Posted in Music, Review

Let’s get the UTAGE started~

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I’ve been an Arashian for over seven years now but i don’t think i’ve ever dedicated a post for the group or members’ big days. Not that i don’t want to, but creativity isn’t my best trait, ha. So, while this still isn’t a birthday post, i decided to post Arashi-related thing on the youngest’s natal date month =)

Which will be about 2015’s Japonism Live Tour whose DVDs/Blu-rays were finally released last Wednesday. This may end up a pretty appropriate topic since 1) Jun is the concert master, and 2) The album/tour’s concept mirrors that of birthday: to retrospect to the beginning, to who we are, to where we are now, to see how far we’ve come. Here, they mean it in terms of Japanese and JE’s music. Sections of folk instruments are therefore added to the live band. That’s why they’re covering their daisenpai’s song and it’s such an honor to have Higashiyama-senpai perform the song with them on stage.

Now, i’m pretty consistent with reviewing Arashi’s latest music releases yet am terrible at reviewing concerts. Because concert in itself is an experience that’s hard to translate into words. For me, at least. Because there are so many highlights or moments in the three-hour show it’s hard to pick a few and not discuss everything. Nevertheless, i’ll cover those appealing to me the most, or worth noting, or i’d like to comment on.

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Entrance 

Like how first impression matters, how performing artists make their grand entrance lays the first stone for the greatness or memorableness of the concert. Technically, the show’s opener was the opening clip, but oftentimes i could barely focus on it as my mind was fixated on when, where, and how my favorite people would emerge from behind the stage.

The animated clip was interesting — their modern selves time-traveling and coming face to face with their medieval selves — though the entrance ain’t extraordinary — them coming into view following a curtain drop. It still made my heart skip a beat, mind you, but it won’t make it to my favorites list. Not when there’s flying across Kokuritsu, descending from the sky via a chopper in Hawaii, or jumping down the stage’s top then jumping out from five different spots like a magician in Miyagi to beat.

Opening Song

Goes hand in hand with the entrance. I might not remember the last song their sang, but i’d recall the first song, provided it’s impactful enough. Here, they start with Sakura, which definitely got the adrenaline pumping, though i’d put Kokoro no sora instead. Upon listening to the album, i believed the folk-rock number would make a perfect concert opener; the live’s rendition only corroborated my stance. Everything about it was perfection: the vibe, energy, visuals, pyrotechnics, outfits. Placing it at the two-hour mark made it the high point of Japonism Live Tour. I still felt the what-coulda-been, but i’m simply pleased to finally see and hear the rap part live; i’ve been waiting for it since the medley performance on Music Station which skipped the rap.

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Taste of Japonism

The tour’s theme was “genten kaiki” (returning to one’s roots) whereas the goal was to have us experience Japanese and Johnny’s brand of entertainment through music, which they humbly wished us to fully enjoy. This welcoming introduction bit was delivered right after Sakura ended, which was a different touch since we usually heard the first hello during their customary greetings. With that, the themed concert kicked off with Miyabi-night, one of the album tracks most laden with traditional sounds, followed by Wild at heart flavored with shamisen and taiko drum. It sounded so good i wish more non-Japonism songs were re-arranged in similar fashion.

The quintessential of Japonism, however, gotta be Japonesque. It does have a retro melody and dance-y feel to it, but who would’ve expected Arashi to wear ornate kimonos, use fans and umbrellas as dance props, amidst rainfalls of sakura petals for it? It’s… too beautiful for words. You just have to see it to be able to heartily revel in the exquisite scenery… as many times as you please.

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Solos

Usually only Jun would have a gimmicky solo, but this time all five put on a show ranging from cute, cool, red-hot, epic, and mesmerizing. Practicing months for it truly paid off; the gig elevated the solos to a whole new level.

MUSIC: Brat and his happy feet. He mentioned he would dance to his solo after eight long years, but this wasn’t the kind of ‘dance’ that had come to mind. I thought it would be choreo-dancing instead of foot-dancing. Tap dance alone might not be that compelling, so nice twists were added to it. Percussion wasn’t the only sound his tap shoes produced! Not only that, he also meshed tap-dancing session with DDR game. Now that’s fun! And cute. And cheeky. His ending was the best.

Don’t you love me: I swear Jun must’ve been racking his brain for the kind of stunt he’ll pull next. And test his body with. Flying or walking upside down don’t cut it anymore, so this time he tried parkour. The setup was he’s being chased in his dream and doing his damnedest evading and outmaneuvering his chasers through a series of parkour moves. Some looked cool, some looked dangerous, but it was surely draining. Jun seriously looked like half his energy was expended on his solo alone; besides thoroughly drenched in sweats, he also disappeared for a moment during MC talk, was the first to go change and the last to come out. Above all, it’s a relief he didn’t sustain any injuries executing the stunts for 17 times.

