DIR EN GREY, OPIATE FOR THE MASSES
at the Wiltern LG, March 23
It was about time Japanese rock got some new hype, and a dressed-up, dressed-down mob of fans and trendies, moms and daughters, Asians and Anglos raised their devil horns to augment the shrieking gale that’s been driving Dir En Grey.
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If not the orgasmic apotheosis suggested by PR lore, the lank-tressed rockers (established stars in Nippon) scored points for originality or at least well-cobbled thievery. Gothy jangle and metalcore polka blasts, tedious in themselves, took on new sheen when slammed tight together. A distant appreciation for Prince-era funk built a strange bridge to startlingly offbeat rhythms. The melodies were hard and simple. Not many bands can make you flash on Alice Cooper, System of a Down, Boredoms, Led Zeppelin and Cher.
Best, Dir En Grey have got a god in front — Kyo, a glowering little Iggy with a puff of saffron hair whose twisting hands, gleaming abdomen and harsh screamelodics overshadowed his bandmates’ more standardly postured glam. He spat blood; he writhed tortuously; he delivered his message as clearly as if he were singing in English: It’s aaallll fuuuucked uuuppp! Nonstop intensity. Which actually got a little wearying.
Phoenix’s Opiate for the Masses dealt an opening set of anthemic heavy rock a la Marilyn Manson. First comer in the bare-chest pageant, singer Ron Underwood shot for Billy Idol stature but attained only dashboard-Jesus level. More fun was drummer Elias Mallin, a grinning all-arms maniac who tossed sticks with theatrical perfection while laying down a dynamic Tommy Lee slog. They were okay.