The 2009 Macross Crossover Live was an event of very personal importance for me.
It was emotional, even.
Each stage of Macross and it’s music has pretty much defined a period of my life – Macross/Robotech when I was a kid (then rediscovered in Junior High), Macross 2 and Macross Plus in Senior High and during what was to be the first of many trips to Japan, Macross 7 in university (Basara rocked many a drive home with friends), Macross Zero during my first job in Japan at a Prefectural Government office, and Macross Frontier during my current job in a totally different industry. No matter where I’ve been in life, there’s normally been some sort of Macross OST playing in the background. And while some have played a bigger role than others (ie, I didn’t discover a lot of the original Japanese Macross songs until I was in university, and fell out of love with Firebomber for a brief period during the Macross Zero years), I never thought I’d get to see any of the music performed live. Never in my wildest dreams, not even having moved to Japan. I mean, the original Macross was 20 years old and every Macross since had only reinforced its status as a very niche title, especially in Japan which had 30 years of well publicized Gundam and a gazillion other mecha shows that audiences grew up with and could wax nostalgic about.
Unfortunately I missed the 25th Anniversary Concert due to a trip back to Australia, so when I heard about the Crossover Live I knew that I had to go whatever the cost.
As luck would have it, I ended up being able to attend both days. This was fortunate, since it was really necessary see both performances to get the ENTIRE experience.
I’m sure that the organizers did this on purpose to get people to go twice… and, according to the BBS set up on the official concert site, this is exactly what a large amount of people did. I’ve heard friends estimate the number of repeat attendees as high as 50% based on the BBS and other forum feedback (not that there’s any hard evidence to back this up, of course).
So how was it? Overwhelmingly terrific with a few flaws which seemed to be more of an issue on Saturday than Sunday. For starters, the hall was stifling. I’m not sure whether the aircon was inadequate or downright broken, but even Fukuyama commented about it when talking to the audience. The sound mixing was also atrocious – but only during the Firebomber segment on both days. Perhaps it was one of Fukuyama’s roadies or maybe it was just that the sound tester didn’t account for the difference in levels between a piano accompaniment to Ai Oboete imasuka? and having FOUR electric guitars rock out for Holy Lonely Night. Poor Kajiura missed half a verse on Saturday due to not being able to hear what was going on. On Sunday she stopped the band all together mid-My Friends and demanded they start again. She constantly had one hand on her earpiece and her face set in a scowl. Hang on, this is Kajiura we’re talking about here. She always scowls. That’s kind of her appeal – amazingly cute voice coming out of a goth-clad scowling Japanese woman. The juxtaposition always made me chuckle.
Finally, the Producer seemed to be fairly incompetent since there was much more scope for mashups and duets than the straight sets that most of the show was comprised of. But maybe I was spoiled by the Yoko Kanno Tanabata Sonic back in July. By Sunday I knew what to expect and felt that I enjoyed the lineup more as a result. Then again, the lineup was balanced better on Sunday due to the two Arai songs we got in between Iijima and Firebomber, as opposed to the single Kasahara song separating them on Saturday.
Sound and pacing issues aside, the concert was yet another one of those once in a lifetime experiences. I seem to have been using that word a lot over the past 12 months. First the Macross Frontier concert, then the Yoko Kanno one. Whether its due to brilliant marketing (being 2009 and all) or coincidence, or just a side effect of Frontier’s success, this year has definitely been the BIGGEST year for Macross events ever.
All good concerts start with hours of waiting in line to buy merch and this one was no exception. Fans were waiting in line from 8am on Saturday (when goods went on sale at 11am) and just before 7am on Sunday (when the store opened at 10am). The goods shop featured the largest array of merchandise I’ve ever seen at an anime-related concert, period. Half of the goods were exclusive to the concert while the other half were items that had previously been released (CDs, calendars, caps, Ranka ramen and Sheryl… sausages?). I kept it simple and went with the concert brochure, t-shirt, and a set of stick posters. I also grabbed an advanced sale ticket to the theatrical release in November since it was being sold at 500yen cheaper than normal and also came with a free poster. The line was a few hundred people long and was patrolled by a pair of Macross segways!
I saw people buying $300 or $400 worth of merchandise. Macross events are rare and all, but wow… actually a lot of it seems to have made its way onto Yahoo Auctions ^^;
I’ve never been to two anime events that have really been the same in terms of pre-event atmosphere. Larger events tend to have nothing much once you enter the venue apart from drink vendors and the traditional bouquets sent to the artist/s by supporters and well-wishers. Smaller events tend to have fans singing and generally getting pumped up before the show. Mid-sized ones often have different merchandise for sale inside the venue and often a display or activity of some sort (eg, at the Macross Frontier concert there was a model display and karaoke stand). Being a mid-large scale event, the Crossover foyer featured pretty much what I head expected – product displays from its main sponsor Sankyo. This meant the new Macross pachinko game. There were 3 units on display along with a few tvs playing Macross commercials. There were also posters and Minmay cardboard stands. A lot of them! Also, a few posters for the theatrical release and a prototype for the upcoming 1/2000 SDF-1 model.