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Rolling days: Red is Sho’s member color but every time the venue turned red during his solo (or the sinful In the room), i felt the temperature rising. It doesn’t help that Mr. Sakurai tuned his smoldering gazes to the max and delivered the rap with such a deep throaty voice. He mentioned having this song picked for him as he planned to do ‘something’ with it, and it’s drumline. Like Nino’s tap-dancing, i probably couldn’t tell if Sho missed a beat or two, although frankly a few ticks did sound off. There’s also higher chance of the beats going messy given they’re done in groups, but drumline does sound and look better that way. Plus, rapping and drumming combo? *gulp*

Mr. FUNK: The live performance of Disco Star was such a riot i honestly don’t think anything can ever outshine that. Mr. FUNK-sama arguably isn’t half as kooky as Disco Star-sama (i’m crossing my fingers and toes that Japonism Show in Arena will be released in DVD/BD too; i’m dying to see the other four backdancing to Disco Star) but that doesn’t mean Mr. FUNK wasn’t a hell of a show. He definitely amassed a bigger following it ended up being a super fun flash mob. Some of the moves were ludicrous, some were provocative — there’re triple hip thrusts AND full-body wave! As if that wasn’t enough, Aiba stripped onstage as preparation for his final aerial silk stunt. You know, i’ve gotten cooled if Jun goes topless, but when Aiba does it? Ermaigerd~~

Akatsuki: Ohno’s the last to sing his solo, in truly save-the-best-for-the-last fashion. Nino may the first Arashi member gotten into magic, but Riida is the first to hold a magic show. A mask magic one. A thoroughly spellbinding one. And that’s only the prelude. Ohno’s solo performance is usually the most no-frills kind among them — it’s just him, his delish vocals, and his smooth moves — but here the choreo consisting of half imagery, a quarter grace, and a quarter martial arts-inspired was so elegant that i would still name Akatsuki my favorite solo of Japonism (as well as of all Ohno’s solos) even without the preceding magic stunt. A++

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Combi moments

There are five members in Arashi and thus 10 possible combis/pairs. While Juntoshi or Ohmiya are the more common ones, for me Arashi’s concert isn’t complete without Sakumiya’s goofs. They don’t make me go kyaa~ but they are interactions i can’t get enough of. Thus, regardless of how fleeting or random the moments are, they are precious and become one of the highlights. What i like best about Sakumiya is their arbitrary synchronicity, as if able to read each other’s minds. Case in point: their mirroring little dance, pose, and shoulder warm-up during Love so sweet and A. RA. SHI.

Sho trolling Aiba during Make a wish, Juntoshi sticking like a glue for their duet lines and performing one-half of the hand choreo in GUTS!, and Ohmiya waving at each other from respective stands are among other combi moments i could spot and recall.

MC

Is technically an intermission for the performers and audience to catch a breath; a talk i look forward to. I think i read it somewhere that their concert MCs aren’t scripted, which honestly amazed me that they’re able to come up with something to converse about on-stage despite spending a lot of time together off-stage, and turn mundane topics into an engaging discussion: about the concert (Ohno’s choreographing Masquerade), others mistake (Aiba swallowing to-spit-out water), their Jr. days (Sho’s failed backflip, Jun’s thin figure), difficult-to-enact fans’ uchiwas, or upcoming projects (“Machiko ga ne” movie, lol). The story may or may not be new, but the chat is hardly boring that i wish J Storm would compile or make a digest of the other 16 MCs Arashi did for the tour. Even if they added up to several hours long, i would still watch it!

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Other Highlights

First off, it’s definitely Nino’s high notes during Bolero! It’s impossible to miss and is addictive to listen over and over again. Not to mention their half-freestyle dances at the song’s interlude. Secondly, the energy. The footage was filmed on the last day of the tour, so the dorks might have given their all to ensure it ended on a memorable note. Last impression counts too! Though, after doing the same performance for 17 times, they were understandably exhausted, but no, their energy was as high as possible. Their dance remained tight, their vocals stable (if corrected), their smiles contagious. As mentioned in the MC, the tension was different for the final round, and yes, it’s palpably a blast.

That said…

If i were to voice any slight disappointment, it would be about album tracks not sung in full — i don’t mind one-half versions of the singles or other concert staples, but this tour possibly is the only chance for album tracks to have live performances of — or at all. This wasn’t unexpected given there are 21 tracks from all three editions of Japonism; they left out Mikazuki, The deep end, and Furusato, though it pains me the most that Tsutaetai koto didn’t make the cut either. It is such a nice song with pleasing melody and tender lyrics 😢

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Nevertheless, Japonism is a visually delightful production, so much so that we’re given copious wide shots or bird-eye views to capture the most of the aesthetic arts shown on the panels and the changing colors of the remotely synchronized penlights. It may be a one-time project (or two-time including the spin-off Arena Shows), but i believe the amount of preparation, efforts, time, and thoughts poured into it was as much as if not greater than that of the previous ones. Because it shows. Because a week after its release date, i still can’t get enough of it. Because it is that good.

Lastly,

H! B! D! M! J! ^^

I’m a day late but Thank you for always coming up with these awesome concerts!

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ARASHI LIVE TOUR 2015 Japonism – Tokyo Dome
© Johnny & Associates, J Storm
ARASHI: Aiba Masaki, Matsumoto Jun, Ninomiya Kazunari, Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho

p.s.
This obviously is a fangirl review.
If you’re interested in the more technical review of the production, read this one, which also touches on the group as genius concert creators, sparkling dream icons, as well as typical boys next door. And biggest trolls, i must add. Only these dorks have the heart to come out after the encore to announce their next big project and then go right back in, despite the booming “eeehhh~~” 😂😂😂

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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