In front of the isolated club 1720 E. 16th Street, in the downtown industrial section of Los Angeles, a line forms early. People are there for a sold-out show featuring Japanese heavy metal singer HYDE. Devout fans began arriving early in the morning and stood in the rain for hours, waiting for the doors to open shortly after 7pm. The crowd is mainly made up of music fans of Japanese descent, who were ecstatic when they finally made their way to the front of the stage.

HYDE – songwriter, producer, and accomplished actor – was in the United States on a national tour, promoting his new solo album, 'Anti’ – although he is best known as lead vocalist for the heavy metal bands L’arc-en-Ciel and the Vamps. L’arc-en-Ciel was the first Japanese band to headline Madison Square Garden in 2012. HYDE has released eight solo singles and five albums alongside this, including his newest one.

The latest tour is a return to his heavy metal roots for HYDE. Tonight’s 16 song setlist features songs sung mostly in English. In a recent interview, he revealed that he finds it hard to sing in English, but he wanted to connect better with his English-speaking audience, so he’s making an effort. Backed by a four-piece metal band, the charismatic singer mesmerizes the crowd with his stage antics, with a multimedia smorgasbord of lighting effects.

The singer's vocals range from soft, melodic lines to ear piercing screams, reminiscent of German metal bands (nearly an entire album of Rammstein songs was played before the group took the stage). HYDE's music seems to visit some of the same musical territories as iconic German bands such as Rammstein. But HYDE's music also includes many other rock genres. The thunderous set features several singles HYDE has released over the last eight months, including two in collaboration with X Japan’s Yoshiki. Last year, Yoshiki played his own well-received sets at the prestigious Coachella festival.

Lasers flash, a sea of cell phones glitter. The tightly-packed audience sway in euphoric harmony. Sweaty fans are left screaming for more as HYDE leaves the stage for the final time. It seems that Japanese rock is alive an well in Southern California.

Photos by L. Paul Mann

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