Let me tell you a little story about the most colossal weekend ever.
Okay, admittedly, it did not start out so colossal. As you may or may not be aware, the weather in central Texas has been absolutely horrific. Dangerous thunderstorms and flooding have been plaguing the entire central corridor for the past few weeks, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from seeing what is, in my opinion, one of the best bands in the visual kei scene. That’s right. I picked this god-awful time to make the long trek from Austin to Toronto to see Matenrou Opera appear at Anime North. What could possibly go wrong?
An almost eight hour delay and two missed connections later, I finally arrived in the beautiful city of Toronto, Ontario and met up with fearless leader Lizz. She had just finished her interview with the band and, despite my extreme travel fatigue, I found myself buzzing with excitement. The show couldn’t come soon enough.
It seems I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. We arrived at Anime North the next day around noon to find some die-hard fans already lining up at the door. We joined them a few hours later where we were invited to sign a Canadian flag they had prepared as a gift to the band. We chatted with a few of the fans and the overall feeling was one of love and excitement.
We were finally allowed in about 30 minutes past the posted start time and the crowd rushed to surround a curtained stage. The show opened with Red Handed Denial, a local Toronto act with a heavy rock and roll sound. The audience warmed up quickly, pumping their fists and even calling for an encore after their set finished and they happily obliged, treating us to one more song before clearing the way for the headline act.
The curtain closed and tension mounted as we waited for Matenrou Opera to take the stage. Finally the curtain opened again and the band was greeted by deafening screams as they took their places on stage. The show opened with Pandora and Chimeishou from their latest album, the latter eliciting a call and response that seemed to shock frontman Sono at first, but by the second chorus he was all smiles and even gave a little chuckle as the crowd raised their voices.
The boys kept the tension high with my personal favorite, Burning Soul, followed by Diorama Wonderland. The venue was hot, but it didn’t stop the band from giving it their all, quickly shedding the outer layers of their costumes as sweat poured off of them. Ayame donned his remote keyboard and ran from one side of the stage to the other, flashing smiles and reaching his hands out toward the excited fans.
The show paused after Abusan for an MC by Ayame in slow, careful English. He told us how excited he was to visit Toronto and about his trip to CN Tower. “It is too high,” he said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. “I am from Japan and I never go to Tokyo Skytree, but I go to CN Tower.”
From there, the band launched into RUSH! Anzi’s guitar cut the air and I couldn’t help but get a bit emotional during the solo, knowing we were witnessing one of his final shows with Matenrou Opera. The audience seemed to relish every note, every flirtatious look as they showered him with love and appreciation. Heads continued to bang as they kept the set heavy with Justice and Anomie.
After a short MC from Sono, we were graced with the first and only true ballad of the set, Orb. If you were there and weren’t moved by this performance, you’re dead inside. The power and grace of Sono’s voice was on full display as he stretched every note to it’s full capacity, wringing deep emotions from everyone in the audience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little misty, myself.
The band left the stage to wild applause, their backs disappearing into the dark mere seconds before calls of “encore!” rang through the hall.The group reappeared soon after in their band tshirts, all wide smiles. and quickly took up their instruments again for GLORIA. The fans cheered wildly, singing along to the chorus at full power. My attention quickly switched to Yu behind the drums as he pounded his way through Imperial Riot and the show closer, Tengoku no Aru Basho, reaching back to his heavy metal roots and absolutely murdering the double bass in the process.
The show ended in a cloud of gratitude from both the fans and the band. The members rushed forward to take their hands, exhausted but happy, fueled by their intense energy. For those few short hours, we were all connected and nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. No personal drama or flight delays. Just a mutual love of music that transcends language and culture. In that moment, all the elements came together and we were one.
And, that makes for a colossal weekend.
Tengoku no Aru Basho