I swear, Intergalactic has just gained at least 80 plays since I watched the LOVE DVD. Yes, this moment has finally come. Some of you who have followed this blog since its early days may know that I am a huuuuge fan of Intergalactic. I wrote a song review on it, in which I flailed so hard I nearly dislocated my ovaries to outer space, because this song is just. that. good. And I think I mentioned even back then (what was it again, November? of last year) that I was expecting some fabulicious costumes and sexy space choreography to party to when this finally got performed in concert.
Oh wait, was that not a good enough view? Here, have a close-up!
Dance in the starship, babies! God Riida, your hair! I could not stop sighing over your hair (especially since my previous Prince of Perfect Hair MatsuJun decided to go with the sleazeball slick in this concert, poo~).
But okay, I'm getting ahead of myself in my Intergalactic excitement.
Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
I have just watched the entire LOVE concert from the first curling tendrils of Love to the last fade-out on the four shining letters left onstage, and wooo-ooo~! Arashi has just jumped, danced, strutted, flown and swaggered all poise and dignity out of me for the past few hours.
Now for general impressions: this concert was stunning. The visuals (including the DVD effects and the VTRS) were stunning. The costumes were flamboyant. The choreo was spot on. And the fab five were glowing with happiness, energy and eagerness to please.
But this concert was also different, and this is coming from someone who has watched almost all of the currently available Arashi Con DVD's.
Previous cons had left me feeling happy and bubbly, like I had just returned from a fun party at a dear friend's house.
LOVE left me stupefied in awe and inspiration.
It was like getting wrapped and whisked away by a three hour long storm and waking up at the end to finally catch your breath and realize Ah! My best friends are all out-of-this-world glamorous superstars!
Because yes, Arashi, though still everyone's brother and best friend, have really thrown their jackets down this time. They wanted to celebrate the beginning of their time as a group in their 30's with a sleek new album, and the accompanying concert tour packed just as much of a mature punch to it. The energy was still there, but there was less of a 'hyper' tone about them. And the power was still there, too, but expressed with more reserve. We got simpler choreos in favor of preserving the mood of restraint in songs like Sayonara no Ato de (kudos Riida! especially for that haunting little a cappella dance insert in the middle of the song), Intergalactic (which had a beat that could have matched some way more intense moves than what was actually performed), and sugar and salt (with only 2 backdancers doing mostly Sho's favorite minimalist moves for most of the song).
We also got less skinship than normal in this concert. There is that sense that even though there were plenty of opportunities for a fondle here or a high five there, Arashi chose rather to just focus on singing and throwing waves and winks to the audience this time. Not saying that there was zero skinship (because then it wouldn't exactly be an Arashi concert, now would it?) since Rock Tonight and Tooku Made were both full to the brim with the good old intermember touchy feelies and we had the odd sprinkling of Juntoshi in Confusion and of Ohba hugging during an encore number, but for the most part, our fab five had their majime faces on. It was more about the long seduction of a slow sizzle drizzle than it was about the slapstick kisses this time. Like every person on stage was a part of a bigger, more elaborate work of art, and Arashi themselves were certainly thus united as five threads intertwined to form a beautiful celebration of Love.
Yes, this concert definitely had a more mature, polished vibe to it.
And hey, I'm not one of those headstrong fans who insist that Arashi's appeal has to come from them acting like they're in their Shukudai-kun days from now til eternity, so I'm embracing the suave Arashi, because I don't think that the recent round of leveling up in terms of music and variety shows has robbed them of their true personalities at all; on the contrary, I think it has only added another layer of artistry to it.
With that being said, I don't think I can form a coherent essay on this awesome LOVE concert, so I'm going to talk about what I liked point by point instead.
1) The choreo
This is something I look forward to in every concert, and LOVE just has such a great variety of choreos. I mentioned above how there were a lot of numbers that exercised some really fine restraint with simpler moves this time, let's take a look at them.
Sayonara no Ato de
|Had to gif this moment because Riida really looked|
like he was enjoying his own choreography. ^^
I really hope someone makes an audio rip of this version of Sayonara no Ato de, because I would really like a copy! And there's not much noise from the crowd throughout either, so it'd be a perfect song to rip! *hint hint nudge nudge to those who do these things*
Now on to the next number I want to discuss...
You know, for a song that had such a strong techno beat and such a danceable tune, I was surprised at how tight and detached the choreo was. I think I was expecting some hardcore dancing in the vein of Mada Minu Sekai e, but clever clever Arashi surprised me yet again! First of all, the costumes were excellent. I mean, J, were you the one who chose these shiny blue jumpsuits that are just tight enough to let every movement of the joints be seen but not so tight as to be scandalous? Good job, good job! Very few things frustrate me as much as good choreo being hidden under unnecessarily bulky clothing. And second of all, the contrast between the stage and performers was what made this choreo ingenious. The stage and all the screens around them were playing all these dynamic abstract shapes, which totally added a sense of movement to the whole performance while Arashi and their backdancers played the stiff robotic roles with deadpan faces. This was a visual feast. I felt like I was careening into space with a bunch of my trusty android pals. And this must have been a real treat to watch live, no matter where your seat was, because if it was in the stands, then you could see the full glory of all the aerials, and if it was in the arena, then you could appreciate all the intricate steps and hand details that was part of the choreo.
