HYDE celebrated his 20th anniversary as a solo artist with a two-day concert at Heian Shrine in Kyoto, on July 31 and August 1. The dazzling event entertained a live audience and was also streamed virtually worldwide. JROCK NEWS had the honor of attending the second concert, which was more like viewing performance art.

Each detail was imbued with meaning, delivering HYDE’s worldview with the utmost respect to Heian Shrine. Please join us as we share our report and try to unpack some of the delicate nuances of the show.

As the live audience trickled into the venue, online viewers got a birds-eye view of the shrine and its stage. A troupe of 16 musicians in period-style garb played music on traditional Japanese instruments. The style of music is called “gagaku”, the ancient style of Japanese court music. With the atmospheric mix of soft wind, subtle strings, and gentle rapping of percussion, it felt like a religious experience.

The shrine stood proud and timeless in the background, present in each shot. Its vermillion beams gleamed against a backdrop of verdant Japanese pine. As attendees found their seats, we saw a mix of western summer clothing and yukata (summer kimono) alike. Many carried Japanese sensu fans to battle the humidity—the performance on the previous night was cut short due to a sudden downpour of rain.

A 17th gagaku performer joined the troupe before HYDE’s set. His name is Kazuya Yokozawa, a traditional musician who plays the stone flute at sacred places in Japan and abroad. It is said that the sound of the whistling stone flute was used to welcome the gods in ancient times—a fitting greeting to call HYDE to the main stage.

As Yokozawa completed his solo, Heian Shrine was bathed in divine golden light. HYDE emerged from the private recesses of the shrine, clothed in pure white with tones of pastel lavender and green.

His look was a fusion of high fashion with Japanese DNA—he wore a lightweight period dress, an airy green garment shrouding his eyes from view. On his hands, he wore gauntlets knotted like mizuhiki cords over white lace. On his feet, he wore stunning white tabi boots by French designer Maison Margiela. Every detail of his costume carried meaning and the weight of the location, down to the color choice—the pale orchid and green tones of his outfit were court-approved summer wear during the Heian era.

The orchestra band played the first few notes of UNEXPECTED, and HYDE sang:

“Unexpected, through space and time the path unwinds…”

Through space and time, the path unwinds; we truly felt we were transported back in time by magic.

The majority of the songs were from his solo debut album Roentgen, but he also performed songs by L’Arc~en~Ciel and VAMPS. He also performed three unreleased songs—THE FINAL PIECE, SMILING, and THE ABYSS. The songs were beautifully adapted by the orchestra, incorporating a blend of styles from classical to jazz.

Each part of the shrine was utilized during the show, either by thematic lighting or projection mapping. For example, during the song EVERGREEN the white walls of the shrine lit up in hues of pine. For other songs, a gentle rain of snow or fireflies seemed to fall—for more dramatic songs, a moon was projected on the sloping black roof.

HYDE’s clean singing was uplifted by the orchestra, demonstrating how fluidly he can move up and down his vocal register. He delivered each song flawlessly, from high notes to a full cry from his chest, effortlessly riding the waves of emotion.

By the ninth song in the set, NEW DAYS DAWN, the set took a heavier turn, bathing HYDE and Heian Shrine in crimson red. Flames rose, flickering along with the throaty notes of cellos.

Leaving the set temporarily after this heated song, Noh actor Ippei Shigeyama took his place. The 16-member gagaku band provided the music for his thrilling “Kyogen” performance. “Kyogen” was developed alongside Noh theatre as a sort of intermission performance, so it was perfect for the break in the set.

After Shigeyama’s performance, HYDE returned shining in dazzling white, sporting a Heian-style standing hat. The translucent layers of his attire reflected the glow of stage lights and seem to change colors with each subtle shift.

This was especially highlighted in the final song, which was the shining jewel of the concert—MY FIRST LAST. Rejoined by the gagaku band for a song that wove the physical with a spiritual, projection mapping shone upon HYDE’s all-white outfit, creating a swirling nebula or galaxy inside his chest.

From the beginning till the end, it was an ethereal, boundary-pushing performance that was steeped in the rich culture of Kyoto. It was a visually and acoustically stunning homage to the cultural landmark and HYDE’s musical legacy.

20th Orchestra Concert 2021 HYDE HEIANJINGU, August 1, 2021

Set List

  5. FINAL PIECE (unreleased song)
  6. SMILING (unreleased song)
  7. flower (L’Arc~en~Ciel song)
  8. THE ABYSS (unreleased song)
  10. ZIPANG
  13. Red Swan
  15. MY FIRST LAST (VAMPS song)
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