l’arc-en-ciel @ Madison Square Garden, 3/25/12

They say anything happens in New York and that there are new stories being created all the time. Here’s one of them: on Sunday, March 25th, the first Japanese band in history headlined a show at Madison Square Garden. To make the story even more compelling, they’d never even played a show in New York before and had only played in the U.S. once: eight years before, in Baltimore.

L’Arc-en-Ciel, one of Japan’s most celebrated pop rock (J rock) bands, are currently on a tour in support of their 20th anniversary as a band, as well as their new album, Butterfly. Formed in 1991 in Osaka, the band has sold over 40 million records to date. After a three-year hiatus, the band returned in May 2011 and played two sold-out shows in aid of Japanese tsunami relief at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium. This “World Tour” includes Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, New York, London, and Paris.

The first thing that blew me away about this show was the nearly-capacitated MSG arena; aside from the highest section of seats, it was about 80% full that night. Shortly before 8pm, the corridors were full of glow sticks, multicolored hair, glittery wings, and manga/otaku wear as everyone rushed to take their seats; Japanese everything starts right on schedule, right? Well, not in the U.S.; the show started a half-hour late.

If someone hadn’t had the previous knowledge I did about the band’s limited U.S. performances, I think they would have assumed that this band had already played at MSG before. Altogether, L’Arc-en-Ciel were subdued but strong onstage. Their fan base cooed at every flash of new imagery and waved their glow sticks in perfect syncopation to every beat… of every song… the whole time. The visuals onstage were very high-tech and cinematographic, almost like the previews to a video game in which each of the members was a character.

Indeed, that non-stop glow stick pumping was representational of the pure emotion and excitement people like I had come to see and people like the true fans of L’Arc-en-Ciel had waited so long to express; perhaps, many hadn’t even expected that day would come in New York (except for, of course, those that know anything is possible here). Lead vocalist Hyde (Hide) may’ve looked a bit like a cross between a Japanese Milli Vanilli and Janet Jackson, but his sexy presence onstage and vocal prowess were emotive and magnetizing. The decor was rockstar professional. Their guitar solos were exceptional, and they mastered every song with such technical perfection. The musicians casually and subtly circulated around the stage; some even signed autographs off to the side between songs and threw both lollipops and bananas in the direction of those closest to the stage.

Perhaps the area in front of the stage should have been general admission so that fans could’ve jumped around a bit more. But then again, that may have endangered their lives if they had gotten too close to the FIREWORKS onstage. The half-hour wait for the encore was a bit similar to the half-hour wait at the beginning, but in the end, the entire historical performance was a true success!

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About Christine Thelen

Christine is a music writer, photographer, and English teacher living in New York. She's been writing for Short and Sweet since 2008 but writing about music since 1999. She loves photographing and interviewing bands most of all. Notable interviews include Underworld (England), Supergrass (England), Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Wales), Hefner (England), Zero 7 (England), Nylon Union (Slovakia), Clinic (England), Hundreds (Germany), Nive Nielsen (Greenland), Alcoholic Faith Mission (Denmark), Captain Fufanu (Iceland), and the Postelles (NYC). Watch her on the ShortandSweetNYC Youtube Channel.
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