2023.07.15 Takasaki City Theatre

Ongaku to Hito
September 2023

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by MASA

Your distortion; my love

Their national album tour has ended for now. In this tour, we got to see the band find themselves again and their revitalisation along with the perfection of their live concert. The final part examines what 異空-IZORA- was about from a live performance in their hometown, Takasaki.



On that stage was the immensity of Sakurai as a performer, the conviction of the true-to-life message
and a band who has recovered what’s precious to them

“My name is Hizumi
It’s Hizumi
All I do is wear my favourite clothes put on my favourite makeup
But everyone laughs at me Even though I’m just living my life
Father, mother I love you
Thank you I love you Goodbye”

Hizumi; you could say it’s the highlight of the concert. The excitement sparked by MISTY ZONE was cooled in an instant by Kogoeru before leading into this song. Then, the world was overcast by Izora (異空). 

Possessed by “Hizumi-chan”, Sakurai began his monologue which sounded like words from a suicide note. And after a moment of silence, the song would start but on this day, the silence went on for a particularly long time. A minute, or no, an even longer stretch of stillness dominated the hall. It was only later that I found out that the delay was caused by equipment issues, but for those few minutes of silence, the audience waited with bated breath, without even the slightest of stirrings. At the same time, the motionless, crouched over Hizumi and the four other members of the band waited statue-like for their chance to start the song.

Those few minutes felt like an eternity. Therein lay the immensity of Sakurai as a performer, and the conviction of the true-to-life message. And also, a band who has recovered what’s precious to them in this tour.

BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- started on 19 April. Their first show at Hachioji was stunning. In an interview, Imai said, “I composed QUANTUM Ⅰ because I thought  it’d be a good idea to start the concert with it.” This alone told me that they already had a solid vision since the beginning of the album’s production, and that the concert was bound to be something highly conceptual. 

The set up which spearheaded this did indeed begin with the curtains raising to QUANTUM Ⅰ and after the encore, the curtains were drawn to QUANTUM Ⅱ. And although there was a simple member introduction segment, there was as good as no MC. There wasn’t even a drum solo by Yagami on this day. This is a band I have watched live for many years, but this is the very first time they’re putting on a show in this style.

In an interview, Sakurai also revealed the existence of the protagonist known as “Hizumi-chan”, but whether it’s because it was the first day of the tour or because his intention was not quite clearly conveyed, there were members of the audience who even laughed. However, this conversely amplifies the loneliness of Hizumi, who has nowhere to belong, and comes across as a more realistic expression. It was a masterpiece. And since the whole thing is still disjointed, the impression each song leaves is even stronger.

Among those was die. Released 30 years ago, the inclusion of this track in the Izora tour as the last song of the main show connects it to all that BUCK-TICK has done thus far. It is proof that they have always been true to themselves on stage. I had nothing but great anticipation for how Izora would be performed and how it would grow in this tour.

So, the first half of the tour. They appeared to try out a format which had the drum solo followed by member introductions in their second show at Utsunomiya, but the show I caught in Kyoto only had a drum solo. Member introductions had been removed. The MC was also kept to a minimum. I suppose they took the approach of removing even the parts of the show that were typical of a concert in order to delve deep into the world of Izora.

Neither the setlist nor the pace changed. The only change which occurred was MISTY ZONE being replaced by ONCE UPON A TIME in the encore of the shows they played during their two days in Osaka, one day in Tokyo, and at Nagano and Hiroshima.

The choice of songs around Icarus was a stroke of genius. Also, the words, “I wonder what it was we were looking for/at the end of it all,” really hit home; they felt like an answer from Imai to the song Boogie Woogie, which looks back at the days when they used to tour from  one unfamiliar city to the next in a broken down vehicle. No matter how old they turn, or how much fewer words they exchange, their collective direction remains the same.

It’s obvious that a major theme of this tour was for the young girl living in a war from Sayonara Shelter and the despair that the LGBT community experiences à la Hizumi to overlap with Sakurai’s own inescapable emotional torment, and for it all to be presented on the stage that is Izora

Yet, at the same time, I got the feeling that with how the COVID-19 pandemic halted tours and even after tours came back, activities could not resume as smoothly as they should have due to restricted vocalisation, and also how the five members of the band couldn’t spend as much time together and were unable to do things the way they usual would during that period, it was important for the band to get back into their usual daily routine. It was a despair akin to that of the resignation in SCARECROW which sings about having nowhere to run; similar to how they were all stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Making us, as those living in the present, look to the future
By connecting this era of deprivation with the darkness in Sakurai’s heart
That’s the kind of album 異空 -IZORA- was

Perhaps it was this distant feeling that gave the Izora album its tension and fresh presentation. But also, perhaps, somewhere in there, they were looking for hope, for the band to come back together.

That’s exactly what defined the song Boogie Woogie, and I believe that Yagami’s decision to decorate his concert outfit with old, personal photos of the band members and their carefree smiles was also a sign of these feelings.

When Yagami stepped on stage for the encore on this day, he turned around and struck a pose with his back to the audience to show them the back of his shirt. As if to say that he carried the band’s feelings on his back. Just the five of them spending time together while touring around the country like they used to probably got him feeling that way.

Also, playing a show in their hometown of Takasaki might’ve also brought up all kinds of memories for them. After their Tokyo shows, they announced that they will be playing two shows at Gunma Music Centre to close off their 35th debut anniversary year. But although the audience capacity isn’t all that large, they probably chose this not-very-well-equipped-venue to close off their anniversary year, which started at Yokohama Arena last year, because it brings up memories of the band’s beginnings and their bond. That’s what I think.

And the inescapable despair of Hizumi versus the hope of Na mo Naki Watashi. A hope, no, perhaps a future. That’s right. Once again, like I wrote earlier, it made me feel that this Izora album makes us, as those living in the present, look to the future through connecting and channelling this era’s reality of deprivation with the darkness in Sakurai’s heart which was represented by Sayonara Shelter and Hizumi, as well as SCARECROW in this album.

By being in this band, he could find light in the darkness. That is exactly what he showed us in Taiyou to Icarus and CLIMAX TOGETHER. And this is a sight that we could’ve never seen if they didn’t go on tour. I believe the ones who probably feel this most strongly are the members of the band. Without a doubt.


I saw the band’s future. That’s the kind of show it was.



Translation: Yoshiyuki
Images: Yoshiyuki