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Osakajo HallWhen Nancy and I applied for FC tickets, and ended up both getting lucky with the same shows, we divvied up who would pay for which shows. She ended up with Nagoya and Osaka and I took Saitama. Our Nagoya balcony seats were … interesting, but oh how I’m glad Nancy’s luck of the draw was for Osaka, because oh what luck indeed. Third row, seats 47 and 48, which, judging by diagrams of the arena, would’ve put us far to e-zuka’s side. But … fate intervened in a good way in the form of a hanamichi  (runway).

But I am a bit ahead of myself already … back to the day before the show.

Came to Osaka a day early so I could hang out with my friend Shaina, which was accomplished with much tasty food (kushikatsu and divine pancakes for dessert) and an obligatory run to Nipponbashi for Kotobukiya and Animate (where I fondly recalled seeing the 変幻自在 costumes a year ago). Stayed up long enough to make sure Mags (coming from the Philippines) and Nancy (coming from Tokyo) were here or on their way, then crashed.

Up super early, per usual, to meet Mags and Nancy at Osaka-jo Hall so we could wait in line for Mags to buy goods. Nancy and I met up at the train station and headed to the end of the line, which wasn’t too bad at that point. We were joined about half an hour or so later by Mags. I passed over her ticket and preorder goods.  They then left for a short while to fetch food and hot drinks and then we just chatted until the goods went on sale, half an hour early. Getting goods and gachapon took a little while, but I managed to catch up with one of my FC event roomies while waiting for Mags to finish, which was nice. Managed to score one of the GuraP charms and a Karrabbi pin with him and a slab of beef, which I promptly pinned to the “border” tour t-shirt I was wearing.

We headed off to lunch in Kyobashi at that point, ended up at a ramen place where we all ordered the “Joy Joy” set … well, because (sorry Joy!). After, Mags headed bacJoy Joy Setk to her hotel for a nap, and Nancy and I took up residence in Starbucks, along with a handful of other Rodeo Girls. A little after 4:00, we headed back to Osaka-jo Hall and sat around the fountain for a while until we once again had a Mags, at which point we got in line to go in. Once inside, we pointed Mags in the direction of her seat (in the stands) for her and made a beeline for our seats.

And oh, our seats … thanks to the hanamichi  down the middle of the hall, our seats turned out to be pretty much dead center, and only three seats away from the side of the hanamichi itself. And there was only one row of seats in front of me, so, yeah, second row, right in front of Kiiyan. Sure, with the empty space between the stage and the seats, that meant some distance, but it’s as close as we’re likely to ever get in such a venue (15,000+) and the line of sight was perfect. After some excited bouncing around, picture taking and tweeting, we settled in for the hour wait. During that time, I heard from another one of my FC roomies, who I squee’d at about our seats and agreed to try and meet up after the show.

Since we were so close to the front, there was a camera, and a very silly cameraman to go with it. He started out picking on the girls in front of us, and then discovered the guys in Lakers’ jersies in the front row … and then a  bosomy girl in a bikini top the row behind us. (Note, to those of you not familiar with this particular habit, Rodeo Girls have a tendency to wear bikini tops for Kiiyan regardless of the time of year. There were actually three near us. This practice is frowned upon by some RG, particularly when it’s not an outdoor show, and it does really seem out of place in winter. But they do it anyway. And I’m not one to talk, really – I had on the “border” shirt, which has a … well, strategically placed women’s hand on the right breast. And it fits me far better than anyone else I’ve seen, which is precisely why I was wearing it.) At one point, the cameraman borrowed a light stick from the girls in front of us and was doing some experimental filming with it. And yes, heHanamichi did get plenty of footage of us (including me brushing out my hair before the encore, argh), but he didn’t pick on us. We were quite amused that the cameraman on the other side of the hanamichi didn’t do a thing. He didn’t budge a bit. Heh.

Although I have always sworn not to use light sticks, I felt I would be sorely out of place that close to the stage if I didn’t have one, so I borrowed one of Nancy’s, and was glad that I did.

A little late again, the curtain went up and the lights went out and off we were with Blue Pandora Box/silence, complete with some pyrotechnics this time!  So close, and such a wonderful view! Kiiyan had on some of his infamous fake tattoos for the first time in a while, and boy howdy do they look good on his arms. We also noticed he’s not winter pale. He’s picked up a bit of a tan somewhere….

And yes, he spotted us pretty much right away. ^_^  He didn’t do anything overt, but we got more than a few glances, and a few smiles. Unfortunately for all the bikini girls, Kiiyan’s favor was pretty much all for the guys in Laker jersies, definitely. In fact, he almost seemed to make a point not to make eye contact or call attention to those RG in particular (he sure could have, any time he went down the hanamichi). Made me rather glad I had decided against my earlier idea of a keyhole shirt under the tour shirt.

