Sound: I've never seen the band live, but I've watched several live videos, and have their "Uroboros - With The Proof In The Name Of The Living..." DVD, which contains two full concerts from Budokan. On those tracks, vocalist Kyo didn't always seem to be on par with the albums. At Sonar however, Kyo was perfect. His singing was always on pitch all across his vocal range, and his screams, which range from deep, deep gutturals from the bowls of hell to shrieks that would put Icarus to shame.
A huge part of Dir En Grey's sound comes from the interplay between guitarists Die and Kaoru. For the first part of the show I was on one side, so I wasn't able to fully hear Kaoru's guitar, but Die played his parts perfectly, and Toshiya's bass came through loud and clear, pushing the low end with Shinya's kick drums.
Later during the show, after realizing that I was only getting half the guitar work, I moved more towards the back and center, and I was then able to hear Kaoru's guitar as well. I went back to my original spot a few times, as my friend was still there and I didn't want to lose him, but for most of the concert I stood in the back.
Something interesting to me was unorthodox way in which Toshiya and Shinya play off of each other. While still maintaining a locked-in focus with the kick, Toshiya would often pull out his own groove. This was most fascinating during blast-beat sections, where Shinya would be holding a steady but aggressive beat, and Toshiya would, while still maintaining a solid groove. // 10
Perfomance: The show opened with the backing track to "Kykotsu No Nari", the instrumental opening from their new album, "Dum Spiro Spero". Towards the end, Shinya came onstage, followed by Kaoru and Toshiya from the other side. Die came from the same side of the stage as Shinya, and they dove right into the second song of the set, "Ruten No T", the 14th cut off of the album, with Kyo coming out with full power.
Full setlist (I am including Japanese transliteration, Kanji, and English translation where applicable):
01. Kykotsu No Nari (Q; The Cry From Lunatic Bone)
02. Ruten No T (; Tower Of Vicissitudes)
03. Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami
04. Obscure (New Take Version)
06. Akatsuki (; Dawn)
07. Rotting Root
08. Dozing Green
09. The Blossoming Beelzebub
10. Tsumi To Batsu
11. Yokus Ni Dreambox Aruiwa Seijuku No Rinen To Tsumetai Ame
12. Different Sense
13. Jyoku (j; Animal Lust)
14. Reiketsu Nariseba  (Cold-Blooded Silhouette)
15. Kodou (; "Heartbeat")
16. Red Soil
17. -Rasetsu Koku-
"Hageshisa To, Kono..." was a powerful song for me. When Shinya's drum intro came in, the entire crowd went wild. Despite it being off the new album, which I was not very familiar with, I instantly recognized it, as it was released as a single in 2009.
"Obscure", always a crowd favorite for a Dir En Grey show, came next. I was still only on Die's side of the stage, so I wasn't able to hear Kaoru's rhythm work in the intro very well, but I still enjoyed it. The fast section after the intro was powerful, and Toshiya's bass drove the song's riffs with a heavy low end. The version the played was a hybrid of the original version from 2003's "Vulgar" album (released in 2006 in Europe) and the re-recorded version that appeared as a b-side of the "Lotus" single.
I was pleasantly surprised when the band broke into "Dozing Green" from 2008's "Uroborus", one of my favorite tracks by the band. The unison riff that drives the song was always a strong point for me, and seeing the whole band just push it hit me in the best way.
The audience enjoyed the show. Unsurprisingly there weren't very many people in the crows, probably less than 250. The band IS from Japan, after all, and they haven't had much mainstream success in the US other than a spot in Korn's Family Values tour in 2006. Definitely surprising, however, was the level of energy that the small crowd put out. The only show that I've been two with more energy was a packed Shinedown concert at the 9:30 club. The crowd surprised me by singing along in Japanese to the songs, showing that despite not having a HUGE fanbase in the US, what fanbase exists is extremely loyal. // 10
Overall Impression: The concert took place in Baltimore, Maryland, United States at the Sonar, with Canadian synth-rock band The Birthday Massacre opening. The ticket only cost me 30 dollars which seemed reasonable. But the show was so good that they ended up seeming cheap.
As I said before, "Dozing Green" was a pleasant surprise. I'd listened to the live version from the "Uroborus" DVD many, many times, watched them play it on the DVD and on YouTube over and over. To finally see them play it live, however, was incredible. As soon as the opening synth came in, the entire crowd began to cheer, and when the guitar riff came in full force, the room shook with the weight of the whole crowd jumping up and down. Again, I haven't experienced this since seeing Shinedown at the 9:30 club. But here, instead of a near sold-out show, only about half the room space was used.
It's often said that music is a universal language, and I've always believed it. But never was it more evident than during the opening of "Kodou". It's the last song from 2005's "Withering To Death" album, and the most powerful Dir En Grey song for me.
I had read the English translation of the song, and after reading the second verse, I almost began crying:
"I am addicted to the perceived fate
I am alone I linger on to this fate
Don't kid yourself and don't wound yourself"
I'm not ashamed to admit that I DID begin to cry during the first chorus live. The only Dir En Grey song for which I know the Japanese lyrics, I was screaming along with much of the crowd, jumping up and down, and letting myself get, more than before, completely lost in the music. Everything else aside, even if the show had sucked, this one moment defined the show for me, and because of it I can not deny that I would pay an arm and a leg to see them again.
My only qualm was that they didn't play my absolute favorite song of theirs, "The Final" off of "Withering To Death". It's just as powerful for me as "Kodou", but melodically I like the guitars a little bit more. Still, the surprise of "Kodou" was enough to wash away my disappointment at not hearing "The Final" played live.
At the end of the show, I was still lost in the magic of it. I've never seen a show that touched me like this one did, and it's a night that I know I will never forget. // 9