Hamasaki Ayumi’s new POWER of MUSIC tour demonstrates that modern-day J-POP artists can be more than extravagant stagework and pyrotechnics. With the smoothest vocal performance she has delivered in years, and a complete reinvention of the arrangement of her classic hits, Hamasaki proved her talent as a musician, above all other things, and demonstrated very clearly that the title ‘Empress of Japanese Pop’ is rightfully hers alone.
Amidst a boom of monochromatic imported Asian electronic productions and engineered underage bikini-wearing idol groups, Hamasaki shows her more vulnerable, private side as a musician for the first time as she sheds her traditionally beloved explosive, earth-shattering visual gymnastics and directs her audience’s attention to the power behind a long-awaited sonic revamping of her signature works.
It is clear during the show that Hamasaki spent a great deal of time reworking her older material into a complete rebirth of orchestral proportions. Her devotion to her craft is indisputable as she commands the brass quartet, percussion, keys and strings into harmony as the maestro and conductor of her own hand-crafted pop opera.
Hamasaki made an arena seating 13,000 viewers feel small and private, like her own little jazz bar as she sang orchestral, blues, rock and bossanova renditions of her most iconic songs. By incorporating the MC portions of the concert into the main set, Hamasaki made the large and daunting Yokohama Arena feel warm and cozy and those who hearkened from far corners into her melodic home were certainly not left unimpressed. There were undoubtedly no bad seats in the venue, as even those in the stands had a fantastic view due to Hamasaki’s decision to utilize a 360-degree stage.
While those who expected Hamasaki’s usual delivery of visual theatrics and laser-driven lightshows might have been somewhat disappointed at first glance, those who truly value the sound-quality of her work will find this show one of her best to-date. Vocally, her performance was of the highest quality and the songstress easily outdid her own delivery on the studio versions of each track. That being said, her command of the orchestra and careful reinvention of her previous material is impressive and well-executed, at the very least.
To a hardcore music-lover, this show is sonically the apex of Hamasaki’s performing career. Anyone who has ever doubted her ability as a musician would do well to see this concert above all others.
Concert review written by greggerz189 @ AHS
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