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Musical Best Of

As I started visiting more musicals over the past two years, I thought it would be fun to write a Musical Best Of. Musicals I visited so far are listed here. In this post I will only talk about non-Takarazuka musicals as I’ll be giving Takarazuka its own post later.

Tanz der VampireTop 3 favourite musicals
01. Elisabeth. Forever my favourite musical. It’s perfection. I particularly liked the German version I saw, but all of them were brilliant.
02. Tanz der Vampire. Great music, and the musical is funny and touching at the same time.
03. Wicked. Love the story and the music, but especially the decors and costumes!

Most seen musicals
01. Tanz der Vampire. Seen the Antwerp production once, and the German production three times (Stuttgart twice and Berlin once, with a completely different cast every time).
02. Elisabeth. I’ve seen three different productions in three different countries in three different languages: Antwerp in 2009, Tokyo in 2010 and Cologne in 2011. And I am planning to see it many more times..!
03. Wicked and Soldaat van Oranje. I’ve seen two different productions of Wicked in London and the Netherlands, and went to Soldaat van Oranje twice.

Musical disappointment: Rocky over the Rainbow. From what I had heard about this Rocky Horror/Wizard of Oz crossover musical was that it was most of all very funny. Unfortunately, on the day I went to see it there was a snowstorm going on and all traffic and public transport was delayed. Thus, no more than about 30-40 people managed to get to the theatre and it seemed the cast also wasn’t into it at all. A few weeks ago I saw an amateur performance of the same concept, a mix between Rocky Horror and Chicago, and it was infinitely funnier and better performed!

Soldaat van OranjeUnexpectedly Impressive musical: Soldaat van Oranje (‘Soldier of Orange’). This Dutch musical is based on the book (and movie) with the same title. The story is very touching, but more than that: The technique they’ve used for this musical is incredible. The stage was especially designed for this musical, in an old airplane hangar. The stage is circular, and the round block the audience sits turns to reveal different parts of the stage. Also, there is a sea and a beach, with actual sand and water. The actors ride around on old motorbikes, and at the end of the musical the doors of the hangar open and they involve the outside in the musical with a real Dakota airplane! At first I was afraid all of these special effects would be overdoing it, but it worked really well and was very impressive.

Top 3 best music
01. Elisabeth. I can’t stop listening to the music of this musical, in any language.
02. Romeo & Juliette, and I can’t decide if I like the French or… the Russian! version better.
03. Tanz der Vampire.

Top 3 best actors/actresses
01. Annemieke van Dam as Elisabeth in the German production. That voice, that acting! I was really very pleasantly surprised by her, she was a perfect Elisabeth.
02. Yamaguchi Yuichiro. I unfortunately have never seen him in real life, although I had the chance (and now regret I didn’t take it). But this man’s voice is amazing. I love him in Elisabeth, Phantom of the Opera, Tanz der Vampire.. everything. His acting style is very particular, inspired by kabuki and may therefore appear a bit stiff, but amazing nonetheless.
03. Willemijn Verkaik in the Dutch production of Wicked. Love her as Elphaba!

Tanz der Vampire in Stuttgart

In March last year I went on a small pilgrimage to Stuttgart to see the German production of Tanz der Vampire with one of my German homegirls. The moment we arrived in Stuttgart we were greeted by these posters:

Tanz der Vampire Tanz der Vampire

I was impressed by Stuttgart. I had no idea what to expect but the city was beautiful, especially the Schlossplatz.
Stuttgart

So, that evening we headed to the theatre for the show! The area around the theater is really nice by the way, with a shopping mall (with a store selling musical merchandise!) and a cafe with amazing coffee!

Tanz der VampireThis wasn’t the first time I saw Tanz der Vampire, as I was lucky enough to see the Flemish production too. However, the German and Flemish productions differed quite a bit. The Flemish production was much smaller but you could definitely feel the love that was put into it. This was the same in the German production, but it was much more grand, with a larger stage and an orchestra. Both versions however have definitely found their way into my heart!

