Leading Japanese 'visual rock' band L'Arc-en-Ciel is amidst an 11-country world tour and are slated to thrash Madison Square Garden on Sunday March 25, becoming the first Japanese band to headline the storied NYC arena.
The group originally was scheduled to play the venue's Theater at Madison Square Garden, but moved to the Garden due to overwhelming fan demand. Another visual rock group X Japan were set to play Madison Square Garden in 2008, but had to cancel due to illness.
Visual rock (called visual-kei in Japanese) is something of a cross between heavy metal and glam. It is closely associated with Japanese animation (called anime) as the musicians often where outrageous, futuristic, or ornately historical costumes and make-up akin to the fantasy animated genre. Though L'Arc-en-Ciel is more toned down than other visual rock acts in this regard, it leads the genre having sold over 40 million records, according to the band's management.
L'Arc-en-Ciel is comprised of bassist tetsuya, vocalist hyde, guitarist ken and drummer yukihiro (band members forgo capitalization of their names).
L'Arc-en-Ciel's bassist tetsuya
This will be the group's second appearance in the US after a 2004 show in Baltimore in front of 12,000 at an anime convention called Otakon.
The band celebrated 20 years as a Japanese industry-leading act last May with two sold-out shows at Ajinomoto Stadium (capacity over 50,000) and is now on a 20th anniversary world tour with stops in Singapore, Paris, London and New York, among other cities. Bandleader and bassist tetsuya told Billboard "We've been planning to do a world tour for three years but these things take a lot of time to arrange. Finally all the preparations were in place and it came together this year."
L'Arc-en-Ciel will play indigo02 in London and Le Zenith in Paris in April and has already completed shows at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and Impact Arena in Bangkok, among others. Each country, other than the US and Japan, will see only one appearance and tetsuya explained, "Rather than doing a bunch of small shows we decided to do one big performance in each country and fill the places up."
L'Arc-en-Ciel's singer Hyde
The foursome released its 12th studio album, Butterfly, on iTunes in the US in February as well as on all formats in Japan. It contains the track "Good Luck My Way" which is featured in the Japanese anime film FullMetal Alchemist: The Star of Milos. The TV series of the same title has reached iconic status and is broadcast on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in the States.
Of the association with the well-known franchise tetsuya noted, "Of course we want to be appreciated just for our music but I don't mind the association with anime (Japanese animation) or manga (Japanese comics), as our songs have been used in anime. That is one of the reasons our music is known in the U.S. so I'm fine with that."
When asked what he would do if the album shot of the charts to No. 1 in the US the modest tetsuya quipped "That's not gonna happen!" But he did express interest in living and working in the US. "In a sense the US equals the world" he said. "If you are popular in the US you have a kind of popularity worldwide, but if you are popular in Japan it's just Japan."