My daughter has been a die hard fan of the Japanese visual kei metal band since she discovered them on YouTube in 2007. Like any doting father I expressed an interest in her discovery. I learned about the band, when they were formed, and what kind of music they played.
I wasn’t surprised to find she was a fan. Before Versaille, there was Gackt and his previous band Malice Mizer. What these artists have in common is their type of music. I can only liken it to heavy metal rock opera. The songs always play in stanza-like symphonies and are long and very loud.
I became a fan through osmosis. My daughter would excitedly show me each new video she found and I grew to like the band, a lot. I became a firm fan for life when I saw their music video for Ascendead Master. The two lead guitarist’s play first a solo, then a ‘duet’ of a classical piece of music. I had never seen such accomplished guitar playing. These two guys were as good as, if not better than, Santanna or Clapton.
Of course it did take me a bit of time to get used to how they dressed.
Kei bands dress in Renaissance clothing, usually women’s, and often make themselves up as women. Hizaki, one of the lead guitarist’s of the band, looks like the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen. It took my daughter ages to convince me that he was in fact a man.
I had heard all their songs and seen all the videos that were available on the net and ones that Meg (my daughter) had purchased from YesAsia.com. So when Meg found out they were going to be playing at the London O2 and that tickets were still available, she was over the moon.
She immediately bought two tickets and then realised that none of her friends knew who Versailles was. She asked me if I’d go and I jumped at the chance. I was hoping that these guitar ‘gods’ were as good live as they were in their videos.
On the day, we took the train to London and then the tube to the O2. We got there a couple of hours early to get a good spot in the queue. Too late. Obviously Versailles had a huge fan-base in the UK and they all got there much earlier.
The queue wound around the corner from the O2 entrance and down past a long row of shops and around that corner as well. The Next shop had to keep asking the people in the queue to keep the door of the shop clear.
And the outfits! I was ‘gob-smacked’ at the kei costumes that some of the fans had put together for the concert. Money and imagination had created some stunning ‘looks.’ I kept looking around the queue and worrying that I was too ancient to be attending this musical event.
I needn’t have worried. All the young people there were very excited and friendly. The two young ladies in front of us in the queue chatted to us off and on through the whole wait. And Meg actually spied some older folks with thicker waistlines and greyer hair than I had. I didn’t feel so out-of-place after that.
When they finally opened the doors, it still took ages to get in. Once in we had to jostle around for a place to stand. We managed to pick a pretty good spot. Although the pictures look like we were miles away, that was down to the inadequacies of my mobile phone’s camera rather than actual distance from the stage.
I hadn’t been to a music concert since 1976 and that was a Willie Nelson concert. Meg had never been to one. So neither on of us was really sure what to expect. But judging from the reactions of the other concert attendees, neither did they.
Every time a ‘techie’ would come out on stage to check an instrument or microphone, the crowd would get excited and start screaming loudly and one female member of the crowd would yell out, “Kami-jo!” She did this with a loud regularity that was annoying. Eventually everyone realised that we’d have to wait a while longer but the crowd still got excited when anyone stepped foot on the stage.
Finally with a crescendo of noise, smoke and lights the band came out on the stage. With great showmanship the entire band gave their all for a small crowd of about three hundred fans. Even though they had released a new album. The band played what they knew their fans wanted to hear. The old songs.
The songs that had made the band’s name and were popular before Jasmine You‘s untimely death in 2009. The fans were going wild and they energetically responded to every song until the band played the song they had written specially for Jasmine You as a tribute to him. While the band played Serenade, the audience became quiet and held back from responding until the very end of the song.
I found out to my delight that the band could play live just as good if not better than they had on the music videos. These guys were real showmen who know how to entertain their fans. Sure enough when they performed Ascendead Master, they did not drop a note. It was spectacular.
Meg and I were in front of the left hand side of the stage. We were closer to the the group’s other guitarist. While the crowd was making the Versailles sign with their hands (you extend your hand with the the two middle fingers held down by the thumb, leaving your index finger and pinky finger outstretched) and popping the ‘sign’ up and down in time with the music, I was content to just stand their bobbing my head to the music.
Several times during the performance the guitarist would look right at Meg and me. And once or twice he looked right at me and gave the hand gesture. It was like he was telling me off for not doing it or showing me the right way to do it. I couldn’t bring myself to pop my hand repeatedly. I had decided that he was looking at me and Meg thought he was looking at her.
Of course we both had our own reasons for believing this. Me out of guilt that I wasn’t playing like all the other audience members and Meg because she was damned excited about being there.
It was a brilliant night and I think I enjoyed it almost as much a Meg. The music was incredibly loud and half way through I began to think that my ears were being damaged beyond repair. There was a group of girls behind us that were very vocal in their support of the band. Screaming regularly and shouting out Kamijo’s name.
Towards the end of the evening, every time they screamed, my ears went funny. It sounded like I was listening to a radio station that was badly tuned in. Sounds would crackle and the decibel level would fluctuate from loud to silent. It was a little disconcerting.
The concert finished and the crowd started dispersing out past the souvenir stand that was selling t-shirts and things by the auditorium door. We fought our way to the front of the stand and Meg got the last black World Tour t-shirt with the tour dates on one side and the Versailles Butterfly on the other.
We then fought our way to the nearest Burger King for something cold to drink. We got inside and yelled our orders to the youngster behind the counter. Both of us were suffering the after effects of the loud music and neither one of us could hear ourselves talking, hence the yelling.
We got our drinks, looked at our watches and realized we needed to hurry if we were going to catch the last train home. As we rushed to the front of Burger King we found that we and everyone else in the place had been locked in. Panic time, until the night manager meandered up and let us all out.
Then it was rush, rush, rush to get to the tube station and take the underground to Liverpool Street Station for the last train. Incredibly we made brilliant time getting to train station and had plenty of time to sit and relax before the train took off for home.
We sat their yelling at each other much to the amusement of the other passengers. Meg’s ears cleared up pretty much the next day, it took my older ears much longer. I didn’t start hearing things ‘normally’ for two weeks.
Talking about the concert the other day with Meg, I said I would still go to see them again, but this time, I would wear ear plugs.
And I might even do the hand popping thing.