It’s been six years since I’ve had the opportunity to write one of these reviews and that is definitely way too long.
So here we go!
Asia On Tour is a tour-event produced by Live Nation featuring three acts from different countries, in this case Kiha & The Faces from South Korea, Slot Machine from Thailand, and MIYAVI from Japan. Prior to finding out MIYAVI was doing the show with two other bands I had no idea who they were, and I will admit to being a little disappointed that it wasn’t going to be a one-man* tour. Still, I was going to get to see MIYAVI and I was not going to miss the opportunity. I did do a little searching for music by Kiha & The Faces as well as Slot Machine and found that both of them are available on Spotify. Found Kiha to have a bit of a funk-rock sound, really fun spoken-sung lyrics and a pretty good feeling. Slot Machine was a little harder, little more classic rock, singing in English and Thai, and they sounded a bit more like something I would listen to on a regular basis.
For those new to this part of my life MIYAVI himself has been a great big part of it for just over a decade. The first song I heard by him was probably Girls be Ambitious and I didn’t like it. When Sakihokoru Hana no You ni ~ Neo Vizualism was released in 2007 I was really impressed. What ultimately cinched it for me was the fact that he has a line in that song where he’s talking about becoming a big artist but also one that can be respected and whom his fans will proud of. That really impressed me; that it was something he thought about and even wrote into a song. More than that, the whole song is about being yourself, proudly and unapologetically no matter how much people try to suppress you. As someone who’s always tried to be that kind of person I really related to it and it made me give him a second chance. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to see him live in Canada, the US, and Japan. This show marked 22 live performance I’ve attended personally and 35 live shows I’ve ever seen (the remaining 13 were live broadcast shows – one of which did not have a real audience at all and was broadcast from a studio in Tokyo.)
MIYAVI’s musical style is ever-evolving and changing as he does. From early work that sounds a lot more heavy metal to an acoustic album really showcasing his particular style of slap-guitar to the over-embellished ethnically-proud Kabuki Rock, to the bare-bones guitar and drumkit setup that is his recent self-titled album his willingness to explore new sounds sets him apart even on an international stage. Live on stage he is dynamic and engrossing to watch, his excitement spilling over into the audience as he calls for us to jump and sing with him.
It was his music that brought me some of my closest friends, one of whom started me down this crazy tour adventure. We’ve had our share of adventures, so when I found out Miyavi was coming to Vancouver and I had no chance of making it to more than one show, of course I asked her to come to the show with me. Which would probably have been more reasonable if she didn’t currently live on the other side of the continent. Still, to my great joy she agreed, and booked her flight to Vancouver. I also invited my friend Jenn, whom I introduced to MIYAVI some time ago, probably shortly before my last trip to see him in Japan. The day before we were to head over to Vancouver I realized I had forgotten to book our hotel however between Jenn and I we managed to figure something out.
So of course we headed to Vancouver Friday night, heading straight from work to the airport to pick up Maura who was arriving just after 10pm.
Three years is a long time without seeing one of your best friends.
Having said that whenever we get together it’s like we’ve never been apart.
So Maura, Jenn and I headed off to our hotel in Downtown Vancouver. The Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson is quite a lot nicer on the inside than it looks on the outside. And it has a pool. Of course by the time we arrived at the hotel it was 11pm and the pool was closed and we were all pretty tired and hungry so we went to Frites for poutine. Because if you’ve got an American in Canada you absolutely must take them for proper poutine.
Naturally it was super delicious and afterward we wandered back to the hotel in the rain.
We did end up staying up until pretty late talking and I regret that I didn’t actually get much sleep (usual in a new place) but that’s never stopped me from anything before so Saturday morning I woke up and Maura and I headed down to the pool. Me to swim a few laps and practice my dolphin kick and Maura to wake up and sit in the hot tub. Jenn didn’t get much sleep so she stayed in bed for a while longer.
Back at the hotel room we got showered and changed and then headed down to breakfast at the restaurant in the lobby. That sorted we wandered out of the hotel around ten o’clock, heading down to Venue to find out that no one was there.
It seems I had forgotten that the line up doesn’t start in Vancouver until quite late. So we went to McDonald’s to use the bathroom and get a couple drinks and use their wifi. We figured we’d join the line when it got some more people. So about half an hour later or so we found a couple girls wander in to McD’s and then wander out again and we decided they looked like they were going to the concert and so we went out to look and they were there!
