Last week I attended two gigs each of which had an opening act that was from Japan. Not only that, these bands are pretty massive in Japan. And the interesting thing is, these guys were opening for bands at venues slightly bigger than a Tokyo live house!

It all started with updates from JAME indicating VAMPS and Man With A Mission were heading for these shores as supporting acts for Apocalyptica and Zebrahead[1], respectively.

I am aware of VAMPS but not familiar with their music at all. I knew that they were somewhat big and had played London at HYPER JAPAN in 2014. One thing I didn’t realise was that one half[3] of this J-rock duo is actually HYDE of L’Arc-en-Ciel. No wonder his voice sounded familiar when I checked their stuff out on YouTube. The only L’Arc-en-Ciel CD I had was Smile and I got bored of it after a while. From the stuff I found on YouTube however, VAMPS sounded way more rockin’. I bought Bloodsuckers on iTunes UK and I’ve to say the whole album was good. And when I heard they were coming to Nottingham in support of Apocalyptica for like fifteen-odd quid, it was a right no-brainer.

The floor was virtually a third full when I arrived[2] and I was third row of sorts behind a gaggle of girls, some of whom were Japanese. This was when I realised that a lot of HYDE’s fans are lasses. Oh well, I was here to check out their music.

VAMPS filed onstage one by one with HYDE coming out last, and kicked off the set with Evil from their current album. The fan girls around me were going bonkers, with HYDE hunched over the riser holding on to his mic stand that had a blag VAMPS flag on it. The played DEVIL SIDE next which I didn’t recognise as it was from their SEX BLOOD ROCK ‘N’ ROLL album which I don’t have.

K.A.Z played a few different guitars that night, but mostly with his Zodiac Works signature SG[4]. I also kinda like his black flying V as well as the custom Jazzmaster in Lake Placid blue which he played at the end of the set. HYDE had a black Zodiac Works guitar which he had played twice in the set. As for the set itself, it transpired that it was a mix of material from VAMPS and HYDE’s solo stuff as well. But it was good that they played Replay and World’s End (HYDE played guitar on this as well) which I recognised from my err… iTunes purchase.

VAMPS ended their short set with MIDNIGHT CELEBRATION which was a HYDE song. There was defo no letting up in the HYDE fan girls around me. As for their material, suffice to say I was pretty impressed with VAMPS enough that I will look to get a couple more CDs when I get the chance to go to a BOOK OFF outlet next month. One thing, though – no VAMPS merch at this show!

Rock City, Nottingham 25.11.15 set: Evil / DEVIL SIDE / Live Wire (Mötley Crüe cover) / Replay / Jesus Christ / REVOLUTION II / World’s End / MIDNIGHT CELEBRATION

I only have one MWAM CD – Tales of Purefly which I bought at Tower Records in Shibuya last year. Not that I knew much about them then but I thought there must be something about them if they are selling out massive venues despite them being a band that goes around in full on wolf masks. The news of them actually returning to play a handful of UK dates was a right surprise. They had played Download in the summer and prolly liked the UK enough to return that soon. I’d like to think so anyway.

I had been to Club Academy at the Manchester University Students Union before, and was wondering what it’d be like for MWAM to be playing a venue this small. On arriving, I managed to snag a tee and a copy of Beef Chicken Pork, a compilation CD of their songs sung fully in English. The wolves got onstage at eight sharp, wearing the same getup they wore on the Raise your flag[5] PV. To my absolute delight, they began their show with Emotions from Purefly!

I’ve always wondered how they’d perform live with their masks on. TOKYO TANAKA, Jean-Ken Johnny and Kamikaze Boy’s masks each had a large opening where the wolf mask’s mouth was, and you could make out a face in black make up! I can’t really see Jean-Ken (and his guitar) that much from my location at stage left unfortunately. Only DJ Santa Monica and Spear Rib had their full masks on.

MWAM played database next, another song from Purefly. So far so good. The next couple of songs were not familiar at all, until they played a cover of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit. TANAKA spoke in perfect English during the MCs, which is somewhat not surprising since their Japanese releases have a lot of songs sung in English anyway.

Ali and Matty of Zebrahead then joined MWAM onstage for the two bands’ collab, Out of Control. MWAM then ended the set with Get Off of My Way[6]. Whilst the punters were receptive to MWAM’s short performance, they were a tad stoic/unresponsive likely because the audience prolly had never heard any MWAM stuff prior to this. I actually felt sorry for Spear Rib who got on the riser on his own after the show making a countdown gesture with his raised hands but to no resounding response. I had a feeling people didn’t understand what he was doing, especially when he couldn’t speak in that full mask. Unlike the VAMPS gig, I could not identify any nihonjin at all in the audience, apart from the scant road crew. Would love to see MWAM headlining show now.

Club Academy, Manchester University 27.11.15 set: Emotions / database / Take What U Want / FLY AGAIN / Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover) / Out of Control (W/ Zebrahead) / Get Off of My Way

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[1]Never heard of this SoCal band, although they’ve been around for some time it seems.
[2]My first visit to the venue in like six years.
[3]The other half is K.A.Z from Oblivion Dust. Nope, no idea what these guys are like.
[4]K.A.Z was previously an ESP endorsee.
[5]Which they didn’t play at the gig. Unfortunately.
[6]Get what what?