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The sheer live intensity of DIR EN GREY and the band’s effusive, excessively adoring fans made their sold-out show last Saturday quite an engaging spectacle. After pushing my way through the venue to a decent spot, I suffered through the openers before singer KYO, bassist TOSHIYA, drummer SHINYA, and guitarists DIE and KAORU made their grand entrance. While I don’t own Dir en grey’s entire back catalog, many of the songs initially played were easily recognizable, like their most recent single, “Agitated Screams of Maggots,” as well as “Mr. Newsman,” “The Final,” and my favorite, “Ryoujoku no Ame,” which deftly mixes dueling guitars that blend classic METALLICA sounds with surf rock and crunchy, rhythmic synths.
Throughout the night I found myself shocked (quite a rare occurrence at a concert for me these days) by not only the crazed fans and the graphic videos playing behind the band, but, as usual, Kyo’s over-the-top performance. At one point the small tattooed singer stood, arms outstretched, atop a crate in center stage with blood smeared down his chin and across his chest, screaming as if a man being flayed alive. His impassioned vocalizing was returned by the crowd, who ate up every note as he switched from the sweetest soprano to the most gut-wrenching growl. The man has some pipes on him.
When Diru played “Merciless Cult,” the imagery onscreen continued to enthrall – this time with colorful, one-dimensional prints typical of Japan’s Tokugawa period moving across the screen. Instead of the traditional content, however, they were pictures of geishas triumphantly holding bleeding severed heads in the air. Soon after, during the encore, the band played “C” as a video of razors cutting deeply into fleshy wrists and spewing deep purplish blood flashed onscreen. While grotesque imagery such as this is quite common in the hard rock world, something about Dir en grey’s take on the aesthetic is slightly more disturbing and unique than that of other bands I’ve seen in the past. As much as I wanted to scoff at their attempts to shock, I couldn’t quite get there.
To end the show, Kyo picked up a large bucket of water and poured it over himself before dropping it onto his head. It read, ‘Rape Me,’ and he stood there, wearing it for while, which I found funny, but nevertheless did not change my view of the night as a whole. A combination of the band’s new music, their look, and the crowd (a nearly even mix of boys and girls) proved to be yet another nail in the coffin of their visual kei past. Dir en grey is no longer a bunch of pretty glam boys in makeup vamping for their audience, but a gang of scruffy yet sleek men playing intricate, electro-infused metal, and embodying everything that comes with being up-and-coming stars in the American rock scene.
Images courtesy of BTO staff photographer Alyssa Scheinson
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