So of course we sat down, and shortly thereafter made some new friends, Brittany and Chantelle. Like Jenn this was their first MIYAVI show, as they were both too young to attend the 19+ show back in 2010 at the Commodore. I still think it’s super exciting to meet people who are just seeing him for the first time; it only happens once in your life no matter how many times you see him after that. And honestly I was pretty stoked to be seeing him for the first time in six years. So we hung out and chatted for awhile, and then a couple of the guys from Live Nation Asian Concerts (@livenationasn) came out and asked if they could interview us about the tour. Ethan sat down with us and we chatted on camera about the tour and our expectations and the idea of bringing Asian artists to other countries around the world. That was probably an hour or two into us hanging out and was the moment we FINALLY learned each other’s names.
It’s also worth noting the look on Ethan’s face when I said I had already been to see Miyavi 21 times and then Maura pointed out how many shows she’d been to (we’re talking multiple hundreds here).
Still they left and we continued hanging out, taking turns going to grab food or drinks or going for a walk and counting down the hours till the show. People started showing up about 4:30 in the afternoon, which I finally remembered happening the first time I saw him in Vancouver as well. Still, I wouldn’t have changed anything; hanging out with Chantelle and Brittany was awesome.
So when people finally started showing up we looked slightly less odd sitting in front of the venue, and several people came up to ask us when the will call tickets were going to be picked up. Most of the people in line were waiting for them (myself included, since my tickets didn’t actually arrive). We also made friends with a girl named Veronica, who then introduced us to her sister Kat and their friend Lee. So now we were eight!
About six pm they came out and started wrist-banding the people who’d won passes to the meet and greet. Kat and Veronica flipped a coin since they’d only gotten one meet and greet pass and Kat won. So when they were wrist-banding the five of us, I passed mine to Veronica. Which made all of us cry.
Honestly though, I’ve been lucky enough to meet him more than once thus far, and I’m sure I’ll get the chance again. What’s more I had the opportunity when working with MasaKarasu to attend as Press when we went to Houston for Anime Matsuri and saw him there, so it was perfectly acceptable to not get into the meet and greet especially since that was my first show. I love MIYAVI to death, but we’re really awkward in face-to-face situations. So Everyone went into the Meet and Greet with the other two bands and Miyavi about six-thirty leaving me outside, and I found a girl who wanted to come to the show it turns out that Veronica had a spare ticket so she got in for free. Pay it forward and all that. I was really glad I could pass on the opportunity to meet MIYAVI face to face for the first time to someone who hadn’t had the chance.
Fast Forward to them letting us in, and I totally forgot I needed two pieces of ID – fortunately that went okay – and we were IN. Maura had scored us front and center up against the stage since we had to check my backpack and Jenn’s jacket.
Venue Nightclub first impressions: A lot smaller than The Commodore. The upper balcony level gave a great view of the stage. Stage was quite high-I couldnt really even rest my arms comfortably across the top of the amp in front of me. Still, better the three tall chicks stuck behind it than people who weren’t that tall. Venue didn’t seem all that full for the first couple bands, but I thought the turnout was better than the show back in 2010.
Lights go out and the show starts.
Kiha & The Faces came out for their 45 minute set, and they were super fun. It was cool to see their fans in the audience singing along and we all rocked out together. Definitely a band I’d consider seeing again. Super chill vibe from them, definitely funky and a good time. Couldn’t tell you their set list, but that’s to be expected. They were good with the audience, and I was really impressed.
After a short break we got Slot Machine.
And they killed it for us. They came on stage with this mafia-gangster vibe in 3 piece suits and a lot of swagger and they rocked hard. Their vocalist has a great range, really reminiscent of the great rock voices from the 70s. They sang in English and Thai and I’ll admit I was a bit sad they when they were heading off stage. Definitely a band that’s made my regular playlist. Totally worth giving a listen. They’ve definitely got some new fans from the show myself included.
But of course I was really there to see MIYAVI and I feel a little bad for not being able to give a better review than what I’ve already posted but the Samurai Guitarist just totally blew my mind.
And you know, the fans surprised me. After the first Vancouver show, I admit I expected some less than stellar behavior and I was wrong. There’s always a moment before he comes on stage where I brace myself for the possible push from behind. And I get it, people are excited and they want to be close and touch him and know he’s real and they want to see him and it’s exciting and if even a couple people push it escalates just by the number of people. But there was nothing. Everyone cheered when he came up and we were LOUD but there was nothing. It was like everyone was on the same wavelength and maybe it was because there were fans of the other two bands there as well but it was amazing and it was the first time I’d ever seen a North American audience with no push at all.
