-star” than Matsumoto.

And it doesn’t stop at face-value. B’z definitely pulls their musical influence from Western rock. All the great bands from way back when, the ones that were melodic and beautiful, while paving the way for American rock (which no longer holds any claim to these adjectives). Perhaps part of their appeal to the Japanese is their Japanese-ness paired with their Western influences. Often when I have my playlist on shuffle and a B’z song comes on, I sit for the first 30 seconds trying to figure out which Western (albeit cool) music somehow infiltrated my impressive defenses, and then Inaba starts singing, and all order returns to the world.

B'z--off the 2007 album, ACTION

B'z-- ACTION album cover '07

Their music is a huge slew of whatever they so happen to want to play, mostly sticking to rock and pop, without ever leaning over to the heavy side too much. Their music is usually upbeat and fun, with some upbeat danceable stuff (Bad Communication getting a good poke here), a little orchestral-rock (Love Phantom), and with their ’07 release Action, some fantastic straight-up rock.
I have to say, considering what they’ve done for the Japanese rock scene and Japanese music fame in general, it really gives me a bad itch whenever someone presenting Jrock doesn’t even give them mention.

Despite having such an intensely strong run as B’z, both the honorable gentlemen have made time for solo endeavors. Matsumoto has worked with a wide range of different artists from around the world, both on their projects and his own. Meanwhile, Inaba embarked on his own solo work, utilizing skills not only in singing and composition, but also in a variety of instruments including guitar. As a solo artist, Inaba released 3 singles, 3 albums, and collaborated with several western artists on their projects. Matsumoto has released 11 albums and 4 singles under his name.

To throw a bit of trivia at you: Steve Vai personally invited B’z to put their hand-prints in Hollywood’s RockWall–the first artists from Asia to do so. Their discography includes 41 consecutive #1 singles, 23 #1 albums, and they have sold more than 77 million records in Japan ALONE!

The gents are as classy as ever in '09

The guys are still going as strong as ever. In 2009 they released two singles (Ichibu to Zenbu/DIVE, and My Loney Town), and the full-length album MAGIC. In early ’10 they hit up Japan with an impressive arena tour around major cities. And in Summer ’10 they will split up briefly to work on solo projects, Inaba with a solo tour and Matsumoto to tour Japan with American jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, they will release an album in June 2010, entitled Take Your Pick.

Official Website (English, Japanese)

House of Strings Official Website [Matsumoto’s solo project] (Japanese)