- Event: No Sleep Till Tokyo
- Date: Saturday August 26th, 2019
- Location: The Masquerade, Atlanta
Intro: Last Night Till Tokyo
Older J-rock fans may know Miyavi from his visual-kei days with his eccentric outfits and silly behavior that endeared him to all. Today, Miyavi has gained worldwide fame as a slap-guitarist, actor, and humanitarian. Having just played in Atlanta last year at Anime Weekend Atlanta, the largest anime convention in the south-east, Miyavi was back with an energy-packed show. The VIP option gave die-hard fans a special lanyard and the opportunity to take a picture and chat briefly with Miyavi while regular ticket holders would fill in the venue after. With such affordable tickets, many people who were not familiar with the Samurai Guitarist were present just from recommendation. While mostly a young adult audience, there were several families of children, parents, and even grandparents.
Having switched locations rather recently, many attendees initially had a hard time finding the venue but a helpful local takes it upon himself to aid the wanderers. Winding down several staircases, they eventually reach Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, the separate concert halls that allow multiple shows to go on at once. At least Heaven was nicely air-conditioned to cool down those that had been waiting outside for hours. Towards the back, the bar and the merchandise table were selling their wares before, during, and after the show. With two different shirts, CDs, and a poster, there was a huge line that only diminished during parts of the show.
Miyavi’s support musician lineup on stage has changed a lot over the years and this tour had Bobo on drums—a very familiar face—and DJ Jonny, a newer addition. As the last night of the No Sleep Till Tokyo tour, fans weren’t sure what to expect. The audience waited with bated breath for Miyavi to step on stage and once he did, the crowd erupted.
Performance: A Whole New Level
Opening with Stars, Miyavi stood at his mic stand strumming away, letting the power of his playing mesmerize the crowd. With silver hair and silver jacket, he quite literally shined on stage. By the second song, Flashback, he had snatched up the mic and ran around the stage, getting right to the edge and singing directly to those in the front. His powerful expressions combined with his dynamic guitar playing made the crowd cheer loudly. As much as Miyavi has evolved and changed musical direction over the years, this phenomenal slap-guitar is what fans knew to expect. As if his guitar weighed nothing, Miyavi jumped high into the air and danced around, clearly reveling in the energy the crowd was giving him. After a few songs, he took a moment to thank everyone for coming out to see him and expressed his happiness at being back in Atlanta. As many people in attendance were part of the Atlanta anime community and had seen him at AWA the previous year, they too were thrilled to see Miyavi again. He talked to the audience as if he were seeing old friends instead of just faceless fans.
Getting back into it with Rain Dance, backing vocalists assisted with parts of the song while Miyavi gave his guitar-playing extra flourishes. Building up to the very end of the song, he almost threw his body around and then stunned the crowd as the final note rang out and he reached to the sky and did a death drop. As if he had not just fallen backward with an entire guitar on top of him, Miyavi easily got back up smiling. With the next song the title of his new album, No Sleep Till Tokyo, nearly the whole crowd began singing along. The simple lyrics of the chorus made it easy for others to pick up on and for many, it was already familiar as the promotional track for the album. Playing several more upbeat songs on the album, the hyped atmosphere continued.
Once Guard You started, the audience calmed down and enjoyed the sweet ballad. It was a necessary break for those that had been jumping and screaming until this moment. Miyavi’s high vocal improvising earned him a few impressed cheers from the crowd but mostly, they swayed to the gentle song. We Love You and What a Wonderful World continued that feel-good vibe with many fans singing along to the familiar songs. Miyavi alternated between showing off on the guitar to doing the rap parts of What a Wonderful World and did several call and responses with the crowd.
Every few songs, he’d stop to ask the crowd how they were doing and to share funny anecdotes of his time in America. He talked about the importance of being kind and understanding to others just as others had been kind to him when he and his family moved to California 5 years ago. He told the audience that his songs were messages to them in times they felt alone or unloved and how important it was to feel connected.
When he left the stage, the audience very quickly and incessantly yelled Miyavi’s name. After a brief rest, Miyavi played a couple of covers before getting back to his personal songs. Selfish Love got everyone back into the groove with its familiar beat. He and Bobo went back and forth showing off on the guitar and drums and Miyavi made sure to mention Bobo’s beautiful legs. He gave DJ Jonny his own moment to shine as well.
Settling into a more somber mode, Miyavi sang Fragile, a beautiful, slow song about wanting human connection. He spoke about the refugee crisis and how others are hurting in the world and that can make it seem sad and hopeless, but that’s why we must try so hard to spread a message of positivity and acceptance. When Long Nights started, his message was made clearer. As a humanitarian, much of Miyavi’s inspiration comes from trying to bring awareness to people suffering from war or destitution. Ever focusing on hope, Miyavi commended America for having such a diverse population and saying how important and wonderful that was. As he was talking, someone in the audience gave him a huge rainbow flag with the word PEACE on it. Miyavi held it up, smiling brightly. Then he threw it over his shoulders like a cape and bowed deeply.
Bringing the audience back up in good spirits, he played The Others and many sang along passionately. At this point, there was only one thing missing. That close connection feeling was there, the somber recognition that there is suffering that must be addressed was there, and incredible guitar prowess was there. When he began his final song, the last piece was finally in place; it was time to scream Miyavi’s name. In spite of, or perhaps because it was the final song of a long tour, Miyavi tore into What’s My Name with incredible energy. Strumming, dancing, and smirking, he had everyone jumping and screaming. It’s something of an expectation at Miyavi’s concerts to get to scream his name and everyone did with great fervor. Finally, the concert had come to an end and after bowing with Bobo and DJ Jonny, Miyavi promised he would be back soon.
Outro: Ever-changing performances, same sweetheart
When Miyavi started playing Other Side, the energy changes slightly. Instead of showing his creativity through his guitar, Miyavi let it hang to his side as he used his whole body to convey the lyrics of his song. This was truly another side of the talented guitarist, but still, he mesmerized the audience with his delicate yet powerful movements and expressive singing. Ranging from gentle, almost timid-sounding vocals to passionate screaming, Other Side had the audience transfixed. The red lighting flooded the stage and strobes of white accompanied the choruses. Whether standing still with his arms outstretched or crouched like a predator ready to attack, his presence was dominating.
Coming back from his encore, Miyavi had some surprising song choices. As he was extremely grateful to have been able to play the National Anthem at the Dodgers Stadium, he played it for the Atlanta audience as well. He showed off with his usual Miyavi flair. His next song was a simple Japanese song Ue wo Muite Arukou with a catchy tune but lonely lyrics. Miyavi explained the title meant ‘Looking up while walking’ but added “Actually, it’s dangerous to do that” causing the audience to laugh loudly.
As always, Miyavi mixed his performance with making the audience feel happy and important as well as trying to instill a desire, a duty, to be a positive change in the world. The first part of his concert was spent mainly bonding with the audience, talking about what made them special and speaking about his gratitude at being so welcomed as an outsider coming to America. In the latter half, he explains how there are people like him, like his children, who are suffering from horrific circumstances because they weren’t given the same opportunities in life. He uses his music to both humanize those easily overlooked and to build up his audience to make them feel that they can, in fact, enact change. “I can’t save anyone on the battlefield with a guitar, but I believe through music, I can unite people.” Miyavi told the audience. This is how the Samurai Guitarist fights.