TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv.
2022.11.06 Takasaki City Theatre
The parade will go on forever. As long as everyone is here, from city to city. Always
text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by Masa
To them, the 35th anniversary year of their major debut was looking like it would be one that appears to be less about congratulations or thanksgiving, and more of a serious self-reflection. However, once they concluded their Yokohama Arena event and embarked on their first national tour in a while, we began to see them start to regain something. Here is a concert report documenting their performance on 6 November at Takasaki City Theatre, in the band’s hometown.
Now that the band is returning to their usual routine of touring
They’re enjoying focusing on performing concerts without worrying about anything else except the band
The concert held at the band’s hometown of Takasaki, Gunma is the 9th stop of the tour.
Being in their hometown seemed to have brought them some sense of security with how the concert performance, the staging, and the atmosphere from the stage felt relaxed for some reason. The band’s performance felt like it was all coming together too, and in the encore, with a charming smile, Sakurai (Sakurai Atsushi / Vocalist) introduced the members of the band by reading Jomo Karuta cards, something that’s etched into the DNA of Gunmanians.
The day when this becomes the new style of introducing band members when performing in Gunma might be close, although Junretsu would perform their concert in this same hall the next day (lol). And being able to do this is probably proof that they’re enjoying that now that the band is now returning to their usual routine of touring, they can focus on performing concerts without worrying about anything else except the band itself. Every day they’re on tour is a fulfilling one; something that makes them more than happy.
But in the first place, far too many things happened in the time leading to the year of their 35th major debut anniversary. Tours being put on hold in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, no-audience live-streamed concerts, film concerts, the stopping of a national tour when Imai (Imai Hisashi / Guitarist) broke a bone. In a situation where they as a band could barely go back to their usual routine, until this year’s fan club tour kicked off, the only shows they have managed to put on with a live audience present since 2020 were their two annual concerts at Nippon Budokan.
Having lost their usual routine of concerts like this, I get the feeling that there is a subtle shift in each of the band members’ closeness to the band and the direction they look towards without their knowledge. I’m left with the impression that the five of them, who had been wildly enthusiastic for the longest time, have suddenly turned calm, relooking at their relationship with the band.
On top of it all, there was the sudden Russian invasion of Ukraine that happened this February. Tragic sights were thrown at us by the press on a daily basis. Scenes of children crying. This cast a heavy shadow over the band, especially on Sakurai’s psyche, rendering them unable to celebrate their 35th anniversary year with nothing but “congratulations and thanksgiving”. Here is where the forthright spirit of Sakurai Atsushi, something that we all love, shone through. This, combined with the memories of his past, turned it all into an ever deeper self-reflection.
The unabating darkness in his heart shows through the perspective of the vulnerable that is presented in Sayonara Shelter, the band’s new song which was released in their best-of concept album CATALOGUE THE BEST 35th anniv.. A month before this tour, the〈THE PARADE ～35th anniversary～〉show held at Yokohama Arena to commemorate their 35th debut anniversary had been structured in such a way that reflected Sakurai’s state of mind as it was. The show carried some kind of tension in the air, rather than a celebratory or grateful mood. I suppose it could also be a result of the situation the band was in.
The parade will go on. As long as everyone is here, forever——
That includes each and every one of us, as well as the members of the band
The tour began a month after those two days. Titled〈THE BEST 35th anniv.〉, it isn’t to say that the band would play a selection of songs well known to fans over the 35-year history of BUCK-TICK on this tour. Instead, it meant that the band would show what represents BUCK-TICK best, along with their dream of〈THE BEST〉. I thought that this would be an extension of what we saw at Yokohama Arena which drew on the social climate of these times and the band’s present state.
But that was not the case at all. Instead, once the tour began, the band dramatically recovered their identity.
I was able to watch their first performance at Tachikawa Stage Garden and this day’s show at Takasaki City Theatre. What shocked me was how the set list only had a few songs that were also performed at Yokohama Arena a month ago. Including the encore, the set list for this tour was made up of 20 songs. The two day event at Yokohama Arena a month back had a total of 42 songs, but only 6 songs from this tour’s set list, including their new song Sayonara Shelter were present there too.
This is the gift that came out of 35 years of constant album releases and at the same time, a forethought for the fans. Yet despite how different a set list this was, the overall tone of the concert remained unchanged. It just goes to show that no matter how much time has passed, something deeply ingrained in their hearts cannot be so easily cast aside.
But the impression it left was rather different. The show opened with a rock ‘n’ roll track revolving around phrases like “let’s go now”, “hop on board”. Up next was a song that invited us into a dark fantasy. Then, a song where a cute cat takes over Sakurai (you probably know what it is from this line alone even if you don’t want to) was followed by Imai’s song which envelops darkness with light and projects hope into our future. Where did the tension and uneasiness I felt at Yokohama go?
The band presented a strong stance calling upon everyone to enjoy the concert and have fun despite the real pressure and urgency tacked to it. In the first concert, a sad ballad was interspersed between these songs, but the set list had changed by this show. This time, I could catch glimpses of a conscious effort by the band to give the audience a more uplifting experience from the very start of the concert.
But this is where we see〈THE BEST〉; their true worth. As to where we are at this point, a bottomless world of darkness. One that relates to the emptiness in our hearts and the present climate of these occluded times. But that has been channeled into entertainment. That’s where the concert deviates greatly from Yokohama’s.
Among these songs, the most symbolic of all was their new song Sayonara Shelter. A little girl sang Let It Go in a bomb shelter in Kyiv as if embracing the hearts of the wounded; this was the video that inspired BUCK-TICK’s song but above its strong message, it is a song that had evolved into one of kindness and hope. This may well be something that resulted from the band’s current situation too.
The other songs they performed were like this too. Even though they performed songs that we’re familiar with, these songs had weight but also carried with them a sense of hope and tenderness. Because the band is moving forward with firm resolution.
Again, the shows are on different scales so it’s hard to make a general comparison, but having switched from Yokohama Arena’s staging-oriented set up to this simpler stage where there is nothing in the space between the band and the audience, the cohesiveness of the 5 of them as a band along with how well they worked the audience were more than obvious. Even if they weren’t performing in their hometown, the expressions on the band members’ faces showed that they were clearly enjoying themselves. I was once again reminded how good it was that touring has returned to being a regular routine.
And another big highlight was that we finally got to watch them perform a track from their latest original album, ABRACADABRA, which they could not perform in concert in the past couple of years, live on stage. The “prayer” that was in that album will finally come true. And we may have very well been witnessing that moment right before our eyes.
“How long will the parade last? I’d think it’ll go on forever. As long as everyone is here, from city to city. Always and forever.”
This was the message that came from Sakurai’s lips right before the last song of the night. On the first day of their tour at Tachikawa, he said, “I don’t know how long it’ll last, but the parade will go on.” Words which carried a measure of uncertainty, but at some point in time, he began to say, “It will go on forever.”
This is yet another sign that the band is getting back to their usual routine. Now, they can say this to their fans confidently and with certainty. The parade will go on. As long as everyone is here, forever. An “everyone” which includes each and every one of us, as well as the members of the band.