(EDIT: Re-read, realized I wrote this half-asleep, tried to improve…I don’t think it’s much better though. Haha.)
Eh heh heh I sure took a while didn’t I? It’s been so long that some of the details are lost to me, but I still couldn’t not write this up.
There were five performers at the third day of AFA 11’s I Love Anisong concert: Kanako Itou with Chyomaru Shikura, the seiyuu unit Milky Holmes (from a show I’ve never watched), angela, Kalafina and May’n. And as you can see from the post title, there were only two acts I was familiar enough with to care about and report on, so I apologize if you were hoping for reports on the rest. Popcultureonline.net has a pretty good report and lots of awesome photos.
But if you still want to read mine…Let’s start with how I got starstruck at Kalafina’s autograph session.
Kalafina Autograph Session
Not everyone who wanted to meet Kalafina up close got the chance; the session was limited to only 100 VIP ticket holders, who were selected by a ballot. I’m incredibly thankful to have been one of the lucky ones. From the comments on AFA’s Facebook page it seemed like quite a number of Kalafina fans were disappointed by their ballot results.
The session took place in the afternoon before the Day 3 concert, in a booth within AFA’s festival area. No photography or recording was allowed, which was disappointing but not surprising given AFA’s usual policies. But that was okay.
They’d cordoned off the area where the ballot winners would be queueing up. The area just beyond the cordon right in front of the booth was packed with fans who didn’t get the autographs but were hoping for a glimpse of the ladies anyway.
And they would not have been disappointed. They looked every bit as beautiful as they do in their photos. Even more so, actually, because now they were actually right there, before our very eyes.
I’m a little embarrassed and how nervous I was. When it came to my turn, I managed little more than to say ‘thank you’as they each greeted me and signed my poster. They were very cheerful and amiable, but it went by a little too quickly — it seemed that they were being rushed a little. I remember Keiko’s eyes visibly widening, when I approached, to my amusement (I guess I don’t look like the average Kalafina fan) but she quickly recovered and greeted me.
I did stick around with the crowding fans after getting my autograph, though, just to enjoy the sight of them. The crowd was generally quite calm, with occasional bursts of fanboyish/fangirlish shrieking and shouted praises for the ladies (which they happily and graciously received). When there was a lapse in the autograph queue for some reason, the ladies would chat a little with members of the crowd. At one point a guy who wasn’t in the queue reached over to pass Hikaru what looked like a small postcard and begged for an autograph. Heyyy, that’s not allowed. But Hikaru still turned back to check with a guy (some rep or member of management, I presume) who shook his head, and she turned back and apologetically refused. Ah, sweet of her to try anyway.
Oh, I wish I could have said something more to them. But I got a nice, long glimpse of them up close (and what a lovely view it was), and even exchanged a few words, so I really, really can’t complain.
I Love Anisong live
The concert opened with Kanako Itou’s performance. She performed four of her songs (if I recall correctly) from Steins;Gate, and for the last two she was joined by songwriter/producer Chiyomaru Shikura on electric guitar. Pretty rocking, and they seemed to have a lot fans in the crowd.
Next up was Milky Holmes, and I used the opportunity for a bathroom break. Sorry, ladies, but moe dancing seiyuu in colourful Sherlock costumes are not really my thing. I don’t think they did more then two songs — they were almost done by the time I got back.
And after that…
Ah, angela. I’ve paid ridiculous amounts of money to see them live (twice before this!) And it’s always been worth it. This time was no different.
They opened with Soukyuu from the latest Soukyuu no Fafner movie. A powerful uptempo song, a strong opener but not one of my favourites.
The second song was Aoi Haru from the anime . A really cute song, and incredibly fun live, especially with such a lively couple of performers on stage. And yeah, Atsuko really can sing that fast live (if you’ve heard the song you may know what I mean).
Things mellowed out with the third song, Separation. A lovely, lovely performance of a wonderful ballad. Atsuko was, as usual, near-perfect, and gave a very moving rendition that not even the sucky sound system could diminish. And unlike with the show last year, Katsu stuck with his electric guitar rather than trade it for an acoustic one, but it was certainly no less of a performance.
I’d like to just mention at this point how awesome angela are at interacting with their audience. They were rarely standing still onstage, there was plenty of chatter between songs (in Japanese and English), lots of encouragement for audience participation (great crowd by the way, very enthusiastic), and the two of them have a very enjoyable onstage chemistry. Kind of like a comedic duo. Also, part of their performance was being streamed on NicoNico, and at several points during the show Katsu ran out with a long piece of paper with what was apparently a memetic greeting on Nico’s comment streams printed on it (I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with Nico memes, though). Even when they’re not performing a song angela can still really entertain.
I was very thrilled when the next song was announced to be Beautiful Fighter from Shikabane Hime. A great song, and one of my favourites, but it didn’t seem to be one they often performed live. From the cheers it seemed that I wasn’t the only one who was pleased. angela’s live rendition certainly didn’t disappoint. This was the highlight of the show for me.
The fifth song was a cover, one that made me very happy — Zankoku na Tenshi no Thesis from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Atsuko’s powerful voice did the song justice, and Katsu peformed his own version of the guitar solo in the instrumental bit (which the sound system fail kinda ruined…) But still, awesome stuff.
