On the 9th of June, also known in Japan as “Rock Day”, LUNA SEA’s SUGIZO and INORAN held a live event project, titled SUGIZO vs INORAN PRESENTS BEST BOUT 2021～L2/5～, which both solo projects performed against each other. This was the third one of the popular series events, which started on 9 June 2016, and the previous two events were whirlwinds of excitement at the mid-sized venues but due to the COVID-19 disaster, this was the first live-streaming event with no audience. The talented artist Tsunahisa Ogino was invited as a guest, and he took on the challenge of experimenting with live painting during SUGIZO and INORAN’s performances. The three artists shared the whole stage, and the energetic music and painting came together to create a single art space and an evolution of the “best bout”.
Each stage was set up facing each other at both ends of the floor, with Ogino’s huge canvas in the middle. Opening the event was SUGIZO’s first attack with Nova Terra from the latest album Love & Tranquility (2020) with the band COSMIC DANCE QUARTET. With the mystical images of Yakushima Island in the background, he played his ambient guitar, which overlapped with the sound of water. Ogino, who had been standing like meditating, surrendered himself to the world of sounds for a while before picking up a brush and began to paint.
From the second song, titled IRA, onwards, SUGIZO’s inner rage was unleashed in a fierce tune, and under the direction of light that makes full use of images, lighting, and laser beams, a non-stop performance up to NO MORE NUKES PLAY THE GUITAR. Percussionist Kenji Yoshiura’s use of everything from kagura bells to djembe was a testament to SUGIZO’s multinational musicianship. And along with VJ ZAKROCK’s beautiful and meaningful images, SUGIZO’s anti-nuclear, anti-war and other social messages were conveyed. Ogino’s movements became more dynamic as the music played, and he even painted directly with his hands instead of using a brush. On the live-streaming screen, the images of SUGIZO and Ogino were overlapped, and the images on the screen at the back of the venue were further emphasized and added to, visualizing the clash of souls and the rising heat that was being generated in the venue.
Without changing each stage set, the camera panned across the stage into the first part of INORAN, who were standing face to face. The way of changing their turns wouldn’t have been possible in a live house with an audience, and it was the most of the advantages of streaming. In contrast to SUGIZO, INORAN sang the first song Hard Right in a dark space with no visuals and only a simple spotlight, wearing headphones.
On this day, the guitar and all other sounds except for INORAN’s singing were played by Yukio Murata (MY WAY MY LOVE), a close friend of INORAN’s solo project. The two faced each other, sometimes shouting, sometimes dancing, and the show unfolded vividly and freely. The entire setlist was taken from his latest album Between The World And Me (2021) and his previous album Libertine Dreams (2020). On Don’t Bring Me Down with its aggressive beat, Ogino shook himself as he painted, and performed like throwing paint with his hands in a vigorous action. Music and painting may have different methods, but the vibes between the artists were firmly linked. The phoenix and the dragon, the motifs of ‘Best Bout’, were gradually revealed in real-time by Ogino’s hand.
The moment the dragon’s eye was finally drawn, the atmosphere was suddenly changed. The whole thing was as thrilling as witnessing a documentary.
After INORAN closed his part.1 with Shaking Trees, the camera turned to SUGIZO’s side. The first song of SUGIZO Part.2, Zessai (絶彩) is a doped dub number featuring Kyo (DIR EN GREY, sukekiyo) on vocals, but this time SUGIZO played the main melody on violin, and MaZDA (manipulator) played the guitar wildly. The stage was filled with a variety of laser lights, creating a magical beauty. Ogino’s ongoing colourful painting on a pitch-black canvas seemed to be a visualization of the song’s image. Starting with a video of a woman wearing a hijab praying on the song ENOLA GAY RELOADED, and SUGIZO was waving around a flag. Although all the songs were instrumental and there were no lyrics to explain them, the words of SAVE SYRIA, SAVE MYANMAH and SAVE PALESTINE were projected on the screen to clearly show SUGIZO’s commitment to the people of the world who are suffering from oppression.
INORAN kicked off his Part 2 with Purpose. It was a ballad from the album Libertine Dreams, which INORAN wrote entirely by himself during the stay-home period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a song of fundamental depth that quietly questions the meaning of life. INORAN sang expressively with his hands like wandering in the air, and Murata’s bluesy guitar solo was melancholy and touching.
After Soul Aint For Sale, INORAN switched to a hand mic and made himself higher. The painting of the phoenix and the dragon was nearing completion and Ogino looked comfortable painting on the rhythm. At times he made eye contact with INORAN and smiled as he painted. The last song, Leap of Faith, was a duet with a female vocalist who was not on stage. The ending left a lingering impression of the song’s melancholy tone, but also of his determination to take off into the future.
On the very last song of the event titled 2050, which was written by INORAN and arranged by SUGIZO as the closing theme of the event, they played together. SUGIZO said, “Did you enjoy the battle royal of love between INORAN, SUGIZO and Ogino? The song was composed with hopes and prayers for the future after the pandemic”. After the words of “May this planet find true peace and relief ……” by SUGIZO, they played facing each other, SUGIZO on violin and INORAN on guitar for the first time that day. Ogino slid his hands on the canvas, receiving the vibe of the two performers on his back.
At the end of the show, SUGIZO and INORAN, who were standing at a distance from each other in the venue, looked as if they were facing each other up close, and Ogino was standing behind them, and finally, the three of them were on the streaming screen. Even if you are far away from each other, art, such as music and painting, has the power to connect people with each other. Best Bout 2021 is a live event that reminds us of this and is also groundbreaking as a new hybrid art form that transcends the boundaries of live music.