Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Kimura Kaela's KAELAND "Poppin' Park" - Yokohama Arena - Japan 10/2014

This is probably going to be kind of a rambling show report since it's been more than a month since I got home, but I'll try to share my experiences as best as I can.

My wife and I have been Kaela fans since close to the beginning - I've written about her here before. She was huge for a while in Japan - basically as big as any of the big Japanese pop stars that for some reason are more famous than Kaela in the States. Not many people even in Japan can go just by one name - say "Kaela" there and everyone knows who you're talking about. Ayumi Hamasaki had nothing on Kimura Kaela back in 2006 or 2007. But Kaela was as much rock as pop (and she started in an awesome garage band, which Sony would prefer you didn't know about), so she's got a lot more street cred than most of the country's pop divas.

It seemed like she sort of fell off the face of the Earth for a while - Wikipedia seems to show that she's been releasing stuff pretty regularly but it also shows that not many people have been buying her recent albums. (The last one I bought was "+1".) I think she basically stopped doing any PR or much touring - she was in full-on mom mode for a while after getting married and having a kid or two (I honestly don't know how many, haven't been following her lately).

She announced two back-to-back shows at the quite-large Yokohama Arena that happened to coincide with us being there this year, and people went nuts. Both shows sold out really fast. This was billed as a 10th anniversary "greatest hits" kind of show, and I also got the feeling it was almost like a soft comeback. Like she was announcing to Japan that she was ready to be a full-on star again, with all that that entails.

We managed to get seats to the second show when they opened up the last level of tickets, and they were pretty crap seats:

We knew that going in though. We were actually in the second row of the top level, but there's a big wall between levels so we felt kind of like we were watching the show from outside. The show was really happening below and in front of us. Everybody in our section was totally lame; the entire first level and floor were fist-pumping, jumping maniacs, but the whole row in front of us just sat motionless through the show and most of the rest of our section did too.

That photo should also give you an idea of both the size of the arena (it holds 30,000 people - though probably less for this configuration - and it was eventually full) and the size of her stage setup. It was easily the biggest indoor stage I've ever seen in person. It was almost absurd, and out of scale with reality. She was so high up that I actually felt bad for people in the front, because there's no way they could see anything except a black wall. Just look at how much higher the edge of the stage is than the crowds' heads. Kaela did use that full width, though, and the stuff on the sides lit up during the show - it was pretty impressive.

That photo is the only one I got inside because it is of course completely prohibited to take photos at Japanese concert venues and many announcements were made to that effect, worded so sternly that they made my wife laugh. (Something like "your camera will be confiscated and your memory card destroyed".) I really wish Japan would catch up to the US in this area - it's free marketing, guys!

We got there a bit late and of course all the good merchandise was sold out. They had XL size t-shirts! Never have I seen this at a Japanese concert. I would have totally bought and rocked one of those shirts. But I had to settle for a towel, which ended up not even getting used. Kaela apparently doesn't have any "towel songs" like some Japanese bands do, which I didn't realize.

Kaela seemed to arrive a bit late (from the sound of it, by helicopter) and the show started about 20 minutes late as a result. I don't recall any big entrance, I think she just ran out onto the stage in the darkness and then the lights came up. Her outfit was 100% tie-dyed, which was supposed to be "pop" according to her but all I could think of was 1970's Cher.

As for the show itself, here's a set list I found elsewhere (small pic of her in the tie-dye outfit at that link too):

02.リルラ リルハ
03.Ring a Ding Dong
05.Ground Control
07.OLE! OH!
12.A winter fairy is melting a snowman
16.What ever are you looking for?
19.Make my day!
21.Magic Music
En1.Today Is A New Day
En2.sonic manic(新曲)
En3.Super girl

A couple of those songs are new - she announced her upcoming album "MIETA" at the show. One of the new songs was pretty good, but the other really sounded like Katy Perry.

(I don't only mean that in a bad way. Her voice sounded great at this show, with amazing range and perfect pitch. I detected no auto-tune or lip-syncing either.)

But she also played pretty much all my favorite songs except for the Tamio Okuda-penned "Beat" and "1115". She didn't play any guitar at all as she used to do when I followed her more closely, but that's alright. I understand she's a pop star now and this was also the "pop" version of the two Yokohama Arena shows. The previous night was titled "Rockin' Zoo" and who the hell knows what went on there, it could have been a full-on orgy of punk complete with a mosh pit and Kaela smashing guitars and spitting up blood on stage for all I know. (Hey, time was she might have actually done those things, and she does still wear NOFX patches on her hat.)

In fact my favorite song of the whole show was "Jasper", which is weird because it is practically disposable as a studio track. You never know what's going to sound good live. First, it's got a really driving beat that really builds in intensity in person - you can feel it. Second, they really kicked up the light show at this point in the concert - pretty sure this was when they first broke out the lasers. And third, she's just got this really mesmerizing way of moving. I actually kind of forgot how good of a dancer she is in general. She's got a style that's all her own; she dances like she's made of rubber or something, like she's boneless.

She of course did a few long MC's and told a bunch of jokes and made the crowd laugh a lot, because one of the things people like about her is how weird she is. She bantered back and forth directly with audience members a bunch of times, which was unexpected given how much the stage separated her from everyone. I think she even dealt with a heckler at one point! It sure sounded that way anyway, but she dispatched him utterly with a series of smiling one-liners. She never looked phased.

Oh, but she did cry at the end. I feel like it wouldn't be a proper Kaela show if she didn't. On the one live DVD of hers that I own - "Live Scratch" - she bawls uncontrollably for literally about four minutes.

Anyway, there will be a DVD of both of these shows too, no doubt separated somehow to milk the most money out of us customers. It was actually announced at the show, so I'll be watching for it pretty soon.

03/25/2015 UPDATE!

The DVD/Blu-ray is out!

And Victor Entertainment has released this trailer/preview:

They don't show it there, but yes, Kaela did play guitar during the "Rockin' Zoo" day. That first night had so much more energy than the show we went to! I really wish we'd gone on both days. Our "Poppin' Park" show did have more of my favorite songs, but it was super-mellow compared to day one.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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