Seems that the small concert hall of Sendai is getting trendy, as we welcomed Dragonforce
this month, after the coming of Slipknot
in October. A small concern, though : will the hall actually fill up ? There is indeed no line outside, maybe because of the price, a slightly repellent : $70 for Dragonforce
, that will definitely make you stop and think.
After waiting for 10 minutes for my pass, I eventually enter the hall, which was only half filled. Certainly not as crowded as one would think, as regards the hype of Dragonforce
in Japan, but it was enough to ensure an excellent reaction from the metalheads. Note the presence of 10 to 20 westerners, which is proportionally pretty high and had its significance in the reaction of the crowd.
An intro starts up, announcing the arrival of All That Remains
. An intro of … rap, with a couple having a lover’s spat, and not a nice one. And even if it is quirky, it is pretty funny. The band then gets on stage, with the crowd cheering, and their riffs quickly shake the public.
Not being a huge fan of ATR, I was dreading their performance, afraid of getting bored (cf the live report of ATR in Montreal), but on the contrary, the first songs made quite a good impression. The sound was particularly good, both clear and well balanced, and each instrument is clearly audible, including the leading voice, Philip Labonte. My main anxiety of a rough and murky sound fortunately faded away (at the superhuman speed at which Dragonforce
performs, it would have been a huge mess). The solos of Oli Herbert were even more powerful and efficient than on the album, and the fans cluster together against the barriers to get close to him.
About the stage, the band has just a few meters depth to play, the rest being taken up by the Dragonforce
’s equipment, putting us closer to the members of the band, which did not hesitate to shake some hands. The play of light is also rather impressive, synchronized with the rhythm of the pieces, in particular to enlighten Jeanne Sagan as second voice ( I thought she was a he).
As for their performance, it was not bad, but clearly insufficient for such a wide ranging band, which did not seem to be used to non-English speaking crowds. Their main issue was indeed that they were not adapted to the Japanese public since between each song, Phil Labonte tried to warm them up in an English that none of them understood. Thus the jokes that fizzled out such as “guys, there’s something I’d like to ask … how do you say “spit in your ass” in Japanese?”. Of course, big blanks (except the westerners laughing), and the band did not seem too used to it. Despite their efforts and a few notes of guitar to fill in the blanks, they cannot start the dialogue with their fans.
Aside from this, the band is energetic, the singer keeps on jumping everywhere and they do not seem to be tired from the jet lag or the previous Japanese tour dates. But in spite of the alternations between solos and refrains that give rhythm to the live, I start to get bored after 15-20 minutes. The sound gets worse and saturates, the voice becomes less distinct and the crowd already seems to grow tired. “Two weeks”, the hit of All That Remains
bursts in and awakes the public for a moment.
After 40 minutes of performance, the set comes to its end. No curtain call, the crowd becomes suddenly quiet after the band leaves, such as last year’s Machine Head
To sum up, a good first part. It was interesting but a little bit boring for such a famous band. With the issue of the language barrier, they could not handle the Japanese public.
After the intermission and a little beer for everybody, another intro plays and the band that everyone is waiting for comes on stage, one after one, in front of the public, elated. The sound is neat, sharp and accurate, and the solos are surgical and as always, at an incredible speed, and it comes out as fast and as good as on the album (maybe even better, as we have the “you-are-in-front-of-a-guitar-god” effect in addition). Lower than the end of ATR, the volume is not unpleasant anymore and the lyrics are quite audible.
