[CONCERT REPORT] Kalafina — Anime Festival Asia Malaysia Live

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(Written in bits and pieces over several weeks, with less proofreading than should have been necessary. I hope it’s still passably coherent…)

Ah, Kalafina. I can’t remember being as enamoured with any other musical act since I quit idolising boybands as a teenager. And I’d never gone to another country (even if it was just neighbouring Malaysia) just to watch an artiste perform live.

Kalafina were certainly worth the journey.

I’d planned to reach Kuala Lumpur on the afternoon of the 8th of June. It turned out to be an even better idea than I’d have thought because AFA later announced that an open-door press preview would be happening that day. And of course, making an appearance was…


Press Preview
I got there early, but there was already a pretty big crowd in front of stage. My lack of height prevented me from seeing almost anything above the many heads. Fortunately, I manage to score a slightly elevated vantage point for long enough to get some souvenirs:






If anyone from AFA asks, those photos were an accident. Danny Choo said so.

I’d describe what Kalafina did for you, but I think you’ll get much better idea by watching this… yeah, that was an accident too.

The Live

Kalafina performed last, after Maon Kurosaki and Aimi. I’d heard of Maon Kurosaki but never actually listened to her music; I didn’t know a single thing about Aimi.

Well, we all know who I was there for anyway.

The energy of the anticipating audience was amazing — it didn’t take long after Aimi’s performance for the chanting to begin: “Ka-la-fi-na! Ka-la-fi-na!”

Without any introduction (not like it was necessary anyway) the segment opened with an overture, followed by Kalafina walking onstage and launching into Magia. I’d been slightly disappointed by their performance of this song last year — this time around, though, they were raring from the get-go. Last year they’d looked like they were still warming up when they opened with Magia. Maybe the crowd’s obvious enthusiasm had pumped them up. Hikaru was especially powerful in lead vocals, and Keiko and Wakana carried their respective parts in the harmonies wonderfully. And their stage presence…I can’t say I’m a big fan of Kalafina’s attempts at “dancing” but I really appreciate the fact that they’re trying to do more than just stand around. It worked especially well during Magia. They were energetic, almost wild at parts; it was very entertaining to watch.

Lacrimosa followed immediately after, with Wakana in lead vocals. Again, quite well done. The delivery of “Lacrimosa/Dies illa!” never fails to impress me.

After Lacrimosa, Kalafina greeted and thanked the audience in English before each member introduced herself to the audience. In Malay. Wakana got as far as “Nama sa…ya…” broke off uncertainly, and then got it right in a second enthusiastic attempt. Keiko went, “Nama saya Keiko desu,” which I found to be hilarious. Hikaru’s intro got her intro right the first time, and then gave an affecting mini-speech (in her pretty good English) about how she was a little nervous but the audience energy enabled her to perform.

After a short spiel by Wakana in Japanese (which I unfortunately couldn’t understand), the opening strains of Kimi ga Hikari ni Kaete Iku played. A very pleasant surprise — I hadn’t expected them to perform something that far back in their catalogue. Wakana sounded a little flat at parts, but I still enjoyed the performance very much.

Sprinter came next. Their vocal performances weren’t perfect, but I think the incredible energy the ladies were exuding more than made up for it. Another thoroughly enjoyable performance.

It was getting pretty clear to me that this Wakana wasn’t quite the Wakana who raised goosebumps and drew breathless “wow”s with her singing last year in Singapore. It was a little disappointing, but…

…Hikaru was totally stealing the show anyway. Her performance in Magia had blown me away. Her vocals had been pretty steady in Sprinter, but she really stepped it up in Destination Unknown. This was another song I didn’t expect to be included in the set list (it was relatively new and had no relation to any anime) but was very glad it was performed. Very high energy, with Keiko and Hikaru — especially Hikaru — giving very solid vocal performances. Visually entertaining as well; all three members were moving, switching positions, or at the very least dancing about on the spot for most of the song.

There was a particular memorable moment during the instrumental when Keiko pressed her back against Hikaru’s, slid almost the whole way down and then back up again. With any other group I would have cynically taken this as an attempt at fanservice. But what I’d seen of Keiko’s onstage behaviour in Kalafina lives, coupled with the priceless look Hikaru shot her in response (I’d describe it as a ‘lolwut‘ expression) suggested that it was simply Keiko being Keiko. In any case, if this were an anime some of audience members would probably have lost considerable amounts of blood through their nostrils. I would not have been one of them. Nope. Not me.

