Review: Arashi Blast at Ko Olina
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
By all accounts, Arashi Blast, the two-night concert event at Ko Olina commemorating the 15th anniversary of Japanese boy band Arashi, was the most elaborate, most complicated, most technically demanding production ever staged in Hawaii.
The biggest and highest stage. The most moving stage pieces and satellite performance platforms. The most special effects. The most video cameras — word was there were 50 — covering a concert performance that was broadcast live in Japan to an audience who paid, rumor had it, almost ¥55,000 ($500+) a ticket to see, and which will also be produced into an Arashi 15th Anniversary Concert DVD with all the technological bells and whistles the Japanese music business can provide.
And don’t even start on the logistics involved in moving 15,000 people in and out of an ad hoc concert venue constructed in a resort area that wasn’t designed or developed for entertainment events of that size.
As it turned out, the most memorable thing about the second of two shows on Saturday, the day the local media was allowed to see Arashi perform, was the rain.
Rain isn’t usually an issue for performers at the Waikiki Shell, because performers are usually protected by the Shell itself even if the audience gets drenched. Rain might be a problem for concerts at Aloha Stadium, but when was the last time there was a concert worth mentioning in Aloha Stadium?
The point is, it rained at Ko Olina during Saturday’s show. It rained hard. For a while it was almost like being in a shower.
Some of the 15,000 fans — a crowd who appeared to be overwhelmingly women under 25 — had those emergency one-time raincoats or ponchos. They were probably OK. Others got wet.
Arashi — Satoshi “Rida” Ohno, Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya and Jun Matsumoto — had no protection from the rain at all but they kept on performing. They performed as if it wasn’t raining, performed as if their clothes weren’t getting soaked, as if rain drops weren’t pelting their faces and ricocheting off the surfaces of the various platforms they were working on.
The Arashi Blast concert was a live music video without subtitles for anyone who didn’t speak Japanese fluently, but the quintet’s performance in the rain transcended the barriers of language. It was almost as if the heavy rain was just another special effect that has been conjured up along with the pyrotechnics, the smoke, the dazzling computer synchronized lighting effects and the colorful video sequences.
The rain was a surprise. The afternoon leading up to the concert had been uncomfortably hot and dry. Fans waited patiently in the heat — as only Japanese audiences do — until the gates were opened. Then they took off for various seating areas — some walking, some running, all waiting patiently once in place. General admission tickets were good for designated areas and included a souvenir Arashi chair. Multiple rows of portable restrooms were conveniently located nearby.
Arashi arrived via helicopter promptly at 5:30 p.m., circled the venue a couple of times while the fans waved, then landed backstage. The quintet worked hard, singing and dancing for almost 30 minutes in the hot, muggy weather until sweat soaked through their uniforms. They took a break and then got back into action, performing in several configurations on the multi-level main stage and then riding mobile platforms out into the crowd to the back of the audience where another mobile stage awaited them.
For once, the folks in the back row got some time up close with the entertainers. Arashi did that several times — including while the rain fell.
The show included several lengthy breaks for vintage video clips documenting Arashi’s accomplishments since 1999, interview clips with individual members (some captioned with English subtitles), and several conversations between various combinations of Arashi members on stage while the others changed clothes.
Video clips also accented their precisely choreographed song-and-dance numbers. There was lots archival footage from past performances, some snippets of English that usually made sense, and sometimes music videos with subtitles in Japanese. As befits a live from Hawaii event, the guys greeted the audience several times with “aloha,” at least one of them threw out a perfect shaka on camera, and they all wore aloha shirts while performing on a satellite stage with instrumental backing from local musicians.
One of the noteworthy things about Arashi Blast that probably would not work with an American audience was how the audience was released by sections after Arashi had been whisked away in their helicopter. Some of the fans were wet, some were cold and all were muddy after the rain, but they waited patiently until they were told that it was their turn to start walking back to where the buses were waiting to take them back to Waikiki.
Traffic control on the way out — the management of cars and hordes of pedestrians — was excellent. If only concerts at the Shell were handled that well! It was a positive final touch to the most elaborate, most complicated, most technically demanding production ever staged in Hawaii.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.