Anime Festival Asia 2011 – Day 3 – Concert Report

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.

Jen

I have been a contributor to Anime Instrumentality since late 2009 (blimey...). Being a lousy musician trained in cello, keyboard and voice, I feel obliged to censure the other amateurs who have the cheek to release their rubbish to the world, and to affirm those who actually deserve their salary. Nothing gives me more joy than listening to good music, though I admit that writing scathing reviews on bad ones comes close.

11 thoughts on “Anime Festival Asia 2011 – Day 3 – Concert Report

  • November 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm
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    Thanks for the review!! If I had know that Kanaka Ito had such great English skills I would have made more effort to thank her after Animelo. I’m glad to hear that Kanaka-san and Kalafina didn’t disappoint, and hope to yet hear Angela live myself.

    Don’t worry about the lack of stamina for Animelo. The food and even the weather in Japan in late August along with all the walking around left me in good health to enjoy Animelo. Having a seat in a side box made it easier just to sit an absorb it all.

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  • November 20, 2011 at 6:33 am
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    As much as i liked the line up of artist for day 3, i felt it wasnt as good as day 2, day 2 really was a blast, it was more happening. I mean Lisa and Flow really had us act like monkeys lol ,my energy lvl was nearly dead.

    BTW did you see a person wearing a suit with a red tie? that was me haha

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  • November 20, 2011 at 11:55 am
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    I think one of the biggest benefits of AFA is just seeing a whole slew of artists come over. Comparatively, in the USA, it takes a lot of work to bring the artists that would get me really excited, but with Singapore being relatively close to Japan, the travel arrangements aren’t so bad. I can only hope to experience a somewhat higher caliber of artists coming to an anime convention in the USA (but truth be told, I was fairly happy with Anime Expo’s recent offerings).

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  • November 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm
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    @Arthur
    Wasn’t Itou at Animelo? I somehow thought she has become a regular since 2009. She has loads of excellent stuff for Steins;Gate after all. And actually there’s something I’ve always been curious about. Do you get to choose your seating? I heard from some that it’s randomly allocated.

    @Fabrice
    I really wanted to go for Day 2 too, since I am quite interested in Flow, but my budget just don’t allow it. Were you on the screen? XD Because honestly, when everyone was standing, I couldn’t only catch glimpses of the screen…

    @zzeroparticle
    Yea, true. I mean, I never would have believed we can have Itou, Angela and Kalafina all at the same time. But for you guys, since you can give them each more stage time, you have much longer performances. We had about 5 or so songs from Kalafina in total. And Itou Kanako only had 4. So its a give and take I guess.

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  • November 21, 2011 at 6:53 am
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    Yo. I attended both Days 2 and 3 of AFA.

    You are right in saying that one of the benefits fo the AFA arrangements is that people can experience a lot of anisong in a short amount of time. (Though if you ask me, I’d rather just tune in to Mogra on the first and third Saturdays of the month)

    Unfortunately, the bigger problem is that there’s not enough time to experience the acts. 1 hour is the bare minimum, yes, but I’d prefer it if they reduce the number of acts or use the lead up to the con to hold one-off concerts featuring the acts.

    Regarding the gatherign of the acts, here’s the thing. The organizers, Sozo, is backed up by the media giant Dentsu. For those of you who don’t know, Dentsu is one of the shadow brokers of the anime world, owning Geneon Entertainment and a couple of studios. They also have contacts in the entire anime industry, and are one of the main sponsors when it comes to anime production. Having them as their buddy in Japan, it’s highly unsurprising that Singapore can draw in such talent. (That, and Danny Choo. But I think the Choo connection counts for a lot less when your backer is one of the shadow brokers of the anime industry.)

    As for the concerts themselves, well, I kinda felt that the second day was a lot better, in terms of energy. Disregarding the local idol group, having THE KING OF ANISONG HIMSELF, Flow and LiSA together made for one SPIRITED performance. (Of course I am being biased here. I’m a big fan of Ichiro Mizuki and I consider him heads and shoulders above everyone else. I mean, apart from JAM PROJECT, which singer can claim to have been involved with THE HISTORY OF JAPANESE SUNDAY MORNING ENTERTAINMENT?)

    I sorely missed angela the last time they came to Singapore and I was not disappointed by their performance, save for their rendition of Cruel Angel’s Thesis. This is not a slur on them, but a slur on the show the song came from. I can never enjoy this song as long as Eva exists and Anno still breathes.

    Itou Kanako was the surprise hit for me, to be honest. Any singer who can set my blood burning from the get-go deserves my praise and attention. Hope she gets more singing roles; that voice needs to be heard.

