On 30 May 2015, the quiet town of Kawaguchiko saw a surge of visitors, some donning itachi bags peppered with images of Masato from Uta no Prince-sama or Murasakibara from Kuroku no Basket while others donned merchandise bearing the name Kenichi Suzumura. Our reporter, Astrid, managed to snap tickets to Kenichi Suzumura “Manten” Live 2015 over at the outdoor Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre! If there was one word to describe her experience, it would be enchanting.
Queues for the concert goods snaked all the way to the main road and by 1400, a good majority of the goods had been sold out, including the highly coveted trading badges! Shuttle bus services were also provided to Kawaguchiko Station and the Yurari Bathhouse in the area. What is interesting however was the diverse range of audience members who came for the concert. Aside from the usual fangirls, there were some families with young children, middle-aged women and even dedicated fanboys!
The set for the stage is without a doubt, Suzumura’s most elaborate set design to date, straying away from his more contemporary installments used during his four previous concert tours and going for a fantasy theme with the gigantic clock face in the middle of the stage with the hours replaced by various motifs from his songs! At around 4.36p.m., the hands of the clock began to move and the members of PinPin Band began to emerge from the left side of stage to much applause. As the classical strings continued to play, electronic synths overpowered them, marking Suzumura‘s entrance on stage. He was clad in a casual get-up of skinny jeans, shirt and a cloud-patterned jacket.
To kick off the day which was marked by ample sunshine and a clear view of Mount Fuji, he started with SHIPS, a staple to his setlists during Anisong World Tour Lantis Festival. With the crowd participation opportunities and its status as the lead track of his latest album, it was no surprise why this song was chosen to start off the festivities. Everyone was definitely hyped out and ready to go for the next grueling three hours of fun! Following that was the electronic in my space, another fan favourite! Suzumura performed the song flawlessly, holding onto the long notes and hitting the falsettos. Some of the penlights turned white to match the theme of the music video to the song. With two iconic songs being performed back to back, the setlist was definitely planned to fire the audience up as soon as possible!
Suzumura then welcomed everyone to the first day of his special Manten Live 2015, asking everyone to just enjoy themselves and have fun! After the brief MC, he went on to perform the funky トハイヱ (Towaiwe) which also happened to be the debut appearance of the full song in his solo concert repertoire! Then with the opening drums and chords to The whole world, penlights were dropped in favour of towels as everyone, including Suzumura himself began to fling them in the air. On top of that, the audience even did the respective calls and helped him to fill in the lyrics! It truly was a wonderful performance by everyone, from the audience members to the band members!
With that, Suzumura took a break, drinking a sip of water to the amusement of the fangirls who screamed his name or ‘oishii’. His MC session this time was noticeably longer as he remarked how cool the venue was and recounted to the audience his journey to Kawaguchiko from Tokyo, describing it as one that is filled with excitement! Being the foodie that he was, Suzumura also went into great detail about his BBQ trip in the great outdoors the night before.
It was time to proceed back to singing and this time round, with the announcement that he would sing his debut single, INTENTION, the crowd went wild. Filling in the ‘itsumo’ for him, it was once again an inclusive performance – a trademark of many of Suzumura’s songs. A particularly poignant moment was the two back walls behind the clock opening up to reveal the forest and an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji in the background. After that, the iconic シロイカラス (Shiroi Karasu) saw the audience members aggressively drumming their penlights in the air and calling out ‘hey’ alongside the intense guitar riffs! While the back walls opened during INTENTION, Shiroi Karasu saw the roof being opened, as though to let the titular white crow fly away. The theatre was filled with sunlight and it only proved to be a clue to the next song. The peppy and energetic love song, ミトコンドリア (Mitochondria)’s first riffs echoed through the halls, turning the sea of white lights into a sea of green. The crowd sang along to the buildup before the chorus! While the setlist was seemingly haphazardly arranged, what with the serious and intense Shiroi Karasu placed between two relatively lighter songs, it does display Suzumura’s flexibility as a singer in tackling various genres and emotions.
His MC segment this time saw him interacting with the audience members in every corner of the hall, asking them to reply to his questions as he pointed to each sector. He also talked about his previous performance around the area as part of 2009’s Lantis Matsuri held at the Fujj-Q Highland Conifer Forest and then he went on to talk about his travels around Asia as part of Anisong World Tour Lantis Festival 2015, joking that he has nearly traversed ‘the whole world indeed’. Following that, he explained to the audience the reasons behind the setlist for the evening and how he associated the moon’s soft glow with romantic love and mystery. As such, it was unsurprising that the next song for the day would be そりゃそうです (Sorya Sou Desu)
The audience clapped along with the song in unison and left Suzumura’s voicals to shine during the chorus. After that, another slow love song number came out with the first chimes of フタリジカン (Futarijikan) and as per his concert traditions, a disco ball descended from the ceiling. With the end of his light love songs, he explained to the audience the reason behind the setlist and his contagious laughter and joy infected the whole hall as we laughed with him! Aside from singing, Suzumura also writes the lyrics to all songs published under his own name and while they are indeed a display of his artistic integrity, many have feedbacked that his lyrics were overly abstract and poetic. As such, he explained to his fans the process behind writing his lyrics.