The stage is decked out with the gigantic flag of Ultra Beatdown
, and 2 ramps on the sides go up until a platform, behind the drums, for those that have itchy feet. Even if they were just five on stage, trying to follow their moves was not so easy. Really energetic … and childish, they kick each other, and squabbling amongst each other. In short, they are having fun, and sharing it with us. Their camaraderie is a pleasure to watch, and the crowd is excited. Note that the play of light did not seem as good as that of ATR as the stage was always fully enlightened. But it was not a problem, as it enabled us to watch every crazy member of this show. A good play of light can indeed compensate for a poor stage performance, but it was not necessary for Dragonforce
The crowd then became like a part of the band, led by a ZP Theart at the top of his game. Thanks to an uncontested success in the land of the rising sun, the band knows how to handle a Japanese public, contrary to All That Remains
. To override the language barrier, they resort to the gestures, making us clap in rhythm, wave our arms or jump. The charismatic singer does not hesitate to point out some stiff people, individually, miming “you too, jump, applaud”. Another example: he bent over the closest one and borrowed his glasses, and sang for a short moment while wearing them. (Note that he seemed to enjoy throwing us some water ! A few dozen of bottles ended up thrown in the public.) Incidentally, he also went to a girl in the first row, and started to slowly pour a bottle of water on her head
, stopped, and did it again (multiple times), before giving her another bottle to take revenge on him.
In short: their interaction and proximity with the crowd were awesome. We felt the show as much as we watched and listened to it.
Concerning Herman Li, he was rather focused on his solos and did not really interact with the public, but easily gathered the fans at his feet when approaching the edge of the stage. The Guitar Hero obviously satisfied us with his “I-lift-my-guitar-by-its-Floyd” technique, before elbowed it to put it back in place and continue to play. He also entertained us several times by stroking the strings with his tongue (technique shared by Vadim Pruzhanov, the mad Ukrainian with green hair, playing on his pink keyboard with his tongue from time to time). And when he was not on his keyboard (which we could have taken for a toy), he was on his 3 keyboards near the drums, milling one of his arms and jumping wildly while playing with his second hand. Another interesting point concerning the way the managed the public is that there was no blank spaces as Vadim always launched into samples between songs, while ZP Theart made us move or spoke to us (less than audible).
Sam Totman and Frédéric Leclercq were also at the top of their game, jumping everywhere and … making people drink their whisky (one of them even got some in his hands to drink it).
Now, the crucial question : was it boring ?
Indeed, it seems that most of the people that listen to Dragonforce
get fed up after a few tracks. 7 minutes of power speed is quite a lot of notes to shove into your head
, and I thought I would switch off before the end of the show.
Well, no ! Much to my surprise, I did not get bored even once during the set of Dragonforce
, which yet lasted for an hour and forty minutes. The band did not hesitate to add some breaks at the middle of the longest tracks to revive the crowd. The moshers had also some time to rest thanks to a keyboard solo by Vadim, who started to play with his nose, and who was then joined by Frédéric Leclerc (on the guitar, and not the bass, surprisingly), making the solo drift into a battle between our two virtuosi. The battle ended on one of the Dragonforce-styled sounds imitating Mario, and suddenly punctuated by the appearance of … a stuffed Mario ! They incidentally started to play with it, before shoving it into the bass drum, decked out with a dummy phallus.
Lastly, concerning the playlist, the hits obviously had place of pride, such as Valley of the Damned
or Fury of the Storm. After an exhausting set, the band retired, but fortunately that was not enough to calm down
the public, which was really enthusiastic this time to call back the long-awaited band. The Brits then came back on stage and played a song from their last album, before ending the day with the godlike “Through the Fire and Flames”, unleashing the remaining rage of the swarm, clapping, jumping and moshing.
The show is over. The band blows out, confides to us that they were not expecting such fun in this small city, and everyone comes and shakes hands, throws us some picks, or drumsticks or … water (for ZP !).
The playlist (in any order) :
Operation Ground and Pound
Fury of the Storm
Reasons to live
Valley of the Damned
The Last Journey Home
Heroes of our Time
The Warrior Inside
Through the Fire and Flames
and the solo of keyboards and guitar
To sum up, an incredible live. Dragonforce
are definitely entertainers ! More a show than a live, even if you are not crazy about their albums and took off after a few tracks, you have to go and see them on stage.