The tension kept building as the lights kept dimming in a tantalizing way, and the black-shirted crew members bopped on and off stage. Finally the lights flickered low in a seductive promise, and the group of teenage girls standing behind me squealed “Yay! A white guy!”, another countered simply with “ew.” The audience was shifting, the background noise was starting to grate, and it was as easy to ignore the little black door at the back of the stage as it is to ignore a tarantula crawling up the back of your neck. Every second seemed to whisper he’s coming…he’s coming… And then the music cut out and the black door opened, emitting a slightly white glow, and the shorts-and-t-shirt wearing, pony-tailed figure wielding a promising pair of drumsticks emerged, acknowledging the audience with a glowing smile. Everyone flipped out. Hands were up in the air, people were screaming, I’m surprised no one fainted right then and there as a silhouette appeared, a shadow against the door, cast in the white light, a tipped trucker hat and angular shoulders. The screams reached a crescendo, calling out in a rhythm-less chant, MIYAVIMIYAVIMIYAVI. And then he strode out.
The badass-ness of that moment can’t be described in words, and I’m not even going to try. Bedecked in skinny leggings, a tight punkish tank-top, and a black waist-coat paneled with swatches of kimono fabric, back-combed brown and green hair sticking out from a Volcom trucker hat, MIYAVI pulled darkness and light into his orbit like a magnet, cutting a stark image of perfection and punk. The low lighting glanced off of the milk-white angles of his face as he strode up to the microphone, black guitar swung across his chest. Casting a sultry glance over his waiting fans, spidery white fingers strummed several heavy, ringing chords, and, lips brushing the mic, he rasped, “Hello…Boston!”
Accompanied only by the unbelievable drumming talents of Bobo and some off-and-on keyboards, it was unbelievable how much noise MIYAVI could make. His heavy slap/pop style percussive blues playing, skat/rap/spoken-word/screamed/English/Japanese lyrics and shouted cues such as “Jump up!” and “Make some noise!” filled the entire club, creating as much volume as a full on band– definitely as much, if not more, music. After the first song or two, he stopped for a brief introduction, saying “I am MIYAVI, Japanese from Tokyo…”, and expressing his gratitude for everyone’s attendance. He admitted that this was the third consecutive show in as many days (Boston followed Chicago and Toronto), and that he was really tired. However there was no sign of him taking it easy on us, and he didn’t forget any details. Before continuing, he checked with the audience to make sure everyone could see and hear, before launching into another series of full-bodied, incredible tunes that rocked down the house. He drew on our vocal power as well, calling out “What’s my name?” and when we responded, “What’s my fuckin’ name?!”
Rockin’ across the stage, this guy covered some miles, darting from one mic to the next, launching his charisma and sultry, mischievous glances out over each angle of the audience. Every time he moved to a new mic, all the club’s energy surged in to that spot. Shredding his guitar mercilessly, crouching in a near-split to pull the full capacity of sound from his guitar strings, MIYAVI was a terrific tease, starting to throw his weight over the waiting, grasping hands, only to pull back at the last moment, smiling sneakily. At points, he would flip aside the folds of his jacket to reveal a flash of red-satin lining and several inches of bared midriff, only to hide it again as the fangirl’s screams reached a crescendo. Despite his overall reserved attitude around fan-service, MIYAVI created an incredibly sensual performance, filling out each moment with complex facial expressions, smoky glances, and a darting, serpentine tongue. He teased with words, too, challenging us to be a raging audience, “Are you guys gonna be crazy? Are you? Maybe…Maybe…”
Instead of doing one or two longer MCs, MIYAVI broke it up with small, almost conversational breaks. He would stop for water and to wipe off his face, turning to say “it’s really fricken hot in here. I’ve got water in my eyes…” At one point he stood there fixing the tousled ponytail sticking out of the back of his hat, only to pull out a long extension. Dangling the piece of hair, he deadpanned, “Yeah it’s all fake now. I’m bald…” before sticking it awkwardly on the keyboard. With each MC, it was impossible not to hang on his every word and follow his every move, each expression. It was amazing and inspiring to see such an incredible musician up there who, for the past hour had been rocking out and screaming his throat raw, only to stop now and talk about his daughter, apologizing about canceling the previously planned tour due to his move to J-Glam Inc., and then a heartfelt message about how he believes we can be united by music, and how “as long as you call my name, I will keep coming back.” His attitude was reserved and cool, but the energy he sent out to the audience was truly sincere, warm, and all-encompassing. There were a lot of humorous moments as well, such as when he spoke Japanese to us and got a response in Japanese, to which he responded “you’re Japanese? You too? You too?…Whatever.” And when he apologized for his English, saying “I’m sorry my English is not good, even though I am a genius.”
The set-list flowed flawlessly. He played some songs off the “new album”, and a song that he “just wrote a few days ago” (which was one of my favorites of the evening), as well as older pieces such as Super Hero, Please Please Please, and the highly interactive and fun tracks Are You Ready to Rock which gave our vocal chords a run for their money, and Boom Hah Boom Hah Hah which challenged the audience’s clapping coordination.
Toward the end of the live, we had been able to move closer to the front in time for the Jrock Ablutions. MIYAVI pulled out the water-bottle and took a drink, before squirting us down with it. He took another big swig, turned around, bent over backwards and spat the water over the first few lines. It was like Visual Kei baptism. I’ll be able to live my life in pride being able to say “MIYAVI spat water on me.” Yes, it’s like that.
Finally, after disappearing off stage, MIYAVI made us scream a lot before reappearing for an encore. He played around with the other musicians, mashing keys on the keyboard and pushing the keyboard-player away from the keyboard with his butt while still shredding chords. He teased the keyboard player, calling him a “fuckin geeky no girlfriend cherry boy looks like Chinese from Tokyo!” At the end of the song he put down his guitar and walked along the edge of the stage touching and shaking the audience’s hands. Roukun was able to shake his hand, and reported that it was very soft. For me, having arranged this experience for my pal as a birthday gift, I feel that standing just a few people back from the stage, getting showered in MIYAVI’s spit, and being able to touch his hand, I think I succeeded in my mission.
Finally, MIYAVI disappeared backstage and the little black door swung shut, swallowing him back into the universe from which he emerged like a blazing star only 2.5 hours earlier. The audience slowly, hesitantly began to disperse. After standing for a moment in an afterglow of sound and visualism, we left the flickering purple and red lights, and the earlier-celebrated crew members packing up drums and guitars, amps and chords, and stepped out onto the street, into the hazy summer midnight, Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to rock? Are you ready to rock? echoing in our ears; what’s my name? what’s my fuckin’ name? coursing through our veins.
What’s my name? What’s my fuckin’ name?! MIYAVI. MIYAVI. MIYAVI.
MIYAVI image (top): TraciGrant