Otakon 2014: Concerts

hisui_icon_4040 I’m sure the question everyone in charge of the Otakon musical selection had this year was “How do you follow-up Yoko Kanno and T.M.Revolution with a side of Chiaki Ishikawa and Home Made Kazoku?” The real answer is that you can’t. What you do is march ahead without looking back and just provide a great experience. You provide a show that any other convention would kill for even if it is not as spectacular as last year. In that respect I think ALTIMA and Yoshiki were an amazing lineup. At most conventions outside of Anime Expo Yoshiki alone could have been your entire musical lineup and been something people talking about for years. So both acts in one weekend was quite impressive.

I myself saw both concerts which was quite a treat. As per the rules of music at the anime con the ALTIMA concert was a rollicking Friday performance that was filled with jumping around, screaming, and silly audience participation. Yoshiki’s Sunday piano recital was mostly far more classy and mellow but there was a little of that X Japan madness thrown in as a little treat as well. Very Yin and Yang to be honest but also very welcome.

I am curious. Do you know of anyone who wanted to get into the Yoshiki concert but could not get a ticket? It seemed like there were a decent number of extra tickets floating around but I wonder how many of those never ended up in the hands of someone who wanted them. This is not major criticism of how the tickets were given out. As far as I know everyone who wanted to go actually got to go. I just want to check that is actually how it was for the most part.

narutaki_icon_4040 Otakon has always been a convention that takes their musical acts very seriously, some years they are the main draw for many fans. This year had that same level of love.

This year Otakon moved the Friday concert back to the convention center instead of the Mariner Arena. Sunday’s location has remained the same, so this time both concert were held in the same hall. There is an itimacy to the space which I enjoy and it worked especially well for a performance like Yoshiki’s.

hisui_icon_4040 I mostly went to the ALTIMA concert because I am a fan of A Certain Magical Index series. That might not make sense at first but follow me for a second here. A Certain Magical Index takes place in a world where magic and science battle in the shadows. The main story is a series of Light Novels centered around Kamijou Touma from the science side who gets drawn into the world of magic by Index. In that show the character, Misaka Mikoto, was so popular she got her own spin-off manga called A Certain Scientific Railgun. In the anime adaptation all the openings, some of the endings, and most of the insert songs are done by a band called fripSide. Now the composer for fripside is a man named Satoshi Yaginuma. As it turns out he is also the composer for ALTIMA. Since I have always liked the Railgun (Sister’s Noise is particularly catchy) I figured there was no reason not to check out the concert. Also find out that Satoshi Yaginuma composed the main theme to Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven Is a Place on Earth was no small perk.

As it turns out before the concert I had never heard any of ALTIMA’s songs. The second season is so infamous that I never got around to watching Shakugan no Shana Final and I never watched past the first episode of Strike the Blood and Accel World. So I did not really know what to expect.

Before I get to the music I must state one thing: ALTIMA looked like Gilgamesh’s back up dancers. I half expected the King of Heroes to come out half way during the performance to sing a song about mongrels and Enkidu because they were wearing a lot of flashy gold. If you told me any of the outfits there were new costumes for a New Fate/Stay Night game I would not bat an eye. Mototaka Segawa was wearing something that look liked something from Gilgamesh’s clubbing collection. They were quite silly but they fit the mood of the concert so in that respect they worked perfectly.

I sat up front with the press but other than Wotagei Master Omo everyone in the press section was pretty much like people at the opera. I myself got up and danced a bit. If nothing else getting into the energy of the crowd is part of the concert experience and part of the review, in my humble opinion. Otherwise your killing some of the reason it is different from just listening to the MP3 of the songs in your room. That might make me look a little less professional but I think you lose some of the experience otherwise.

hisui_icon_4040 Maon Kurosaki and Mototaka Segawa are sort of like Lay’s Chicken and Waffles chips. They are not the two thing you would immediately combine thinking they would play off each other well. The thing is when you see them in action the strange interaction between the two styles gives you something you might not have realized you would have enjoyed. In that respect Maon Kurosaki’s more classic idol singing both clashes and synchronizes with Mototaka Segawa’s Japanese rap. It is certainly not for everyone but it also keeps them from sounding derivative.

