|A concert staff member greeting guests with |
complimentary leis that have an Arashi charm on them!
Monday, September 22, 2014
2014/09/20 Hawaii Blast concert review
How do I begin.
I feel like something in the way I approach Arashi has changed, like I'm not the same kind of fan I was before, like there's this new dimension to my idolization of these five men that has been born of simply seeing them with my own two eyes.
From the moment their black helicopter came into view, a surge of emotion just welled up inside me and instinctively, I stretched my arms out to that distant object, waving and waving. I don't even know what words could describe my feelings as I watched the chopper zoom in, veering around the line of palm trees between the venue and the ocean and finally come to a hovering stall directly above the 15000 of us enthusiastically cheering in the blazing afternoon heat. The unity in our emotions was perfect. Even from my insignificant spot on the ground, I could tell that we must have made quite a grand sight, as our bodies turned in rippling waves to face the helicopter that was steadily passing over us. No wonder Ohno found this sight to be overwhelming, no wonder he was moved to tears the day before. A reception like this must feel so heartwarming and humbling at the same time, even if you're way up high above everyone else, pretending to act all cool for the cameras.
And yes, there were cameras inside the chopper, because we could see Arashi's faces live on the screens of the main stage. Ohno and MatsuJun were seated next to each other in the front, with Jun being closer to the window side. The other three were in the back row, though I couldn't see very clearly who was sitting next to whom. Now, you might be wondering what our acrophobic Sho-kun's face looked like when he was in the helicopter (I know I was!), but unfortunately, I did not manage to catch a clear glimpse of it during their entrance. However, Sho revealed during the MC that he felt perfectly calm in the chopper. When MatsuJun (and the audience) expressed surprise at that, Sho went on to explain that it was because the helicopter had a floor. Then Jun said something like, "well what about the high platforms during our entrance in the LOVE con?" And Sho immediately answered, "That was scary!"
But back to the entrance. The chopper disappears backstage, and we watch the screens, which continue to show Arashi as they land and get off their sleek black ride. A red carpet has been rolled out for them, and as each of them gets off the chopper, they walk up to the camera with an exaggerated swagger and do a cool gesture with their sunglasses. The screen shows their names as they each pose in turn. Aiba and Sho both lower their sunglasses to reveal their eyes in a comically handsome way. Nino and Riida take off their sunglasses, I think. When Jun swaggered across the red carpet, I swear I saw Domyouji reincarnated. It was because of his hair, which he has permed into a style that is only mildly less ridiculous-looking than his Hana Yori Dango look, and also because of this huge fur collar he had, which none of the others had on their costumes. Yet somehow, the man still ended up looking jaw-droppingly gorgeous; his skin was practically glowing, and he was just oozing swag. All five then ran up to the stage and we erupted into a huge cheer as the stairs on the the main stage slid apart to reveal them.
I must apologize for the huge amounts of information that this concert report is bound to miss, because as soon as Arashi appeared, LIVE, in front of my eyes, I just forgot about systematically taking mental notes of things and documenting this experience. I didn't even look at the big screens that often because the excitement of seeing them with my very own eyes just outweighed everything and all I wanted to do was look at them, all five of them, small and distant though they were, and absorb the unique ways their bodies moved and interacted with each other. So I do apologize here for not looking at the screens and probably missing out on a lot of the details of their facial expressions. But hey, we're all gonna see those details when the DVD comes out, right?
And let me just say that, as a first time concert goer, I was very pleasantly surprised by how intimate this concert was. 15000 people is a really small number compared to Kokuritsu's 70000 and even the Domes, which typically seat at least three times as much as this temporary arena in Ko Olina. So even though I was in section D-2, which is not that close to the main stage, I was still able to see Arashi on the main stage well enough to make a reasonable guess as to who was who when they all stood next to each other, and when they came out to the left end of the T-stage, they would be pretty close to where I stood. Close enough for me to see their faces clearly. I also managed to get a seat pretty close to the edge of my section, so when the moving carts came by, I could definitely see their faces clearly. Also, my section is one of the sections that the moving stage passed directly over, so I got the privilege of seeing all five of our boys at that close distance at least once that night. The views of Arashi were pretty good, and after seeing the moving stage in action, I have to applaud Jun for this invention. It may only pass close to us for a minute or two, but the excitement it brings, and the personal interactions with the idols that it allows is one of the major reasons I enjoyed this concert so much.
Now back to the concert. Arashi has just appeared onstage. Jun yells "ikuzou!" and the five begin performing A.Ra.Shi with Sho in the middle, rapping. We all yell out the appropriate lyrics when we're supposed to (like the "we are cool!" And "super boy!" parts) and wave our penlights to the beat. During the instrumental interlude (just like in the PV), Ohno, Nino and Aiba come forward with a flip after a bit of cute Sakumoto choreo. And as the footage from Mezamashi revealed after, Ohno gets extra points for being a badass and doing his flip single-handedly.
