We were really early, so Otakon kept us busy with JAM concert videos and promos for other bands on the Lantis label. The stage was completely empty, and the JAM concert videos always take a moment out to concentrate on the awesome instrumental solos. It kind of sunk in here, as we stared at the empty stage, that JAM wasn't bringing the band with them. I'd already known, but it was still a small bummer: a con just can't afford to do a huge arena rock show like JAM does in Japan. Eventually they excited us with some teaser announcements, told us not to make no bootlegs, and then flash photography became okay all of a sudden when it totally wasn't before.
My friend Ray and I talked over whether or not taking pictures would be a good idea. His camera was better than my camera at getting shots of the darkened stage, but when it came down to it, we were enjoying ourselves way too much to take pictures past the first thirty seconds. Now my buddy Sklathill, on the other hand, has some amazing shots of the gang over on his Flickr. If you want your desktop to be Fukuyama singing Angel Voice like mine is right now, you might wanna take a look.
I took a look around right before the show started: the arena was maybe half-full or so. I remember thinking "Man, where the hell are all you people?" One of my big worries about the JAM Project concert was how niche the band is, and how the average convention attendee isn't going to know who the hell they are, and many more aren't going to care. You can't really blame people, but for a huge guest like this it just seemed so wrong. I resolved there and then to be the best goddamned JAM Project audience member in the history of mankind. I probably wouldn't see the band again for a long time, if ever, and NOW WAS THE FUCKING TIME. I chose to flip out. It was our responsiblity to show JAM Project American Hot Blood.
And then they came out, and I stopped giving a damn about anybody behind me. You know, rationally speaking, I totally understood that I was going to see these guys. But my irrational child-brain didn't really believe it until it saw them. Now I couldn't see the smile on my face, but I'm pretty sure I actually looked like one of those Azumanga :D faces. They went into Rocks, and straight for audience participation with the "SUPER ROBOT! SUPER ROBOT!" chant. I started to realize that I knew these songs a lot better than I thought I did as I yelled them back at the band and waved my glowstick (I forgot to mention that we were given these on line) in the air.
JAM did intros: Endoh was "the most powerful", Kitadani (call him Dani!) was "the most smiling," Okui was "the girl", Kageyama was "the leader" and Fukuyama was the "LOVES AMERICAN ROCK!".
Anyway, let's go through the rest of the setlist:
Crush Gear Fight was from a really long time ago, huh? It's also a kids' toy commercial, and you get to say ALRIGHT!! a bunch of times during it. Whenever they said SLIPPIN', they would make a big show of falling down. Oh, you cards!
As we had all guessed, the treat for us American fans was the English version of the recent JAM single No Border, with English subtitles helpfully provided onscreen. War is bullshit: lesson learned.
I gained a greater level of Masami Okui appreciation-- or Makkunation, as I will from now on call it-- from Meikyuu no Prisoner. She might want to be more careful about spinning around so fast in that dress.
They did the first verse of Garou - Savior in the Dark a capella, which sounded pretty nice, actually.
Then the solos started. Kageyama went up first with the song he couldn't not sing, Cha-La Head Cha-La. He really enjoyed baiting the audience with it, too. It went like this:
"HERE'S A SONG FROM 1989!"
"IT'S FROM A VERY FAMOUS SHOW!"
"SOME OF YOU MIGHT KNOW THIS SONG!"
"FEEL FREE TO SING ALONG!"
"IT'S ONE OF MY FAVORITES!"
The crowd was really losing their shit. Kageyama was all "lol I'm so old" during the Q&A the next day, but don't let him fool you cause dude has still got it. He is still the damn king. With the stage to himself, all the soloists-- Kageyama in particular-- did a lot of the running around and silly posing that we love JAM for. That giddy energy of theirs is even more contagious in person.
And then Yuusha-Oh Tanjou was right after! Endoh led us all in "Gagaga Gagaga Gaogaigar!" and proved his "most powerful" title for the first of many times with an amazing "GOLDIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON HAAAAAMMEEEEEEEEEEER" scream.
It had been so long since I heard Rinbu Revolution! Not since I rented Utena from Blockbuster back in the day. I didn't know the title, but once it came on I said "OH, RIGHT, THIS SONG!" Then I kinda chilled out and took a break.
From here, JAM went into a little acoustic session, as they tend to do. They started with an acoustic arrangement of Cry for the Earth, perhaps the only JAM song that I never really liked, and turned it into something enjoyable by stripping the whole Linkin Park thing the studio version had going. Did I mention that JAM raps on this song? Man, it's really awesome like this! Have they released this version to CD?
