Before I start, let me just say that this was the first time I have ever been to a J-pop concert. While the bulk of my experiences had been symphonic performances or musicals where I can sit back and let the music wash gently over me, AFA’s concert was akin to being stuck in a washing machine in a spin cycle, amidst hundreds of people waving lightsticks, singing along with the artists, cheering and screaming themselves hoarse. And to make matters worse, my spirit was not even a fraction of theirs, and while my heart did beat a little faster, there was not a moment where I even came close to losing myself.
Still, throughout most of the concert, I was in awe. This was partly due to the volume being high enough to knock the air right out of your chest, but more due to the sheer quality of some of the performances. Itou Kanako started things off and made an immediate impact through her vocal clarity and strength of delivery in ‘Uchuu no Engineer’. While her stamina did not last through the entire performance, Itou Kanako is definitely more than auto-tune and audio editing. It helped that her English is excellent, and she came across as a really sweet and likeable person through all the MC sessions. It was definitely the best opening I can hope for, and she is one person I’ll definitely pay to watch again.
Following Itou Kanako, we had Milky Holmes, whose autographed poster I’m still trying to auction off. While their song offered the classic energetic and bubbly fare, the whole performance fits much better in a grade school setting than among our group of audiences. To their credit, they did work up the crowd a fair bit, and as seiyuu singers, their singing is half-decent.
Third up is the powerhouse: Angela. Through this group’s sheer amount of experience, they were demonstrably in an different league from Milky Holmes. Their audience engagement is just off the charts; Atsuko led the audience on a dance to accompany hers and Katsu even jumped off the stage to get up close with some of the audience. I really liked the selection of their tracks, from the track that propelled them to stardom, ‘Shangri-la’, to their debut ‘Asu e no Brilliant Road’, and even a surprise reveal in ‘Cruel Angel’s Thesis,’ which drew thunderous cheers from the crowd. While Angela did give up a whole lot of intonation and music quality for such a performance, I can only say that each song was meaningful in its own way and I had never been this happy having my eardrums ripped to shreds.
With Kalafina, the audience went wild. It seems that May’n may just have to give up her spot as the AFA icon in a year or two. Starting with their trump card ‘Magia‘, I stood in absolutely awe over Wakana’s performance. Her voice was stronger, brighter and richer than ever, and while I had complained about that before in their singles because it comes across as being unexpressive, it worked great for a live performance. Also, her aria was just, dare I say it, heavenly.
Keiko would have held her own had the microphone volume been adjusted higher for her, but as it stood, it was really difficult to even hear her solos. Hikaru, for her part, was having one of her better days (i.e. no horrendously off-key notes), but her performance did not come across as confidently as the others’. Still, Kalafina gave the most musically sound performance, and there was an odd sense of satisfaction seeing these girls whom I’ve had my eyes on since their debut finally propel themselves to international fame.
Wrapping up, we have the resident diva of AFA: May’n. Like I mentioned in my most recent review, I am not too fond of most of her releases since her voice is like a rubber band. My friend takes it a step further, comparing it to a spider web: thin, taut and sticky. I admit that’s an fair description, but I also have to marvel at how May’n is just a natural performer. With the confidence rivaled only by Angela, May’n’s presence absolutely dominated the stage. And while this has been said a thousand times, I have to say again: her songs sound much better live than they do on record. However, the pounding synth and bass, along with May’n’s extreme and uncontrolled fluctuations in volume did leave me with a headache less than halfway through.
Overall, the concert has been a whole new experience, and the songs are going to keep replaying in my head for some time to come. While I did not go away with a boatload of adrenaline like everyone else did, and my complete lack of stamina for such events tells me I should hold off my pilgrimage to Animelo for at least a few years, I did enjoy the night thoroughly. Still, my ideal concert remains as one which takes my breath away through the music and the strength of the singer’s vocals, not with speakers that churn your insides around like soup.