Now for a side note: There's just something about Ohno at a live that is incredibly fun to watch. I already had a pretty favorable impression of him from watching con DVDs and I was aware of his fondness for doing fan service and taking note of people's uchiwas, too, but seeing it live made it seem so much more real. Arashi's leader is tireless when it comes to fanservice, and whenever he is not dancing or singing an emotional solo line, he is waving at someone in the audience, or doing an aloha sign, or a pointing at a specific fan. The man just loves his fans, and you can really feel it in the way that he takes every opportunity to acknowledge them. When he first passed over my section on the moving stage, he actually pointed straight at a girl sitting two seats away from me, sending her into an uncontrollable fit of squealing. I saw very clearly that appreciative smile on his face as he did it, and the way he actually paused and held that pointing pose to make direct eye contact with the fan. With Ohno, fan service is not just about waving at the audience and throwing a random peace sign here or there; he doesn't go for quantity over quality, if you know what I mean. He would rather pause and really get his gratitude across to one fan rather than just doing the uchiwa request and moving right on to the next fan. Just seeing that made me love him so much more. I didn't even mind that he didn't have time to notice me, though I was holding up my "peace shite" uchiwa quite frantically. The man is so adorable, it's really enough to know that he probably saw me in his peripheral vision, and that my enthusiasm would have earned the same degree of deep appreciation had he chanced to look on me first. At that point, I just felt so insanely happy that I could, as a fan, give him the same joy that he gives to us, because I really feel that he treasures every shred of love we show him. I don't even know how to describe the feeling except that it was really fulfilling, and it made me feel like, for the first time, my love for Ohno and for Arashi was directly conveyed to its target. It's really different, you know? Usually, this love is conveyed by buying their CD's, DVD's and other merchandise, by participating in surveys or submitting questions to Mste. And I'm sure that's all very much appreciated too, but at a concert, the message going both ways is just so much more direct and so much more powerful. Every Arashi member can read in our eyes the passion we have for them, and every one of them is so grateful and pleased by it. After witnessing this, I could really tell that they are speaking from their hearts whenever they say things like "Lives are so enjoyable" or "thank you for always supporting us." I know they say these things so often that it seems like it's just trite courtesy by now, but they really mean it. Trust me, they mean it.
Anyways, back to the con. The weather at the beginning was quite hot, and Arashi must have been feeling the heat too, because they had to dance in those layered costumes. Nino, who was apparently quite distressed by the heat the day before, seemed to be doing fine, though, and was laughing happily onstage. They all came to the T-stage during one of the more upbeat songs (might have been Happiness, I'm terrible at remembering the set list and which member came over to us when) and spread out along the arms of the T. Jun was closest to my end, and my god, the man is every bit as gorgeous up close as he is in photos and onscreen! He had this humongous mega-watt idol smile on his face, and he was just amazing at working everyone's tension up. He gestured with his arms for us to cheer, squatted down for a moment to wave at the fans, and after he stood up again, he closed his eyes at one point and just smiled, showing his beautiful teeth and relishing the moment, like he knew that everything about this moment, the scenery, the people, the music, everything was perfect. Oh, MatsuJun was definitely having the time of his life in Hawaii! I think that you could really see the difference between him and Ohno, too, in the way they interacted with the fans, because Jun is definitely more of a crowd pleaser and loves to rally up whole sections to cheer and wave while Ohno is much more personal. It must be the concert-planner in Jun. That, and he's just bossier than Riida in general. Haha.
During Happiness, each member was at a different area of the venue, and they all had a huge water gun attached to a hose, which they proceeded to gleefully drench us with. In the section directly across the aisle from where I sat, there was a guy who kept jumping up trying to catch Nino's attention, so Nino went ahead and blasted him with the full force of the water gun. The guy fell backwards or stumbled (I couldn't really see that clearly, but it caused a commotion in that area), and Nino's eyes widened, as if he was surprised at the power of his water gun. He checked to make sure that the guy was okay and then walked back down the T stage. At the other end of our section was Jun, and he was spraying everyone at the back end of the venue with his gun while standing on a raised cart. I couldn't really see his face, but his posture was pretty erect and he looked really kakkoii as he let the water spray out. I didn't see him aim at anyone in particular like Nino did, but then again, I wasn't watching him the entire time, so I could have missed it if he did.
Hadashi no Mirai was performed with all five members and their mic stands, as usual. They were again spread out along the T- stage and Ohno was the one closest to our side. They didn't do anything special, but it was the first time I actually got to do all the hand movements to this song along with a whole crowd of other concert goers and the feeling was awesome. The song has never been my favorite, and sometimes I have actually resented that it gets performed so often at the expense of other songs, but I can totally see why it's a concert staple now. It just has this power that builds up in the chorus, and doing all the choreo along with the boys makes you feel so unified with them. It was amazing.
