The backstreets of the Shibuya district in Tokyo were hustling with life on this Friday night in May 2015, and people on the streets between the cluster of live venues and clubs were certainly in the mood to dance off the stress of the week. Those who chose one of the bigger venues, namely TSUTAYA O-EAST, were blessed with the performance of JUNO REACTOR, who had last been in Japan nearly two years ago.


A performance of JUNO REACTOR can be imagined like leaving this world and stepping into a strangely surreal piece of art; a very international piece of art nonetheless. For the shows in Japan front-man Ben Watkins had gathered Mali Mazal as his dancer and background percussionist and Taja Devi with her beautifully enticing voice as the vocalist. All the while, Budgie on drums and Leonard Eto on Taiko drums were perfection in the percussion department, giving each song so much rhythmical depth that it seemed impossible not to move along.


With their return to Japan, JUNO REACTOR was also reunited with guitarist SUGIZO of Japanese rock band LUNA SEA, who added his very own touches to the splendid sound that night.

The crowd dove into the sound fully and cheered for every new song the moment it began, before falling into the rhythm and dancing to heavy beats and hypnotising arrangements. Starting the set with “Conquisitador #1 & #2”, each song told its own story and Taja’s vocals lured the audience deeper into the world of those stories, while Mali danced along the stage, or added another twists with her own set of drums. Ben, on the other hand took on the role of the narrator of the stories he had created and guided the audience, as if he was the only one connection to the outer-worldliness he had opened the door to.


SUGIZO from 5/19 @ Osaka Big Cat


Yet, at the same time there was much familiarity in the oriental sounds of some songs and the appeal of rock-music, that was strongly backed by SUGIZO’s guitar play, in tracks like “God is God”, which also had a quite worldly message to it.

“In the lights down low,” Ben whispered, “In the darkness we discovered that we needed something other than god; some demons to hang around with. And now we have more politicians than we can deal with.”

“Zombie” went back to the more surreal themes of the night, with ghostly creatures dancing on stage, before Budgie and Leonard engaged in a fantastic and on-point drum session. Starting out with the lower sounds of the smaller Japanese drums, the set grew into a firework of beats that swallowed the hall at once and wasn’t letting go of anyone.


Thereafter, it was SUGIZO’s turn to shine, and Ben granted him the spotlight, which the guitarist humbly took for his fans.

“I’ve had enough of the voodoo feeling, I want some of that guitar feeling!! He owes me 24 months of guitar sound.” Ben introduced his companion on stage, who he had ever so often joined with his own guitar during that night. SUGIZO teased with frighteningly short guitar riffs that, however, in no way, seemed enough for anyone really.


SUGIZO from 5/19 @ Osaka Big Cat


“If you love this man,” Ben pointed at SUGIZO, “let me hear you scream,” he demanded and the audience complied with enthusiasm, clearly making “Ingonyama” and “Hotaka” all about the guitars. Hands in the air, the crowd danced away and the show on stage was nearing its climax at a rapid pace.The final track of the main set was “Pistolero” and combined the trance and techno elements that had been prominent throughout the night, with a Western guitar.


SUGIZO from 5/19 @ Osaka Big Cat

“Will you be my pistolero?!” Ben asked the crowd and eventually engaged them in call-and-response chants of “yeah” and had them clap to the beat that was getting more and more intense. With a final call, the band finished off the set and disappeared for a moment, only to be demanded back on stage instantly by the audience.


Budgie and Leonard were the first to return on stage and entertained the crowd with their percussion until the rest of the group joined them for the last two songs of the night. Both “Final frontier” and “Masters of the universe” took a step away from the oriental sounds that had been incorporated in many of the songs during the first half of the show, and came strong with a very futuristic touch.

“One heart,
One love,
One soul.

I thank you all for coming tonight!”

Ben addressed the audience as the last track drew to a close much faster than one could have asked for, and it was time to bid farewell for JUNO RECTOR and their audience. Amidst applause and cheers, all of the musicians gathered at centre stage and bowed to their Tokyo crowd, finalising the show and begrudgingly sending everyone back to reality.

“Good night! See you on the dark side of the moon!” – Ben.


SUGIZO from 5/19 @ Osaka Big Cat

Set List
Conquisitador #1 & #2
Biot Messiah
Mona Lisa overdrive
God is God
Drum session / Budgie and Leonard
Conga fury

Final frontier
Masters of the universe

PHOTO: Kotaro Manabe
TEXT: Joana