Among the many things he talked about, he justified why he used ‘fork and spoon’ instead of ‘fork and knife’ in Sorya Sou Desu, citing that it did not musically flow well (complete with a demo of what could have been had he used that line!) and that the imagery itself was just too morbid for a love song!
S: Oh my, I seem to have forgotten what album this song came from..
(Audience member): Becoming!
S: Eh? Really!
Suzumura then remarked that his fans were all like his friends, which caught on well with them as they gave a round of applause. He then began to advertise the concert goods that have yet to be sold out. For the pouch with an interchangeable design, he treated it like a magic show to the amusement of his fans! Perhaps the quirky promotion worked its magic for the following day, the pouch too was sold out. He also advertised the pamphlet. This time round, instead of containing any photographs, it contained illustrations reminiscent of a picture book with the lyrics to Taiyou no Uta. Suzumura asked if his fans have bought it and many resoundingly said ‘yes’. He then asked his audience members to take a seat as he prepares a dramatic reading of his own lyrics. Following that, he began to move onto his next song as everyone rose to their feet
ポジティヴマンタロウ (Positive Mantarou) saw the audience screaming along to the “Hello Hello” line while jumping on the spots to the energetic beats of the song! Fans even filled in the verses during the respective crowd calls. To this reporter who has only seen his concerts on Blu-ray, being part of this experience was very surreal! Then the keyboardist, Takashi Uda began to play the keys for the next song. Following the flow of Suzumura’s 5th anniversary mini-album, 互(G0), the introductory keys to CHAPPY were played without any intermission. Suzumura screamed ‘jump jump!’ towards the audience, who followed suit! The penlight movements for this catchy song were unique too, with appropriate pauses and drumming according to the beat! During this song, Suzumura also introduced his band members who have been following him since his first concert tour all the way back in 2010. On guitars were Masaki Suzuki and Kenji Fujisawa while the bass player was Hirofumi Miyake with Masami Itagaki on drums!
The band members then traded in their instruments for unplugged ones, with Itagaki donning a wearable drum kit and Uda bearing a melodica. They began to descend the steps, causing the fans to wonder what was going to happen next. It turns out, Suzumura and his PinPin Band would be walking among the audience for おもちゃ箱 (Omocha Hako)! As they ascended the steps of Kawaguchiko Stellar Theatre, fans began to scream as he came up close to those seated on the upper terraces and waved and smiled at them with his trademark eye-smile. They stopped by in the middle of the upper terrace’s walkway to perform and as Suzumura descended down the steps, a loud applause could be heard. He placed his microphone near his mouth only to reveal that he had been playing an instrument that resembled a harmonica! After the surprising performance and his experiment with approaching the crowd in a larger venue than his usual lives, Suzumura went into his next MC segment and made fun of himself falling on stage. To the fans, they knew it meant that the concert was entering its second half. He said that will continue to perform and give his best!
The funky さあ見栄張りましょう (Saa miepparimashou) proved to resonate with the audience members as they once again sang in the verses for Suzumura, cementing the most prominent features of his songs to be their inclusive nature and crowd participation potential. After that, Suzumura proceeded backstage while his band members continued to jam away to a familiar tune. Rather than being seated down, the audience continued to stand and clap along with the PinPin Band as a remix of Simple Future played. True enough, シンプルな未来 (Simple Future) was the next song on the list. Dating all the way back from his debut single in 2008, it had always been a crowd favourite and when Suzumura reappeared on stage in another getup of vest, shirt and jeans, fans screamed and clapped to the crowd favourite. After that, it was time for another MC session. He went to compliment a random audience member and also talked about the hoodie that was on sale during the concert! He then proceeded to sing messenger, a dramatic ballad about journeys and taking on unknown roads. An iconic song, it saw a sea of blue lights being waved as night drew closer and the sky above the theatre darkened.
To break the mood, All right was next and the sea of lights changed into red as the audience members sang ‘woah oh oh oh oh’. A stark contrast from messenger with its happy-go-lucky aura, All right saw the crowd going wild and enjoying themselves and this would carry onto to あいうえおんがく (AIUE Ongaku), a staple in his live performances anywhere ranging from Lantis Festival to animax musix. The audience clapped along and waved their hands to the crowd number! After the exciting and physically demanding routine for the audience, Suzumura invited us to take a seat as he proceeded for his next MC segment. He played with his band members once more, bantering with them and the audience for a more personal segment. Among others, a random audience member pointed out that his necklace was nice, to which Suzumura replied with a bashful thank you.