There was one point where the music stopped for a bit, and Arashi gathered in the middle of the T stage to relax before their next song. The big screens on the main stage started showing scenes from Pikanchi, and the familiar beat of 'Pikanchi' began to play. Arashi turned around so that they could watch it too, and some of them grabbed water bottles to get a quick drink. Two of them actually sat down together with their legs dangling off the stage as they drank and watched the screen. I think one of them was Nino but I couldn't tell who the other was. They started dancing to Pikanchi soon after, and that led straight into the gentler Pikanchi Double, which they performed on an elevated middle portion of the T stage.
There were two VTRs shown in this concert, and both show intercut scenes of individual Arashi members talking about their experiences over these 15 years. It was a pretty VTR with faded out footages of them at various performances, singing and dancing, as the constant backdrop. The video was subbed in English, and it began by showing Arashi's debut on the he cruise ship. Then somewhere in the individual parts, they were talking about how they enjoyed live concerts and I remember Riida saying that he wanted to keep singing and dancing for as long as he could, and Jun/Aiba echoing that sentiment, saying that singing and dancing were the first things they learned in this industry and that it really was the staple of their job, so they wanted to keep doing it. At some point, they also talked about what it felt like to hold their first Kokuritsu concert, and everyone's recollections seemed to be that of awe (sorry I just can't seem to recall who said what in these VTRs because they were all intercut with each other).
Then, during one of the songs that followed, Yama pair passed over my section on the moving stage, which got us all super excited. I saw more of Ohno because Sho was busy with the other side. One of them (I think it was Ohno), actually bent down and put his hands around his eyes so that he could peer through the transparent plastic of the stage at the audience members beneath. He didn't do that when I was beneath the stage, but it got a lot of screams from the fans who were.
During the performance of Believe, Sho slipped, and I believe some reports said Aiba did too, although I did not manage to catch that (honestly, I think I was perpetually in a state of not knowing where I should look during this concert!). Later, during the MC, the others teased him about it. Nino then starts singing the Believe chorus, trying to find which part it was that Sho slipped on or something, and Aiba giggles (Aiba's tension was pretty high). Then, I think it was either Jun or Aiba who stepped up and pointed to this one point on the ground after ascertaining that it was the spot where Sho slipped, and saying, "It's dangerous here! Be careful!" And after some more talk which my poor Japanese listening skills did not allow me to comprehend, Sho says that he apparently has a pretty beautiful jump during the Believe choreo. So of course, the other members all ask him to re-enact that lovely jump. Aimiya start singing the Believe chorus, and Sho starts dancing to it with Jun (I don't know if they actually explained why Jun was doing it with him, but maybe it was just for comparison purposes). When they get to the jump, we can all see that Sho's jump is visibly higher than Jun's (and yes, I could see it clearly even though I was watching them and not the screen). We all go "woooo" and the Arashi members seem impressed too. They then joke that it's like a musical style jump, and Sho laughs at that. Haha oh come on Sho, we all know you love musical style jumps and twirls (remember your epic musical dancing with Riida in Shiyagare?)
They also talked about the heat and Nino pointed up above us to some dark looking rain clouds that were just beginning to move over the venue. The sky over the sea was still clear and blue and the sun was going to be setting soon, but above us, the cloud definitely looked a little heavy. It made us all wonder if Arashi was indeed going to be bringing a storm with them. But it was sort of pleasant that the cloud at least made it somewhat shadier, which made the heat better to bear. I am sure that Nino appreciated that very much.
Sho then says something about going back to the main stage, which leads the audience to react with "eeeeh?" Like they're not happy about it or something. I don't quite know why because I didn't understand what they were talking about before, but Sho apologizes and keeps going on to the main stage with the other members.
Matsumiya leave the stage to change, and the elder three are left to hold the MC. Sakuraiba talk about how they put sunscreen on each other, and how that was kind of gross but they still do it anyways. Ohno looked shocked that they actually put sunblock on each other. I laughed. Never underestimate the closeness of any Arashi combi! Rubbing sunscreen on each other is hardly anything for a pair that have actually kissed on national tv after all, lol! Sakuraiba then tease Ohno about how he gets sunburnt during fishing, prompting Ohno to answer with a whiny "dame dame da yo!" Which gets us all laughing because his whiny voice was just adorably childish. I guess Ohno doesn't like talking about his tan or the problems with his fishing hobby haha!
