U-TA-DA! U-TA-DA! U-TA … oww.

January 16th, 2010
By

In the flesh ... Utada! (Or Hikki, for the hard-core fan.)She sang.

She danced.

She played the piano AND the drums.

And in the end, the audience gave Hikaru Utada a standing ovation. Most of her fans had no choice, really, some — your intrepid otaku blogger among them — having stood nonstop for MORE THAN FIVE  HOURS.

Such was the nature of Utada’s concert Friday night at Pipeline Cafe, the kickoff show in her 2010 “In the Flesh” tour, the last show she said she’d do as a 26-year-old (she turns 27 on Tuesday, just in time for her second show in Los Angeles), and her first concert since the end of her “Utada United” tour in September 2006.

Enjoying the show, however, turned out to be a test of endurance for her fans. From some of the Twitter reports I’ve seen, if you want to know how long the line got by the time the doors opened at 7 p.m., try this exercise:

  • Plug “805 Pohukaina St.” into Google Maps.
  • Plop the little Google guy onto the map to open Street View.
  • Send him down Koula Street and turn onto Auahi (the non-Office Max side).

That’s … quite a distance.

I arrived in Kakaako around 5:15 p.m., which placed me at a spot in line around the Hawaii’s Natural High entrance; nemu*nemu’s Scott Yoshinaga and Audra Furuichi came later and ended up on Auahi. It was a bit over two hours before I got into the building, at which point I discovered, to my dismay, what everyone would soon discover as they entered: there were no chairs. Well, okay, so there were a few booths in the back and a few stools here and there, but those were long claimed by people ahead of me in line.  There was also a second-level VIP lounge, but … come on, you want me to pay an additional $50 to pay for the right to sit down? Really? Maybe if I saw more Pipeline shows or went there to schmooze more often, perhaps, but otherwise, I don’t think so.

I lucked out, managing to find a spot at a set of four small bar tables directly behind the sound booth that gave me a direct line of sight to the stage (not to mention a peek at the official set list sitting on top of one of the sound boards — granted, I couldn’t see much on that list, but I was still thrilled that I could make out some of my favorite songs). But I’d estimate 95 percent of the sold-out audience wasn’t so lucky, being trapped in a (foot/knee/back-)throbbing sea of humanity. Granted, there were screens around the place, but really, what’s the point of seeing someone live if you’re watching him or her on a giant screen? You may as well be at home watching TV.

I felt sorry for DJ Mike Rizzo, the warmup turntablist who was trying to pump up the audience but, from what I noticed, only mustered a few people bouncing here and there and an occasional scream of delight. (Results may vary based on where you were in the human sea.) Audience members — seemingly split between local fans and Japanese visitors — just didn’t seem all that into the music. That the show started close to an hour after the promised 8 p.m. start time also may have played a role. And then there were those steam geysers that went off twice, impressive visually but with a deafening roar, one of which smothered a poor young woman who happened to be positioned right underneath it.

But then the lights dimmed, Utada popped on stage (decked out in an oversized white T-shirt with a giant red heart and a smaller glittery blue heart and red pants) singing the prelude from “Exodus,” her first English-language CD, and all was right with the world.

For about 100 minutes, Utada gave her all — an 18.25-song set (the 0.25 coming from an impromptu a capella “Boku wa Kuma”) plus a two-song “encore” (“encore” in quotes because I could see the final two songs, “Simple and Clean” and “Me Muero,” listed on the official set list, so I knew she was coming back). The bulk of the songs came from her second English-language CD, “This is the One,” and there was also a gentle emphasis on “Exodus,” but the rest was a quick tour through some of her Japanese-language hits over the years: “First Love.” “Automatic.” “Can You Keep a Secret.” “Sanctuary” (a special bilingual Japanese/English version, at that). Her backing band was superb, although it probably would have been nice to get a spotlight on some of the soloists. Her voice, while showing some noticeable strain in her inability to hit the highest notes in “Sakura Drops” and the lowered octave ranges on some other songs, was still lovely to hear live.

Perhaps the biggest endorsement for the night’s proceedings, though, may have come from Lorenzo, our head office clerk whom I saw after the show. He went with his sister, who’s the bigger Utada fan of the two, not really knowing what to expect. “I’m definitely a convert,” he said.

Thanks for the experience, Utada. I was entertained and thrilled to see you live. But, umm … next time, you might want to seriously consider of our state’s other, larger concert venues. Just a thought.

7 Responses to “U-TA-DA! U-TA-DA! U-TA … oww.”

  1. Kitsy:

    You are SO on the money with this article. The performance was great, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this huge of a turn out. At all.

    We got in shortly after 8pm — the scheduled start time and got stuck around the second projected screen. People were attempting to mosh to the DJ-spun music, others were trying to force their way thru to get a better view — and finding that people were not willing to budge. It lead to some interesting “wordless confrontations”.

    Being 5’6″ and far too short for the 6′ers fenced in front of me, we decided to hit the bar area for much needed air, drinks, and surprisingly enough, a nice peek-thru to the stage for the occasional glimpse. We ended up staying there the duration of the show and ended up tweeting the set list as it happened. XD

    Around us, numerous photographers were getting their cameras confiscated too… so I wonder if and when anyone will have some nice photos of the event to show~?

    Good show, but I think a larger *seated* venue would have been so much more worth it. The sound and lighting could have been more focused – as you mentioned, the soloists didn’t even get the spotlight until near the end of the show.


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    Social comments and analytics for this post…

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  4. Jason:

    BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    Some people find anything to complain about. It was a good show in an intimate setting. Oh cry cry cry you have to stand up for a few hours…Welcome to the concert world. Some people are so spoiled. This is how a REAL concert is done!!!!

    Oh the lines a sooo long…cry me a river Jason!!!!


  5. Jason S. Yadao:

    I’m sorry I don’t go to as many concerts as you apparently do. But thanks for your opinion. Glad to see you enjoyed the show.


  6. tommy:

    I purchased VIP card in advanced, lined up at around 6pm, it got me in right behind the barricade on the ground level front row! worth the extra money!


  7. Anthony:

    Hey Tommy, I think we met before the show. I was in the grey jacket with the concealed EOS Digital Rebel DSLR and Canon S3IS (of which I never took them out once having seen them kick people out of the venue that night prior). Damn, the shots would have been amazing. I was on the barrier, stage right next to George her sound guy, he gave me the setlist from the stage after. You can check it out on Facebook soon.

    Look for Anthony De Motta

    Nice to meet y’all. I fell in love with her that night. Indeed…


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