Symphonic Metal for Artistocrats
The outside of the CC Lemon Hall in Shibuya was swamped by fans waiting patiently in the February chill to see Versailles. In addition to the more generic gothic garb of some fans, others dressed in homage to their favourite members with not a few ball gowns worn in emulation of Hizaki, as well as layers of lace, velvet and back combed hair in tribute to the late Jasmine You. Despite their relatively young status as a band (Versailles only formed back in 2007) they band have earned a status both in their home country and abroad which come other bands in the Visual Kei genre can only aspire to. Perhaps it’s the theatrical aesthetic, or maybe it’s the quite stunning musical talent they display in their blend of operatic, symphonic heavy metal, but 2000 fans from young to old are happy to stand out in the cold for hours to see their heroes return from a successful world tour. Inside the CC Lemon lobby, huge banners collected from venues around the globe – the UK, Europe, South America, North America – attest to just how successfully Versailles have cracked a market that not many Japanese bands have done so well at.
As the auditorium filled up, classical music was piped over the speakers, and the stage was bare save for a drum kit dripping heavily with roses and foliage, and a huge Marshall stack. The lights dimmed quickly, and the giant screen above the stage introduced each band member as they took to the stage , descending the stairs and greeting the screaming crowd with dramatic flourishes.
Versailles launched straight into their set – all duelling guitars and orchestral strings – with Hizaki spinning around to show off his dress to full effect. Guitarist Teru rocked out stage right while drummer Yuki and bassist Masashi held the rhythm to the rear, with Kamijo rocking out in the centre. One thing I’m always amazed by is the ability of Visual Kei bands to consistently outdo themselves live – the energy and passion involved in performing is quite astounding, and it’s something that rarely makes it fully onto CD. My favourite two songs of the night in this respect were the epically Baroque “Vampire” and “Prince” with its amazing guitar solo.
In terms of settings Versailles was one gig where my usual overcompensation for the venue gloom was not needed. The lighting was well-designed – brightly lit, but saturated with colour combinations that made for great photos – and there was very little red light to spoil things. If anything, most photos cam out a little over-exposed.
While all this great stuff was taking place on stage, down beneath the band myself and another photographer dodged a crew of cameramen who were filming the event – rolling around on wheeled seats with huge film cameras, paying little heed to whoever they might be crushing in the process. This gig required your attention to be in about four places at once – whatever’s in your viewfinder, whatever the other band members are up to, where the other photographer is, and who is about to take you out with a camera. It’s something I seem to be getting progressively more used to.
The band were amazing – tight, symphonic, a joy to shoot – rocking out at the front of the stage and pulling pose after epic pose. I’m pretty pleased with how the photos turned out, and it seems that the Rokkyuu readers felt similarly. It’s encouraging to get feedback from fans on the photos – you know you’re doing a good job when people say they felt like they were there.
See the full live report and a tonne of photos here at Rokkyuu Magazine.
Click here to see my earlier comments on the Versailles gig.