Then, Aiba talks about how he always eats biscuits before going to bed, and that he had biscuits here in Hawaii too, just so he could eat them at night as usual. Ah, Aiba and his cute little habits. Sho seemed rather surprised that Aiba had such a habit. Aiba also promotes his upcoming movie, Debikuro-kun no Koi to Maho, and there was a funny reaction from Yama when he told us that it was going to be a love story. Both Ohno and Sho echoed him, "LOVE STORY?!" like they were so scandalized or something. It was cute ^.^
Jun returns in a new aloha shirt costume. The sky is getting darker, and the sun has set. The weather is just perfect at this point, not too hot, not too cold, light breezes, and everything calm and peaceful. I think Sho or one of the Tennens made a remark about Jun's new kira kira look, which got a laugh. Then the Tennens leave Sakumoto alone onstage, and Sho starts talking, but then stops himself midway and jokes, "Why does it feel like I'm an MC?" He then starts speaking to Jun in an MC/announcer fashion as if he was interviewing him. I don't think I can remember what he said, but I do remember Jun playing along quite seamlessly and acting like a super idol in his responses to Sho's questions. The conversation somehow gets to the topic of the helicopter, and Jun apologizes to Sho for making him ride the chopper, but Sho, as mentioned before, says that he was fine. When they were done talking about Sho and his acrophobia, I think Jun mentioned something about the sea and the beautiful view (?).
Nino comes back onstage at some point, neatly changed, and I don't know if he made a funny face or if he just looked awkward, inching towards Sakumoto while being left out of their conversation, but the audience titters at his entrance. Sho says something to Nino as he comes closer, and then it's Sho's turn to go backstage and change. It was kind of funny because Sho starts walking in one direction of the stage, but then seems to realize something and then heads the other way. Matsumiya laugh at him for being clueless about where to exit. Then we get this talk of lemons. From what I was able to gather, Nino had touched a lemon earlier and wiped the lemon juice off his hands with the towel on his costume. But then, he forgot he had done that and just now, used that same towel to wipe sweat out of his eyes, which got lemon juice in his eyes, which of course stung like a bitch. Nino looked adorable, holding up the little towel and showing it to Jun. The Tennens come back out together here, and for some reason they're looking super intimate and cute. Sho comes back onstage too, and Jun introduces the next part of the concert, which takes place on a small stage far over to the left side of the arena, where a local Hawaiian band is set up already. Arashi start walking over to that stage, and just Nino wipes his lemony hand on Ohno's shoulder. Ohno doesn't seem to mind it. Aiba had some sort of reaction, like either a laugh or just a smile, I just remember thinking it was cute whatever it was lol.
The concert resumes, and the part with the Hawaiian band was simply gorgeous. I think that if the Hawaii blast DVD needs a cover photo or any photo for promo purposes, it should definitely be a shot taken from this segment of the concert. The view was just so relaxed and so utterly Hawaiian with the lingering pinks and oranges of the sunset and the dark silhouettes of the line of palm trees behind them. And the band itself was comprised of locals in aloha shirts playing traditional instruments like the ukulele and some kind of wooden drum. The mini stage itself was not very large; it just had enough room for the band and five chairs for Arashi to sit on, but it also had these thick wooden sticks that stood behind the band and were lit with real fire at their tips. So we could quite clearly see the white smoke rising from that, and that, coupled with everyone in aloha shirts sitting on chairs, just made the whole atmosphere that much more intimate and relaxed. They sang My Girl, and Everything. Both songs had the instrumental parts changed to suit the Hawaiian instruments, and they both sounded so very good. The intro to My Girl was changed so much in tone that I didn't quite know what song they were going to sing until literally right before the first line of lyrics. I liked it though, and I definitely want an audio rip of this version once the DVD comes out! I was really torn between watching the screen and watching the real stage here, so I can't give you a good account of the members' expressions as they sang, but I can tell you that their voices sounded beautifully soothing against such a tropical backdrop, and occasionally I could see one of the members (Aiba or Nino) do little head shakes like they're relaxing into their own music, too. I heard that on the first night, loads of the audience members who were seated farther away rushed towards this smaller stage when they started singing there, but on the second night, this did not happen. Everyone stayed in place and behaved well.
A light drizzle started falling. It was rather romantic, the cool droplets falling on our sea of gently swaying penlights. Our cool blue lights against their smoky fires. I really thought Everything sounded beautiful. I've always liked that song, so I may be biased, but I love the way the melody of the chorus steps and then swings.