And MIYAVI just came out with his guitar and just blew me away. In part it was the sudden, powerful realization that being on the floor at a MIYAVI show, and seeing him in front of us ready to rock is coming HOME. I hadn’t felt it for six years and I’d forgotten how good it is to come to that place, where we are united in one purpose and it’s rocking the hell out of wherever we are. And our eyes met and we both knew exactly what we were there for. No doubt, no fear, no second thoughts. Just the same desire to rock out together.
I can’t tell you the setlist exactly, because I honestly don’t know most of it.
His first song was without words, just him and Bobo and Lenny doing their thing. I’m sure it’s a song though. *Laugh* Honestly I think he played two more vocal-free tracks before he played the Mission Impossible Rogue Nation theme, and we were rocking. The whole audience was just giving him back the energy he was giving us and it was amazing.
After the first song (where he stayed sort of in the middle of the stage), he came out front and stood right in front of us at centreish stage, and it was the first time I saw all the hands in the air and not one of them reach out for him. And he walked away and came back and the same thing happened. No one pushed forward to grab at him (and it would have been so easy, he was like RIGHT THERE) and it changed everything. I say this because I’ve seen him at a half dozen shows in Canada and the US, and more than a dozen in Japan. The best MIYAVI is the one who is totally comfortable with the audience. If he can trust us with himself, 100% he will give us ALL his energy. And for the first time in North America I saw him REALLY getting into it with the audience. He was at the front of the stage, he was on his knees less than a handful of inches from us, he was playful, intense, and FREE. I saw him playing on his knees for half a minute at the very edge of the stage right in the faces of the girls next to us. And it was BRILLIANT.
I think after The MI:RN theme he played What a Wonderful World (Day2 Mix). But he had us singing the chorus, though he did help that one.
He played Live to Die Another Day, his new song for the new Day 2 Album, but I don’t think he sang it. (Little bit sad in retrospect cuz it’s awesome) and it might not be the same as the album version – I think (now) he might have played Steal the Sun, but I’m not sure (and if he did I don’t think he sang it….) definitely Firebird, Long Nights, Cry Like This and the Day 2 Mix of What’s My Name. That I know of.
Dim it was interesting; I’m sure by now people have seen the video posted by Miyavi_Staff on Instagram, reposted by Miyavi where he slipped into the audience. That was Dim It, we were rocking out and suddenly MIYAVI. We had NO IDEA what was going on. We weren’t really paying attention to him (Maura and I weren’t, anyway) and suddenly he kind of landed on her face and everyone was moving and I raised my head and WTFMIYAVI. I swear to god I was terrified he was going to fall off the stage. And mostly really confused how it happened. Or like…how he got there. ONE MINUTE AGO HE WAS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE STAGE. We figured he slipped, since we like to think he didn’t MEAN to kick Maura in the face. I really sincerely hope he’s careful in the future. MIYAVI falling off stage and getting hurt again is probably one of my biggest fears. But we kept him up and it didn’t even faze him (well, it didn’t show anyway) and it really felt like he trusted us to not assault him or you know, let him hit the floor. And then he got up and we went back to rocking.
I did kind of accidentally hit him in the leg though, but that’s not my fault he came out of nowhere while I was headbanging!
From the moment he came on stage I felt like he really was embracing the statement he made recently that he really wanted to make his guitar sing. And did he ever. I think there are really few artists who could come on stage and basically just jam without really performing the fan favorites or you know singing the whole song and still completely captivate the audience. And he did just that.
He really really did.
This was the BEST show I’ve ever seen. I walked in in expecting to rock out maybe to some of the new songs and maybe a favorite or two, but I got so much MORE than I expected. I got probably the most interactive show I’ve EVER SEEN in North America, and I got to see MIYAVI at I think his absolute best, totally comfortable on stage, totally comfortable with the audience, totally free to party with us and not for us. We’ve all heard him talk about how he wants to unite the world with music and I’ve known for a long time that he wants us to go there with him but I have never seen it so clearly as when he was on stage in Vancouver and we were all in it.
So in closing; if you are willing to give him all your energy and give him space to trust you with his person he will reward you with all his energy and passion. When you can be on the same page with him, 100% willing to go wherever he leads you will see a MIYAVI like you’ve never seen him before.
And when the night ends he will come out and high-five you and you will leave so high and so much a part of something bigger than any one of us. You become a part of our family.
CoMiyavi means I’m never alone.
CoMiyavi is Family.
*One-Man is a term used for a tour or show consisting of a single act, no opening bands at all.