MIYAVI | “Slap The World Tour 2014” in West Hollywood, CA - The Troubadour (4/25/14)
I still remember when MIYAVI was known as Miyabi, the guitarist of the indie visual rock band Due’le Quartz. The dramatic way he played guitar, bent down on one leg at an angle while leaning backwards, and the strap extended practically down to his knees, yet somehow never missing a single note, left a lasting impression. Songs such as “Jisatsu Ganbou” were like one continuous, self-gratifying guitar solo after another. And who can forget this iconic image? Clearly, from the very beginning of his music career, he was on an unstoppable path of his own. As time passed, Due’le Quartz disbanded, he went solo, changed his name to MIYAVI, started his own management company, and soon he was playing alongside J-Rock legends like YOSHIKI, GACKT, SUGIZO, Kiyoharu, INORAN, Pata, and Tomoyasu Hotei, and touring the world on his own. I’m still amazed by his determination, tireless work ethic, and everything he’s achieved over the years. He’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met and interviewed. I can honestly say that his passion for music is real and not just a job. He’s got tamashi, or soul.
Even though his music continues to evolve, MIYAVI is one of those artists that I have always looked forward to seeing live. It’s how he plays slap & pop guitar with absolute precision, his electrifying stage presence and charisma, as well as his ability to easily interact with the audience. It’s hard to imagine that he only started learning English 7 years ago. To sum it up, he’s a natural performer. I’ve seen him every time he’s come to the US (except for the time he made a surprise appearance in Las Vegas), and just when I think I’ve seen him at his best, he manages to outdo himself again and again.
This time around, he was only able to make one stop in the US during his “Slap The World 2014 Tour” at West Hollywood’s The Troubadour. As a sold out show, many people showed up early to queue, and by 6:30PM, the line went around the building into the back alley, being the longest line I’ve ever seen at that particular venue. By the time MIYAVI took the stage at 9PM, the place was packed full, all the way to the bar in the back. Fortunately, The Troubadour is a small, cozy venue, with a good view of the stage from virtually anywhere, as well as having great sound, and is one of my personal favorite places for live music. Upon entry, there was a sign on the door notifying everyone that the concert was being filmed for the movie Unbroken, which MIYAVI was recently cast in. Being LA, there were some A-list attendees, including Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, as well as MIYAVI’s two daughters, who were seen dancing in the room above.
Like the last two times MIYAVI has toured the US, it was just himself on guitar and vocals alongside his drummer, BOBO. Two mic stands were placed on opposite sides of the stage, allowing him to sing and dash from one side to the other, in addition to a Roland sampler and a Korg Kaoss Pad Quad on the right for him to control his loops and beats like a DJ. Since he started using this minimalistic set-up, along with hardly any background effects, except for lights, it’s helped direct the audience’s focus on himself and his guitar playing and allows him to utilize the entire stage for his performance, proving that “simple is best.” Although I’ve seen him play this way before in the past, this time, it was clear that by now he’s got it mastered, and could probably perform blindfolded, while still being able to move around the stage fluidly with finesse.
As expected, he put on another rock solid performance, playing for about 2 hours total. The set list consisted mainly of his EDM-inspired songs from his most recent self-titled album, like “Day 1,” “Secret,” and “Justice,” blended with his signature slap guitar, based on shamisen and bass techniques. The atmosphere was like a rock concert mixed with a dance club, complete with a mirror ball shining above. Although I’m not a huge fan of EDM, watching MIYAVI live and connecting with the audience gave these songs a completely different feel from just listening to the recorded versions. Of course, he also included some of his older songs, like “Chillin’ Chillin’ Money Blue$,” where he showed off his guitar improvisation skills and got the crowd to copy and sing back phrases. Others songs he did were “Are You Ready To Rock?” and “Selfish Love,” with the latter played à la heavy distortion, giving an extra gritty, hard rock flavor to the acoustic number.
Partway through the set, he switched to his acoustic guitar for “Kimi ni Negai o” and “Guard You,” which he said was written after having to leave his family and friends in Japan behind to go tour in Europe following the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. I’ve always admired his acoustic guitar work, with Miyaviuta –Dokusou- as my favorite release of his, and even before he went solo, such as in Due’le Quartz’s “Meikyou Shisui,” and look forward to this part of his concerts the most. In the past, he’d talk about his family and leaving PS Company to go independent, then go into a slower, a cappella version of “Kimi ni Negai o,” but this time it was more akin to the version on 7 SAMURAI SESSIONS -We’re KAVKI BOIZ-.
MIYAVI addressed the audience several times, the most notable being when he said, “Unfortunately, this time, in the States, tonight’s the only show. Yeah, we need more money.” Before he knew it, someone in the audience handed him a dollar bill. Shocked, he accepted it and replied, “I think it’s too cheap to see my show! This is the first time I’ve gotten money on stage!”
For the encore, he played “Subarashikikana, Kono Sekai,” “Ahead of The Light,” and to end the night, “What’s My Name?” causing the audience to shout his name even louder than before. With a final bow, he took some pictures with the crowd, gave out some high-fives, and waved good-bye.
When the lights turned back on, one of the security guys handed out a few stacks of flyers signed by MIYAVI, which were quickly grabbed up and disappeared almost as soon as they came. And like the other stops of his current world tour, even after a long, exhausting performance, MIYAVI spent some time meeting his fan club members, one by one, taking photos with them and signing autographs.
In all, he blew me away, yet again, with another awesome performance, and I’m sure he’ll be playing in the US again soon.