Chapter 14 ~ 2004
It's time to raise your voice
2004 started by announcing Laruku would be coming back with a new single titled "READY STEADY GO" on February 4th. This new song, by tetsu, was upbeat and just what the band needed for an energetic comeback. The most noticable change was hyde's voice, noticably more mature and lower now. Nonetheless, the energy in this song got fans excited all over again since Shibuya 7 days.
Even though L'Arc~en~Ciel was now officially "back", the members, except tetsu, still had some business with their solo careers. HYDE started his first 666 tour, which had 20 stops including 2 at Nippon Budoukan. This tour ended on March 17th, and even included a few guest appearances by sakura! SOAP was keeping busy with another BUBBLE FESTiVAL, in which acid android made an appearance on February 21st. acid android also played "acid android in an alcove vol. 4" once again on February 28th, signalling that this will probably continue to be an annual event.
March 3rd was the second new Laruku single, "hitomi no juunin". Again, penned by tetsu, this was a very beautiful ballad, much like his previous songs "Pieces" and "anata". hyde was able to showcase his new skills, reaching higher notes than ever before.
It was the album SMILE, released on the last day of March, that really excited fans however. Including their old song "Spirit dreams inside" from 2001, and 7 new tracks, fans met with a reborn L'Arc~en~Ciel, more confident than ever before. Even though this album was unable to reach #1, it was only because Utada Hikaru decided to release her single collection on the same day. Nonetheless, Laruku proved themselves to be prepared to take on the future.
The releases kept coming. DANGER CRUE, currently hosting SOAP and acid android, as well as being the band's former label, released a tenth anniversary edition of the classic "DUNE", with three extra bonus tracks: "yokan" (from an omnibus album), and both songs from the "Floods of tears" single, all entirely remastered. The result was a real treat for fans of their earlier works.
Meanwhile, the band was starting up SMILE TOUR 2004, beginning on May 11th, ending on June 24th. The band played 16 shows in all, and debuted P'UNK~EN~CIEL as well, another part change band like D'ARK~EN~CIEL. P'UNK played rockier versions of "milky way" and "Round and Round" throughout much of the tour. Also, a new song, "jiyuu e no shoutai", was played at many stops. The band even played "yokan" a few times, due to DUNE recently being re-released, the only indies-era song they had played in since 1996.
It was only a short wait, June 21st, until the band released some new material. The next item was the single for "jiyuu e no shoutai", once again created by tetsu. It of course reached #1 on the Oricon chart, like all of their past singles since "winter fall". The c/w was a P'UNK~EN~CIEL version of "milky way".
Still busy, the band relentlessly participated in "THE ROCK ODYSSEY 2004" event. This concert was on two days, 7/24 and 7/25, and featured many rock artists from Japan and other countries (mostly America). L'Arc~en~Ciel performed a set of mostly SMILE songs.
Also, Tofu Records, a record company based in California, took the liberty of releasing SMILE in America, with the bonus track "READY STEADY GO (hydeless version)". This started a small L'Arc~en~Ciel boom, which exploded when Tofu Records announced that they would be bringing L'Arc~en~Ciel over to America for a performance in Baltimore, Maryland at OTAKON2004 at the end of July. A real American release of "Clicked Singles Best 13" was also put out by Tofu later on. It seemed Tofu was doing a better job of gaining American support for Laruku than Sony had managed a few years earlier.
The concert itself was held at First Mariner Arena, right next to where the convention was held. To attend the concert, you would have to purchase a pass to Otakon for that Saturday. But many fans, from around the world, were able to do so in time to see their favorite band play for the first time in America.
Before all this, however, SOAP had strangely released their first single, "Paradise", on July 7th. It appears as though ken will try working both in Laruku as well as SOAP, simultaneously. SOAP also released their first PV collection titled "ICHIBAN-BLOW".
As July 31st drew closer, fans became overwhelmed with excitement and anxiety. But when it was all said and done, the concert was a success and fans walked away happy. The setlist contained mostly SMILE tracks, as well as old classics like "HONEY", "Driver's High", "Blurry Eyes", and the closing song "Pieces". The band did MCs in English as well, though significantly shorter and less perverted than their usual Japanese ones. They consisted of hyde asking the crowd if they had eaten crabs (since Maryland is known for its crabs), and ken coming out in a dolphin mask asking the crowd if they knew who he was. tetsu also did his usual "Do you want to eat my bananas?" bit.
After the concert, L'Arc~en~Ciel seemed to lay low for awhile, though rumors spread like wildfire among foreign fans concerning more concerts in America. It was, oddly, HYDE who would be headlining after the concert. Not only would he be starring in a new movie titled "kagen no tsuki ~ LAST QUARTER", but he'd have a few more releases as well. "ROENTGEN STORIES", on November 3rd, a collection of PVs from his three ROENTGEN singles plus one of "SECRET LETTERS".
Also on the HYDE front, an entirely English version of "ROENTGEN", appropriately titled "ROENTGEN.english", was released October 14th. It contains the original ten ROENTGEN songs, now in English, plus the three English ensembles that appeared as b-sides to his singles. The limited edition included a DVD containing the PV for "THE CAPE OF STORMS", influenced by his work in "kagen no tsuki".
After the thunderous first half of the year, in which the band released three singles and an album, the latter half was fairly quiet. After the performance in America, the band remained quiet, except for releasing various photobooks and such. Many goods were released for HYDE's "kagen no tsuki" movie in September, and S.O.A.P. announced the release of "S.S.J.B.F", a live DVD of their "SUPER SUMMER JUMBO BUBBLE FESTiVAL" performance at Nippon Budoukan on August 30th. The release to stores would not be until March 26th of 2005 however.
Finally, in December, the band re-emerged. The "LIVE IN U.S.A." DVD was released on December 4th, bringing the entire concert onto DVD. DANGER CRUE held another live on Christmas day, called "DANGER III". Among the performers were SOAP, acid android, and TETSU69, just like last year. But by far the biggest performance was by P'UNK~EN~CIEL, who played "milky way".
Also debuted at the show were two new songs from the band's upcoming single, "Killing Me", to be released in January of 2005. P'UNK~EN~CIEL, after "milky way", played the c/w song "Round and Round 2005 feat. P'UNK aoki", which, as the title indicates, features comedian and host of the TV show "Music Fighter", Aoki Sayaka. After this performance, P'UNK~EN~CIEL reformed into L'Arc~en~Ciel and they finished the night with their first live performance of "Killing Me".
With this performance of the songs from the upcoming "Killing Me" single, 2004 ended with fans in high hopes for the future of the band. Now that they'd been back together for a whole year, they had collected themselves as a group once again and were looking to start the new year strong.