The music of this German production was amazing. Better than any cast CD I’ve heard. And from a linguaphile point of view German is most definitely the best language to see this musical in. It was simply hilarious, with my favourite lines being Krolock’s sie müssen mir ihr Buch signier’n, und lange lange bleeeeiiiben and Herbert’s das wird gigaaaantisch romaaaaantisch.

In Stuttgart we went to see the production on two consecutive days and got a completely different cast on both days. On Saturday night we got the first cast. Both casts were incredibly good.

Tanz der VampireSaturday cast:
Von Krolock Jan Ammann
Sarah Sabrina Auer
Alfred Krisha Dalke
Professor Abronsius Christian Stadlhofer
Chagal Christoph Leszczynski
Magda Linda Konrad
Herbert Florian Fetterle
Koukol Stefan Büdenbender
Rebecca Jeanne-Marie Nigl

Sunday cast:
Von Krolock Kevin Tarte
Sarah Antje Eckermann
Alfred Tim Edwards
Professor Abronsius Christian Stadlhofer
Chagal Florian Soyka
Magda Linda Konrad
Herbert Florian Fetterle
Koukol Lucas Theisen
Rebecca Jeanne-Marie Nigl

Tanz der Vampire

On Sunday morning we headed out to the theater early for the backstage tour. It was really interesting and fun! Tanz der Vampire involves a lot of technique and it was interesting to see how they did some of the tricks. Also fascinating to see that the bed from Carpe Noctem is really just that: a bed. Pretty amazing! And funny thing: before we went backstage we were given garlic to ‘keep the vampires away’. We weren’t going to need it though, because damn, the garlic smell of the stage was awful haha. I suppose I got my answer to “are you using real garlic in the show?” haha. Another interesting detail: the cast consists of 11 nationalities!

Finally, best piece of merchandise? I think so:
Tanz der Vampire

Best of 2011

I’m a bit late with this year’s Best of. It is extremely difficult to make the 2011 list, since for whatever reason music had a lower priority in the past year and I didn’t listen to as much… And I also didn’t really keep up with the music industry.

Top 3 bands/artists of 2011
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel. Activity! Need I say more?
02. Within Temptation. New album with an interesting concept, and a tour.
03. … I really can’t think of a #3.

Top 5 albums of 2011
01. Yuzuki Reon – Yozora ni nemuru made. I know this is cheating since this is a single and not an album, but I love Chie and this is her solo debut as a music artist, so I couldn’t be happier!
02. Within Temptation – The Unforgiving. I was seriously impressed with this album. They clearly have been experimenting and it worked out great.
03. SID – dead stock. It was great to hear something new from SID. Not my favourite work of theirs ever, but it’s still a fun album.
04. Bløf – Alles Blijft Anders. Love this one.
05. Anouk – To Get Her Together.

Top 3 performances of 2011
01. Yellow Fried Chickenz. I never thought I’d say this, because I have never been a fan of Gackt, but I haven’t had this much fun during a concert in a long time!
02. L’Arc~en~Ciel. I attended their New Year’s concert, so I literally opened 2011 with their music. The concert was amazing, but at the same time a bit of a disappointment (it wasn’t what was promised to the fans) so therefore they’re not number 1…
03. Within Temptation. Great concert, great effects, great hall (excellent acoustics), and I can go on and on.

Best newly (re)discovered band/artist of 2011: Hanson. I still haven’t listened to a lot by them though. But my friend took me to their concert in Amsterdam, and although I hadn’t heard any of their music I had a great time! Very few bands can do this, I think.

