A concert report, of sorts.
So the idea of writing a concert report is very intimidating, because I have a shocking memory, and also the word "report" makes me feel like I should have findings and conclusions and things like that. It also requires me to have set lists and memories of what outfits they were wearing or when the green laser lights came on but honestly I cannot remember everything. Even when we got home that night, I had already forgotten what Sho's solo song was. Instead of writing a report, then, I'll just list the highlights - the things that made the concert memorable and special - and all the details I can remember, as well as my general impressions.
So I guess maybe it is a report, but if I don't call it that I won't feel so intimidated. Okay?
I've never really understood why everyone makes such a big deal of the experience of buying goods. You stand in a line for a couple of hours, ask for things, pay for them, and then get out. That's kind of it. Sorry to break it to you, but it's no experience. What was great about my time in the Epic Goods Line, that stretched almost all the way around the Dome and up flights of stairs and everything, was that I had three wonderful ladies accompanying me, two of whom were waiting and helped buy things when they already had their goods. It wasn't a painful experience to wait when the company was so good, the conversation flowed, and also the line moved fairly consistently and quickly. At one point Jenny and I jumped out of the line to go to the bathroom and by the time we got out we couldn't find them for a while, haha. The buying process was sort of annoying, but they send out the goods list with the tickets, and we'd all seen them online so most people knew what they wanted. It was an in-and-out process, and I don't really know what to elaborate on there.
Six O'Clock Approaches.
This was by far the most harrowing half an hour of the entire experience, if not my life, and in part I feel responsible for it. I'd left my pen light in my goods bag, which was in Lydia's hotel room at the Tokyo Dome Hotel. Though we knew that the elevator issue would be dire, we went up to her room, used the facilities many times, got everything sorted, and then tried to leave just after 5, when the show starts promptly at 6pm. The lifts were... ridiculous. When they did stop at our floor, they only had room for one person at a time, and there were other people waiting. It was absolutely ridiculous, and we sent Jenny down first, and then Lydia because I was sure she was going to pass out.
It was just... okay, so it's nearly time to go to the BIGGEST event you've ever been to, which is nerve wracking enough, and then there's a chance you're not going to be there on time to catch the opening moments? We were absolutely shitting ourselves. Heather and I managed to make it down shortly thereafter, though, after running into a hotel staffer as we were about to make a getaway in the stairwell (everyone has something they'd walk down 28 flights of stairs for). Us and the other women waiting were taken down using the service elevator at the back and all was well.
The jitters cooled off as we crossed the rainy expanse of concrete from the hotel to the venue, but they returned as soon as we were inside. We collected our final attendee and made our way into the pressurized (without anyone asking to see Heather's membership card and a perfunctory "do you have a camera" question at the doors), and a whole new wave of freaking out started. The view of the main arena was blocked off by huge black curtains, with gaps in them for every aisle, and as soon as I caught a glimpse of the arena through the curtains I nearly wet myself. I think I'd talked myself into believing that I wouldn't be able to see anything, that this would be just like when I saw Hanson for the first time and they were no bigger in my sight than my thumbnail held at arm's length, but even from rows and rows behind where would be sitting, I knew that I would have an amazing view just from what I could see of the catwalk.
So I hid myself from the view for as long as I could, concentrating on buying drinks and finding our aisle, but eventually we parted with Jenny, found our own aisle, and I had to confront how close I would actually be and how clear a view I actually had of the entire arena. It was so overwhelming, I think, that I couldn't really process it. I watched the crowd, watched people filing in and the people around us and on the arena floor (thinking "those lucky bitches") and across the other side of the venue and in the press boxes and behind the baseball net, and I steadfastly did NOT think about the fact that sooner or later, the lights would go down and Arashi would be gracing the stage. Because I would have just about died.
As six o'clock drew nearer, something happened much similar to what happened at my first Hanson concert. At the Hanson concert, a spotlight adjusted on the wall beside the stage, and everyone started screaming; it's a detail I've never been able to forget. I'm not sure what happened at the Tokyo Dome, but suddenly everyone was out of their chairs and screaming. We all got up, and nothing happened, but we stayed standing anyway, me clutching my pen light and trying to get my heart to stop beating so damned fast. And then, as some stragglers were running across the arena floor (lucky bitches), the lights did go down, the music started, the screams were deafening, and everyone's eyes were cast skyward.
A trip, skip, tumble down memory lane.
So this is where things get a little fuzzy for me. Fuzzy in that way where I cannot for the life of me remember the progression of three hours of music, because everything starts to blur together.
I remember that they started the show on high wires, their sequined white jackets with black buttons glittering in the spotlight.
I remember them dancing with vegetables and in clear plastic jumpsuits in front of a VTR that juxtaposed the old performance with the new.
