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Zepp FukuokaFinally, a Granrodeo show I didn’t have to travel to! In fact, I could walk to the venue and did, even though I was still under the weather with a chest cold. The day was hot and hazy, but as rainy season had started, there was always the threat of rain, so I brought my umbrella, for which I was later grateful.  Despite having to walk all the way around the Yahoo Dome, thanks to some ill-placed barriers, I still was in line by 9:25, and was probably within the first 100 people.

But the price one pays for being that early is a long, long wait (good were to go officially on sale at 2:00), and it only got hotter and hotter as we waited.  The nice Zepp staff rounded us up out of our nice neat line on the plaza between Hawks Town Mall 1 and the Dome at around 10:00 or 10:30, moving us into a more compact, neat line in front of the Zepp. And there I sat for another 3 hours or so, burning to a little crisp. I’d put sun screen on my face and chest so they were safe, but I hadn’t figured on my arms, back and legs getting exposed that much. But even with the umbrella they did, and how.  I am grateful I could at least sit. I would not have survived 4 hours standing.

It really helps to have someone in line to talk to when you’re waiting that long, so I’m looking forward to having Nancy back at shows with me in Tokyo. Eventually, around 1:30ish, they got us standing up and ready to go. And indeed, I got to line up in front of a seller pretty quickly … only to have someone in front of me buy at least 20 items. And she made the poor vendor girl read the prices 3 or 4 times (2 is normal). I realize this was probably the only show she was going to and she was buying for friends, but oh how I wanted to flee for food and a cold drink and air conditioning. I hopped lines, but still waited another 10 minutes, maybe, before I secured my bright – and I mean BRIGHT – orange day shirt and charm/sticker set with a sleepy Roger dwarf on them. So cute!

Crammed stuff in a locker and fled to the Hard Rock Café because it was right there by the Zepp.  I almost burst out laughing when I stepped in the door, because  … well … it’s been a good 20 years since I’ve been to a Hard Rock Café, but I don’t recall the American franchises making the staff dress up. But this one, it does. And how. There were cute hippie girls running around, guys with long bright wigs and low slung bell bottoms on … and then there was my waiter. He looked Korean, but his name tag said his name was Hayate. He was tall, thin, with short silvery blond hair tipped in lavender.  And he was done up punk style, as seen through a Japanese lens:  plaid pants with a half skirt, artfully torn long-sleeved t-shirt held together with safety pins, combat boots. In short, a pretty Kpop boy who I was all too glad to be served by.  Unsurprisingly the meal itself wasn’t very good, and it was way too much, a BLT big enough to feed an army – I left so much behind Hayate was worried it wasn’t any good. I assured him I was just full.

Still had a good hour or so to kill before lining up, so explored the mall a bit, then sat on a bench and half-dozed, half-watched a guy with a monkey do an agility show (q monkey on human-sized stilts, there’s a sight). Headed back out towards the Zepp around 4, but staff wasn’t much interested in lining us up until around 4:30. The girl next to me was super excited about her ticket, and I hope she got as good a spot as I eventually did. Once inside, made a beeline for e-zuka’s side and ended up second row, and there I stayed the whole show. One of the best vantage points I’ve ever had at a Zepp show. And thankfully, I was able to snake an arm between two Rodeo Girls and hold onto the front barrier, which made bopping around easier for me in my somewhat weakened condition.

Show started off with a bang with Crack Star Flash (yay!) and segued right into .シャニムニ and No Place Like a Stage. First MC set … lots and lots of chatty Kiiyan and e-zuka. Kiiyan detailed his food woes of the night before as he and a friend went out to eat and tried to get tonkotsu ramen, only to be denied! He also commented on how looking out at all the bright orange shirts was like looking at a bunch of mikan. Pffft!  e-zuka talked a little about the MI Japan seminar and heading out to eat afterwards. They talked for a good long while before Kiiyan turned to ask Takita if he’d gone out the night before. And when he said he hadn’t, e-zuka butted in with “Ikanai!?!” and something else indignant, at which point Kiiyan was like “Hey, it’s Takita’s turn to talk!” e-zuka slipped in one more “Ikanai!?” before finally shushing. Heh. Apparently neither Val nor Takita had gone out on Friday.

Next set started with The Other Self, then 紫炎 (flails – Kiiyan sounds absolutely amazing on this now) and Urban Sweet! I love to hear both of these two live, because, much like Dawn Gate, the RG and RB haven’t developed some audience participation bits for them. It’s just time to rock out and enjoy, which is fine by me. Plus, Kiiyan has awesome non-lyric vocal parts on both songs that I just love to hear live (and e-zuka’s vocal noodling on Urban Sweet).