Is this what a party on a starship looks like? I suppose those aliens from Planet Arashi have quite a lot to teach us about the wonders of outer space. One thing's for sure, though, and that's that 50000 people totally just went to intergalactic! in Tokyo Dome.
|Somehow, slutty Neen comes out even when |
he's supposed to be an alien android. *Sigh*
What are we going to do with you, slutty!Neen?
But just because the overall album is less hyper doesn't mean that there isn't room for some cutesy, flaily dancing. Voila! Confusion and Rock Tonight.
Confusion had Arashi in giggles. Literally. Juntoshi were pulling at each other with an invisible rope, and Aiba was hopping like a kid in a carnival (but really, when is he not? Hah!). The aerials were, again, fantastic, and Arashi had some fun playing with their junior backdancers during the choreo. There were skips and kicks and the arrangement left plenty of room for some good old goofing off Arashi style. They're a bunch of love fools who just wanna love youuuuuu~! Ah, oshietekudasai, but how are we supposed to resist that?
Phew! Okay now, in case you weren't feeling the more strenuous Arashi dance power, here, take a look at the dancing leader in a self-choreographed four minutes of perfection.
Hit the Floor
magazine interview with Nikkei Entertainment that the potential choreography was a consideration when choosing his solo song for the album, so it goes without saying that my expectations for this performance were quite high. I mean, he chose it for the purpose of doing some intense dancing, after all!
And what Riida gave us was a masterful work of art that exercised every joint and muscle in his body, down to the last sinew. Now, most Ohno solos are pretty dance-intensive, even the quieter ones like Shizuka na Yoru ni or Take Me Faraway or Rain. Oh Rain, can we ever forget all those popping, jumping moves in a song as echo-y and tempered as Rain? But Hit the Floor was a power-up from all that. Hit the Floor shed all hints of melancholy and instead whisked us away with full-on seduction. It was a song about action, about making suave moves and seeing new worlds and coming together in secret rendez-vous. And such a dynamic song naturally warranted a dynamic choreo. And Ohno gave it to us. So ladies and gentlemen, sit back and let Arashi's Leader show you his shiranai sekai!
Ummm... did I just say 'luckily?' Sigh, never mind about them ovaries... probably nonexistent by now anyways... Riida destroys them just as effectively as Matsumiya's O-faces.
Anywhoo... speaking of Jun, Arashi's Baby was equally upping the dance power with his vampire-themed Dance in the Dark. I'm loving his tight bouncing and the slick come-hither look that he's constantly giving us throughout. The guy has a body made for twisting, and it suits this sort of energetic jazz. I'm too lazy to cap/gif his solo, but trust me, you don't want to miss it. Jun always puts on a stylish show, and he doesn't disappoint in LOVE.
|Fancy a tango in the dark with Jun?|
The sensuality was also practically dripping from Arashi during Monochrome and P.A.R.A.D.O.X., but again, since I'm sure the gifs for that are already flying in legions across the interweb, I'll leave that up to you guys to explore on your own.
2) The Visual Effects
From the teardrops that opened Sayonara no Ato de to the starships zooming through galaxies at warp speed, the visuals were just breathtaking in this concert. MatsuJun (and hard-working staff-sans), you have outdone yourself yet again! The spherical dome that officially closed the concert in Ai wo Utaou was a a stroke of divine inspiration. Of course Arashi has to literally be standing on top of the world as they sing as epic a number as Ai wo Utaou! And of course it will open to reveal ta-da~! a sprawling carpet of flowers just to rub their life and laughter in the face of mid-December weather.
The VTR's were tastefully done. I especially liked the opening VTR with all its imaginary love sprouts connecting all the members as they walk about in their separate lives in the big city. It really oriented us not just the theme of love, but also to the invisible kizuna that binds the five members, who have spent roughly half their lives together as Arashi.
The solo VTR's were seamless backgrounds to the songs they accompanied (they were also continuations of the opening VTR's *wink*). Riida's and Jun's were seductive with a hint of danger, Nino's was a sweet slice-of-life scene, Aiba got a rare angst-scene (also, Aiba running, running Aiba, Aiba, long legs, running, angst = HK dead), and Sho's was a subdued sepia break-up.
And the fireworks. Who can forget the power of fire? We had it all, colored flames and sparkly crackers. Watch out for it in the ending of Jun's Dance in the Dark, and the explosive beginning of Calling. The colored flames during PARADOX were quite dramatic as well, and if you thought the song and the dance were already hot enough, think again, because those red, blue, and yellow flames were packing quite a lot of heat into that already sizzling performance (and yes, Nino does his hip thing, and yes, Jun still has his orgasm face on for pretty much the entire performance, and absolutely yes, Sho hisses like even he can't handle his hotness during the Sakurap).