Here, because I was turned around, I noticed that the couple who were sitting behind me did not actually seem to be hardcore fans. They didn't have penlights to wave around or much paraphernalia on them, and they didn't really sing along to any of the songs or yell at the right places in the cheerier songs either. I suspect they may have been locals who just wanted to check out the band. During this 'Hawaiian' part, I saw them frequently put their heads together, as if the woman was explaining certain things to the man. It made me feel proud of Arashi, and I wondered for a moment or two what it must be like for people who don't know much about Arashi in the crowd. Can they be as blown away by Arashi as we all were? I can objectively say that the visual effects of any Arashi concert is top notch. Jun and the staff and producers know how to put on an appealing show, and they have the resources and experience to pull it off perfectly. But an Arashi concert's real power doesn't lie in its explosive fireworks or its vibrant palette of colors. And THIS Arashi concert in particular was certainly so, so so much more than just a show. It was Arashi celebrating their fifteenth anniversary by going back to their roots, back to the place that meant so much to them, the place that had witnessed such an important turning point in all their lives. It was part nostalgia, part gratitude, and partly just a fulfillment of a plaintive, long-held wish. Arashi wanted to look back, think back, and tell their teenage selves, "hey look, you've made it!" But they also wanted to look forward and think ahead, starting their sixteenth year by doing what they all say is the foundation of idol hood: song and dance. They wanted to thank the fans for being there with them, but the Blast was just as much a promise as it was a thank-you. It was Arashi's promise to us that no matter what happens (and in the world of idoldom, a LOT can happen), they will always be there for us with their voices and their smiles. As they said in their VTRs, they want to be singing and dancing for us for a long, long time. And yes, that message reassured me so much, even though I never really doubted them to begin with. They just try so hard, those five...
So I just wondered, would someone who didn't know the history of Arashi be able to feel the same emotions the rest of us did? Would the sheer power of our shared nostalgia somehow seep into their systems by osmosis? What would these people think if they saw fan girls around them sobbing during member speeches or meaningful songs like 5x10? What would they think when they see a member's face, magnified on the big screen, choking for the right words and breaking down in tears? Arashi's story is, even when told on a superficial level, a really inspirational tale, and I think their success is something that anyone who possesses any sense of humanity can feel good about, even if they aren't as crazy about them as we fans are. I mean, who doesn't like a story where five good little boys grow up to be insanely successful and famous but still remain so grounded and humble at heart?
But I digress. I was telling you about the lovely Hawaiian themed songs. Yes, they were very lovely, but by the end the sky had gone completely dark and the rain was picking up. Arashi gathered onto carts after Everything, and each one went down a different aisle. I believe it was Nino who came down the aisle closest to us, waving and smiling. The song was Summer Splash, and we all had tremendous fun doing the "oh yeah!" bits with the peace signs. Nino seemed to be in great spirits, even though the rain was readily getting heavier. People started covering their heads with the hooded towels.
During Carnival Night, the backflip we were all expecting from Leader happened! I watched the screen for this. The five were all gathered on the main stage, and I couldn't really make out what they were saying to each other, but they sounded like they were just getting Riida to do the backflip. Ohno didn't even argue or try to get out of it. He just gamely stepped forward, but Jun, who was beside him, stopped him, took off his own jacket and bent down to wipe the slightly wet floor with it. Aiba, who was beside Jun, also bent down to help, but Jun was the one doing most of the work. When they were satisfied with the floor, Riida jumped up and did his backflip. His hands touched the floor, so I guess it wasn't a true flip like they used to do on Utaban, but it was still pretty athletic of him. To be honest, I wasa bit worried about him doing something like that on a wet floor (even if it was wiped, it was still raining!). But he turned out fine and got a lot of cheers from the audience and Arashi alike for that.
The second VTR was shown sometime around here. Luckily it was shown before the rain got really heavy so we could generally still hear and see.
The rain began falling hard now, and I was beginning to get worried about my homemade uchiwa, which had a lot of glitter glue on it. From the other side of the arena, Jun yelled something out to the crowd. I assume it was to get our tension up in the rain. They sang Troublemaker, and we had loads of fun doing the choreo for that, swinging our penlights for the "sweet, sweet" parts. Aiba ran down the T stage and slid like a happy child in the puddles that had gathered on the floor. I didn't see anyone else slide, though they all seemed to be enjoying the rain in their own ways.
The weather progressed to what can justly be called a torrential downpour. The ground was legitimately muddy, and stepping around was getting difficult because the ground was basically all soft mud. Arashi then began to perform Monster, which was the only time we saw backup dancers in the concert (I think). The backup dancers entered on the main stage carrying sticks and wheels of fire, which they twirled and balanced in their hands, it looked pretty cool. Flames also shot out from the cannons on the main stage, which made this number seem really really epic. Arashi danced to this on the main stage, but moved to the elevated part of the T stage during the subsequent Daremo Shiranai. I don't think anyone slipped or anything, even though it was raining really hard and the choreo for Monster had jumps in it. Jun did his special kick on the floor during the first verse, too. And I really have to say that when all five are dancing in a fuzzy distance, it is always easiest to recognize Aiba, because his movements are just so much more exaggerated than everyone else's, and he puts so much heart into it, bless him! They also did a dance interlude in between Monster and Daremo, with the main screen showing pretty abstract patterns behind them. The dancing was hot, as usual, and at some points, all we could see were their silhouettes against the screen, which was again, incredibly pretty.