Biggest disappointment of 2011: The fact that the L’Arc~en~Ciel concert was not what had been promised to the fans (not 4 hours, and not that special). It was still a great concert, but since I traveled to Japan especially for this concert it was a bit of a bummer…

Artist top 10 of 2011 according to last.fm: (Since 90% were musical artists, I left those out. So only non-musical bands & artists)
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel
02. Within Temptation
03. D’ERLANGER
04. DIR EN GREY
05. B’z
06. ムック
07. HYDE
08. Nightwish
09. シド
10. BUG

Best of 2010

I had a difficult time putting together the list for 2010… I guess the main reason is that somewhere during 2010 my interests shifted from music to musicals. I still listened to a lot of music and visited a ton of concerts, but my focus wasn’t on it entirely. Anyway, I’m keeping musical stuff out of this list, just saying.

Top 3 bands of 2010
01. D’ERLANGER because of their awesome lives and their activities. And they came out with a new CD.
02. B’z. I listened to their music quite a lot this year, and their two concerts in the Fukuoka Dome and Tokyo Dome that I got to see where pretty awesome.
03. VAMPS. I loved them this year, but I also really disliked them at times too… Still, I saw them 5 times within one week haha.

Top 5 albums of 2010
01. MUCC – Karma. Really liked this release, even though it got quite some resistance from fans.
02. Ken – The Party. Ken is awesome as ever. I know it’s just a mini-album but I just had to put it on here.
03. Amy MacDonald – A Curious Thing. Love Amy MacDonald. Her second album is just as good as her first album and didn’t disappoint me!
04. Super Junior – Bonamama. Bonamama is a particularly addictive song.
05. BUG – red trip xtc. The fact that this album made it into my list this year says a lot… I like it okay…ish. I’m a big BUG fan, no scrap that, I’m a big Kyo fan, but this album wasn’t as great as some of their other albums.

Top 3 performances of 2010
01. D’ERLANGER. Both their concerts in Fukuoka were awesome ♥ I had a great time. The setlists were fun, I loved the hall in Fukuoka (yay Drum halls!), we all know Fukuoka fans are great… And to top it off I caught a guitar pick at both shows.
02. B’z. Had a lot of fun at their Fukuoka concert! The atmosphere was really great too, and so was the show. Tokyo was so-so though.
03. Bløf. Very very fun gig in Haarlem.

Best newly (re)discovered band/artist of 2010: I guess Lady Gaga. I knew about her before 2010, obviously, and I won’t say she was the best artist necessarily, but I really enjoy her music a lot. Her songs also the theme music in Nagasaki among our group of exchange students.

Biggest disappointment of 2010: Not being in Nagasaki anymore when acid android and Ken finally came over to Fukuoka for concerts :'(

Artist top 10 of 2010 according to last.fm: (just can’t leave musical artists out here, sorry)
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel
02. シド
03. D’ERLANGER
04. ムック
05. Lady Gaga
06. B’z
07. Plastic Tree
07. 宝塚歌劇団雪組
09. Musical van Vlaanderen
10. Bug

Dans der Vampieren

On October 16th I went to see Tanz der Vampire (Dans der Vampieren) in Antwerp in Belgium.

Dans der Vampieren

It was brilliant! I had heard mixed opinions before, mostly about bad sound, but it wasn’t anything that I was bothered by during the musical. It was the first time I saw this musical though, so I have nothing to compare it to.

With this musical, I just love the combination of it being sort of dark and mysterious yet hilarious. It really helped that the actors were pretty good at the ‘hilarious’ part, especially Sébastien De Smet as Professor Abronsius, and Koukol’s actor (Von Krolock’s assistent, I don’t know who played him since it was an understudy). I also love the plot twist at the end, haha (note: my favourite musical = everyone dies, usually XD).

All the actors were really good singers too, I was honestly impressed. The dancing was good, not always 100% perfect, but not in an annoying way. And some dancers showed real skill, especially all the lifts and almost acrobatic dancing in some parts of the musical.

So although not all aspects seperately were perfect, everything combined it was awesome, fun and sometimes even very emotional. I LOVED THIS MUSICAL, THE END.

