Sunday, March 29, 2015

LANTIS FESTIVAL SINGAPORE 2015: The BEST J-POP Concert Experience in Singapore


I don't really blog much, if you notice the frequency of updates of my blog. If I blog, it must mean that it is something extraordinary to be worth blogging about. ランティス祭りシンガポール Lantis Matsuri in Singapore was really incredible and amazing! A superb and rocking line-up of singers, impeccable organisation by Amuse, an ideal and appropriate venue and flawless execution.


All the singers were high-spirited and undeniably gave their all for the concert tonight. ちょうちょ Choucho was soothing with her songs, opening the concert with an upbeat rendition of "DreamRiser" from the ガールズ&パンツァー Girls und Panzer anime.  She followed it up with a powerful delivery of "優しさの理由 Yasashisa no Riyuu", one of my favourite songs, to the fervent cheers from the crowd as the opening animation from the anime 氷菓 Hyouka played behind her on stage. The hall was also lit in pink as she sang "starlog", another amazing track from her superb and highly-recommended first album, "flyleaf", the opening for the tongue-in-cheek Fate/kaleid liner プリズマ☆イリヤ Prisma Illya anime. Her voice is so sublime and soulful like yanaginagi's, really bringing out the best of her female vocals. She even sung a cover of "Snow Halation" which got the crowd incredibly hyped up. Boasting the perfect combination of looks and voice, Choucho is so beautiful and she can sing extremely well too, making the Japanese singer from Osaka a true "lady", as  destroyer Akatsuki from 艦隊これくしょん Kantai Collection would put it. It was unfortunate that she did not perform more songs such as "flyleaf", "Authentic symphony" and "Sleeping Butterfly" but her act was undisputedly one of the best of the night. I would definitely attend a solo Choucho concert; there is no doubt about it.


The next singer was the young and chirpy 田所 あずさ Azusa Tadokoro. Still finding her way in the competitive Japanese music industry,  it was heartening to see her delivering her lines in English. Her spoken English was really impeccable and she was just so adorable speaking it. Her performance of "Hello My Revolution" displayed how energised she was for the night, giving her all and covering "Lost My Music" by Aya Hirano next. The song was a special one for her, given how it landed her the Grand Prix win in the 36th Horipro Talent Scout Caravan 4 years ago. She has come a long way since then, landing significant roles in Aikatsu and iDOLM@STER: Million Live. She rounded up her time on stage with a first full public performance of her debut single, "DREAM LINE", which will be released next month. As the lyrics of her song goes, " 信じて、信じて、信じて! Shinjite (Believe), Shinjite, Shinjite!", let us all believe in her as she ushers in the next generation of young anisong singers, builds her international fanbase and continues to strive and scale greater heights. I would have loved to hear her performing more songs from her debut album "Beyond Myself", given that those were the only songs she had released so far (and I love her voice and songs too). Nevertheless, she delivered a stellar performance and emanated much vibrance and joyfulness during her segment, rightfully earning her spot among the best of the night.


小野 賢章 Kensho Ono came on stage and boy, was he the biggest surprise of the night. Having only listened to the songs by Choucho and Azusa (and 1 track by Minori Chihara) before, I had no idea what was to come next, just determined to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy myself. This man is amazing. From the get-go, his set was pulsating with energy. I don't know which songs he sang but they must've included his 黒子のバスケ Kuroko no Basuke hit, "FANTASTIC TUNE". His third song " フューチャーライン Future Line" was especially good, with the electronic beats at the start giving it a feel-good party vibe. Needless to say, he is charismatic, humble and friendly as evident in his casual interactions with the audience. The man is a rising star to watch, having already voiced prominent characters such as Kuroko Tetsuya in Kuroko no Basuke and the love-him-or-hate-him Slaine Troyard in Aldnoah.Zero. He is also an actor in Japan. Able to both sing well and act well too, what's not to love about him?


鈴村 健一 Kenichi Suzumura was the fourth artist to take the stage. Though I didn't recognise any of his songs, I enjoyed most of them just as I had enjoyed many of the songs during Lantis Matsuri. He was a real crowd charmer, really good at interacting with the audience. I loved the parts where we echoed "Woah-oh-oh" and "woah-ohhhhhh" along with him. There really seems to be no average-performing artists in Lantis's stable and すずけん SuzuKen, as he is affectionately called by his fans, definitely gave us a performance worth his reputation (he probably had the most fans in the audience, among the solo singers) for the night.