After the hotness of that and Daremo, the even hotter PARADOX began with the five still on the elevated T stage. I have to admit that I didn't see all of the hotness that everyone has been raving about because my glasses were all covered with water droplets, but I definitely remember seeing Sho during the Sakurap, and boy that has got to be the most erotic thing I saw in the entire concert. The way he smoothed his wet hair back with his hands while the rain was still falling on it, and just his sexy face (Sho might call it embarrassing when he's being interviewed, but the truth is that when Sho actually decides to be sexy, he really is sexy as hell!) . Nino also did his hip twisting thing, which released 15000 kyaaas in the downpour. I noticed MatsuJun facing our side during the "wanna make love wanna make love" part, and he dances just like he does in the PV, in that very distinct, flexible way that is immediately recognizable! God, if only I was close enough to see if he also showed us his O-face like he did in the PV... Hehe, but these things are what DVDs are for, I guess. Let's hope the camera-man knew what he was doing, because I sure as hell don't want to miss out on wet O-face MatsuJun!
The moving stage came over again with Ohno on it during Wild at Heart, and it passed right over me during a part of the song where Ohno didn't have to sing, so he was having plenty of fun. And brace yourselves, people, for the highlight of my concert experience! As Ohno passed over me (and my friends), he squatted down on the transparent stage and looked over the edge at us. He was laughing boyishly; seriously, the clearest thing I remember of this concert was that happy face of his, with his hair tinged light gold from all the lights in the background and the shining whiteness of the moving stage cutting across his chest diagonally. And he was sweeping the rainwater that had gathered on the stage off the edge and onto our heads!!!! He just kept doing that with his hand, sweeping the water off so that he could splash us. I couldn't really tell if he actually hit me personally, because it was still raining rather hard and I was already soaked to the bone, so I probably wouldn't be able to tell if some extra water had splattered onto me anyways, but I was situated right under the edge as he was doing this, and his face was literally right above mine, and that in itself was more than enough fulfillment ^.^
Yes, even though other parts of the concert are already getting hazy in my mind, the mental photograph I have of Ohno's face is something that's still sharp and clear and I only wish that I was a good artist so I could render it to paper as soon as possible and keep it with me forever and ever, because it was just beautiful the way the lights and his smile lit up his whole playful face. He really did look like a little boy having the time of his life doing something so simple and naughty. Ah, my love for the man multiplied after that moment!
During GUTS!, all five were on these raised platforms at the back of the arena, and each member was on his own platform marked with lights of his member color. While they sang, the individual platforms moved up and down so that the members were all on different levels. It looked very dynamic in a soothing way. Nino looked just like he did on Mste during GUTS! and they all did a few aloha signs during the choreo.
The platforms shifted apart horizontally after the song, and Jun announced that next would be the last song, Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi. The moving stages were put to use again, and we had Nino, Aiba and Sho on our side. This was the only time Aiba came close to us in the concert, and he is my ichiban, so naturally I was hyper with excitement. My uchiwa, which had his name on it, had long since been ruined by the rain, but I held up the peeling kanji and waved it up anyway. Unfortunately, he was standing on the part of the stage that was farthest from me and he was looking out at the audience on the other side when it passed us, so I didn't get a close up look of his face at all during this concert. But I managed to see Nino waving, and Sho also. Everything was a wet mess, naturally, but I saw them waving and pointing and throwing the odd aloha sign. Nino, in particular, seemed pretty fond of the aloha sign throughout the con.
There is really something special about being able to sing Kansha Kangeki with Arashi in the rain. Just that circumstance gave me chills. And it was even more accentuated when I heard fans starting to yell "Arashi!" at suitable intervals in the verses, like after they sing "smile again, arigatou" the fans would shout "Arashi!" and give a powerful thrust of their penlights, and then when they sing "smile again, nakinakara" we do the same. I don't think I've ever noticed this happening on DVD, so I was a bit moved.
Arashi regrouped in the middle of the main stage and joined hands after the song. The big screens lingered on each of their faces, and there were lots of laughs from the audience as Ohno was shown with his wet and completely disheveled hair. As usual, Jun yelled out to us, "Our name is....?" And we were supposed to respond with a deafening "ARASHI!" but somehow we weren't very synchronized, so we ended up saying Arashi twice. The boys laughed and bowed, and the stage sank with them still waving at us.
