Seiyuu, singer and musical theatre actress Maaya Sakamoto had recently completed her 20th anniversary live concert over at Saitama Super Arena on 25th April 2015! The concert, titled Follow Me took on a different turn from most of Sakamoto’s other concerts with the usage of individual concert lights for each audience member in the form of a LED wristband and a venue that was of a much grander scale compared to her previous concerts! Despite these differences, it was definitely an enchanting experience for long-time fans of Sakamoto. Saitama Super Arena itself was decked out in lilac banners in honour of the event as well. The concert was also deliberately set for the 25th April to coincide close enough with the day her first single, Yakusoku wa iranai, was released in 1996!
Sakamoto performed to a crowd of over 8000 people for this particular concert and with the LED wristbands that they wore, they transformed the inside of the arena into a sea of lights! For the opening song, she performed her most recent single, 幸せについて私が知っている5つの方法 (ENG: The Five Ways to Happiness I Know Of) and the very moment she appeared on stage was met by a rousing applause from the fans gathered for the event! Following the light-hearted and gentle tunes of the first song, she proceeded to move onto マジックナンバー (Majikku Nanbaa) which was released all the way back in 2009! With those two songs for her opening numbers, she certainly provided the concert with the celebratory air that would permeate throughout the whole event! The more energetic and powerful number スクラップ～別れの詩 (Sukurappu~wakare no uta) took centre stage and was met with intense clapping throughout! In fact, claps accompanied Sakamoto for most of the concert!
She then proceeded with her first MC segment for the night, whereby she thanked the audience members for coming over to share her joy over the 20th anniversary of her singing career with her. She mentioned that she was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the venue that she was performing in. “I want you to sing and enjoy yourselves to the very end!” said Sakamoto before embarking on her next set of songs.
The next part of the concert started with Loop which was released almost ten years ago! The tenderness of Sakamoto’s voice as she performed this piece resonated with the audience members and she proceeded with a recent number that also illuminated her skill in singing ballads. SAVED. with its minimal usage of instrumentals saw the audience listening intently to her gentle voice. However, the tender mood would soon be broken as the ominous low piano keys for 色彩 (Shikisai) began to play. Also a part of her most recent single, Shikisai provided an interesting contrast to the two tender love songs with its powerful aura and intense vocals. Then, like the calm in the storm, Tune the Rainbow was performed, sending the segment of the concert back to its usual setlist of soft, gentle songs. Despite the sudden change of tone with Shikisai, this particular segment only goes to show Sakamoto’s flexibility as a singer, juggling various musical styles in one concert!
With a change in the stage layout, it was time for a change of pace in the overall concert. Sakamoto mentioned her excitement over having lights at her concert, as penlights are usually not a part of her concert traditions. She was especially happy about being able to see the individual faces of her concert goers! Then in the middle of the arena was a small band along with Sakamoto. It signified the beginning of the acoustic segment of the concert.
Three of Sakamoto’s hits from the late 1990s were performed with acoustic arrangements. パイロット (Pairotto), with lyrics written by Sakamoto herself when she was nineteen was sung with a certain fragility while showcasing the evolution of her vocals from nearly sixteen years ago. 指輪 (Yubiwa) was another nostalgic hit that caught on well with her audience members. Perhaps this segment was outstanding in that the crowd allowed Sakamoto’s vocals to take centrestage and mesmerise her long-time fans who had followed her since the beginning of her singing career. To end of her acoustic corner was Kiseki no Umi, one of her most iconic tunes in her discography. The haunting vocals that backed her voice as she sang with a voice that was both whimsical and mysterious made for an unforgettable performance indeed!
Right before one of the main surprises for the night, Sakamoto sang Coming Up. Upbeat and catchy, it hyped up the crowds after her haunting renditions of her nostalgic hits, refreshing them at the same time. With that, the star of the night left the stage. A figure in bunny ears walked up towards the grand piano on stage. It was none other than Anime soundtrack composer and music legend, Yoko Kanno!
Kanno removed her bunny ears and began to play a medley of Sakamoto’s songs, with just her and the piano. The on-site camera paid particular attention to her hands as she played on without any intermission or pause. She played songs that she had composed for Sakamoto throughout her career as well as songs which where composed by other people and bands. Songs ranging from Buddy to everywhere were played but Kanno saved the debut song for last. Yakusoku wa iranai was Sakamoto’s first single as a singer and she performed at the tender age of 16. The crowd filled in the vocals for Kanno as she hit the keys, which led to a magical moment for the audience members.
It was not long before Sakamoto stood on stage to sing the song that started it all! Kanno stood on stage with Sakamoto all this while as she delivered her best rendition of Yakusoku Wa Iranai. It was undoubtedly solid proof that her vocals have evolved from two decades ago. One of her most iconic hits, プラチナ (Purachina) was performed as well, leading to immense clapping from all over the arena. It was evident that the two women held a strong bond from the very moment Sakamoto introduced Kanno as “The person who gave (her) a chance to debut” later on. The equally catchy concert favourite 光あれ (Hikari Are) was the last piece that she performed with Kanno on the piano.