I remember a very different Aiba solo, all dark with reds and heated energy and shorts with hairy legs you didn't need binoculars to see.
I remember fireworks going off and water spurts.
I remember the huge cloud and sun balloons as Ohno sang Kumori Nochi, Kaisei dressed as Yano Kenta.
I remember Nino's completely unsubtle Ohmiya moment, deliciously manipulative and clearly planned and beautifully executed, that had all the fangirls screaming and me giggling even though it was just Nino putting his arm around Ohno's shoulder.
I remember laughing at the MC, even though I couldn't understand every single word.
I remember the outfit Sho wore for his solo - a sequined hoodie that reminded me way too much of Jun's Yabai-Yabai-Yabai getup. I still don't remember what song he sang.
I remember the beautiful simplicity of Jun's solo, and wanting a DVD of these shows just to have this solo. I didn't say much to anyone during the concert, but I remember leaning over to Heather and saying "you cannot get more perfect than Jun and Broadway together."
I remember the thrills that ran through me as they came around on the trucks, waving in our direction, and how the embarrassment of waving a stupid pen light back as though they could really see me wore off quickly because it didn't matter that they couldn't see me; I was a part of something they could feel.
I remember looking around at everyone else to do the furi and giving up because it was just easier to wave my light out of time and enjoy myself.
I remember the scrapbook slideshow that made Lydia cry and the girls behind us sob, and I remember wishing I could feel the same way.
I remember singing my lungs out to songs I never remember the meanings of, getting incredibly excited at the songs I did remember, and just watching the stage and the rest of the crowd during songs I didn't know.
I remember not understanding why they were doing encores with the house lights up, but loving that the idea that they could see everyone as they looked around the crowd.
I remember their thank you's and not caring if they'd said them a thousand times because this is Arashi and they always mean it.
I remember them teasing Aiba and Jun tripping over his words and Sho owning the MC and Ohno getting into teasing himself and Aiba and Jun play-arguing and Jun with his stupid death wish fan service and Nino playing everything so cool.
But those are pretty tantalizing snip-its, I'm aware, so I'll go a little deeper for you.
The prose; aka the details.
Okay, so. I'll split it up.
Okay, so maybe this was just me, but there wasn't a lot of fan service at the concert. There was the Ohmiya moment I alluded to, which was literally just Nino putting his arm around Ohno's shoulder, but it was so deliberate and teasing that I loved it even more than if it had been casual. He went for it really slowly, as Ohno was singing, and just sort of grabbed at Ohno's chest at the last moment. Everyone screamed, and I squealed and then giggled because it was so perfectly manipulative and perfectly Ohmiya that I couldn't help but enjoy it.
The only other thing that I really remember was Jun staring down Ohno in that way he likes to do sometimes. You know, when he stands really close to Ohno, towers over him, and just stares, with that tiny little corner-smile of his that might eventually spill over into a real Matsugrin if you're lucky. It was, predictably, adorable, and I love Jun for it, and Ohno for putting up with it and ♥
But if we're not talking about the gay stuff, but just getting involved with the fans and making them feel loved, it abounded. Of course.
If you've ever heard that Aiba makes you (as a concert-goer) feel like you're truly loved, and doubted whether it's possible, I will tell you that it's true. There is something about a grinning, waving Aiba who gets so excited he forgets to sing or riles the crowd at the wrong moment of a song, that makes you feel as though you are supremely adored by him in that moment. Even though he probably can't see you for shit, you know his heart is out there, sucking in all your feelings. It's kind of gorgeous and I wish it wasn't so cheesy to explain but there's no other words.
Sho, of course, is all about the upper seating, as always. Which I'd be thankful for if I was sitting up there, so I won't say anything bad about it, but it's one of those things that, you know, you see on the concert DVDs but you don't realize that he really does do it? Or something like that. But he was also super playful, mucking around with the cameraman when he was on his truck going around the edges, hamming it up, it was gorgeous.
Nino, as per usual, was brilliant for fan service. He sat on the edge of the transparent moving stage and waved down at people as he is wont to do, and also played with the cameras on the trucks, and waved like a mad man. His little limp-wrist wave was just so fucking catchy that I had to do it back. There wasn't any way I couldn't have, it was just as hilarious and great in person as it is on a DVD.
Ohno did his waving and peace signs and was also completely adorable. As we all know, though, his best moments are close-up, because while he waves out to everyone, his eyes always seem the brightest when he can connect with someone. So I didn't feel like I got a lot of feedback from Ohno, but that didn't stop me from waving like a crazy person when he came around.
And then Jun. Oh Jun. Taking his shirt off at the beginning of the MC (because he just has to be different), climbing on top of the dugout to take an Ohno uchiwa from a fan and dance around with it, hanging on the netting, running tantalizingly close to the fans, generally flaunting himself all over the place... it was so very Matsujun.