The rain was pretty light by the time they came out for the encore. They did not wear the Hawaii t-shirts for the encore, instead they were in these white costumes. The encore started with their ending speeches. I am not even going to try writing what they each said here because I understand only bits and pieces and I'm sure any attempt at a translation would be downright misleading. So I'll just write what I'm confident I know: Sho went first, then Ohno, Aiba, Nino and finally Jun. I heard reports of how choked up Ohno was the previous night, but even though I thought both his eyes and Sho's looked a bit watery, neither cried or choked over their words too glaringly. Sho got a laugh out of us, by starting with something along the lines of "Ahhh, sorry for the Arashi (pun intended)." Ohno talked about how it always seems to rain, whether it's their 10th or 15th anniversary, and then said something about looking out at the view from his veranda. He ended by saying that he wanted to walk with us together into the 16th year, and then he smiled a big broad smile and flashed a thumbs up to the camera. Aiba cried during his speech. He started off calm, but then he apologized to us and told us he would be digressing a little. He said something about Hawaii and being hospitalized and I think we all knew that he would be breaking down soon once that word was mentioned. He said something about feeling sad and down, and I can only presume it had something to do with his hospitalization. Then, all of a sudden, he stopped talking, and just turned around so that his back as facing us. He tried to continue talking with his back turned like that, but the other members were making noises at him (I'm pretty sure Nino was laughing at him) and Jun scolded him, telling him to face forward again, so he turned back to face us, but didn't get very far before the tears choked him up and he had to turn back once more. The audience laughed because it was so adorable how he didn't want us to see his tearful face. He ended with "I want it to be the five of us going forward, please support us." He was facing us for the end, don't worry!
Nino began his speech by poking fun at Aiba (as if we'd expect anything else). I remember him beginning with "Sunao da ne," which I guess translates to "he's so honest, isn't he?" though I think in this context it also has connotations of being uncomplicated or pure in his emotions. I didn't understand most of Nino's speech, but it got a lot of laughs from the audience. He was obviously trying to lighten the mood. He said something towards the end that was like, "mothers and fathers, please let your kids come abroad, and come with them (to see us)!" and that got quite a laugh.
Jun teared up a bit during his speech too. And I couldn't keep up with his words either, though I know he gave a shout out to everyone watching the concert live in Japan in the beginning, and after his tearful pause, he said something about Team Arashi continuing on a path together. It sounded really, really touching, and I was moved despite feeling lost in my struggles with the language. He then introduced the next song, and said that this was how they were going to start their 16th year.
The song was Season, which has got one of the most beautiful melodic choruses in the Arashi repertoire and one of the most melancholy yet strangely uplifting lyrics ever. It all fit so well with their nostalgic theme, and yes, I felt again a wave of emotion overwhelm me even though this number had no bells and whistles, just their voices and the music and the sea of slowly rocking blue lights. When Ohno sang his solo line of "Hirahira to hana ga mau koro/ Tabidachi wo kimeta omoi wa/Ima dare no tame de mo nakute/" his voice just sounded so piercingly candid, it was amazing to hear. I would not be surprised if most of the audience had wet eyes at this point. The screens all showed scrolling collages of Arashi photos, which I'll admit I didn't pay that much attention to since I was focused on the boys themselves, but I think the slideshow ended with a picture of all five sitting on that Hawaiian road that they all walked on shortly after their debut. I heard some people cheering as the image faded in and faded back out.
Then, the mood lightened with the first chords of Bittersweet, and Arashi walked down the T stage. Aimiya had Ohno walking between them, and both were holding one of his arms playfully as they nudged him forward, probably making him walk through puddles or something. Ohno seemed happy as they did this, but then his musical cue came, and he stepped forward gracefully to sing the first verse of the song. Aimiya kept fooling around with each other behind him; please see this fanart for the cuteness of Aiba trying to mess up Nino's hair here. Nino just laughed, and then it was his turn to sing, so the goofing stopped.
Energy Song was next, and both Sho and Ohno came over to our side on the T stage. Sho led us in doing some of the hand motions and he also twirled around the stage like crazy on his way back to the middle. I loved seeing this completely uninhibited side of Sho! Aiba and Nino came over briefly as well, though they didn't linger too long on our end.
The last song of the encore was A.Ra.Shi, and we were all singing along, it was actually quite loud but harmonious. Arashi joined hands yet again and gave a final bow before running backstage and back over the red carpet to where the helicopter was already waiting for them. A camera was situated backstage so we could watch as they gave us their final goodbyes before boarding. Sho kissed the camera. The others all did some kind of fun gesture. Ohno fooled around with Nino a bit and then they all shook hands with each other in a fun congratulatory way on the red carpet. During this entire time, we couldn't hear anything that was being said because their mics were probably turned off; However, the music to A.Ra.Shi was still blaring, and so all five of them were kind of moving and dancing to the beat of that as they climbed onto the chopper. There was a cute Juntoshi moment, and then the helicopter took off.