3) The Music
I've said this back in last November, and I'll say it again: LOVE was pretty kick-ass album, so in that sense, they already had their work sort of cut out for them. There was disco, there was funk, there was smooth R&B, and there was some brassy jazz, too. In terms of emotions, there was the angsty, the grateful, the seductive, the celebratory, the mysterious, the joyous... And when all of that gets put in concert, boy we've got ourselves the real razzle dazzle!
But they, of course, did more than just present us with the album straight up. The little dance interlude in Sayonara still haunts me (again, if you do audio rip it, please be in touch! Or just post links to LJ). The ending of Ai Wo Utaou had them repeating that last 'Ai wo Utaou!' again, and again, and again, like they didn't want to leave us, like they really didn't want to have to stop thing songfest of love.
4) The Outfits
Remember in the early days, when we used to see Arashi in bright flimsy bellbottoms with cheap wigs on their hair and sparkly vests that seemed to have loose threads and chipped sequins? Well, long gone are those days! You can really tell that every stitch in their costumes here were made with love.
We got the obligatory carnival outfit in the opening with the ostentatious feather bouquets on their shoulders and that looked thick, which is good, because everyone in the dome is clamoring to see Arashi with their own eyes so it's nice that they bulk up with their clothes in the opening. Besides, it's winter, and Arashi hasn't quite gotten to warm up their bodies yet, so they could use a few extra layers.
We also got the kakkoii ensemble of gold and black during the Monochrome-Dance Interlude-Paradox sequence, which just screamed badassery and swag. I mean, Sho's hood, everyone noticed Sho's hood, right? And Aiba's bare birthmark? I feel like it's been forever since I got to see Aiba sleeveless.
Then there were the space ranger jumpsuits of bright alien blue. Hah! They looked like something out of TRON, but it suited the dance. And besides, as I mentioned earlier, they were just the right amount of snug to let us appreciate Aiba doing things like this:
Oh what would not I give to be that lucky Junior dancing directly behind this gorrrgeous man?
*muffled choke of despair*
Ahem. Back to the costumes.
The long sparkle-embroidered coats for Sayonara may look like they were made out of your great-aunt's curtain drapes, but the geek-chic skinny ties and pants somehow erase all the drabness of the material. And the glitter. Glitter on Arashi somehow ALWAYS looks good. I was kind of sad that this outfit was only worn for one song. It looked like a lot of love went into tailoring those curtain drapes.
The tartan jackets during Rock Tonight were mecha mecha stylish! I'm betting that the Fashion King J hand-picked these himself. Well-fitting, well-cut and with a bit of a preppy school-boy aura, this ensemble was a nice choice for an energetic song like this! I liked the gold details, e.g. the golden trim along the lapel and along the vest, the golden buttons, the golden shoes... It added a little bit of flair to outfit, and we all know that practically everything in this concert was about flair.
Ooooooo more sparkles! The Starlight Kiss costumes were designed to strategically catch all the light. They wore this for the longest time! I don't think there was a costume change from Starlight Kiss to the end (excluding the encore), so of course, we wanted the boys to be at their glittery best for numbers such as FUNKY, Love So Sweet and most importantly, that epic ending number in which they stand on top of a revolving globe and sing of LOVE (Ai wo Utaou!). Really, look at how the five Arashi just light right up like neon lights in the image below! Thank you, glittery pink jackets!
|This image is so beautiful. Just, WOW. What a way to end a concert.|
Anyways, I'll end with my favorite numbers of the concert:
1) Intergalactic (they've never done anything so futuristic and robotic before)
2) Sayonara no Ato de (that haunting harmonic interlude within an already very haunting song)
3) Ai wo Utaou (epic Arashi standing on top of the world, of course it merits a place in the top three!)
4) Hit the Floor (Ohno's moves, intricate and precise, the purring dance engine in action)
5) Confusion (like Intergalactic, it had amazing aerials, and plus, Arashi looked like they were having a blast; these love fools just wanna love youuuuuu~!)
6) Rock Tonight (Sakuraiba ass-slap, Jun trolling Ohmiya, Sakumiya air guitar and NINOMIIII~!)
7) Monochrome (slutty Nino, sensual Jun and everyone on chair choreo, CHAIR CHOREO!!! nuff said)
8) Yozora e no Tegami (because seeing Aiba all alone on a big empty stage singing something so emotional tugs at all the right strings in my heart)
|Aiba singing Yozora e no Tegami *sniffles*|
Please do yourself a favor and watch this concert! I'm already on my third rewatch and I know I'll probably be continuing with another few before this summer ends. This really raises my expectations for the original album set to be released later this year that they have yet to announce the details for. Surprise me, Arashi, like you did with that LOVE about-face from Popcorn, which was in turn another about-face from Beautiful World. Oh Arashi, Arashi... what will you come up with next? Something reflective since it's your 15th anniversary, after all? Or perhaps a broader theme of camaraderie? Or maybe you'll really go out of your way to surprise us and record an entire album consisting of nothing but Ohno's talented pitch-perfect farts. Hell, I'd probably still buy it, if only for the photobook of Oh-chan's ass in action.
Wow, I made it through this entire post without spazzing uncontrollably over my undying love for Aiba. And this was a review of a concert where Aiba literally slapped Sakurai Sho's firm little ass. Repeatedly.
I feel so grown up.