Live report
Updated March 3, 2011

Text:Nobuaki Onuki
Photo:Yusuke Nishizawa

Budokan is a good venue. The excitement of the audience does not get diffused but just seems to pour down onto the star on stage.

The stage opens with “MY Mr. LONELY HEART”. The reaction of the audience is warm and natural. He holds the microphone stand firmly with his both hands, a little spread out, and sings with a small crouching action. His voice, full of emotion hits us right on. I’d seen the stage on its opening night in Kawaguchi, and the change made since then was the addition of “L&R” after “Seitenwo Homerunara Yuugurewo Mate”. It’s a piece often talked about that refers to “those two guys”, but with it comes with the flavoring of ASKA, influenced by the melodious Western music of the seventies, and what’s more, I like its tune, as if it was bouncing.

Nobuo Eguchi on drums and Motofumi Ogihara on base. You can feel the awesomeness of this rhythm section right from the start. I recalled thinking that choosing such members was another talent of ASKA when the two began to perform with ASKA (I think it was at Yoyogi). These awesome people just turn a simple eight beat into something else. The two guitarists, Masaki Suzukawa and Masayoshi Furukawa have completely different personalities, which is good. With the two, it’s possible to do both American and European. Of course, the double keyboards of Taisuke Sawachika and Tomoji Sogawa are a luxury. It’s rare to have a Live with two sharing the position of the musical director. Makes you want to think that ”FACES”, the title of this tour, was about these guys.

Of course the tour is triggered off by “Kimino Shiranai Kimino Uta” and the tunes included in the album forms the core of the program, but as the tour nears its end, I became aware of something. It is a strange album. Whether it’s a known tune or a maniac tune, it creates a chemical reaction being placed on the album and enriches each other. It may sound rude, but I myself experienced feeling “Wow! Was this song this good?” listening to the album. It makes you want to savor each and every word of every song. It has that kind of magnetism. It was also there on the stage.

But how did the audacious melody of “Kimino Sukidatta Uta” come around? Is it because of its setting where the title tune of the movie “Brother Sun Sister Moon” flows in the song? It gives the strange sensation of listening to two tunes at the same time. Even more, I thought “Far Away” was superb. This tune is great! It brings out the good side of the hard quality of ASKA’s voice rather than its flexibility. The total volume of sounds created by the musicians is also something else.

During his monologue, he talked about “Kimino Shiranai … “, with a nuance that it wasn’t about his views of love or stories about love songs created in the past or a string of short stories, which were his initial self assessment, but rather, as if the star of the piece was “201-go”, the existence of the place where one used to live at. It must have been a dense period of youth, living with lovers and musical friends with each day passing like a party. With “Parachute-no heyade” sung as if ASKA is enjoying this more than anyone else, tucked in between, and going on to “C-46”. It really hits your deep feelings when you hear it near to the end of the live performance after being exposed to various songs. Doesn’t make much sense now to talk about analog and digital, but the song brings back the subtleties of feeling that got lost when things went digital, complete with the slightly wavering sound quality of a cassette tape. He sings Akiko Wada’s “Ano Kanewo Narasunowa Anata” brilliantly as an encore song, and talking about his belief that a live stage should aim to be set up without relying on hit tunes, he sings “Hajimariwa Itsumo Ame”, placing importance in sharing known songs which the audience expects to hear. Sawachika’s piano at the ending was absolutely beautiful, like a jewel. It was an evening that fully bathed everyone in songs and music at high purity, and made me wish for the story surrounding “201-go” to be made into a movie or a drama under ASKA full directorship, and also made me want to listen to ASKA sing a whole bunch of Japanese popular titles of the Showa era. Well, this may be asking too much, but…

Live report Updated November 9, 2010

Text:Nobuaki Onuki
Photo:Yusuke Nishizawa

Being told there will be a run-through rehearsal the day before, I went to take a look. Not only the band, but also the lighting, sound and all other staffs were firmly bound under mutual trust, and it seemed that nothing more remained to be done except for the final minor adjustments. More of a concern was the weather. A very strong typhoon was forecasted coming this way the following day. Having met ASKA in his dressing room, the topic of the conversation turned to the weather. “But it has never happened to me before” (meaning having to cancel the concert). Assured by ASKA’s words, I left the venue.

Actually, the typhoon did land. But the trains were running and I arrived at Lilia Hall without a hitch. The lobby of the hall before the opening of the first day of the tour is something else. It’s filled with the air of excitement of not only the fans that live nearby, but with the fans that want to be there to experience it before the others.

This is a report of the first performance, and I will not go into details and only just the impressions, since there are many of you who will be going to see the performance later. In the performance, acoustic guitar is featured prominently. The sense of security, provided by Taisuke Sawachika and Tomoji Sogawa, the two arrangers essential to establish the world of ASKA, standing alongside him on stage as players, is a class of its own. And ASKA, his singing is at its very best. “Far Away” was especially magnificent. Autumn skies are said to be “high reaching the heavens”, but ASKA’s voice is in the same league.
Ooops, I said I won’t go into details, but there goes. I’ve gone into details. But, in fact, I haven’t given away that much. You have to be in the audience and hear it live for yourself, to really feel the sensation. No matter how much you have thought about it before, his singing blows it far away. That’s how deeply etched his songs are. I have seen and listened to many great vocalists, both Japanese and Western, but I can say with full confidence that I rate ASKA to be one of the greatest.

Let me give you’re the general impressions first. In terms of “introduction, development, turn, and conclusion”, I had the impression that the final “conclusion” was being repeated twice, thrice in the latter half. In fact the album “Kimino shiranai kimino uta” is configured that way. It really is a series of love stories with 12 chapters, but it’s not set up to follow the beginning of the romance to its end in sequence. Peoples’ hearts throb and they regret. The former are the thoughts to the future while the latter is being pulled back into the past. My frank impression was that this album forces each chapter of the story to form a freely movable link and by responding to them, it accomplishes this sensation. However, it is not tied down by that album but has chosen and reconstructed the set list with other songs from his wide repertoire.

The tour title “FACES” seems to indicate the many facets, in other words, it probably is meant to be a live performance, which depicts diverse feelings. Or it can be taken to show the two sides of people. “Kimino shiranai … “ portrays a lead character trying to act like a man but being pulled back by past love. There are songs where you can read the subtleties of emotion between the lines that moves your heart like a French chanson. By the end of the set, the music functions like an end roll, as if to reminisce everything that has happened tonight. Of course, the afterglow as the concert ends is just superb.

This current album features tunes that were only known to the core fans and I had thought that including them in the live stage would be supported by his talks about his feelings as their writer, but this wasn’t the case. Could it be that he had confidence in reaching the audience this time?

And at the encore, the atmosphere changes drastically. In recent live stages, the “Showa era” starts popping up in a good mood around this time. He passionately sings the songs I liked when I was still a kid. He has shown us a side of him that is filled with a spirit of service.

Incidentally, I plan to make another report next year. I intend write about how the tour has matured at that time.