Live Nation indisputably had a stroke of genius when they put together the talents of Korean indie act Kiha & The Faces, Thai rock band Slot Machine and Japan’s internationally celebrated samurai guitarist Miyavi for “Asia On Tour.” They had another when they decided to use a small, intimate venue like the Bronze Peacock Room of Houston’s House of Blues, where each entertainer was able to share a connection with every single person in the sold-out audience during the April 15 concert.
KIHA & THE FACES
Kiha & The Faces, fronted by Jang Kiha himself and first up that night, quickly gained the crowd’s favor with their funky style and brilliant sense of humor. While Kiha definitely caught the most attention because of his skilled interactions with the mass of people before him, members Yohei Hasegawa, Lee Minki, Jeong Jungyeop, Lee Jongmin and Jeon Iljun performed beautifully as well. Any concerns they may have held due to the fact that it was their first North American tour were surely shattered as everyone in the room laughed, cheered and sang along under Kiha’s direction. I’d say I hope they had as much fun that night as I did, but it’d be redundant considering how often they were grinning alongside the rest of us.
Fan favorites of the night likely include their self-written and self-produced songs “Mine (내 사람)” and “The Smell’s Gone (빠지기는 빠지더라),” both of which are groovy as hell and encouraged crowd participation following Kiha’s short and humorous sing-along lessons. His extra effort to address the room in English and break down some of the language barriers to their music did not go unnoticed.
Because I understand their lyrics, I can say with confidence that the meanings behind each of their songs are as quirky, relatable and endearing as the members themselves, making the tracks that much nicer. Some in attendance that night probably arrived with little knowledge of the self-proclaimed “psychedelic and folk rock” band, but there’s no doubt that the majority left as loyal fans — myself included.
Following on the heels of Kiha & The Faces, Slot Machine made an incredibly strong entrance. Their bassist, Gak, overflowed with the spirit of rock and roll as he bounded around headbanging for almost the entirety of the set, sometimes so enthusiastically that he inspired a few laughs. Meanwhile, Vit attacked the right side of the stage multiple times with his guitar as he teetered on the edge less than a foot from the adoring crowd. The nonstop screaming seemed to incredibly go up a full decibel when he later decided to jump on top of the speakers with Gak to get even closer to the sea of arms and cell phones.
As Auto held things down on the drums, Foet’s vocals were the cherry on top of the whole performance, carrying both the soft and heavy tunes of their setlist. The experienced band covered a variety of songs, including ones from their recent (and very first) English album, “Spin The World,” and the Houston crowd was evidently feeling it as they fist pumped to the beat. I was overtly sad when it was time to say goodbye, but knowing that Mr. Firebird himself was about to descend upon the stage made it a little easier to bear.
The anticipation pooling in the Bronze Peacock Room was a real, living thing after Slot Machine’s performance came to a close. A true legend in the word of J-rock and an inspiration to countless people around the world, Miyavi’s passion for and experimentation with his craft has earned him an army of longtime fans who jumped at the chance to see him up close. They were not disappointed, as he definitely arrived in Houston ready to deliver.
Within mere minutes of taking to the stage, the illustrious musician was shredding souls with his guitar prowess, and there was zero mercy to be found as he poured his entire being into his craft. Every aspect of his performance confirmed his legendary status as the samurai guitarist, from how he flawlessly commanded the stage to his iconic slap style to his godly (and sometimes deliciously sinister) facial expressions. Miyavi was clearly born to give life to music, and we’re all better off for it.
Emotionally heavy songs like “Long Nights,” “The Others” and “Cry Like This” made appearances — their chord progressions literally reverberating through my bones as they poured through large speakers — and transported everyone in that small, dark room somewhere magical. There’s absolutely nothing in the world like losing yourself in the middle of a concert, hot and sweaty and truly there in the moment surrounded by people who know exactly what that means. Not every artist can achieve this effect, but it’s certainly one they all aspire to.
The international star remains a humble man, however. Between sets, he briefly talked about current political issues, doted on his family and revealed that he feels it’s “really meaningful to be on this tour as an Asian” as “Western and Eastern cultures are getting closer and closer.” No one questioned what he meant when he later added that music made him feel free. It was obvious to everyone there that night, and he made the rest of us feel free in that moment too.
Jodie Davidson is a jack of all trades when it comes to anything creative. While she usually stays behind the scenes, she does break out her pen and camera when something truly moves her. Following her on Instagram is the best way to keep up with her, but she’s also available on Twitter for contact purposes.