Then it made sense why Suzumura asked us to be seated as he began to perform ハナサカ（ピンピンバンドVer.）(Hanasaka PinPin Band Ver.). While seated, pink lights still swayed as the sky began to give way to the calm of the night – a rather fitting song for sunset. As per his slow songs, his vibrato resonated through the hall and he executed the acoustic version of one of his most iconic songs without any mistakes. When he finished his song, he began to search for the moon, with some assistance from the audience! He trodded around stage to find it and eventually grinned when he saw it. Then, he began to surprise the audience once more. He walked up to Uda and began to play the keyboard, which the fans reacted to with much screaming! From the first few keys, the fans knew that they were in for a nostalgic treat!
The last time Butterfly was performed was a good five years ago during Kenichi Suzumura Live Tour 2010 Becoming and for ~luna~, it made a special appearance once again! Sticking to the theme of love songs and the moon, it was an unsurprising but welcomed return for the song from his first album. After that was CHRONICLE, the leading track to his second album, CHRONICLE to the future released in 2011. The theatre was lit up with green lights underneath the night sky and during the bridge leading up to the final chorus, Suzumura gave a stunning brief acapella performance as his gentle yet intense voice echoed through the hall! It was without a doubt, his best performance of the song in his live history. The hands of the gigantic clock then began to move, signifying that the concert will have to end soon. Torches began to be set ablaze on the field behind the stage with many fans screaming ‘sugoi’! However, this was pointing towards a more sombre mood later.
While it was a given that 月とストーブ (Tsuki to Sutoobu) would be performed on the first day of the concert, no one in the audience quite expected this arrangement. With the first half performed with only the piano and Suzumura’s angelic voice, the yellow lights stayed still and the audience was in total silence in what might be his most haunting performance yet. His vibrato and soulful high notes resonated through every member of the audience and by the end of the song, many were wiping their tears away, this author included. Perhaps it could be said to be the highlight of the night. Hearing the song live with just the piano is a far more different experience than seeing it performed on TV. Following such a haunting performance, one would think that 新しい音色 (Atarashii Neiro) would be underwhelming but Suzumura continued to give off an emotional performance that surpassed the recorded version of the song. With two emotional songs back to back, one can observe the amount of passion and love that Suzumura puts into his live performances as his own emotions are in tandem with the audience’s. After that was his latest song, 月のうた (Tsuki no Uta). Another ballad with dramatic strings, its emotional intensity was relatively lower than the other two but for its first live performance, he certainly gave it the debut it deserved. This penultimate segment was without a doubt, the best display of Suzumura’s vocal capabilities, combining techniques, challenging songs and emotional intensity.
For his last MC segment, he said that he was very happy to see everyone and that the sea of colours during his songs was absolutely amazing. Among others, he discussed the importance of relationships in our daily lives and expressed sadness that the concert was coming to an end, made even more apparent by the ticking of the clock behind him. As such, he proceeded with his last two songs. ひとつ（Hitotsu), a song that has never been released as an official track, made a return during Manten Live and this time, Suzumura made his way through the audience to a raised platform on the upper terrace’s walkway. Rather than facing only the front, eyes from all directions were on Suzumura. While the song was short, its lyrics – concise and powerful – struck a chord in his fans and everyone in the theatre held their index finger up, denoting ‘one’. To conclude the concert, he proceeded with another song touching on meetings and relationships which was none other than and Becoming. One of his most moving songs, it was the perfect way to end the night, with everyone’s voices being united during the bridge as they sang ‘la la la la la laaa’ alongside Suzumura. To top it off, fireworks exploded in the night sky as the song came to an end. A concert that ended on an emotional high – ~luna~ was an unforgettable experience for the artiste and his fans alike. A piano version of Tsuki no Uta began to play, indicating that there would be no encore for the night. Suzumura and his band members rushed towards centre stage and took one last bow before the audience with the former thanking everyone for their presence and sticking it through for the three hours.
With 25 songs being performed today with no intermission, Suzumura managed to retain his trademark liveliness and energy throughout those three hours. Each song was performed with vigour and passion without any signs of his voice faltering from fatigue. With longer than usual MC segments, fans could also see more of Kenichi Suzumura as a person. An already enchanting start to Manten Live 2015, this concert is a summation of why people love his music and his persona. Which such charisma and openness as well as his ever improving singing voice, it is easy to understand why Kenichi Suzumura is so well loved by his fans and first-time audience members. Stay tuned for our report on the second day of the concert which will come soon!
All photographs without J-Network’s watermark were screencapped from M-On TV’s coverage of the concert. Photographs with watermarks were personally taken by the reporter outside the theatre.
SECOND DAY REPORT: https://jnetworkonline.com/2015/06/25/kenichi-suzumura-casts-his-spell-as-he-concludes-manten-live-2015-day-2-sol/#more-1372
Manten Live Setlist:
2. in my space
4. The whole world
6. Shiroi Karasu
8. Sorya Sou Desu
10. Positive Mantarou
12. Omocha hako
14. Simple Future
16. All right
17. AEOU Ongaku
18. Hanasaka (Pin Pin Band Version)
21. Tsuki to Stove
22. Atarashii Neiro
23. Tsuki no Uta
25. and Becoming