The first few songs were fairly good. Really high energy stuff. It makes sense that they would do lots of shonen show openings. Those are the opening that really need to pump you up.

There was quite a bit of talking between songs. Never so much that it killed the momentum of the concert but enough that I noticed it. But it was where Mototaka really got to shine. Satoshi and Maon said a bit in English but mostly just enough to engage with the audience.  Mototaka’s English while accented was clearly better so he was responsible for hyping up the audience for the next song. In that respect he did a good job.

But about half way through is when the concert really picked up for me. Up until that point I was having a good time but then Mototaka announced since they were in the US they might as well play some American music. So they whipped out Walk This Way by Aerosmith and I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll made famous by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. There was something about knowing those rock songs that connected me a little more to the concert. I definitely threw myself into those two songs.

But oddly enough my favorite song was probably Cyber Cyber. ALTIMA made everyone make the mark of a C on their forehead during the chorus for the song. Now they had people doing things like running in place and jumping up and down before that. But there was just something about the silly “projecting your cyber C” gimmick that I found endearing. It was probably the best way to end the concert before the encore. Ending on Burst the Gravity as the encore was smart. I know that my roommate really loves that opening from Accel World so going out on that song was great for him but ending before the encore on Cyber Cyber will just stand out for me more.

I’m glad I took the gamble on the concert.

narutaki_icon_4040 You may or may not remember that Yoshiki has been to Otakon in the past and I was able to see him at his last appearance in 2010. In 2010, I sat through the entire masquerade to see him perform for only a few minutes; in 2014, happily I got to see a very special performance in complete comfort.

Before Yoshiki entered the stage, a video reminded (or introduced as the case may be) the audience of the legend that is X Japan and Yoshiki’s infamous emotional outbursts on drums to his tempered rage on piano.

For Otakon, piano was taking center stage again. Along with piano was the string quartet and occasional vocalist Katie.

He played some X Japan piano versions along with his other work. Anniversary, which he wrote for the Emperor of Japan) was a particularly strong performance that had a lot of gravitas. Hero, which included vocals, from the Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary movie was a ballad that seemed to fill the room. And I was swept away to another time hearing Endless Rain.

At one point, he took a request from the audience which ended up with him agreeing to play Tears. As he shuffled through music sheets he joked about needing them at all since after all he wrote it. He even asked Katie to come back and sing.

narutaki_icon_4040 Yoshiki talked intimately with the audience throughout the concert. He discussed his childhood, finding solace in music, and about the loss of friends that has peppered the band’s history. He got choked up at points and pulled the audience right along with him. This made it all the sweeter when Heath and Pata entered the stage to resounding cheers.

Nearer the end Yoshiki announced the audience winner who would be going to see X Japan in NYC. I was glad to see if she a woman close to the front of the stage who was clearly a huge fan.

All in all a truly emotional performance that certainly created many new fans in the process.

hisui_icon_4040 Overall, I enjoyed both musical acts despite the fact that they could not have been more different. But I do feel the high energy concert on Friday followed up by the relaxing concert of Sunday combo works for me. I usually still have lots of energy on Friday so I’m ready jump around and give something 100%. By Sunday I could not be dancing around to Here We Are ~Mountain Explosion~. I want something that I can sit back and enjoy as I bid farewell to Otakon. I hope to get a similar experience in 2105 as well.

narutaki_icon_4040 I agree Al, I think the Sunday concert being less bombastic is a nice way to round out an exhausting weekend.

More Otakon 2014 posts:

Otakon 2014: Tweets
Otakon 2014: Under the Dog
Otakon 2014: General Impressions
The Speakeasy #056: X, Otakon 2014
Otakon 2014: Photoshoots
Otakon 2014: Panels
Otakon 2014: 15-minutes with Sunao Katabuchi
Otakon 2014: Guests
Otakon 2014: Artist Alley

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