The song they claimed was their last was the very popular Shangri-La, with the requisite dance steps which they ran through with the audience beforehand. A great finish to an awesome show.
angela departed the stage after that, and the while the chant took a while to build up, the cries for an encore (“AN-KO-RU!”) were soon going strong. And yes, they came back, not that I was surprised — their track record suggested we’d get our encore.
Atsuko introduced the encore song as their debut song — Asu e no Brilliant Road. Another one of my favourites, and many of the audience members seemed to love it as well; Atsuko hadn’t even finished saying the song’s title when the audience exploded into cheers.
And then Atsuko teared up.
She wasn’t sobbing or anything, but it was obvious that she’d been brought to tears. Now that was an “awwww”-inspiring moment. It was clear that she was touched — maybe she was moved that the Singapore fans were familiar with something that far back in their catalogue. In any case, she quickly got herself together and angela rocked the hall with their final song.
Three times. And I’d still pay to see them live again.
Zankoku no Tenshi no Thesis
I cannot express fully just how badly I wanted — needed — to see Kalafina live. Even with the tickets in hand I was so afraid that something would crop up and force me to miss the concert.
But on that night on the thirteenth on November, I was there as Kalafina walked onstage, before my very eyes. What was to come could not be anything less than awesome.
Okay, granted, the opening could have been stronger. There was an overture (more like an extended sound effect really) before the ladies walked onstage to manic cheers and burst into Magia. This was actually the weakest part of their set; it was far from being outright bad, but the backing track was way too loud, and Kalafina sounded like they couldn’t quite hear themselves properly (I noticed they weren’t wearing in-ear monitors). Wakana in particular sounded a little pitchy at the chorus. Slightly disappointing. But it was still lively and enjoyable enough, with the girls pulling of their little dance routine as usual during the instrumental.
I admit though, I was worried. Kalafina have had less-then-stellar lives, particularly when they did away with IEMs — was this going to be one of them?
And then they followed up with Oblivious. What was I worried about again? Amazing stuff — it was as if they had just needed a little bit of time to warm up and were now in full gear. They did seem a lot more comfortable on stage than in the first song…Hikaru’s opening falsetto hit all the right notes, Wakana was near-perfect on her lead vocals and the harmonies with Keiko were just…lovely.
The vocal performance Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa was, in my opinion, even better than in the album. Hikaru sounded especially great — her voice sounded smoother and more controlled than in the studio version. A powerful performance. I really wish the backing track hadn’t drowned out the harmonies though.
I think it was at this point that they stopped for a break and MC (I’ll describe that later) before moving on into the next song — Sprinter! A big fan-favourite, and one I was very glad to be able to hear live. The ladies didn’t let up from their streak of solid performances. Well, I still don’t find Keiko jumping to the high note at “mukidasu no hontou ga” terribly convincing, but she sounded great otherwise. I was starting to wonder why I had ever doubted their ability to perform live.
Lacrimosa? I think epic is a pretty good word. Wonderfully dark and powerful, and the Kajiuran verses were particularly impressive. That chant-like rendition of “Lacrimosa/Dies illa!” alone would have blown anyone away. Awe-inspiring.
Ongaku was a lot of fun. Kalafina had been mostly standing in place onstage with some movement here and there. For this song, though, they were traversing the stage, switching places, occasionally huddling together, and looking like they were really having a lot of fun. I certainly had a lot of fun watching them. Keiko, naturally, stole the show with her strutting/dancing all over the place. The unexpected highlight, though, was Wakana’s powerful and surprisingly gripping rendition of a Kajiuran verse in the bridge — it left me with goosebumps and the word “Wow,” spilled from my lips. I don’t think I imagined the collective “whoa” from those around me following that performance.
Hikari no Senritsu‘s performance really needs only one word to describe it: flawless. Well, the backing track’s volume was still annoyingly loud, but even that could not take away from the sheer technical perfection of the Kalafina’s vocal performance. A great ending to an incredible show.
The audience yelled for an encore, but there wasn’t one. I guess there simply wasn’t time for it. Well, a seven-song set wasn’t too bad when given that they were sharing a concert with five other acts.
There were few MCs during the show (I’m sorry, I can’t remember at which points exactly). Kalafina mostly conversed in Japanese, with some attempts at English here and there (Hikaru was pretty much the only who could converse in good English at length). They spoke about how excited they were to be in Singapore for the first time, a bit about Kara no Kyoukai and anime, how much they were enjoying the food (chicken rice was a big hit with them). At one point Hikaru mentioned how she had a “sweet” (or wanted to try a “sweet”? I’m not sure). Most of the audience was clearly quite confused, so Wakana and Keiko were (loudly) discussing a better way to put it before both crying out “DESSETO!” (‘dessert’, clearly) triumphantly, with Keiko jumping excitedly. In the meantime, Hikaru was leaning forward, intently listening as the members of the audience who understood yelled out names of random desserts (“Durian puff!” “Ice kachang!”). A pretty entertaining exchange.
It was quite gratifying too, to see that Kalafina seemed really pleased with the response from the audience. I clearly recall how widely Keiko was beaming when she was drowned out by cheers while announcing that the next song would be Hikari no Senritsu.
Before they left, Hikaru and Keiko both yelled (I quote) “I’ll be back!” Can we hold them to those words? I fervently hope so. While Kalafina have had bad lives, this was definitely not one of them. Far from it; I felt like I’d just witnessed for myself, what these talented women were truly capable of.
And it was awesome beyond belief.
(I went home after that. What? I’m not really a May’n fan, and I had work the next day…)
Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa
Hikari no Senritsu