The music was still playing, so we all sang the last chorus of A.Ra.Shi as the five members hovered above us. I could see their costumes through the window of the helicopter, and I'm sure that even if they couldn't hear our voices over the noise of the chopper, they would still know we were singing to them because everyone had their penlights out and did the two final waves of Arashi, Arashi, for dream just as the helicopter veered off over the sea.
And now the party is over, and the Arashi flags that proudly flew on Kalamauka Ave (which I still saw Sunday morning) have been taken down Sunday night to make way for other promotional media. The stage has been dismantled and lagoon 3 of Ko Olina will soon be back to its original pristine state. But I think I understand now why Sho said that no one will ever understand how important going back to Hawaii is except the five of them. Because when a place is touched by a life-changing event, all traces of it may disappear, and all its significance may be forgotten by the local winds and waters, but the people who participated, the people whose lives were forever changed, they will always hold that place close to their heart, even if the memories become fuzzy with time. That place, in their minds, will already be imbued with deep emotional meaning, and the yearning to go back, even if everything has changed, will always be there.
I am so proud of Arashi for making it this far, and so proud to call myself their fan, and while I may never quite grasp the full extent of what Hawaii conjures up in their minds, Hawaii itself has already burned its own meaning into my mind. It was the place I first saw Arashi, the place where I, for the first time, became part of their music and part of their joy. I was that one little blue dot in the sea of penlights, jumping to the music, swaying to the beat, and finally waving Arashi, Arashi, for dream as they departed far into the night sky above the sea.
And my heart has never been so full of love.
Aloha and mahalo.
I hope we meet again some day.
Notes: I took no notes and made recordings, audio or visual during the concert, so this report may contain certain inaccuracies since my memory is not perfect and I cannot always remember when each member did what.
Also, as always, my Japanese is not that great, so please refer to yarukizero's concert report if you want almost perfect translations of their MC comments and ending speeches.
Lastly, it isn't pleasant for me to mention this, but there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on as we were lining up to get into the gates. What happened was this: originally, we had all formed a normal winding line outside the venue, and everyone more or less behaved. But then, for some unknown reason, a staff member suddenly tells us all to squish together by the wall closest to the venue, effectively obliterating all the loops of the line, and forcing us all into one big crowd. All order was lost, and everyone just pushed against each other to get closer to where the staff was gesturing us to go. I couldn't even see what was going on, and I didn't even have to consciously move to be propelled forward by the human wave. It was a bit frightening, but at least I managed to keep my balance.
When I got closer to the front of the line, where there were actual metal railings in place to keep some semblance of order, I saw some people pushing apart two of the railings so that they could break through and cut the line. The people around them were all scolding them, but they didn't stop until an angry staff member came by to force the railing shut. By that time, a girl had already been pushed down to the ground and she was crying pretty badly, scared that she would get trampled. She kept sobbing, "This was supposed to be a happy event. Seeing Arashi is supposed to be a happy thing! This shouldn't happen!" Then, at an even closer point to the entrance, another breakout happened, and this time, a child was actually pushed down. Staff came pretty quickly to quell this chaos, and they were very angry. Another woman who was on the verge of breaking through the railing and coming to the gate was also very angry and she kept yelling, "I don't care! You're hurting children! I don't care!" She sounded like she had lost all reason, and her voice was hoarse with fury. I don't know if she had participated in the pushing or if she was just a victim of people behind her pushing, but she seemed to be refusing to cooperate with the staff, who wanted her to get back on her side of the rails. Then, she got into another argument with a man and accused him of "hurting children." It was a very ugly scene.
As I passed by a small staff booth before the gate entrance, I noticed a Japanese girl crouched on the ground with her friends comforting her. She was crying and she had also almost been pushed to the ground in the chaos. Luckily, no one seemed to be seriously hurt as a result of this. It just gave a lot of people (myself included) a rather irritated mood as we finally passed through the gate to see the Arashi flags and life-size cutouts.
I think that a lot of the pushers and shovers were really angry fans because they might have been originally in the front of the line before the staff ordered us to all squish together, which led to their losing their spot, and so of course, they didn't like seeing all these other people getting in before them. But still, that is no excuse for this sort of shoving behavior, which could easily have escalated into a trampling tragedy if the bystanders had not scolded them and staff members had not come quickly to enforce some order. I just hope that if Arashi (or any other Johnny's group) chooses to do another concert abroad, the logistics can be managed better so that we don't have to deal with this sort of ugliness, because from what I've heard, this sort of behavior does not happen at the much more populous concerts in Japan, and I bet it's because of better organization. If we had something as simple as a rope or railing that could clearly designate the line, then all this mess could have been avoided, and no one would have gotten mad that their hard-earned place in line was lost.
I still cannot fathom why the staff asked us to squish together all of a sudden. But that was undoubtedly the inciting factor of this ugly display.
And for those of you who want to know, here is the complete setlist, courtesy of @Arashi_Thailand on Twitter.