No karaoke this time though, which was unfortunate…or was it?
After watching a looping set of Pachinko and Ultimate Frontier commercials, Exsedol came up on the screen and introduced himself. He explained about the concert and that the facilities were only made in Miclone size, so noone was to enter unless they had been miclonized first. Otherwise they might…well, you know…break the arena.
He then introduced the audience to …
2) Sherryl & Ranka
May’n was the first act and started off with 3 songs including the new single PINK MONSOON. I really like this song for some reason. Yes it’s very 80’s… but in a good kind of way.
Then Megumi Nakajima came on-stage, opening with SOU DA YO (another new song from the theatrical release) and another two songs. We then got a couple of duets between the two (ie, TRIANGLER).
All the Frontier songs were great although there was no mixing things up and no Medley – these were pretty much straight up album versions. They were all done flawlessly although personally (having seen them done a few times before) the big highlight was the new new songs.
On Saturday this opening set lasted around 40 mins. On Sunday it took a bit longer because there was a break for… May’ns birthday! Yes, she was due to turn 20 later on in the week, so Sunday was her last performance as a teen. Anyone who has ever read May’ns blog knows what her favourite food in the whole world is – taiyaki (a kind of fish-shaped waffle filled with red-bean paste) and, just as she appeared out of the stage to begin a song… Nakajima started singing happy birthday with the audience. Then Aya Endo came out on stage with a HUGE tai-yaki. She claimed it was 10 times the size of a regular one but it more like 20 times the size if you ask me. May’n was caught totally by surprise. Endo gave a little speech about how she had watched May’n grow as a professional over the past two years and how it was thanks to May’n that she was able to keep playing the role of Sheryl. Many tears were shed.
3) Mari Iijima/Minmay
While all the other acts were introduced by an animated clip, Iijima was introduced by a rather artistic animation of an oil painting. This had nothing to do with Macross because, well, her first three songs had nothing to do with Macross either. Now, Iijima’s struggle to accept her fame as Minmay as opposed to an independent artist has been a long one and is well documented elsewhere so I won’t go into it here. Similarly, I won’t go into whether or not she should’ve done non-Macross songs at a Macross event. The main thing to note is that the audience was confused and the hall went pretty silent during these songs on Saturday. By Sunday word had obviously spread and people seemed to be expecting these, so it was less of an issue.
A clip of Macross was then played along to a recording of WATASHI NO KARE WA PILOT, before Iijima came out again to do her Minmay songs.
She started off with the 2002 techno remixes of 0-G LOVE and TENSHI NO E NO GU. These…weren’t the best. The tempo was obviously too fast for her and she had serious trouble dropping back into her Minmay voice. She was considerably more relaxed and warmed up on Sunday though. These were followed by her playing the piano while singing AI OBOETE IMASU KA while clouds of stage fog rolled across the stage. A wonderful rendition, made all the more poignant by the simple piano backing.
With the suicide of AI OBOETE IMASU KA composer Kazuhiko Kato on Saturday, it was obvious that his death would come up at some point during the concert. The news didn’t hit, as far as I was aware, until after the concert on Saturday night. It turned out, however, that the staff knew about it on Saturday but conspired to keep Iijima in the dark. She didn’t find out until after the concert on Saturday night. On Sunday she took about 10 mins before AI OBOETE IMASU KA to talk about the influence of Kato on her life and how she was certain it was his spirit next to her on Saturday that allowed her to play the song so well. Tears were shed before she noted that while Kato and even Hikaru (Arihiro Ayase) were dead, she was still alive and would go on. Even though she often felt that, living in the US, if she herself died the only one to find her would possibly be the postman. Rather macabre, but she gathered every ounce of Minmay she had left in her for that final song.
4) Ishtar (Saturday)
On Saturday, Iijima was followed by a completely unexpected appearance by Hiroko Kasahara, introduced by some Macross 2 clips. This was a complete surprise, since Ishtar wasn’t featured in any of the concert promotional material. She only performed one song, MOU ICHIDO LOVE YOU. And it was an album perfect version of the song. Utterly perfect. The first Macross soundtrack I ever bought was the Macross 2 soundtrack when visiting Japan as a high school student in 1993. And hearing this song made me feel more than a little nostalgic. I never thought I’d hear it performed live, something which made it all the more special.
5) Myung (Sunday)
I had my suspicions going in on Sunday. The last Macross event which Kasahara had performed at was the 15th Anniversary Concert – a concert notable for having both Kasahara and Akino Arai perform. So, would she show again this time?
Yes, it turned out that she would. And she would be utterly amazing.