Fukuyama whistled the beginning of Little Wing, which got us all clapping and grinning like idiots. This video reminds me of how much I missed Rica.
Fukuyama's solo was next: he was the only member of the group whose solo couldn't be guessed with 100% certainty. Kageyama had to do Cha-La, Makkun had to do Rinbu, Endoh had to do Yuusha-Oh Tanjou, and Dani had to do We Are later in the show. Fukuyama on the other hand: His role as the singing voice of Basara Nekki on Macross 7, where he saved space with rock'n'roll, undoubtedly made him famous among otaku. But there are so many Fire Bomber songs! Does he simply sing Seventh Moon, the opening? Does he sing Totsugeki Love Heart? Does he sing Holy Lonely Light? Does he-- in my wildest dreams-- sing King Gainer Over, the best anime opening of all time next to maybe Orguss?
Well, after he asked us "DO YOU REMEMBER MACROSS SEVEEEEEEEEN?!" he sang Angel Voice, and we sang it with him. This was different from the singalong we'd been having all night: he gave us a little vocal practice at the beginning of the song (a lot like this) and when the whoas kicked in at the end of the song, we were right there with him. What a joy. I read on 4chan about a guy who got to sing a Fire Bomber song on the phone with Fukuyama, and it felt a little bit like that.
Then Dani came out and did We Are, which is a song I really love despite never having watched more than five or six episodes of the One Piece TV series and a book of the manga. I just don't have the time or the money for something that long. But the song's got this simple, childish, adventurous sentiment that makes me smile unconsciously and say "this is how things ought to be".
Hagane no Messiah was one of those ones that's on the edge between might show up and might not show up: JAM's first song for Super Robot Wars, it started off the current arrangement where if an SRW game comes out, they do the theme song. We will be going into the SRW section of the setlist shortly. Endoh was amazing during this song: he held STOP THE WAAAAAAAAAAAAR for what must have been twenty seconds or longer. Most powerful indeed!
Nageki no Rosario is pretty awesome but there's little more to say about it than that.
Break Out is a big favorite of mine: you may note that the title of the Thursday post is from it. God, I'm so jealous of these Japanese arena shows. They get fire and lasers. That's what Super Robot is all about, man! Fire and lasers! Whoa whoa whoa whoa! Super Robot Wars!
Victory was about when they came out and asked us, "so uh, you guys like this "Super Robot Wars" stuff?" to the expected screaming response. Again, the title of this post is from this song. It was so awesome when they did the whoa-Bundy hand thing during WE'LL NEVER DIIIIIIE.
Gong was next and that was the title of the Friday post, okay? That's how these work. After they sounded the gong, JAM pretended to leave and they told the people in the front to make a lot of noise to bring them back. They did, but I was really tired and decided to take a break and save it for when the band was actually on stage. They came out again, of course, in the tour T-shirts that we'd all either already bought or were about to buy.
Soultaker was a really pleasant surprise: it's one of their best songs and usually ends up in their concerts, but I still felt like it was a 50/50 chance to hear it. I breathed a sigh of relief when it started up.
Right before Skill, when they were asking "so is there anything you guys wanna hear?" to cries of "MOTTO MOTTO", an overexcited fan grabbed Fukuyama's mic, which I really thought crossed the line from simply being a crazy fan (fine, aren't we all) into being a crazy and disrespectful fan. Earlier, Fukuyama had pulled out a camcorder to tape the crowd, and the same section had tried to rush the stage, so they had to send in security and Fukuyama made damn sure he kept the camera to his bandmates from there on in. Classic "this is why we can't have nice things" scenario. People, we're here to see the band, not you. Anyway, because they didn't have a band behind them and were using recorded songs, JAM could only do the regular six-minute version of Skill as opposed to the 8-10-minute finale they usually do. I didn't need to sing the chorus that many times anyway, I guess.
And then the goodbye. Heartbreaking, really. "We'll be back!" and all that from the band members, and the slow, sad waves from the crowd. Goodbye, Jam Project. It's been real. I hope I see you again one day. We exited very, very slowly. On the way out, I noticed just how many guitar picks Fukuyama had thrown out into the crowd. My friend got one, and I begged him for it and I guess he did the right thing in keeping it. Maybe I should just pay him for it. The people in front of me got a guitar pick thrown at them and just sat there on top of it, completely clueless, until a girl came from the second row to get it. Guys, guys!
On the way out, a roadie was holding a camera over the edge of the stands to catch the exiting crowd. I stuck my aching arm in the air one last time, and I said "motto! motto!"