The electricity in the air never seemed to die throughout the night as the legendary 緒方 恵美 Megumi Ogata took to the stage next. Her legend status is no joke and she really is one of the greats. Her performance of 残酷な天使のテーゼ Cruel Angel's Thesis was one of the best of the entire night. The song recently came in top for anime songs that people are sick of hearing at karaoke, according to a recent poll by Nico Nico News. However, when sung by someone with a voice like Aniki's (as she is affectionately called by fans), who would ever get tired of listening to it? I wouldn't, for one. Next, she performed a duet with Azusa, "ムーンライト伝 Moonlight Densetsu", which was a real stunner and which represented why Lantis Matsuri is really one of the best anisong concerts to hit our shores- collaborations between fellow artists on stage. Something that you would never get from listening to tracks off an album. I especially liked the convivial interactions between the two- how Azusa addressed her as her mother (father) and how they embraced each other at the end of the duet. These moments of intimacy and emotions truly define Lantis Matsuri for what it is - the best anisong concert ever. Megumi wrapped her set up on on a high, singing the opening themes for the 2 Danganropa games before a 15-minute intermission.


After the break, OLDCODEX were the first to perform and they were firing on all cylinders. Everyone let loose, the crowd was in higher spirits than before, people were headbanging and punching the air. Vocalists Tatsun and Yorke could converse in both English and Japanese and they were rallying the crowd throughout their high-octane 6-song set as their fellow band members (yup, they had band members who played instead of the house band) played with astonishing finesse. The atmosphere was reminiscent of that when The Oral Cigarettes played during Music Matters Japan Night last year. As the saying goes, "ROCK NEVER DIES!" and J-Rock is the best rock there is! Before today, I didn't know OLDCODEX. After today, they have won me over. No doubt one of the best, if not the best act of the long night.


茅原 実里 Minori Chihara took to the stage next and I was in awe to see one of Japan's (and the world's) most popular singers before my eyes. Though I don't know the titles of some of the songs she sang, I would be lying if I said that the crowd wasn't on their feet throughout her act. She clicked with the audience instantly, joking proudly about her ability to speak English, professing her love for chicken rice (remember fripside during AFA) and the country, and about wanting to return again. Her duet with JAM Project's 奥井 雅美 Okui Masami, "輪舞-revolution Rinbu Revolution" was epic. Great to see a legend and a modern legend knocking it out of the park together. In her late 40s (I didn't know until I Googled) and yet still thriving with such energy, Okui is a wonder to behold. That reminds me, I have to watch 少女革命ウテナ Shoujo Kakumei Utena. 幾原さん Ikuhara picked my brain apart and I'm still waiting for it to be pieced back together with the finale of Yuri Kuma Arashi on Monday. I'd be more than glad for him to do the same again with his philosophical concepts with Utena. みのりん Minorin also sang "境界の彼方 Kyoukai no Kanata", which was well-received among both the younger and older anime fans, "雪、無音、窓辺にて Yuki, Muon, Madobe Nite", one of 長門 有希 Nagato Yuki's character song and "Paradise Lost", the opening theme of the anime 喰霊-零- Ga-Rei: Zero- a set list which truly brought out her powerful and incredible female vocals.


The closing act was ジャム・プロジェクト JAM Project, remarkably one of the biggest highlights of Lantis Matsuri. Five years after their last performance in Singapore at Anime Festival Asia 2010, the group was finally making their big return. I had a really great time with them, my energy never diminishing even towards the end of the concert. Alas, I don't really know many of their song titles but I really enjoyed singing along to many of the theme songs from classic animes such as Vanguard, 牙狼 Garo and also songs such as "Victory" where we did the v-sign and "Skill". I can fly! You can fly! We can fly! もっともっと! Motto (More) Motto! The group also broke into five solo performances midway through their act, where each of the members took centrestage and sang their famous hits such as "CHA-LA HEAD CHA-LA" by 影山 ヒロノブ Hironobu Kageyama and "PREDESTINATION" by Masami Okui. JAM Project (JAM standing for "Japan Anisong Makers") is an anisong supergroup composed of many renowned singers in the industry. The singers are all either in their late 40s or early 50s but they sure do not look or act their age, evidently still bursting with the same unending energy which propelled them to fame several decades ago. Just take a look at 遠藤 正明 Masaaki Endoh's bulging biceps and his aesthetic figure- I thought that he was still in his 20s when I saw him at the concert last night. He sure is hard at work at the gym and recording studio.