After the show, two of the actors were doing a singing session (Frank Hoelen (Chagal) and Niels Jacobs (Alfred)), and I decided to get my stuff signed (programme book, cd and ticket). I’m never really excited about signing sessions (for various reasons) but this one was fun. They were really sweet and funny, and really took a lot of time to talk a bit and make the signature personal :) Altogether it cheered me up immensely and I’m thankful for that!

Dans der Vampieren

Lucky!

I never, ever win prizes. With anything. Never. But look what arrived on my doorstep this morning…

Solferino

Won the Solferino DVD by filling in the TCA Press survey ♥

Best of 2009

With New Year’s being only 15 minutes away where I am (Japan), here’s my Best of 2009!

Top 3 bands of 2009
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel. They released their Live in Paris dvd this year, and all their solo projects were very active and amazing as well!
02. D’erlanger. New album, and from what I have heard their show in the NHK Hall in Tokyo in November was amazing too (and is probably gonna be made into a dvd if I got this right!)
03. MUCC. Lots of activity overseas, as well as a new album, as well as being just plain amazing lately!

Top 5 albums of 2009
This was seriously difficult. I know throughout the year I felt there wasn’t enough new music released by artists I like, but looking back there was plenty. Very good stuff too! That’s why I decided to not make this a top 3 like in previous years, but instead a top 5.
01. Ken – In Physical. When this was just released I had doubts about it, but it grew on me and now I absolutely absolutely love it.
02. D’erlanger – D’ERLANGER. This was one of the albums I was really looking forward to from the moment I heard about the release. I wasn’t disappointed. It has a bit of a different vibe from D’erlanger’s previous two albums but I’m in love with this album.
03. シド – hikari. I was very disappionted in the previous two albums, play and Sentimental Macchiato, so for the first time I decided to not pre-order this new album when it came out. Until a friend said this album was great, I didn’t listen to it either. But it ended up being amazing, exactly what I like to hear from シド!
04. Vamps – Vamps. Only 4th place for Vamps this time. I definitely like their album, the only reason it’s only 4th place is because I like places 1 to 3 just a little better.
05. B’z – Magic. In all honesty, this album was once again the same style as Monster and Action and not all that unique. But looking at it seperately I think it’s a great album and I really enjoy it!

Top 3 performances of 2009
01. This is cheating because it’s an event, but… Jack in the Box 2009! A lot of my favourite artists together on one event, the session bands… everything was just perfect. I loved all the performances (minus Zoro, don’t care about them), and especially seeing Ken live was a lot of fun.
02. VAMPS on September 5th. I had an arena ticket for this show, and in the Budokan you can simply rock out more when you’ve got an arena ticket, so that helped a lot. The show was kick-ass!
03. BUG on September 25th. They had shows on two consecutive days, and during the first day they played songs mostly from the first half of their discography. On the second day, the 25th, they played songs from the latter half of their discography and because I really love that part of their discography I was very very happy! Amazing setlist, amazing atmosphere, great show!

Best newly (re)discovered band/artist of 2009:
01. BUG
02. heidi.
03. Da endorphine

Biggest disappointment of 2009: None really. Maybe the fact that not so many (interesting) artists came to the Netherlands (when I was there), or the fact that I’m now living in Nagasaki which is far away from all the good concerts haha.

Looking forward to in 2010: L’Arc~en~Ciel solo projects. Looks like all of them are going to be active with concerts (and possible releases) and I want to catch as many of them as possible! Also, right now I’m really looking forward to the two D’ERLANGER concerts I will be attending in February in Fukuoka.