Wonder Color was again the audience participation song. Most of what they had us repeat was silly, and e-zuka made us put body movements into it too, but most amusing of all was Kiiyan getting the entire hall to say “きーやんを愛してるよ!” (StageI love Kiiyan!!). Yes, yes we all do, Kiiyan. No doubt about that.

This time the early oldie was Sea of Stars. No one had thought to bring a fan, so we all did the hand gestures with our light sticks (and Kiiyan with his hand). He seemed both amused and happy that folks were doing so.

Still madly in love with Punky Funky Love. It’s just irrepressibly FUN live.

As Kiiyan and e-zuka walked down the hanamichi to the end for the acoustic set and passed our seats, he said something that made Nancy laugh and grab my shoulder hard and … he patted the right side of his chest with his hand. I caught the gesture, but had no clue what he’d said that cracked Nancy and everyone around me up, so I asked her. And, well, he’d just announced to the arena that our little section was the “striped shirt section,” which was true, there were a handful of us clustered right there by the hanamichi. ( I’d like to think I prompted that comment and gesture, though of course I’ll never know. Heh.). Oh, and they were doing the royal wave on their way down too – silly boys.

It was a bit odd, having the hanamichi stage be behind us. We divided our gaze between the big screens and their backs. But once we saw staff wheel out a table with a birthday cake on it and start lighting candles, all our attention went there. The staffers let Kiiyan and e-zuka talk for a while before wheeling it down to them. Turned out the cake was from Marshall Amps (I expect some concert pics on their blog soon) and featured an amp with Granrodeo written on it on the top, and a guitar on the front of the cake. e-zuka blew the candles out and we sang him happy birthday. Which made me grin a lot, since the first time I ever saw Kiiyan on stage, over 7 years ago, it was the day before his 33rd birthday, and staff wheeled him out a birthday cake, he blew out the candles and we sang him happy birthday. And then he was coaxed into going face first into that cake … which turned out to be the first thing I ever talked about with him face to face, a week later when I met him at an event at Comiket. Such a wonderful , warm and fuzzy memory, getting him to laugh about it.

…but I digress.

Osaka-jo Hall ticketAt the end of the acoustic song (追憶の輪郭 again, gorgeous as ever), the lights went down and Kiiyan and e-zuka left the mini-stage via stairs right there. And then those of us near the hanamichi noticed Takita, carrying his bass, walking towards the end of the hanamichi. As the lights came back up, we could see that he’d been rejoined by Kiiyan and e-zuka, while Val was back on the main stage, behind his drums. They launched into the full version of Dawn Gate right there … and that part of the stage turned out to be on a lift, so they played about 10 feet in the air! I sure hope they gave Kiiyan a cookie … or a lot of beer after the show to make up for doing that to him. They clearly picked a song where he doesn’t dance around much to begin with, ‘cause, yeah, he didn’t move much while they were up in the air. Amusingly, the girls in the first and second rows were giving all their love to Val during the song, so Nancy and I split our time between Val and the trio on the mini-stage. I’m still amazed, impressed and really happy that they play all 10 minutes of this song. I’m sure it won’t happen again after this tour, so I’m grateful to get to hear it multiple times.

The hanamichi saw use again during modern strange cowboy, with Kiiyan running down to the end to sing from there.

During wish, he was blowing kisses to the hall on the “Darling, kiss me” line. And while he didn’t cry, he was definitely on the verge of tears more than once.

Once&Forever made an appearance again during the encore, and this time we got The Other Self instead of 変幻自在. Of course Can Do closed things out, and the guys were all over the stage – side stages, hanamichi, etc. – giving love to everyone.

During the encore they announced the two day 10th ANNIVERSARY FES ROUND GR at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium featuring GR, Flow, MUCC Fo’xTails and more on Friday, June 5th  and GR, Flow, Miyano Mamoru (!!!), Fo’xTails and more on Saturday, June 6th. Can’t wait!Karrabbi

The made use of the hanamichi for tossing stuff into the audience. e-zuka, after teasingly turning his pockets inside out, went back to a roadie and got another set of guitar picks to toss out. Someone a couple of rows behind us got one.

After the show we met up with Mags, who was fully on a concert high and only marginally coherent. Thirty plus times in, and I know the feeling still. Reluctantly, we had to go off to the station and leave her. But she and I both agree she has to come back and bring our friend Carli with her. (Pretty please?!) Didn’t get to meet up with my FC roomie,but we agreed to meet up at the Takayama show, which is much smaller.

Final thoughts … Nancy thought Kiiyan was better behaved than the Sunday before. I don’t know about that … he was still all sorts of sexy hip movements, naughty hand gestures and more. He was definitely having fun, and putting the ghost of last year’s show behind him (e-zuka did joke about playing the piano out on the hanamichi, generating a sound of protest from Kiiyan), running around, skipping up and down the hanamichi, grinning that amazing grin. It was an amazing show, and we had such an amazing vantage point for it. Cannot wait for the Fukuoka show.

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