Miyavi Sound Academy, Toronto Thursday June 24th, 2010

By: Matt Ing


I know what you must be thinking as you read the name of the artist I recently reviewed, and believe me; the concert goers had the same puzzled look on their faces. This particular musician is from the Japanese Rock scene, or J-Rock as it happens to be called, and being the open-minded music lover that I am, I went and I’m glad that I did.

I’ve been to my fair share of rock shows, from Aerosmith to Blink 182 and not to mention a trip to see Rod Stewart for my mother’s birthday. But here is a guy that showed up to this particular show with dark shades and a New York Yankees cap, looking like he was gearing up for a Jay-Z concert – the fact is, the line-up to see him was so long and packed with enthusiastic fans, that one would have thought he was Jay-Z – albeit a Japanese counterpart. I’m used to showing up to a hip hop event right before the doors open, but word has it that some of these fans had been in line some 2-3 hours ahead of time.

So the artist’s name is Miyavi, and this guy has rocked shows worldwide, as he sets his sites on his “Neo Tokyo Samurai Black World Tour,” including two stops in Canada this year. Let me give anyone the run-down on this guy - Miyavi is huge in Japan and has been around since 1999. He is best known for his involvement in the groups Due Le Quartz and supergroup S.K.I.N. which consists of some of the biggest names in the Japanese rock scene. He plays a mean guitar, and damn well shocked me senseless at how he did during the show. He’s part of a movement in Japan known as Visual Kei, which I interpreted as being a modern day “glam rock” approach, much in the same vein as our Poisons and Motley Crüe’s of the yester years.

Now that we’ve gotten our background check in effect, let’s move on to the performance. Show time was scheduled for 9 p.m. and I’ve got to say, this guy was mildly tardy. He took the stage at about 9:10 p.m. and the crowd erupted. This audience was comprised of kids dressed in Japanese inspired fashion (including several with an anime-esque appeal) plus some who were decked out in gothic chains and lace. Classy, I must say, for a rock show.  When Miyavi hit the stage, it was big. I might actually consider it being if not the largest amount of screaming and shouting from a crowd I have ever experienced at a show. Devil horns were high in the air as fans rocked on to the musical styling of this 28 year old rocker out of Tokyo. He came out with a large multicoloured ponytail sticking out of his trucker cap and shared nothing but love for a city he had never traveled to.

The whole night I was fixated at the primal way in which Miyavi played his guitar. His fingers moved ever so fast. When he would strum, it almost seemed as if he was banging on the strings with his palm, only to offer up one amazing chord after another. He would jump around frantically and even played it behind his head, showcasing that he is not a conventional guitarist. Despite the fact that the majority of his lyrics were in Japanese, and I understood next to nothing, it was still epic. This is due to the fact that it’s not even just his musical skills that managed to make a presence; it’s the fact that this guy knows how to carry a crowd. The entire night, he had fans screaming…no matter what he did – everything from teasing fans by strumming a note or making the most subtle movement with his eyebrow, and somehow they would scream every time.  He had the Sound Academy on edge for the full show.

Miyavi was backed by his keyboardist, Coba 84 who was running amuck behind him, and looking like he was on a set of turntables or something with the amount of head bopping going on. His other band mate was Bobo. Yes, Bobo the drummer. This cat beat those drums like it was no-ones business. At one point he held his two sticks like a samurai sword and wailed on his kit. My jaw literally dropped. Just picture a samurai with a large sword, as he slices and dices his way to victory over his opponent. Bobo used those exact same motions.

Miyavi and his crew played for just under two hours, definitely making sure each ticket purchased was worth while. Aside from the numerous F-bombs dropped, he seemed to be a very polite artist, thanking Toronto for coming out several times throughout his set and reassuring his fans that his return to the city would reflect upon the amount of screams he got…which obviously was immense. Several fans fainted in the front row and being the nice guy that he is, he calmly said, “Everyone watch out for each other here because we are all a big family, so please don’t die at my show!”

In the end, the audience left feeling very pleased, with a night of J-Rock mayhem under our belts, to talk about for many years to come. One thing for sure is that for me, this hip hop head’s eyes have been opened to a growing Japanese music scene, which is bound to escalate into something even bigger in the very near future.

If interested, some songs you should check out are “Survive,” Miyavi’s latest hit, which he also happened to open with, as well as “Are You Ready To Rock,” and “Subarashiki Kana, Kono Sekai” which translates into “What A Wonderful World.”