Artist top 10 of 2009 according to last.fm:
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel
02. D’ERLANGER
03. HYDE
04. ギルガメッシュ
05. VAMPS
06. Dir en grey
07. B’z
08. BUG
09. Ken
10. シド

Best of 2008

Top 3 bands of 2008
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel. They’ve released some cool singles this year and they had their TOUR 2008 L’7 ~Trans ASIA via PARIS~ tour (major bonus points there).
02. D’erlanger. Their new album the price of being a rose is loneliness is awesome, they did a tour in Japan (which I attended two concerts of) and released a new DVD.
03. VAMPS. I always find it difficult to pick a third place, but I chose them because they are considered an “new and upcoming” (lol) band. They released a single and had a huge tour (that I attended two concerts of). Good year for them!

Top 3 albums of 2008
01. D’erlanger – the price of being a rose is loneliness. Awesome album. I loved Lazzaro but this album is even better!
02. 雅-miyavi- – 雅~This Iz The Japanese Kabuki Rock~. I am not too interested in him, I just occasionally like his works, but this album was absolutely brilliant.
03. ムック – 志恩. Simply a good album, even though I don’t care for MUCC a whole lot.

Top 3 performances of 2008
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel in Paris. Their first concert in Europe and it was amazing. They played really well, interacted with the audience, played lots of awesome songs and the atmosphere was great. Everything about this concert was just perfect.
02. D’erlanger in Tokyo. Maybe not the most amazing concerts ever, but really good. Rock music as it should be.
03. Within Temptation in Haarlem. They manage to make something different and amazing out of every show, and they did this again during their Theater Tour.

Best newly discovered band/artist of 2008:
01. Amy Macdonald
02. Monoral
03. lynch.

Biggest disappointment of 2008: Dir en grey, again. With Uroboros they’ve scattered my last bit of hope of them ever releasing something decent anymore.

New category! Biggest failure of 2008: X Japan, without doubt. Theyir blunders with the overseas concerts are unbelievable.

Looking forward to in 2009: Activity from L’Arc~en~Ciel (at least they said they’ll be releasing stuff), new releases and activity from their solo projects… Many more interesting releases from other artists, hopefully some interesting shows in the Netherlands…

Artist top 10 of 2008 according to last.fm
01. L’Arc~en~Ciel
02. D’erlanger
03. シド
04. Hyde
05. Plastic Tree
06. Dir en grey
07. ギルガメッシュ
08. ムック
09. B’z
10. Anouk

[Live report] L’Arc~en~Ciel TOUR 2008 L’7~Trans ASIA via PARIS~

On May 9th, the day of the concert, we arrived at Le Zenith around 11:00. After a looooong wait, sometime after 18:00 if I remember correctly, the doors finally opened and we ran inside. Went right for merch and seats, and we got us great spots in the center, around stage-height. Got us some more merch, waited some more, did ‘the wave’ a couple of times with the whole audience which was very amusing, then a little after 20:00 the show finally started!

Setlist
01. get out from the shell -asia version-
02. Driver’s High
03. Killing Me
04. DRINK IT DOWN
05. DAYBREAK’S BELL
06. winter fall
07. 花葬
08. My Dear
09. forbbiden lover
10. MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM
11. Caress of Venus
12. REVELATION
13. SEVENTH HEAVEN
14. Pretty girl
15. STAY AWAY -member change version-
16. READY STEADY GO
17. NEO UNIVERSE
18. HONEY
19. Link
20. あなた

larcstageThey opened with get out from the shell, and we could only see their silhouettes for the first bit of the song. And I cried my eyes out, which didn’t happen at either of the Japanese lives I went to, it was a big explosion of emotions from the past months. But this live just felt like the first time I saw them, it was just so amazing. Describing it in words doesn’t do it justice at all. The audience was also many sorts of awesome (although I don’t know what the pit was like and the photographing sucked pretty badly :/) and was jumping and cheering and singing along during the whole concert. I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic (and varied) audience ever before.

During Driver’s High everyone was jumping and shouting along the “clash!” and “flash!” bits.

