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[LIVE REPORT]Mai Kuraki gets Standing Ovation with Enthusiasm

Mai Kuraki Symphonic Live –Opus 2- took place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo on September 23. This is a report from the live show.

Mai Kuraki Large Photo

This is a subsequent concert to previous year’s “Opus 1”. Musical performance was with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra arranged and conducted by Ikuro Fujiwara, all the familiar faces on this classic occasion. With somewhat strained tension and relaxed feeling mixed altogether, the orchestra first performed the famous piece, Carmen Prelude by Bizet vigorously. With no time in between, Mai Kuraki appeared elegantly dressed all in red, and started singing the first song ‘Revive’ as the symphonic live show unfolded a dramatic opening. Supported by the charm of full orchestra presentation, the audience was instantly taken into the world of music in depth.

“We hope to take you on to a musical journey with us today by wonderful sounds of instrument and vocal. Please enjoy our classical concert.”

After she greeted the audience, slow tempo songs continued. ‘Tsumetai Umi’ featured a guest pianist, Takahiro Akiba, performing solo elegantly. ‘Sakura Sakura…’, this traditional piece was played with more emphasis on the Japanized nostalgic mood. Each familiar song sounded as if they were rebirthed anew. Mai Kuraki’s tender, mild, yet powerful vocal echoed straight and sound. Her high tone concluding the end of ‘Sakura Sakura…’ was absolutely beautiful and superb.

Gentleness demonstrated by the big ballad piece ‘Start in my life’ performed under the bright blue lights. Beauty assured by coda like ocean waves in ‘Reach for the sky’. Nostalgic warm woodwind sound of oboe and flute comfortably sounding to our ears, were brought by ‘Kaze no Rarara. Each song had drama, color and emotions, and this is the luxury you get to experience at a classical music concert.

After an hour of first session and 20 minute intermission, second session started. The orchestra performed ‘Prelude for Mai.K’, dedicated to Mai Kuraki. Diva appeared once again, dressed in shining white silver this time. The medley song included a theme from ‘Sound of Music’, ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ through slightly up tempo fantasy piece, ‘Fushigi no Kuni’. During the song, the entire stage production had much to wow the audience by providing fantastic lighting and visual effects, using a pipe organ up on stage as a monitor to project images of doves and hares dashing by or stained glass patterns while inspiring everyone’s dreams and imaginations.

“Are you enjoying the classical feel today?”

As introducing next song, another guest pianist, Hiroyuki Matsugashita and violinist Mei were brought to the stage. An episode about the special violin which Mei was about to use for performance was revealed. The instrument came to life using one of the driftwood pieces from the Great Earthquake of Eastern Japan, and the ‘sound post’ inside the violin was made out of the ‘miraculous standalone pine tree’ which survived the Tsunami. This violin has been passed onto many violinist’ hands as part of the ‘Sen no Neiro de Tsunagu Kizuna’ (connecting knot with a thousand sounds) project, and Mei happened to be the 187th player. Next song ‘Anata ga Irukara’ was sung deep and sound wholeheartedly. The applause after the song performance was apparently the loudest and most enthusiastic throughout the set list of the day.

“This is a song of hope” – the words were spoken to start the next song ‘Asu e Kakeru Hashi’. ‘chance for you’, a standard piece for Kuraki’s concert and ‘Love, Day After Tomorrow’ – a single Kuraki debuted with 14 years ago followed. Each song sounded familiar and nostalgic but still fresh as new, accompanied by the powerful and vigorous sound of orchestra. Mai Kuraki took a deep bow and left the stage as she waved at the audience. 2 hours passed since the beginning. The hands of the audience never stopped giving them applause for the full course rich concert.

“Thank you very much. I hope to continue to make songs that can encourage everyone’s hopes and dreams.”

Kuraki thanked the fans with smile, and performed the first encore piece ‘Time after time ~Hana mau Machi de~”, with a start of passionate first violinist’s solo. “Just enjoy as usual” said Kuraki, and sang ‘always’ last. Hiroyuki Matsugashita, Mei, and Maana from chorus appeared to the stage again to join her. Kuraki sang with steps and the audience responded by giving her enthusiastic applause and joined singing with her. Even the orchestra members stopped playing instruments to give hands to Kuraki. The day stage finale came to an ending as Kuraki received a standing ovation with excitement. Even after the show was over, the endless applause continued.

Mai Kuraki’s transparent vocal, very compatible with the grand orchestra sounds, was perceived to the fullest extent in this 2 hours. Stay tuned to follow “Opus 3” and “Opus 4” coming up.

Text・Interview◎Hideo Miyamoto

Mai Kuraki Official Site

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