AYUMI HAMASAKI ~POWER of MUSIC~ 2011 @ Yoyogi Stadium

7 Jan


I never recapped the Ayumi Hamasaki concert I went to last summer… mainly because I know she can be polarizing among J-pop fans, and I want people to like me! Totally kidding. I’ve never spent time at Ayu fansites or forums, therefore my fandom has always been just me, her, and our imaginary love. The reason I’m recapping it now is because I discovered something EXTREMELY coincidental involving the concert and my favorite idol (of 2011), Reiko Aoyama.

I went to the July concert at Yoyogi Stadium, and Reiko went to the same concert!

I just went to the Saturday night concert… and she went to the Sunday afternoon one.

That’s just a pointless technicality though!

Even the photo Reiko put on her blog looked similar to a pic I took:

Reiko’s pic is the first, mine is the second. Her photography skills are so adorable. And mine are adorable too. She blogged about the concert here. I blogged about the concert here.

It may not have been “fate”, but it was enough to motivate me to write this recap.

Actually there was something fatalistic about the whole thing. A few hours before Ayumi’s concert, predia had an event in Saitama for the release of their single “Dream of Love”. I went to that event and talked to Reiko. I didn’t think of mentioning I was going to Ayu’s concert that night, because I had no idea she was a fan and was actually going to the Sunday concert. If it wasn’t for their second event that night, she probably would have gone to the Saturday concert. And we probably would have sat next to each other!

Predia’s HMV event in Saitama, photo from Reiko’s blog.

The concert I went to was originally part of the HOTEL Love songs Arena Tour, which covered her most recent album at the time, Love songs. After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the tour underwent significant changes: it was renamed POWER of MUSIC and the set-list was altered from Love songs music to primarily her greatest hits. The style of the concerts also changed from her typical extravagant sets and fashion to more understated renditions of her music.

HOTEL Love songs became POWER of MUSIC (but the ticket still said HOTEL Love songs). So technically it was two concerts in one. That’s ticket-tastic!

Yoyogi Stadium is in Shibuya, and located next door to Shibuya AX, which is where I saw PASSPO the week before. Even though I knew the location, the distance from Saitama to Shibuya was about a two-hour train ride, so when I arrived it was just a half hour until the start of the concert. It was still enough time to browse the huge amount of official (and unofficial) merchandise that was on sale outside the venue at Yoyogi Park. I wanted to buy an Ayu iphone case, but I couldn’t find the specific one I was looking for. As I headed towards the theater entrance I checked out some of the ridiculous Ayu-modified cars that were lined up and down the street.

I didn’t know if it was all right to take photos of them, but I found some photos at the Ayumi fanblog “My All”, which were taken at the same concert I went to. The streets were lined with about fifty of these things.

ayu485x2

ayu485x3

Although I had my ticket for a week, I had no idea what kind of seat I had; “A6-79” didn’t really mean anything since the seating plan changes for each concert. The face value of my ticket was 8,500 yen, but I spent about 60,000 for mine. Initially I was going all out for a front row ticket, which are in the 100,000 range, but I couldn’t find a front row resale ticket.

My seat ended up being on the floor about three sections back from the stage, with each section being a block of fifty seats. The location was good, particularly since I was on the aisle. I noticed that practically everyone had an Ayumi fan/glowstick hybrid, and anyone who didn’t was buying them from the staff that was walking up the aisle. Just based on watching her concert DVD’s, practically everyone buys one of these things. I felt like a total follower, but I got up and bought one. I thought it was cool that most of her merchandise was reasonably priced.

The concert started about fifteen minutes behind schedule (typical diva ;)). The lights went out and her guy dancers came out (shirtless) carrying glowing orbs in their hands and slowly circled the stage. Ayu then appeared in the middle of the stage which resulted in thousands of girls screaming… like girls. She had really short, wavy blonde hair. And then she winked at me.  The first song she sang was forgiveness. I actually haven’t been following her that closely for a while (starting around 2009 I became a much more casual fan), so I didn’t recognize the second song. As I’ve became a bigger fan of PASSPO, my fandom for every other artist (with the exception of predia) has completely plummeted. The song turned out to be progress, which was a new song that would be the opening track to her upcoming mini-album Five.

The setlist:

1. forgiveness
2. progress
3. A Song for XX
4. M
5. NEVER EVER
6. Catcher In The Light
7. walking proud
8. part of Me
9. WONDERLAND
10. Love song
11. vogue
12. Far away
13. SEASONS
14. July 1st
15. Bold & Delicious
16. Mirrorcle World
17. evolution
18. Boys & Girls
19. Born To Be…
☆Encore
20. A Song is born
21. Thank U

That is a lot of ballads. A few of the above songs were also “medley versions” (i.e. shortened versions). Unfortunately she didn’t perform any of my three favorite songs Dearest, No way to say, or Moments, but she partially made up for it with SEASONS, M, and NEVER EVER. Bold & Delicious and Born To Be in the same concert is brutal though, that’s like a negative million points. Catcher in the Light and WONDERLAND aren’t even real songs, lol.

And she didn’t sing Sakura Iro! /PASSPO joke

I’ve watched most of her concerts on DVD and this was very different. Although I like her older music more than her recent (“recent” meaning anything after My Story), the concert was a little too somber and slow-paced. Understandably it was intentional; the choreography, stage design, and her overall performance was designed to be very sentimental and uplifting. As an American who saw the tragedy of March 11 from afar, it was difficult to appreciate the aesthetics of the concert.

The mood of the concert got a little more lighthearted during the encore. She came out wearing a Team Ayu shirt and did a lot of call and response stuff with the audience, which I find hilarious. It’s basically an hour of her band doing a “jam session” with random solos and Ayumi going “woo woo woo”, ” yayaya”, “wow wow wow”, “etc etc etc” and the audience doing the same. She does this for all of her concerts, and it’s just really cheesy.

Ayumi is my favorite artist of all time, I’m just no longer the super hardcore fan I was from 2002-2009. The concert was amazing, but I should have made an attempt to see her a few years ago.

At least I’m not repeating that mistake with PASSPO and predia :).

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