THE MC/THANK YOUS/ENCORES.
The MC was adorable! Occasionally I felt a little annoyed that I couldn't really understand what they were saying, but I managed to pick up the topics they were talking about and, surprisingly, all of the teasing that went on. They talked about FNS (which went over my head because most of my understanding really needs context and I haven't seen FNS). Aiba talked about My Girl, admitting that he hadn't watched it the night before because he had gone out to eat. Later, he nearly gave away the ending, which Jun stopped and everyone teased him about. They talked about the drama with all of them, Sho's dramas and specials and stuff... Then Jun butchered the name of his drama which was a-dor-able because he got all annoyed with himself and closed his eyes and started over again. Then they asked what Ohno was doing, wherein he listed all their regular TV shows and the others feigned ignorance about them with "oh that's interesting" noises. They asked him what he was doing the next day and he said "oh, a concert at Tokyo Dome!"; they asked about the day after and he said "off", haha.
And yes, I pretty much understood everything that I just listed there. Go my Japanese listening skills.
Their thank you's were fairly standard; any of the heart-warming details were sort of lost on me but I was too busy watching the screens for signs of crying. I might be a mean person but I really sort of hoped that one of them would at least choke up a little. It didn't happen, but that's okay too. I felt their thanks anyway; the whole cheese factor was not lost on me.
The only other speaking part that is worth mentioning is at one of the encores, Jun was saying how glad he was for the concert (yokatta or however you spell it), and asked everyone else in turn to answer. Sho gave a hearty response, Nino answered even though he looked a little "lol what are you doing" about it, Ohno looked pressured into it but that was adorable, and Aiba goes "yeah, it's great, but..." and Jun just glares at him. "Sorry, what?" or something in that vein. "Isn't it great, Aiba?" "Yes, it's great, but..." "It's great, isn't it Aiba?" "It's great, but asking the other members...." "It's great, isn't it Aiba?" Beaten, Aiba said "Yes, you're right, it's great." And bows. And I love them ♥
THE SCRAPBOOK SLIDESHOW.
Jesus, way to tug at the heartstrings, boys! When I first heard that people were crying at this segment, I was like "god, fangirls are nuts aren't they?" But after having seen it in real life, I can completely understand why that happens. It takes photos of them from when they were little all the way through their childhood, through juniors days, once they were debuted, along with clips and sections from shows and other concerts and I can imagine that for anyone who has liked Arashi for a significant period of time, it's like a recap of your own life, the life you had growing up with Arashi. I imagine I would have felt the same, a few years ago, if there was a ten-year Hanson concert that was building up all of this and then showed clips from their youth - from my youth - that I would have felt the exact same thing.
Not only that, of course; the girl behind me was bawling with just as much feeling as I recall someone doing at a Mountain Goats concert, and it reminded me how much a band can give someone. With the Mountain Goats, because their music and they talk frankly about child abuse and how to get through it, they have touched people in a very meaningful way; with Arashi, because of their unwavering spirit and energy and happiness, I know that they have provided good role models and have drawn just as many people out of their feelings of despair. The music might be different but the message is the same - be strong, trust yourself, and strive for happiness. And I think that's a message anyone can get behind. (I am sure that it's sacrilegious for me to have just compared the Mountain Goats to Arashi, but whatever.)
I did feel bad, at the time, that I didn't have the same history with Arashi that some fans who didn't get to go would have, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the moment.
The beautiful part, though, was the fact that this segment led straight into a high-energy, fast-paced medley of some of their most fun songs: A-Ra-Shi, Sunrise Nippon, Kotoba Yori, Sakura Sake, Wish, Love So Sweet, Kitto Daijoubu, Happiness, Believe, and a bunch others I don't remember. Sweeping away the cobwebs of the emotional outbursts with some amazing songs - that's what I like to see.
Aiba's solo was first, and a remake of Pikanchi, which is a song I have only listened to once or twice. I don't know what it sounds like usually, but this felt really dark and had a fierce sort of energy around it. There was flag-waving and some really tight dance moves, all reds and blacks and heavy beats and it was really interesting but not like Aiba solos usually are at all. I want to say I was disappointed I didn't see the giggly, happy Aiba you so often see in his solo performances, but he was like that the rest of the time so I can't say anything bad about it.
Ohno's solo was adorable, as you could expect from a performance that involved him getting into his Uta no Onii-san getup and playing Yano Kenta for a little while. It was adorable, and the huge balloons were a really nice touch, even if they didn't quite move as fast as the moving stage he was on, haha. It just reminded me of the drama and the little girls we had seen at the hotel earlier dressed up in the same gear, and it was very happy and completely adorable.
