Madison Square Garden went dark ten minutes ago, and the crowd hasn’t stopped screaming since. The only clue to the headlining act’s imminent arrival is an ominous synth line emanating from the arena’s speaker system.
Suddenly an image flashes across the giant screen, a digital rendering of what looks like a cell phone screen displaying the word “callin.” More screaming. Then light floods the stage, revealing the four-man band, and decibels double as the music begins. It’s the happiest death metal you’ve ever heard, an improbable mix of Metallica’s heady guitar riffs and U2’s optimistic vocals, with a dollop of anime-inspired lyrics for good measure.
“Calling the fallen angel!” bellows the lead singer, long blond braids swirling like a leprechaun Medusa as he skips blithely across the stage. “Starting now, let’s play tag!”
The group that whipped a near-sellout crowd at the Garden into such a frenzy Sunday night is called L’Arc-en-Ciel, and it’s most likely the richest band you’ve never heard of. With 15 million albums sold worldwide, the group is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with an international excursion that includes the headlining gig at MSG, the first ever for a Japanese act.
By the time L’Arc-en-Ciel winds down its tour in Tokyo later this year, they will have played 17 shows for a total audience of half a million people around the world. For their five shows in Japan, they’ll get over $100 per ticket on average—same as Lady Gaga—and about half that in other parts of the world. When you add in merch and album sales, the band should earn close to $20 million for a few months of work.
“We wanted to do something special to commemorate our 20th anniversary, that’s why we decided to go on a world tour,” said the lead singer, who goes by Hyde, through an interpreter days before the MSG show. An eight-figure payout certainly didn’t dissuade them.
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