I had heard Nakajima cover VOICES at Tanabata Sonic and thought she did a wonderful job. She totally owned the song – both paying homage to the original and making it her own at the same time. But after hearing Arai perform it, I have to concede that she is still the original and best. She sang possibly the best version of the song I have ever heard, accompanied by a string quartet while playing the piano. Despite being 50 (!) her voice hasn’t changed a bit. This was all the more obvious during her second song WANNA BE AN ANGEL. There were no vocal Macross Plus songs done at Tanabata Sonic other than VOICES so, once again, WANNA BE AN ANGEL was something I never imagined I’d get to hear live. And damn it was perfect. Brought the memory of listening to it on an old cassette walkman on the way to highschool back in the day flooding back.
I hope that Bandai/Big Wst/Sankyo decide to cash in and release a DVD of this concert. Even at Japanese prices, having a recording of Arai performing these two songs alone would be worth it imo.
And this brings us to the final and certainly loudest act. The three screens in the hall played a bunch of Macross 7 clips, even showing the whole immigration fleet explanation that played at the beginning of the first few episodes. Then Fukuyama came out on stage – and 7000 sets of eardrums simultaneously exploded.
The Firebomber set was approx. the same on both days – 75 mins or so of pure Basara and Mylene goodness – although for some reason (sound level issues aside) I thought they sounded better on the Saturday. That’s not to say that they were bad on Sunday however. Far from it.
All the classic Macross 7 favourites were covered – PLANET DANCE, MY FRIENDS, HOLEY LONELY NIGHT, LIGHT THE LIGHT, MY SOUL FOR YOU, DYNAMITE EXPLOSION, etc. Some songs from the new RE:FIRE album, such as BURNING FIRE and DANGAN SOUL; the latter being a particular favourite of the crowd. Interestingly, I thought that the live versions of both sounded better than those on the album (DVD BANDAI! NOW!).
Noticeably absent were GET FREE, TRY AGAIN and HEART & SOUL. Oh and TOTSUGEKI LOVE HEART. But that would come later 😉
Fukuyama took time out here and there to talk to the audience about a bunch of different things: How one of the song titles in RE:FIRE was something he thought of when he was 16 but took 30 years to get around to using; how he had originally recorded all the songs for Macross 7 using an electric guitar – until someone tapped him on the shoulder one day and said ‘You DO realise that Basara carries an ACOUSTIC guitar around with him, don’t you?’; how people had, some time over the past few years, just started to think of him entirely as Basara and were always disappointed when they actually met him – why is Basara’s hair LONG? Did Basara get a bit FAT? etc.
Anyways, the Firebomber set was wrapped up by both Tomo Sakurai and Kanna Nobutoshi coming out on stage! Nobutoshi ran on with his best known line, ‘LISTEN to my song!’, at which point Sakurai ran out as well yelling ‘LISTEN to my song TOO!’
Nobutoshi: ‘You just MADE THAT UP didn’t you?
Sakurai: Uhm, yes ^^;
All four of them then joined spiritua energy to sing LIGHT THE LIGHT together, with the audience joining in on the chorus.
8) Mashups & Closing
We then entered the encore which consisted of 3 songs:
-Firebomber meets Sherry Nome: TOTSUGEKI LOVE HEART
-Lynn Minmay meets Ranka Lee: TENSHI NO E NO GU
-Everyone: IKI WO SHITEIRU, KANJITEIRU
May’n and Fukuyama had done TOTSUGEKI earlier in the year at her MAY’N ACT concert (I highly recommend the DVD!) and this was basically a much louder version. Remember kids, more electric guitars means more awesomeness!
The Iijima/Nakajima duet was just them sitting at the piano singing together and was right up there with Iijimas AI OBOETE IMASU KA as one of the highligts of the night.
The final song was nice, although I must admit I’m not the hugest fan of the new single. I was also a little surprised that Iijima and Sakurai didnt do FRIENDS: JIKUU WO KOETE. A surprising omission.
After that, the spell was broken and the show was over. Kamujin came up on screen to ask what the hell was going on before telling people to get the hell out because they had to prepare for the Tokyo Motor Show. Oh and that we had better not engage in any ‘culture’ with the locals on the way home!
Whew. And that, was that. It wasn’t perfect and there were flaws. But the overall magic of hearing all the Macross music done live on stage far made up for any shortcomings.
Next up – the Soul G 30th Anniversary Gundam concert tomorrow and Firebomber in concert next month!
Macross Crossover Live 2009 Setlist
(2)Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t be late
(4)Sou da yo
(5)Anata no Oto
~May’ns Birthday Cake~
(10)Echo（Mari Iijima original）
(11)Suki To Ienai（Mari Iijima original）
(12)Like Never Before（Mari Iijima original）
(13)My boyfriend’s a pilot
(16)Runner (tv ver.)
(17)Do You Remember Love
(19)WANNA BE AN ANGEL
(23)REMEMBER 16 (acoustic ver.)
(28)HOLY LONELY NIGHT
(29)LIGHT THE LIGHT（Firebomber with Nobutoshi Kanna & Tomo Sakurai）
(30)Totsugeki Love Heart（Fire Bomber & May’n）
(31)Tenshi no e no gu（Mari iijima & Megumi Nakajima）
(32)Iki wo shiteiru, kanjiteiru (Everyone)