VAMPS live @ O2 Academy Islington, London, 7 October 2013

Posted on Nov 2, 2013

Our new member Genie attended this concert and wrote a full report. If you weren’t able to attend VAMPS concert, here’s a glimpse of what it was!

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On the night of 7th October, a gang of vampires took over the streets of Angel in London, with the help of a small army of their blood born and possessed followers…

So for those who don’t know and/or are interested, Angel is an area in Central London which I’m quite familiar with. I’ve seen a few Japanese bands play at the venue there, which is located in a nice little spot within a small shopping centre, kind of like a secret society. The way in is easy to find; above the entrance hangs a giant halo, blessing all who pass underneath it (maybe). On the second floor of the structure, there’s a cinema and a few places to eat, and over the balcony you can see the huge sculpture of the wings of an angel (just like HYDE’s, wink wink), which strangely sit on the top of a pretzel shop.

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At this event, VAMPS were doing a promotion for their new, international, best of album, SEX, BLOOD, ROCK N’ ROLL; if you bought the CD from the HMV store just by the venue, you could get a signed poster at the goods table with proof of purchase, which we did before the show. There were only a hundred copies, and I’m sure not a lot of people even knew about this, seeing as we got there fairly late and they weren’t yet sold out. Well actually, there was one left on the shelf. Maybe it was the work of that halo?

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Anyway, onto the important things. This wasn’t my first time seeing HYDE, but my first time seeing VAMPS, so aside from anticipating their otherworldly energy, I was excited to finally ‘meet’ KAZ. I was never given the chance to think much of him in the past, but during these years, he’s defined himself in a way that made me realise that he’s one of the people from his time, to come this far with his dignity and his creative vision still admirably intact. He’s expressed himself well while transforming as an artist, and some of his compositions in this band are pretty incredible. Naturally, I decided I would take his side of the stage. (Side note for readers who aren’t familiar with the band: HYDE is vocalist for the famous Japanese rock band L’arc en ciel, and VAMPS is his side-project with guitarist KAZ, ex-Spread Beaver.)

Before I start going on as if I know what I’m talking about, I’ll just admit that without aid, I couldn’t remember for the life of me the order in which they played the tracks. In other words, being in the mysterious and consuming presence of ancient beings from the underworld somewhat drained my soul and distorted my mind, so where necessary, I had to refresh my memory a little with the set list online. I had to take a blood transfusion too but that’s another story.

They started with a few of the well-known songs which got me loving their raw sound in the first place – VAMPIRE DEPRESSION, SECRET IN MY HEART, REDRUM. The voice of the seasoned professional otherwise known as HYDE, was a little overkill for the modest size of the venue, but he as expected, worked it well. He had fleeting moments where he lost control. Definitely one of those vampires with a crazy streak, I decided. Actually, though people always suggest his vocals require little effort in this band compared to his other, I have to say that that’s probably because he makes it look so easy. Having witnessed his performance in L’arc en ciel before, I can safely agree that he’s much more uninhibited when he transforms (I like to think of him as vocalist of L’arc by day, vamp by night), and hungrier, both because he has to be and he’s allowed to be, but I think that change in posture and mind frame takes far more skill, concentration, and dedication than people realise. He’s a very well-rounded artist, whom I have to say I respect a lot for his consistent level-headedness, happy-go-lucky attitude, and humble air despite the pressures he’s under.

I must note that HYDE told us that the whole show was streaming in Japan, at which point I fixed my hair while noticing the amount of cameramen around the room. I also have to note that he was wearing blue UV contact lenses, which looked pretty wicked during the performance whenever the lights hit him. These guys make you feel as if it’s Halloween every day, and that’s why I love them.

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There were a couple of more recent songs here and there, REPLAY, which has become one of my favourites without me realising it until I heard it live, and AHEAD. KAZ often took a step up onto the platform at the side while playing his guitar solos, but as far as I remember, he never once attempted to draw attention to himself centre-stage, or overshadow any of the others. In fact, there was a very strong sense of equality and understanding onstage. A wise and reserved vampire, I thought while watching him. Looks are deceiving and he must have been through a lot in his time. He has that kind of obvious ability which voids the need for emphasising self-confidence by posing. Did I mention that something about him reminded me of hide…?

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At some point they played MY FIRST LAST, during which, for some reason I only seem to recall a girl in the crowd swaying meaningfully to the hypnotic sound. Admittedly, their ballad style is quite mystical, and this is the effect it has. You wouldn’t think they had it in them if you saw their energy playing the harder tracks. They also aptly played a couple of British rock/pop tributes – David Bowie’s Life on Mars? and Shampoo’s Trouble. Diversity at its finest. It probably sounds odd to those who aren’t familiar with them, but you’d be surprised at how convincing they are. I mean anyway, which other rock band has the balls to cover Trouble?

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So a track or two later (or before), lambs were hunted and bras were tossed (HYDE hung one on his mic stand, and Ju-ken wore one on his head for a while). Ju-ken by the way (the bassist), was very responsive and provocative for the crowd. This one is the gung-ho one who can’t control his urge to kill, and just pounces without thinking. I was nowhere near him, but I’m sure you could feel his enthusiasm even from the back wall; he seems to be one of those cool old-fashioned musicians who comes alive at gigs – a real energy booster.

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Just before they went into the crowd pleaser, HUNTING, HYDE did his innocent little monologue about being so hungry, and wanting to suck someone. The set finished on a violent note with MIDNIGHT CELEBRATION.

When the band left the stage, the audience began an intimate encore demand, chanting the words of REVOLUTION – bang on, stomp everybody – and making the beat with their feet. VAMPS soon returned, and of course, gave the crowd the song they were asking for.

They followed with SWEET DREAMS, LOVE ADDICT, and HYDE promising to ‘see you again’. The finale was of course, SEX, BLOOD, ROCK N’ROLL.

Somehow, (perhaps that halo again) I ended up with one of KAZ’s picks, though I didn’t catch it myself; one of the Japanese fans nearby caught it and kindly offered it to us. Maybe I’m getting old, but sweet gestures like this make me realise how bizarre it is to able to actually experience and share live music from a foreign land in my own country. That’s the love part of my love/hate relationship with the internet.

The band’s modesty onstage told me they feel honoured to have the liberty to express themselves for a living, especially overseas, and that in turn made me feel what a privilege it is to be able to follow what they do, from afar or otherwise. Of course if they came again, I’d be there without a doubt. They’re the kind of band you’d kick yourself for missing.

As I often do after a gig, I left the venue with a ringing in my ears, feeling brutally reminded of how big the world actually is, and strangely, suddenly, a little thirsty…

~ Genie

Setlist

01.VAMPIRE DEPRESSION
02.DEVIL SIDE
03.REDRUM
04.THE PAST
05.SECRET IN MY HEART
06.REPLAY
07.GET UP
08.MEMORIES
09.MY FIRST LAST
10.LIFE ON MARS?
11.HUNTING
12.AHEAD
13.ANGEL TRIP
14.TROUBLE
15.MIDNIGHT CELEBRATION

(Encore)
E1.REVOLUTION Ⅱ
E2.SWEET DREAMS
E3.LOVE ADDICT
E4.SEX, BLOOD, ROCK N’ ROLL

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