After calls for an encore from the audience, there was a curtain call and all the Lantis artists gathered together on stage to share how they felt about the concert. Azusa was really cute, saying, "Please do not forget me. I will be back!" Glad that you enjoyed your time in Singapore as I have surely enjoyed your performance. Hope to see you at AFA again this year (and get that handshake which I failed to get last year)! Keep striving hard! Kenichi and Kensho were happy to be in Singapore and wanted to perform again, especially Kensho, who was ecstatic that it was his first time performing overseas. Minori and Kageyama-san said that they did not want to return to Japan while Choucho said that she was slightly nervous to be the first performer but it all wore off when she noticed the audience's overwhelming enthusiasm. The hall resounded with cheers as she said that she would love to be back. Afterwards, we were introduced to the members of the house band, who were responsible for the the electrifying music that lifted the atmosphere all night. The artists bid farewell to the audience as they sang the Lantis Matsuri theme song, "Starting STYLE!!" together. It was a really pleasant and warm song which reflected the intimacy and joy between the artists and the audience throughout the night.


I think that Singapore is one of the few places where such a closeness may only be established, with our relatively smaller population compared to other countries and foreigners flocking from neighbouring countries to add to the vibrancy, with our central location in Southeast Asia. The concert venue, The Star Performing Theatre was also a highly appropriate and suitable venue for its target audience. The innovative layout of the theatre meant that everyone was able to catch the stage from every angle and be fully absorbed in the songs with the well-tuned acoustics, pivotal factors which incontrovertibly contribute to the success of any live concert. Factors which are dismal in a faux concert hall setting, such as a convention centre hall mockup. Comfortable seats were also available for members of the audience to take a breather and rest if tired. The presence of security in the concert venue also did not encroach on any individual's enjoyment of the concert. Crowd control, queues, sales and public relations were also commendable, thanks to the impeccable organisational efforts of Amuse Singapore. Lastly, no artist was mediocre or failed to meet expectations. Every artist gave it their all and did their best to create a power-packed inaugural Lantis Matsuri in Singapore. Notably commendable was their use of English to interact with the English-speaking audience, especially Azusa Tadokoro, who was so pitch-perfect and cute in her delivery. Every other artist spoke it well and fluently too.


Lantis promised to bring the best of anisong from Japan to Singapore and it delivered on that promise solidly, culminating in a spectacular concert over three hours long. I had a blast at the Lantis Matsuri in Singapore, just as I had at the Music Matters Japan Night last year (which was also organised by Amuse) and I hope to attend another Lantis Matsuri in the future.

My only gripe was that being a contest winner, I did not get to high-five Azusa. I could not ask for more either though. This was definitely a most rewarding, unforgettable and memorable experience. Knowing how it went, it would have been worth every penny and I would definitely purchase a ticket next time. Please invite 大橋 彩香 Ayaka Ohashi along next time too! Hasshii! Thanks Lantis and Amuse! This is the best J-POP concert I have ever attended in Singapore.

For those interested in the setlist:

Good morning Singapore!We had a blast last night, thanks to our great great audience!You were the BEST!!!AND... for...
Posted by ランティス on 2015年3月28日

How I won the tickets:

Q: Tell us which artist you are most excited to see!
A: I am most looking forward to seeing Azusa Tadokoro. Ever since winning the Horipro Grand Prix in 2011, she has been hard at work developing her voice-acting and singing skills, featuring in a few animes, iDOLM@STER Million Live and releasing her solo album last year, gaining her a steadily growing loyal and ardent fanbase.

I like that she's so hardworking, always striving to improve herself yet being ever so chirpy and vibrant with a bright smile on her face when I saw her at AFA last year. Breaking into the idol and music industry in Japan is no mean feat, especially when there are so many others vying for the attention of million of fans. That's why I think Azusa's exemplary strong spirit and determination, along with all the support that we as fans can give her will allow her to break out in this competitive industry, just like her close friend and colleague, Ayaka Ohashi has done so, landing a major role in the iDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS anime.

As the current wave of established anisong singers become legends and a new generation rises to take their place, let's give them all the support they need to achieve great things!

I hope to catch Azusa performing the upbeat「Hello My Revolution」and other tracks such as 「Sukimi」and 「Brilliant Sensation」from her first album at Lantis Festival in Singapore! Maybe a performance of her upcoming debut single, 「Dream Line」too? Let Singapore cheer this growing singer on as she continues to reach new heights and feels wonderful and welcomed to be performing on our shores!

Pictures Copyright 2015 © Lantis.