ends – Live 2005 Total Tone

ends-Live 2005 Total Tone coverends is the solo project of Ryoichi Endo of Soft Ballet, started in 1997, and continuing until the present; it sounds nothing like Soft Ballet, though. He has a magnificent voice, but is unfortunately extremely overlooked and underrated. Musically, it is some sort of rock: I’ve seen the music described as psychedelic and there are elements of that sort of sound; the keyboards have an obvious psychedelic influence, and his older music had a drummer and a percussionist (but no bassist), which adds to that impression. I am terrible at identifying any but the most basic genres, so there are a couple of samples below.

Disc 1 is a show with full band: guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and disc 2 is an unplugged version, with another guitarist instead of a keyboard player. It also has a koto (琴) player on the first few and the last few tracks; she was traditionally dressed on the first few tracks and more casually on the last few. The bonus track is from an unplugged concert in 2004, with a percussionist instead of a drummer, and is at a smaller venue and more truly unplugged. Each show has a different lineup; the 2005 unplugged had no keyboard player, an additional guitarist and koto player, and a different bassist from the first show; the 2004 unplugged had the same bassist as the first show and the same koto player as the 2005 unplugged but different guitarists and percussionist. There were six songs that were performed in both the electric and unplugged shows, and the extra was one of the repeated songs. The unplugged arrangements were enough different from the electric so that wasn’t that big of a deal, but I don’t think “Superior” really needed to be on there three times.

The first disc was not the most exciting concert I’ve ever seen (just five guys on stage), but was enjoyable; he is a very intense singer. The camera angles were a little odd; there was the foot-of-the stage angle, and lots of views of instruments and random body parts. Since ends is a solo project, the focus was on Endo himself, with a microphone in his face most of the time. My first impression was that the bassist got more screen time than the guitarist in the first few songs, but on rewatch, it seems more even. The guitarist was more likely to have focus on his guitar, while the bassist was more likely to be shown completely, though. The drummer got a few closeups, but all I know about the keyboard player was that he had long hair. Some combination of bassist, guitarist, and keyboard player sang backup; a few songs had pre-recorded backing vocals (choruses only); I don’t think the drummer had a microphone for this show, but could be wrong.

The unplugged set was not as unplugged as it could have been; the guitarists had acoustic-electric guitars mostly, and the bassist had a standard electric bass. Everyone had sheet music, and Endo had a stool and was looking in the general direction of the music most of the time, though that could have been just the way he was sitting. A few places, he did seem to be reading. Some combination of one of the guitarists (Shigeo Naka, from the other show), the bassist, and the drummer provided backing vocals for this part; there weren’t many songs with backing vocals, though. I’m generally not a big fan of unplugged-type shows, but did like this; the koto adds a different touch to some of the songs, and there is some gorgeous acoustic guitar in various places. Some of the arrangements are very different from the originals; they are jazzy or loungey or bluesy, and one made me think of some slow southern rock song (the guitar made me think of something like the Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd; it’s a specific song it reminds me of, but I can’t place it).

The bonus track from 2004 looks like it’s a much smaller venue with everyone sitting in a circle except the bassist (off to the side) and is a much more traditionally unplugged performance: acoustic guitars and percussion and I don’t know what sort of bass that was (from something else; he wasn’t really on screen here; am looking for a better picture). The koto was there, but not used in this song.

The bonus track is the only extra; there wasn’t really anything on here beyond the performances themselves. There were no backstage bits, no MCs, no real interaction with the audience; I have a vague impression that the lack of audience interaction is just the way he is, though. That sort of thing is nice, but not necessary, especially since I don’t actually speak the language. The front cover has a fairly abstract (probably not the right word) version of him; there are a few small pictures on the back. The case is clear; the reverse of the cover is the stage, more or less, and there is an insert with lyrics and credits on one side and more pictures and art on the back.

I wish I had listened to him sooner; there are short clips from this on his site, but I wasn’t really impressed by them, and I’d been actively avoiding Soft Ballet for some reason. I finally had a chance to hear full songs and fell in love with his voice; at that time I had an open order for yahoo.jp and there was a reasonably-priced copy of this DVD. His music (at least, this particular sample) is exactly the sort of thing that I like; I wish I could describe it in such a way that others might want to listen to it. It’s a very emotional reaction, and I can’t really say why I like it beyond “it’s the sort of thing that I like”, unfortunately, which is why there are samples (somewhat randomly chosen).

live sample ~saezuri~:

unplugged sample 遠い朝 (with the koto player):

2005.05.06 Shibuya O-East

musicians are
遠藤遼一 (Vo.) Ryoichi Endo
中シゲヲ (G.) Shigeo Naka (The Surf Coasters)
Ju-ken (B.) (support for Tomoyasu Hotei, Anna Tsuchiya, Gackt recently, + many others) (new site)
平井直樹 (Dr.) Naoki Hirai (of oak, support for Boom Boom Satellites, also has worked with Soft Ballet, Monoral, Tomoyasu Hotei, others)
白石元久 (Key.) Motohisa Shiraishi (no site that I could find)

  1. ひまわり (himawari)
  3. ~saezuri~
  4. 市場 (ichiba)
  6. アボリア (APORIA)
  7. すべてに等しく吹きつける風のように (Subete ni hitoshiku fukitsukeru kaze no youni)
  8. 明るい未来 (akarui mirai)
  10. 炎天 (Enten)
  12. 百花繚乱 (hyakkaryouran)
  13. BY THE PEOPLE (encore)
  14. UZU (encore)


2005.04.09 Shibuya O-East

musicians are
遠藤 遼一 (Vo.) Ryoichi Endo
中 シゲヲ (G.) Shigeo Naka
金子 毅 (G.) ?
西山 史晃 (B.) Fumiaki Nishiyama (recently also with rice, Kyosuke Himuro; main site is under construction)
みやざきみえこ (琴-koto) Mieko Miyazaki
平井 直樹 (Dr.) Naoki Hirai

  1. 遠い朝 (tooi asa)
  4. 黒い太陽 (Kuroi taiyou)
  5. 反逆 (hangyaku)
  7. アボリア (APORIA)
  8. 寒風 (kanpuu)
  10. 上昇 (Joushou)
  13. 百花繚乱 (hyakkaryouran)
  14. ハレトケ (HARETOKE)

Disc 2 extra: HI UNPLUGGED 2nd 04
2004.11.16 ラフォーレ原宿

musicians are
遠藤 遼一 (Vo.) Ryoichi Endo
石垣 愛 (G.) Ai Ishigaki (ex MAD CAPSULE MARKETS, dead site; ja.wikipedia says support for Hotei, Maki Ohguru, Demon Kogure, among others)
山崎 淳 (G.) Jun Yamazaki (in 2007 toured with BoA/w-inds/Maki Ohguro; records, arranges, performs with many people)
Ju-ken (B.) (new site)
中島オバヲ (Per.) Obawo Nakajima (name taken from his official site; Obawo is in kanji on the insert) (blog; recently performed with Tokyo organ jazz funk quartet, toured with MAMBABOO; has recorded and toured with many people)

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