One question stuck in my mind throughout L’Arc~En~Ciel’s debut concert in Singapore: Is this really a band filled with guys in their mid-40s?

It certainly did not look that way when the legendary Japanese rock band, comprising main vocalist Hyde, bassist Tetsuya, lead guitarist Ken, and drummer Yukihiro, made their first appearance for local fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 28 April.

With their funky hairstyles and bright outfits, the band members looked so young and spiffy that three songs into the concert, I was still half-questioning their real ages. If I did not know Hyde’s age (43) before the concert, I would have guessed he was 30 years old, tops. I was not alone. Even the girl sitting next to me repeatedly exclaimed in disbelief, “How does he look so young? It doesn’t make sense!”

 

The vigour and finesse with which they delivered their live set, however, certainly showed their immense experience as performers. The more powerful songs (Drink It Down, Ready Steady Go, Chase) had the audience jumping and singing along, while their ballads (Winter Fall, My Heart Draws A Dream, Anata) were delivered with passion and emotion. Hyde’s vocal delivery was impeccable and sounded uncannily similar to the recorded version of the song at times. Ken’s perfect guitar solos wowed crowds and drew spontaneous applause, while Tetsuya’s bass performance and Yukihiro’s drumming masterfully provided backup.

Not to mention the endless screams from fans when they finally witnessed, live, Hyde’s signature gyrating dance moves on stage. Their stage presence was infectious and it was not hard to see why they were able to celebrate two full decades of continued success in the Japanese music industry (which is a really long time if you consider the volatility of the industry).

Their youthful energy was not restricted to their music. The members’ antics between songs were funny and refreshing, and allowed local audiences to see a more personal side to them. Ken, despite being the most mature-looking member, had the audience doubling over in laughter as he slowly described his trip to the local 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre in broken English. Even Tetsuya had a few hilarious moments of his own when he openly flirted with the female audience.

 

The highlight of the concert had to be the part where the band left the stage and after being thrown into darkness for a good 15 minutes, lyrics to the chorus of “Anata” was shown on the screens. It was an emotional moment in the concert, where the audience sang out the chorus passionately. Most did not even need the on-screen cues; they knew the famous ballad inside out. And when the band finally came back on stage, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause, thankful that the concert had not ended.

Their commitment to quality and musical perfection during the performance also struck me as surprisingly sincere. The members cut no corners in their live set, making sure every note was played correctly and every word was sung in tune. Their credibility as live performers was reinforced with every song, and by the end of the concert, the audience was visibly contented with the performance even though it only lasted less than two hours.

In this day and age, it has been said many times that true rock music has died together with the likes of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Ramone. But let us not forget that all is definitely not lost, as somewhere in the world, a particular rock band from Japan is still kicking with their original brand of rock music even after twenty years, nowhere near ready to call it quits.

 

- Bjorn Teo