At the Roseland Ballroom, a slim silhouette stands resolutely before a thick purple haze. Hyde, famed frontman of Japanese alt-rock group VAMPS, coincidentally looks like he hasn’t aged a day since he first broke into stardom over 20 years ago, with the Japanese pop rock group L’Arc~En~Ciel. Since teaming up with Oblivion Dust’s KAZ to found VAMPS in 2008, Hyde’s taken a turn towards the dark side. Stripes of black paint adorn his bare torso, and the tails of his mesh morning coat float gently behind him as he strides across the stage. In a nod to Anne Rice and her legacy of fictional vampires, I’ve secretly nicknamed him the King of The Damned.
“I am so hungry,” Hyde purrs to the crowd, “Who will I eat?”
Hundreds of young fans, some clad in leather, hoods, chains, and baby doll dresses, scream and eagerly wave their hands up in the air.
“Where is my lamb?!” He yells repeatedly as he scans the audience for a sacrifice. ”Where is my lamb?!”
The audience roars back, arms reaching towards him. I can’t figure out who’s devouring who anymore.
“Let’s hunt!” Hyde shouts before he begins shredding furiously at his guitar, as rounds of strobes batter the room with violent shocks of white light.
The experience isn’t entirely hair-raising: while many of VAMPS’ songs evoke the ferocity of metal and the angsty vitality of post-hardcore, their repertoire is much more varied. When the band busts out their synthy dance-punk hit, “Trouble,” the crowd goes from headbanging to an all-out boogie. Nearby, a cybergoth with bright purple pigtails grooves expertly in her vinyl 6-inch platforms. A string of fans in similar gear stand atop a ledge beside the stage, bopping along to the beat. Several articles of clothing go flying above the dancing mass of teens (and some of their parents).
It’s not even an hour into the show when in typical crowd-baiting fashion, the lights power down and the band exits the stage. But it seems VAMPS still have a handful of hits to play before the audience would get their fill. “Step it up! Step it up!” fans chant in the darkness. We wait a few more minutes, before a classic ’70s-style guitar lick reverberates across the room. The band emerges for an encore with their song “Revolution,” met with a militant march by the fans.
The heavy strumming is overcome by the crowd’s stomping, and eventually their stomping subsides into swaying. Bassist Ju-ken grabs an upright bass, and a dreamy ballad begins. A stark contrast to his previous performance as a ravenous rock star, Hyde returns to his pop roots by serenading us all, ever so sweetly.
The ballad becomes a birthday song— and the roadies roll out a giant birthday cake! It’s the drummer Arimatsu’s birthday. After he blows out the candles, he’s prompted by the audience for a drum solo. He obliges, leading the rest of the band into a fiery, raging streak of raw jams. After charging through their last couple of songs, Hyde and the gang prepare to wrap it up—not by raining blood, but by graciously tossing candy and rose petals into the swooning crowd. Even the King of The Damned can’t help but be a darling to his faithful followers.
Weren’t there to witness it? Check out our photo gallery.