And for the Magical Rodeo bit, no dwarf hats and beards, but Niwaka masks (see image). Niwaka MaskNiwaka is a traditional comic storytelling style in Hakata (a part of Fukuoka City) and I’m sure knowing more about it would’ve made their word play clearer to me. I can say that Val was just priceless during this bit today. e-zuka kept his mask on throughout most of Zetchou Poison.

During the instrumental solos, e-zuka was so silly (singing a made up song with only “mentaiko” as the lyrics) that he completely cracked himself up and he couldn’t sing.

On Go For It! I feel kinda bad for Val and Takita, who aren’t getting to pick many groups on this tour, but I was more than willing to overlook that slight today…. In addition to the usual Rodeo Boy/Rodeo Girl/First Time fans (there are more and more of these each show!) calls, they did Fukuoka, Kyushu, Yamaguchi, and bless you, e-zuka:  kaigai. Two of us indicated we were from overseas. Kiiyan focused on the one way back in the audience, e-zuka noticed me, who was waving at him like mad. And then did one of those wonderful double-takes as the light bulb went off. He said a few things really excitedly that I had no hope of catching. And then he stopped, took a deep breath and said “Long time no see!” I was grinning so broadly I couldn’t even really respond, just kept smiling. He tried to get Kiiyan’s attention to point me out, but Kiiyan was still focused on the person in back (darn!). Anyhow, we got our “Ride to the Edge!” out, the two of us. Later, Kiiyan pointed out his mom was in the audience (the lights panned over the 2nd floor, but I didn’t catch sight of her – but hey, she knows for sure they have foreign fans now). Yay for Kiiyan mum! (and thanks again for giving us him!).

ブランニューDAY and ウソノイロ came next, before the acoustic set (Infinite Love). Where again Kiiyan and e-zuka were super, super chatty. They talked about the World Cup a bit and got side=tracked on some kind of hand gesture … that e-zuka morphed into flipping the bird at Kiiyan. And then realized what he’d done, turned towards me and said “gomen nasai!” Heh. They got the audience singing a Kyushu folk song, which was very enka-like and I really liked hearing Kiiyan sing it. During Dawn Gate, for some reason I could only see Kiiyan’s calves, so I admired them and the very, very nice definition they have these days (all hail those tight, black running tights he wears under shorts). Next was 偏愛の輪舞曲, which was nice to hear since it had been a while. Then darlin’ (where I think Kiiyan saw me and laughed, but can’t be sure – he did almost miss a line for laughing while looking my way), 慟哭ノ雨 and  modern strange cowboy (no Rose-hip Bullet, which was odd). On 変幻自在のマジカルスター,  the lines that go — 甘い台詞は自己満足気味で / 心の柔い部分見せてよ女の子– Kiiyan sang them falsetto. It was glorious!

Back out for the encore, 甘い痛みは幻想の果てに followed by the usual announcements. Kiiyan said something about e-zuka naming the new album (maybe?) and solicited possible alternatives from the audience, at which point ika (squid) came back up – I think the joke originated in the Hokkaido shows (I am guessing that the guys wore crab and squid hats for the Magical Rodeo bit). Kiiyan and e-zuka seem as if they’d like to leave that behind, but … gamely made up a song about squid on the spot. It was pretty fantastic, if super dorky!

And then Kiiyan talked about the approaching 10 year anniversary (first time I’ve heard him bring it up) and about how glad he was to be playing in Fukuoka again. He was so heartfelt about it,  I think because it’s as close to his home as they’ll get to play these days. And he segued from saying how much he loved playing here right into 恋音.

As almost always on this tour, Can Do was last. And when it came time for the high touch after that, I finally, finally got to touch Kiiyan, because he started to my right. But … I … kinda missed his hand (nice black nail polish!) and got a handful of left upper arm instead. Consider me surprised. And glad I didn’t accidentally scrape him with my rather long nails, or pinch or anything else.  I can say his skin was very soft and smooth and cool and just very, very nice to touch (But still, gomen ne for the accidental feel up, Kiiyan. Really!)

I felt pretty awesome during the show (some coughing), but being sick hit pretty hard as soon as I walked out of the Zepp and grabbed my stuff. What took maybe half an hour on the way over was much longer going home (over an hour). And I kinda cheated, walking to the closest station and riding part of the way. But in doing so, I got to run into the girl from Sendai and Nagoya again! We said “Hi!” and exchanged “おつかれさまです”s and went our separate ways. I do kinda hope to run into her again in Tokyo, when I’m hopefully feeling better.

Next up:  Kumamoto!