September 22, 2008

Ayu live in Hong Kong

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I went to see Hamasaki Ayumi (浜崎あゆみ) live in concert today. 2008 marks the 10th year of her career, and rumor had it that she would put on a really good show. I, for one, did not come away disappointed. To use the cliche that she is the "Asian Madonna" is really not far from the truth.

I had gotten my act together rather late, so had to pay "secondary market" pricing for good seats, which were on the floor, reasonably close to the stage and alongside the extended catwalk. This would prove to be strategically advantageous during the show, as Ayu would perform near our seats from time to time. 

She started things with a bang, with stage pyrotechnics during the first song. There were many, many costume changes - about once every two songs - and every costume screamed bling. Silver knee-high boots, gold over-the-knee boots, red-and-black sequined corset, ball gown studded with crystals... so many I lost count. Then there was the Swarovski crystal-studded microphone.

The stage set was equally stunning. The long catwalk extending from the stage enabled her to better reach the audience for more interaction. The ability to drop down below the stage and come back up near the end of the catwalk also created sensational effect.  For the performance of "Marionette", a carousel rose from the end of the catwalk and spun around while Ayu and the dancers stood in the middle. During the performance of the last song prior to the encore, Captain Ayu stood in the crow's nest of her flying galleon riding atop the clouds (yes, I know it was only dry ice...) Clearly no expense was spared in this department.

It was a real entertaining show. With each costume change, we were treated to a video telling us a story. The story onscreen would be interrupted when Ayu and the dancers - in the same costumes as shown in the video - appear on stage for the performance of the song. This would have the end result of lengthening the show time and keeping the audience's attention while custome changes were made. There was even some element from Cirque du Soleil incorporated into the performance of one song, with three costumed acrobats climbing up and spinning down on long, sweeping ribbon-like cloth.

The regular show took about an hour and a half. Ayu and the team changed into T-shirt and jeans, came out on stage and we were treated to an encore of "Dearest" and "Voyage", which she said were two of her favorites. I thought that would be it, but what followed turned out to be really entertaining and cool. 

At the start of what would be a very interactive session, the guitarist asked Ayu to sing a song "unplugged" - without any music. He chose "Who..." because Ayu has only sung it once during the last few months of touring, and he wanted to hear it. Next Ayu picked out Jin from among the dancers, and he proceeded to teach the audience part of the dance routine from one of the songs. The interesting part, of course, was that Jin instructed the audience in Mandarin. He obviously put a lot of practice into his Mandarin, because it was actually pretty good. When they thought the audience had got the routine down, Ayu and the team performed the final song of the evening, and the audience was able to follow the team through the dance moves. That was pretty cool.

The show had gone past two hours by the time we were done, and I must say that it was a spectacular show. I had no regrets overpaying for the seats. The only regret is that I wasn't table to get my camera into the show - there was a strict bag check, and even people trying to take pictures with their mobile phones were reprimanded. But no matter. I think I would be able to remember this show for some time...

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