And I'm sorry, Mr. Sho Sakulai, but I just don't remember much about your solo. There was the sequined hoodie, the dancing around with juniors, and I knew it was a remake of an old song, but I don't remember it very much at all. Maybe it was because it was an unfamiliar song coming straight off the MC segment, but either way... well, you looked good? What can I say.
Nino~ redid Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono, busting out his guitar skills to play a few chords on the electric guitar while he sang. It was an interesting rendition, because it had to be slowed down a little for - I assume - Nino to keep up with as well as sing along. He did pretty well; he was a bit pitchy and while the guitar was cute and I'm glad he busted it out, I would have preferred to see him on the piano. That's mostly because in my everyday life I see many a guitarist better than Nino, but not often a decent pianist. BUT the performance was good, and that song just reminds me of Stand Up so much I just love it.
And, last but by no means least, Matsujun's solo. Now, I should say in advance that I am not a fan of Matsujun's solos. The only one I thought he pulled off at least halfway decently was Yabai-Yabai-Yabai, but that's pretty much only because of how ridiculous the whole premise was and how he seemed to embrace looking like a fool and totally go with it. Oh, and La Familia because it was fairly sedated and laid-back in comparison to some. The other solo performances I have seen of his have either made my ears bleed or made me stop watching because of how embarrassingly hard he was trying to be cool and just failing. HOWEVER, this concert gave me the perfect Matsujun solo and I cannot wait for the DVD of it. Seriously. It's WISH, done in a jazzy style, with all these Broadway motifs, and he's dressed in black slacks and a white shirt and I think suspenders, and of course a hat, and it's just fucking gorgeous. The dancing is brilliant, he pulls it off perfectly, and the whole thing is just... it's so Broadway musical that all parts of his performance - the dance, the camping it up, the singing - is just so appropriate that it worked really well. And he didn't butcher the song; he did quite well, and that goes for most of the concert, really. A++ to Matsujun's vocal stylings.
Participating with songs is just the best. A Day in Our Life, Sakura Sake, Carnival Nights, Oh Yeah!, Hadashi no Mirai; those are the most fun to be there waving your light to. Plus, the furi for Hadashi no Mirai is so damn easy and there's lots of Sho's little "wo-woo!"s which I just love. The other songs I loved were mostly personal picks, because I will always get into a song more if I recognize it and can sing along, so the medley at the end was a favorite, with all the newer songs. And I have a terrible feeling that I'm going to start listening to some of the awful songs I wrote off at the beginning, simply because I've seen them live. It's a bad habit of mine; I start forgiving songs that I once thought were horrible, because I've seen them performed and listening to the (still terrible) recorded version brings back the memories.
The only - and I mean the ONLY - thing I wish they had sung was Tokei Jikake no Umbrella. But who doesn't wish that?
I think that at the beginning of the concert and directly after it let out, I didn't really understand what the concert was about. I'm very much used to a concert that is a room no larger than a house, with three to five dudes on a stage with instruments, where you can stand close enough to touch them and get sweat sprayed on you, where you can dance as much as you want, or get drunk at the back while nodding along with the beat, where you're right there with the performer and you can see their mood on their face, where I can understand their words, where you can go up to them afterwards, shake their hands and ask for a hug and go on your way feeling like you connected one-on-one with the person because there is exactly zero fourth wall in most of the gigs I go to.
So when I attend a huge arena concert, with a fucking boy band who doesn't play their own instruments or write their own lyrics (largely; let me make my point first), it's just so different from what I'm used to that I didn't understand how to interact with it. I did what I could, and got into it as I could, dancing and waving and singing out loud and it was so much fucking fun but afterwards I still felt a little like, "well what was the point of that?" I made the mistake of thinking that if the performers can't see you, they can't feel you, and just because you can't see the beads of their sweat from a foot away, you don't get anything from them.
But sitting back from it after a couple of days, I have to say - and this might be me rationalizing my feelings and making the whole experience more important than it was but I don't really give a shit - that I was completely wrong. Maybe they didn't look me in the eyes, maybe I couldn't study their every pore, but Arashi has instilled in me the knowledge - not just the faith - that their concerts are a definite coming together of group and audience. They feel every single person's presence, and they give back exactly the same amount. It's hard, coming from an individualistic Western mindset, to believe that just being a tiny insignificant speck should fulfill and emotionally satisfy me as much as one-on-one contact, but I believe it. I trust it.
And in the end, whatever. Some bands I've seen so close they've sweated on me won't remember me any more than Arashi; it's all an illusion I create on my own selfish part. I'm just as happy - if not happier - to be part of a 50,000-person crowd that filled Arashi with the overwhelming feelings that must still come from filling the Tokyo Dome, even if they've been doing it for ten years.
And after that ridiculously long report, I'm going to get a late dinner, and watch something ridiculous and not-emotional and stop listening to this song because it just makes me think of Aiba crying.