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In June, MIYAVI announced his first North American tour in almost two years spanning 19 cities across the US and Canada. On October 29 MIYAVI played an intimate show near the US capitol at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia.

October 29 was drenched in rain, leaving nearby residences without power and some roads flooded. Undeterred, fans queued in front of the State Theatre and its neon marquee.

Upon entering, the venue seemed to vibrate with excited, pleasant chatter. Just two nights before Halloween, the lobby was stashed with rubber aliens, a full-size figure of Frankenstein’s monster, and a plethora of novelty lights hearkening back to the golden age of Spencer’s. Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein played on a small TV set by the merch table.

Fans stashed their wet coats and waited patiently in a merch line that wrapped all the way into the dining area. It was one of the final shows on the tour; only CDs and small and extra-large shirts were left in stock. “It’s okay”, said a fan as she held up a tent-like extra-large tour shirt, “I’ll wear it as a dress”.

The hall hummed with mounting tension as curtain time drew near. VIP guests gripped their spot at the rails with unmovable determination. Each face was clad in a face covering, a requirement from the venue.

Suddenly, the opening for Holy Nights played on the speakers as support singers Dolly Ave and Gaby Borromeo took their places on stage. The stage turned deep blue. The crowd held its collective breath, as “Samurai Guitarist” MIYAVI finally emerged.

That same restrained, patient crowd that queued in the rain finally exploded with all their pent-up emotions and excitement. They’ve waited almost two years for MIYAVI to tour abroad since the pandemic. Yet in that instant, there was no coronavirus—there was only that holy space between the audience and the stage.

Like a page ripped from a celebrity street snap, MIYAVI wore a graphic white tee, under a customized-looking moto jacket. The black leather jacket was studded, chained, and paint-splattered, like nothing you can buy off a rack. He paired the tops with black skinny jeans and matching sneakers. He looked approachable, even as he strummed at inhuman speed, leaping and sliding from stage left to stage right. His energy was infectious.

Need for Speed was a gale-force wind; the perfect opener. Then keeping the tempo up, hurricane MIYAVI tore into So On It. The crowd sang along, hands bouncing in the front rows, and legs bouncing at the dining tables.

Next up was In Crowd and it felt anthemic. Many fans followed MIYAVI for years from his days in the visual kei scene, “before it was cool”. At that moment nothing could feel cooler than being at that show.

MIYAVI paused in his set to address the crowd in his first MC session. He was friendly, funny, and charming as hell. There was some commotion in the pit as a large object was passed to the front, to MIYAVI’s hands. He took a black and red canvas and grinned, turning it to the crowd. It was a portrait of his from those nostalgic “visual kei days”.

“It’s eighteen-year-old me”! He laughed, “Can I keep it”?

The rest of the set continued in this feel-good, casual style. MIYAVI was completely immersed, living, thriving and interacting with the crowd. In MC sessions he expressed gratitude to his fans, inspired them, and gave the uninitiated a small taste of the impressive projects under his belt. There seemed to be no barrier between him and the audience.

He didn’t want fans to get depressed about the state of the world. “The way we consume music has changed”, he said, “But the power of music has not”.

Gripping the mic, he begged the audience, “What’s my name?”

They roared it back. We could feel the floor quake.

After What’s My Name, the musician dove into Tears on Fire. He kept his fans enraptured with charged, soulful guitar solos.

Following Other Side, MIYAVI took a short reprieve. Turning his eye to global problems such as poverty and the next generation, he reminded us that we are all united. Taking this tender turn, he played an acoustic, touching version of Under the Same Sky. The frets of his guitar glittered in the soft light.

From there the musician played his 2020 single Holy Nights and continued into songs from his newest album Imaginary. The album has only been out a few weeks, but the crowd sang back all the lyrics.

Surprisingly, MIYAVI not only played his new original songs but also his cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. The live version was gritty and impactful; while the album version seems more electronic and danceable, the live version sinks its teeth in.

The main set was wrapped up with Firebird and No Sleep Till Tokyo. When the crowd chanted MIYAVI’s name, he returned for an encore, playing a moving rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, followed by The Others.

As we took it all in we thought if only his virtual lives could be combined with this live energy— some things, like the feel of the floor shaking, the smell of the air, and the unison of voices, can only be experienced in person.


MIYAVI North America Tour 2021, Friday, October 29 at The State Theatre

Setlist

  1. Holy Nights (SE)
  2. Need for Speed
  3. So On It
  4. In Crowd
  5. Bumps in the Night
  6. What’s My Name?
  7. Tears on Fire
  8. Other Side
  9. Under the Same Sky
  10. Holy Nights
  11. Imaginary
  12. New Gravity
  13. Warrior
  14. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  15. Firebird
  16. No Sleep ‘Til Tokyo

Encore

  1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  2. The Others
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
DVD
MIYAVI VIRTUAL 2020 vol.1
  1. Intro : The era of "Holy Nights"
  2. From Home to World
  3. The View of Drones
CD
  1. New Gravity
  2. Imaginary (feat. Kimbra)
  3. Warrior
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  5. Living In Fire
  6. Hush Hush (feat. Kang Daniel)
  7. Youth Of the Nation (feat. Troi Irons)
  8. I Swear
  9. Are You With Me?
  10. Dance With Me
  11. Super Hero
DVD
MIYAVI VIRTUAL 2020 vol.2
  1. MIYAVI in VR World
  2. MXRossing Over to 2021
  3. MImaginary Begins
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