Utada Hikaru, known by her stage name Utada in Europe and the U.S., returned to the U.S. recently to play a few performances. Utada is one of Japan’s best-selling artists, and I felt as though it would be a wasted opportunity not to see her when she was in town. Famous for songs in both English and Japanese, she attracted a crowd rather unlike anything I had ever seen outside The Fillmore. I got to the venue as doors were opening at 7 p.m., and it wasn’t until a good bit after 8 that the end of the line was finally ushered through the doors into the venue.
The crowd was varied – a lot more diverse than the crowd I see at most other concerts in this country given by Japanese artists. Utada even commented on it during her performance. However, the crowd was also a very polite one, very friendly and not at all rude or violent.
I had heard Utada’s music before the show, and to be honest hadn’t been blown away by it. It was good pop to me, but nothing above and beyond much of what I heard from a lot of other Japanese pop performers. However, Utada’s got great charisma and presence up on the stage, and her voice is dead on. Especially in a venue like The Fillmore, where the slightest hint of a pitchy tone by the artist seems to get magnified a thousand fold, it’s important to be right on. And Utada was.
Making quips in between songs, she commented to the crowd that the people up front that had waited since 2 a.m. out in front of the venue were “so crazy!” and even gave a brief Japanese thank you to her fans that had come all the way across the world to see her. She also commented that she noticed that as soon as she finished any performance, there were already videos of it up on YouTube. Utada also asked that we tweet and type nice things about her. I would have done that anyway, but just for her: Utada, you were fantastic. You’ve made me a real fan. You are also a true classy lady, and I hope you come back to New York soon. We love you!
Anyway, the crowd had a tremendous time, and I even managed to snap a few pictures of my own before the security made me check my camera — no pictures were allowed! (Oops! They didn’t tell me at the door, but the great security member that led me down to the coat check apologized, saying by the time they got to my section of the line, they seemed to have stopped saying anything.)
Here is Utada “in the flesh,” as it were: