On December 13, 2019—a little over four years after their last show in New York, DIR EN GREY once again made their mark at Gramercy Theatre, a venue they are definitely familiar with at this point having played shows there dating back to 2009. Unlike their last show in 2015, the stage production this time had upgraded, with the use of a digital screen projecting music videos, song lyrics and the like—a greatly appreciated and tasteful upgrade in the stage production. Once the lights cut to black, an enormous roar came from the crowd, and the stage opening track began.
The most interesting thing about DIR EN GREY is watching how the band evolves, and this is conveyed through various artistic choices, whether it be through clothing, stage presence, or choice of opening and interlude music. Interestingly, the stage entry track presented a very bass-heavy but ethereal electronic synth track with cinematic visuals that quite honestly complemented the track very well. This truly helped add to the tension as the members each walked out one by one, and was another reason why I was glad the projection screen was there. Interludes (known as “Inward Screams”), were absent this time around, as this tour was entirely album centric. An entire run-through of their latest album The Insulated World was played in addition to their newest single The World of Mercy, an approach that was never done before at a show here.
The band’s looks this time around were subtle but very fashionable, something you wouldn’t catch at first. Kyo, who was seen in a hooded robe and skeletal face paint for the Ghoul and Never Free from the Awakening tours in 2013 and 2015 respectively, opted for a more casual look this time around with slick parted hair, a simple patterned shirt with calfskin tabi boots, and makeup reminiscent of a Pierrot. Kaoru had a blazer and ribbon tie and looked as if he time-warped straight out of the 18th century. The one thing that was noticeably different in terms of performance this time around was how much of a performance-art approach Kyo took to present himself on stage.
More than in the past, he would pantomime grotesque gestures, stabbing and biting at his wrist in between verses during Celebrate Empty Howls, simulating a noose with the mic cord during Aka, or even theatrically disemboweling himself with the mic cord as his innards during The World of Mercy. More than in the past, it seemed as if each song contained its own story to it, and you know each performance is genuinely a unique one as sometimes original lyrics are swapped out for ad-libbed ones, for example during Keigaku no Yoku. The sound mixing this time around was admittedly fantastic and arguably better than how it was presented in recorded form on the album. Each layer of the guitar was able to be discerned, and nothing was drowned out. Toshiya’s bass lines were punchy, and Shinya’s kick drum carried just the right amount of weight to feel it in your chest, but not in an overwhelming sense. This live performance really solidified the fact that The Insulated World album shines brightest in a live concert setting, and while the songwriting itself is a little less complex and compositionally technical than in works such as Dum Spiro Spero or The Unraveling, the straightforwardness of the tracks make for an incredibly enjoyable experience, showcasing just how tight the band as a whole can perform.
The concert starts and ends with two long and progressive mid-tempo songs, Zetsuentai and The World of Mercy, and while these songs are both 7 and nearly 10 minutes in length respectively, the performances witnessed were so immersive that they honestly felt short. The band also sprinkled in some fanservice with older tracks like Merciless Cult during the main concert, and Saku during the encore, both from the 2005 album Withering to Death. The energy of the crowd was definitely high, but when the opening synths to Merciless Cult began, this was definitely one of the peak points in which the crowd exploded.
Hopefully, fans of DIR EN GREY won’t have to endure another grueling four years of waiting for them to come back to the United States. If you can, try to catch them in Japan, where the shows and stage production are truly on another level. If that’s not entirely possible, then the waiting game has already begun- but just know that when these Japanese metal veterans return back to the states, you can expect an entirely different experience than the last.
- Ningen o Kaburu
- Devote My Life
- Values of Madness
- Celebrate Empty Howls
- Merciless Cult
- Rubbish Heap
- Keibetsu to Hajimari
- Keigaku no Yoku
- The World of Mercy