The concert proceeded without any intermission as Sakamoto proceeded to belt out a mixture of her recent tracks and older ones from the previous decade. She sang トライアングラー (Torianguraa), another song composed by Kanno and one of her best selling singles yet. The theme song to the anime Macross F was performed with much emotion and power which would soon translate in the succeeding song, ヘミソフィア (ENG: Hemisphere). Despite the quick tempo and general difficulty posed to most other singers for the song, Sakamoto tackled it without missing a thing and once again proves her vocal stamina. Once again, she proceeds with yet another high energy song titled レプリカ (Repurika), which was released just last year.
Following three consecutive power-packed songs, Sakamoto went with マメシバ (Mameshiba) and おかえりなさい (Okaeriasai), which were much more gentle and calmer in comparison with the previous three songs. Both songs also provided her loyal listeners with a taste of the nostalgic and now with an older song from her teenaged days and a recent song released shortly after her 15th anniversary as a singer. One of the highlights of the MC segment that followed the penultimate segment of the main concert was Sakamoto asking the audiences who was born after her debut. Upon seeing the raised hands, she proceeded to say “You just told me your age!” which sent the arena bursting into peals of laughter. She concluded the main concert segment with 風待ちジェット (Kazemachi Jetto), another fan favourite from a CLAMP anime along with a track that was composed and written by her called シンガーソングライター (Shingaa Songuraitaa), which came from an entirely self-composed and self-written album of the same name. With that, Sakamoto left the stage, prompting the audience to clap even more to beckon her back on stage.
Instead of Sakamoto appearing on stage, the four-man band the band apart appeared on the centre stage and sang their cover of Yakusoku wa Iranai which also appeared on Sakamoto’s 20th anniversary tribute album, REQUEST. It was definitely hinting at the eventual things to come. True enough, she appeared back on stage to sang the collaboration song with the band apart: Be mine! A rocky number along the lines of Buddy and Shikisai, the performance was an absolute delight for fans of both accomplished artistes! As part of her MC segment, she remarked that it was absolutely fun performing with the band as her backup as she had never gotten the chance to perform live with them before. the band apart took off and then came Yoko Kanno once again! Once again, she took the reins over the piano, accompanied by only Sakamoto’s pure vocals as she sang そのままでいいんだ (Sono mama de iinda) all the way from her first album, Grapefruit. The audience was clearly very moved by the stunning two-woman performance, with some even shedding a tear or two. Once again, the song was evidence of her long journey as a singer, enabling the audience to see the difference between the Maaya Sakamoto of today and her 18 year old self when she first sung the song.
Of course, she had to celebrate a song that is associated with a feat that many would dream of: hitting the coveted top position on the Oricon charts. Prior to the introductory chords of the next song, a video was shown with the bus used for that one album that helped her achieve that feat. The bus from You Can’t Catch Me (2011) was shown on screen and Sakamoto herself shed some tears at the sight of the large prop. Later on in the MC, she cited the turbulent time of her live tour in that same year as a result of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and the many memories the bus held for her. Despite her tears, Sakamoto pulled off a nearly flawless rendition of Eternal Return that sent all the fans in the arena clapping non-stop, doubling as her back-up band for her as well. It truly was an emotional moment for her as she went through the bus set but she was able to entertain the audience through and through while giving her own reflections of her 20 years as a singer. “When I was a girl, I never thought much about a 20th anniversary,” Sakamoto admitted. She also revealed that any song that she sings holds the same amount of fondness, regardless if they are new or old. And with that, she moved into her latest song, これから (Korekara) which was composed and written by herself. A photo montage was displayed as well, illuminating her journey as a singer across 20 years. However, the absence of one song signified that the concert has yet to come to a complete closer.
As per her concert traditions, Follow Me concluded with ポケットを空にして (Poketto o kara ni shite), giving the concert the conclusion it deserves as everyone in the arena participated in one way or another, be it clapping or singing along. Undoubtedly, it was the concert that defined Maaya Sakamoto as a musician, providing her fans, new and old with a refreshing mix of her classic hits and recent tracks. While she did not sing any of her foreign language numbers such as Gravity or Colours, the sheer variety of genres presented in this one concert is sure to delight her fans. While a Blu-ray release has yet to be announced, fans of Sakamoto can look forward to her upcoming single in June and her special outdoor live this month! Here’s hoping that she’ll continue to mesmerise us with new material in the many years to come!
Source from: http://natalie.mu/music/news/145507
Images courtesy of Maaya Sakamoto’s official site and LisAni