Ongaku continued in a similar vein. I’m fairly sure that Ongaku is usually performed to get the audience pumped up but Destination Unknown had pretty much accomplished that already. It was still fun, of course, with Kalafina continuing to animatedly traverse the stage in between their singing parts.

After Ongaku, Kalafina described their experience with local cuisine (Wakana really seems to like mee goreng…) Keiko announced her liking for desserts in English, and Kalafina proceeded to survey the audience for recommendations of local desserts. Most of the audience somehow came to the agreement that they should suggest cendol. Not that I disagree, cendol is pretty awesome. Kalafina managed to get the audience to yell it out in unison but still couldn’t make out exactly what it was. Hikaru said they would look into it (I think, it was in Japanese) — I wonder if they ever found out.

Keiko then went on to talk about anime their songs had been featured in, prompting audience members to yell out “Fate/Zero”, their latest involvement. Kalafina appeared pleased at the enthusiastic response for the show. Keiko declared her love for the character Rider; Wakana, interestingly, said she liked Kiritsugu (and added something about Iri that I didn’t understand); Hikaru’s favourite was Saber.

The announcement that the next song was the last song was predictably met with cries of dismay, but Keiko drew cheers with a promise of meeting again.

And thus Kalafina ended off their set with To the beginning. Wakana sounded a little shaky at first but got into gear as the song went on; Keiko sounded pretty good, and Hikaru carried her streak of owning every song Kalafina had performed to the end. I hadn’t watched any full live performances of To the beginning — I don’t think any recordings of it were available yet — so I was especially thrilled to be able to listen to the live performance for myself.

Kalafina lingered just long enough after the song to thank the appreciative audience profusely and to allow Keiko to yell “I’ll be baaaaaack Malaysia!“. It took a while, but a thunderous call for an encore built up and went on for what felt like a long time before it became clear that we wouldn’t be getting one. Not unexpected, really. But I like to think our efforts in showing our appreciation touched them (Hikaru, at least, was heartened).

Kimi ga Hikari ni Kaete Iku
Destination Unknown
To the beginning

The autograph session
The queue was so long…Apparently, AFA had at the last minute announced that those who bought the copies of After Eden that they were selling would also be eligible for the autographs, along with those who had won the ballot. What…Of course, the CDs were snapped up really quickly . I was left desperately wishing I’d thought to bring my copy of the album, because ballot winners who ha brought theirs were apparently getting them autographed as well.

But I like to think that if they had been busy signing my CD (the posters they gave out were pre-signed), there might not have been time for the exchange that took place when it was my turn to meet Kalafina.

Me: “IsawyouinSingaporeIamveryhappyIgottoseeyouagain!”
Keiko: *raises both fists in front of her shakes them* “Of course! Mochiron!”
Me: *blank look*

Fortunately, Hikaru recognised what had transpired. She put a hand on Keiko’s shoulder and leaned in, translating what I had said.

At this point the AFA crew were trying to usher me away but I shamelessly held my ground. Hang on, I’m not done talking to Keiko!

When Hikaru was done, Keiko went, “Ah,” and then turned back to me, without missing a beat, with every bit of genki-ness as before. “Thank you! Arigatou!”

I left to more “Thank you”s and “Arigatou”s from all three members, walking backwards to savour the sight of them for as long as I could. Autographed poster in hand, the memory of Keiko shaking her fists and declaring “Of course! Mochiron!” burned firmly into my mind…I’d say that went pretty well.

I almost certain that Keiko’s first response was due to the fact that she’d thought I was asking if they would come to Singapore. So…Singapore…mochiron? Oh please oh please oh please!

I’m not sure they would appreciate me mentioning it here, but I couldn’t not at least bring it up (sorry!)…My friend and I traveled to KL with a fellow member of the Canta-per-me.net forums, and we hung out briefly with another member at AFA MY. I’m really happy to have been able to meet the both of them; it’s really awesome to be able to have long, enthusisatic conversations revolving around Kalafina and Kajiura’s music (and also some Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica), some of my most favourite things to talk about. Fangirling (and fanboying?) together was so much fun, I hope we get the opportunity to do so again!

(Oh, I still want those photos of us XD)

Ahhh, finally got that done with. Now I can proceed to my next geeky project: dissecting the moonfesta PV…