    Kalafina, well, let’s just say while I did enjoy their music, the tone and feel of their songs in general was unsuitable for the general atmosphere of AFA in general. You are talking about a concert extravangaza that promotes high-energy, ENTHUSIASTIC performances. And you are inserting a relatively new group who, while talented, have the majority of their songs more suited for a more sedate atmosphere. (Or simply put, if none of their songs happen to play in Mogra, it’s not suitable for AFA) And hell, blowing your two big hits at the beginning of your act is insanely puzzling.

    Flow was EXCELLENT. They call themselves hard rock, but the way they play, it felt more like metal than rock. But they were great. Great performance, excellent showmanship and for the life of me, I didn’t know they were areund in the 1990s.

    I’ll convey the same thing for LiSA too. And she’s a rather sweet lady, despite all that prancing around. NOW IF SOMEONE TOLD ME GIRLS DEAD MOSTER WAS COMING TO AFA, I’D HAVE BEEN MORE ENTHUSIATIC.

    Well, it’s a shame you didn’t pay for Day 2. You missed out the grand anchor of AFA, Ichiro Mizuki himself. He’s been singing for 40 years, been the cornerstone of the super robot genre AND the Kamen Rider franchise, and most of all, a passionate and talented singer. At AFA 2009, he was singing to a crowd that didn’t respond to him at all. It takes a lot of effort, guts and passion to do just that. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that performance.

    And you’re right about the speakers. The acoustics at the venue are horrendous, and if I can feel the speakers under my feet, it’s too loud.

    But to me, the best AFA performance would be JAM PROJECT LIVE IN SINIGAPORE AT AFA 2010. There is nothing in the world that will compare with the experience of having JAM PROJECT live on YOUR STAGE. Screw unforgettable, I want to experience that AGAIN. (But Flow are pretty good substitutes, though!)

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  • November 21, 2011 at 7:54 am
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    @Jen, Kanaka Ito was at Animelo, I really enjoyed her set and she did make an appearance backstage. Given that I was the only person there who didn’t speak Japanese I had my guide helping with introductions so I couldn’t just race up to someone and start talking to them and hence I only met Minori Chihara after the first concert and Chiaki Ishikawa after the second concert. Meeting both those artists was an amazing end to the concerts.

    As to tickets, as far as I knew, my travel agent had just secured some ticket for me on each day. When I turned up, I found out that the person I was meeting was not only arranging to get my tickets but would be my guide for both concerts and that my tickets were for the “friends of the artists” box and that I had backstage access after each concert.

    As to my wishlist for getting some concerts local to me, the OzAsia festival in Adelaide has shown that Japanese acts can have successful shows here, and I have suggested to the OzAsia organisers that Suara (who performed at past Animelo concerts but was apparently in Singapore at the time of the 2011 Animelo) and Chiaki Ishikawa as good performers who might be able to spare the time to get to Adelaide.

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  • November 22, 2011 at 3:56 am
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    @drmchsr0
    Thank you for the comment. And no! Don’t make me mourn missing JAM Project’s live in Singapore anymore! It’s probably my only chance, and I missed it. Wanted to kick myself for it…

    I’m really glad you liked Itou Kanako too. I thought most people would not really appreciate her performance seeing that May’n and Kalafina would probably steal the show, but looks like I’m completely wrong. And I couldn’t have put it any better. She needs to be heard!

    For Kalafina, I blamed it all on the speakers. Granted their performance is not the usual AFA stuff, but when they have everything working for them, their songs are one of the best on the anime scene right now. And good songs would fit in any venue. XD

    Well, for me, day 3 was all worth it solely due to Itou Kanako, oddly enough. Maybe cause I was just so surprised that she’s that good. For Angela, May’n and Kalafina, I went with very high expectations since I have watched some of their DVDs, so I wasn’t as impressed.

    @Arthur
    I couldn’t believe that I missed Suara in Singapore. Every time, the two artists I hope for in Animelo would be her and Ishikawa. Those two are excellent singers, though Suara is starting to become very bland nowadays.

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  • November 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm
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    Brilliant review! Glad you had fun!! Utterly adore Angela, would have loved to have been there!!!

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  • November 23, 2011 at 11:53 pm
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    @maskerade
    Thanks! If you ever get an opportunity to attend an Angela concert, do go for it! With their collection of songs so far, you’ll be guaranteed an excellent setlist. =)

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  • March 28, 2012 at 7:23 am
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    Can you tell me the songlist of day 3 concert? Especially kalafina and kanako ito? I have been searching everywhere but I can’t find it :(

    At first, my reason to go to AFA was to see Kalafina and Kanako Ito, but then because of some college schedule, I only could attend the 2nd day of concert. At first I didn’t expect much from the 2nd day artist lineup, because at that time I only liked LiSA. But the concert totally blown my expectation! I hope they will bring back LiSA, Flow, Kanako Ito and Kalafina again this year!

    And I was really shocked when I realized that Suara ever held a concert in Singapore T__T, seriously, I never thought that anison artists held concerts in south-east Asia aside from in Anime Festival Asia.

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