Miyavi At It’s A School Night, Monday February 17th 2020
The West has its rock stars and music legends, but what do we know about the land of the rising sun? Japan has rock stars too, and they are ready to conquer the world. A few years ago, I became familiar with Yoshiki, the X Japan frontman, who even played Coachella last year… but Miyavi? I had never heard of him, although I should have paid attention: Miyavi is an international rock star who has played all over the world, but he is also an actor, and known for his role of Imperial Japanese Army corporal and war criminal Mutsuhiro Watanabe, in Angelina Jolie’s movie ‘Unbroken’.
On Monday night, Miyavi was headlining ‘It’s a School Night’, a weekly free show at Bardot Hollywood, which often showcases upcoming artists. However, Miyavi’s case was a bit different, it was a surprise show in a very intimate place, and so a very special treat for his fans. The venue is very small and the fans, including a lot of young Asian women as expected, had packed the place, defending their spot as it is always the case when you are about to get close to a rock star.
Before Miyavi, 3 other artists played during the night, first Will Jay, a young half-Chinese pop singer with good energy and a big smile. As a former member of the boy band IM5 and a buzzing Youtube channel, he had the dancefloors, the crooning sentimental songs, the dance moves, the stage assurance, and the crowd understood this right away. He was followed by another teen artist, Spencer Barnett, who mentioned he had just graduated and had chosen to pursue a music career instead of going to college. His dreamy pop songs with gentle hooks were crowd-pleasers while his cover of Childish Gambino’s ‘Sober’ revealed his multi-inspirations. Belgian-Caribbean Charlotte Adigéry continued the party with her electronica dancefloors which were as colorful as they were intriguing. It was a somewhat indescribable mix of sounds, vocals, and rhythms, sometimes the unpredictable sonic jumps of a hypnotic personal collection, sometimes the electro-punk flavor of James Murphy’s discotheque.
Miyavi is a born rockstar, electrifying the air with his powerful stage presence and his incredible energy, he is a blue-haired silver bullet with a theatrical style and a guitar on fire. Needless to say, I immediately realized everyone knew him except me, as he was welcomed with screams and a very enthusiastic crowd, responding to his strident guitar-virtuoso number over Bill Withers’ classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine.’ This was some stage entrance if he needed one, while the rest of his very short set was pure fury. ‘So On it’ was a dense hard rock anthem with stomping drums, furious guitar, voice samples, and cathartic moments even mixing EDM-type built-ups. This made the crowd roar and scream, with even more compelling energy during the next song, ‘In Crowd’. Miyavi’s multi-influenced music wanted to be raw, loud and powerful with plenty of theatrical distortion-galore numbers, played as if he was auditioning for Rage Against the Machine, while modern EDM and even Hip Hop influences could be heard all over the place… ‘No Sleep Till Tokyo.,’ a track of his 2019 album, was nevertheless not an update on the Beastie Boys’ classic, but a breathless sing-along pop-anthem with his raging guitar wrapping each corner. Miyavi was singing all over his songs, but it obviously was his all-fired up guitar work which was the star, a restless and unique finger slapping technique, which earned him the title of ‘Samurai Guitarist.’
Between two songs, Miyavi announced he would be releasing two new albums for this year (in April) and mentioned his role as an official Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and his involvement with refugee camps around the world with guitar in hand. ’I believe we can do something through music’ he told us.
‘Tears on Fire’ was executed with the same ecstatic energy and virtuosic command of the guitar, while ‘What’s My Name’ was a sweaty ending bringing a blend of jazz, blues, funk, hip hop with blue hair headbanging, and drums cascading over Miyavi’s super energetic slapping techniques. Everyone wanted more, it was just too short, and Miyavi told us he will be back soon, it’s not as if he had to come from Tokyo, he moved to Los Angeles with his family a few years ago.
‘Ain’t No Sunshine’
‘So On it’
‘No Sleep Till Tokyo’
‘Tears on Fire’
‘What’s My Name’