Crossfaith, Phoenix & More Hit Japan's Summer Sonic

Crossfaith, 2014.
Julen Esteban

Crossfaith perform at Japan’s Summer Sonic festival on August 16, 2014.

Ellie Goulding, Arctic Monkeys, Queen with Adam Lambert & more also grace the Tokyo & Osaka stages.

Summer Sonic, the biggest music festival in Japan devoted to international repertoire, was held Aug. 16 and 17 simultaneously in Tokyo and Osaka. The event has recently seen industry-leading headliners like Beyonce, Rihanna, Jay Z and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and this year the Arctic Monkeys, Robert Plant and Queen with Adam Lambert hit the stage.

Ticket sales were down, though it's hard to blame that on the lineup. The other major international music fest in Japan, Fuji Rock Festival, also saw a drop in attendance. For Summer Sonic this year, 105,000 attended the two days at QVC Field and Makuhari Messe near Tokyo, and 60,000 came to the Maishima site for the Osaka edition, for a total of 165,000 people. Billboard estimates this generated 1.8 billion yen ($17.3 mil) revenue in ticket sales.

Richie Sambora, Avril Lavigne, Megadeth, Avenged Sevenfold, Phoenix, Pixies, Kraftwerk, Ellie Goulding, Crossfaith and Azealia Banks all contributed sets. In addition, the up-and-coming metal and J-pop act Babymetal, fresh off supporting Lady Gaga for the western swing of her US tour, wowed a packed house with their combo of squeaky cute vocals over power chords.

One of the best sets of the proceedings came from Plant and his band The Sensational Space Shifters at the QVC Field stadium. Bringing together musicians from The Gambia with old blues hands like guitarist Justin Adams, Plant reworked some Led Zeppelin classics and resurrected blues songs and introduced a number of tracks from his new album Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar (set for a Sept. 9 release on Nonesuch/Warner Bros. Records). Typical of the approach was a mellower "Black Dog," which started out with an African intro. Plant then showcased the drum-heavy "Rainbow" from the new LP and played the bluegrass traditional "Little Maggie," which he claimed was "written in 1928 by a thief." Zeppelin tunes included "Going to California," a softer "What Is and What Should Never Be" and a mash-up of "Whole Lotta Love" with the blues standard "Who Do You Love."

Another standout were French rockers Phoenix, headlining the Sonic Stage. The act is a Summer Sonic fest favorite, appearing for the third time, and they played a redux of the tour set they showcased at Tokyo venue Studio Coast earlier this year. The foursome showcased a few songs from their latest album Bankrupt! (Glassnote Records) but mainly stuck with hits from their previous record, including hits "Lisztomania," "Armistice" and "1901."

One much-anticipated performance came from Japanese metal-core band Crossfaith. Formed in 2006, the act has two U.S. tours under its belt, one supporting Of Mice and Men, and some believe they are heir to the Prodigy/Linkin Park metal-electro throne. They bashed out a powerful set on the Rainbow Stage to a half-crazed, appreciative crowd. The five-piece from Osaka gave the audience a good dose of their unique mixture of grinding metal, violent synths and expert turntablism. Crossfaith opened with their hit "We are the Future" from their latest album Apocalyze (The End Records) and ended with "Leviathan" from the Zion EP.


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