DRINK IT DOWN was awesome to hear live and the light effects were cool. After DRINK IT DOWN Hyde did an MC in French. When he started talking, nobody quite understood what he was saying and most of the audience stayed quiet. Hyde’s puzzled look at that was sort of endearing, haha. He continued in French, something about how he loved to meet French girls XD; And how the show was broadcasted in Japan (in 5 cinemas).

I loved hearing songs like winter fall, 花葬 and forbidden lover. Those are the songs I used to listen to on repeat a few years ago, and they are still some of my favourites to hear. Especially forbidden lover sounded great live, the drums were awesome!

My Dear was just overall sort of cute. Ken was playing keyboard for most of the song and the whole sounded really beautiful.

I was happy to hear MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM since it had been stuck in my head during most of Paris, haha. The song started out with a long and awesome Ken solo, it was amazing!

Caress of Venus was awesome as ever! Everybody was jumping during the song.

Same for REVELATION, everybody was shouting along and jumping. This song is always so amazing live! After REVELATION Ken was doing an MC, also in French. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but there was some stuff about French food and they showed pictures of the French food, him with the French food and him at one of those tacky souvenir stalls XD

SEVENTH HEAVEN started with a lot of power and they were shooting the silver stuff into the air again. Unfortunately a little bit into the song Ken got hurt and they stopped the song, Hyde said “sorry” and they went off-stage. I’m still not sure what happened exactly and I didn’t see it happen until he was sitting on the ground. Some say he tripped over something, some say he hurt his arm or his finger….. After about 10 minutes they got back on stage, the audience had waited patiently. Ken apologised: “I had to go to the toilet. A big one and a small one. Three times!” HILARIOUS. Thank you Ken! After that they started playing SEVENTH HEAVEN from the start. I think both the band and the audience had some problem getting back into the concert atmosphere but everyone did a good job and the song turned out awesome and energetic anyway.

Then… Pretty Girl. Couldn’t stop laughing. The band was really cheerful and everyone was jumping and shouting along. Ken was teasing the audience.

After Pretty Girl they played STAY AWAY and all of the members were singing. Tetsu’s part was good, then Ken started and halfway he simply dumped his guitar and was being an awesome yet funny vocalist. Then it was Yukihiro’s turn, Ken took over the drums and Yukihiro seemed a bit shy as always but he did an awesome job.

READY STEADY GO got the reaction I had expected of the audience, everybody turned super active (even more than during most of the concert), shouting along, jumping.

Then NEO UNIVERSE, which is one of my and Suuziej’s “special songs”, so we were reeeaaally happy! The intro was a bit different but the performance was awesome. They used one of those disco balls to create light effects. When I saw the disco ball coming down I initially thought they would play Jojoushi, but it suited NEO UNIVERSE really well.

HONEY and Link followed, both awesome songs but I don’t have too much to say about it. Tetsu did a short MC, saying “Do you want to eat my banana?” in French, then threw two banana’s into the audience. Ken got his hands on a camera and filmed the audience.

The last song was あなた, Hyde asked the audience to sing along. As soon as the song started I got sad because the concert was almost over. But the song was really beautiful and although it was difficult most people tried to sing along. It was a beautiful end of the concert, but I was a bit surprised to see the band leave the stage quite quickly.

Some other things that happened but I can’t remember when: Hyde (tried to) licked Tetsu’s bass. Yukihiro did a very short but adorable MC in French. His pronunciation is quite good! During one song, Hyde suddenly disappeared from the stage… turned out he jumped into the audience.

Overall, Ken was definitely the star of the show. He was interacting with the audience a lot (all of them were, btw), his MC’s were funny and he had a huge smile on his face basically all the time. Tetsu looked really tired, and he only seemed more active near the end of the concert. Yukihiro was a bit shy as always. And Hyde gave off this huge Johnny Depp vibe, especially during MCs. The style of the concert gave me a pirate-y feeling, with Hyde’s outfit and the decor and everything.

This concert was definitely the best I ever went to ♥