As of the time of writing, I’m stoked. I actually shelved this entry for about a couple of days, and holy hell – I’m still stoked.
Just over the past Saturday (06/27) one my favorite J-pop / anison singers, LiSA (Oribe Risa) was in Manila for her very first appearance on Philippine soil. Previously, she had appeared in neighboring SEA countries like Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Taipei and the likes. This seems to be some kind of trend with many artists on tour – the good lot of them visit the said countries, but they seemingly avoid performing here – whether we’re not a popular concert destination or something, I can’t say for sure.
Now, this isn’t the first time that J-music artists have come to perform here – Uchuu Sentai NOIZ had performed here many times already. Indie v-kei group heidi. had also come ashore last year during Best of Anime 2014. It wasn’t just rock groups coming here to perform – idol group Starmarie had also performed during Best of Anime 2013, and then again in 2014 and yet again just this past June. All girl math-rock group tricot had also visited twice, once last year and again this year. I think I should also mention one-man-band rocker / funny-man Joe Inoue who’d been here numerous times to perform.
Seems like we are getting our share of all the J-music action right? In most respects yes, but we have yet to have a big star to perform here. See, all of the bands / performers who’d been here thus far, or at least the most recent ones, are independent artists. We have yet to see a currently signed major label artist to perform, and this is where LiSA comes in as she is signed on to Aniplex under Sony Music.
LiSA is one of the bigger names in today’s anison / jpop scene, having sung on popular anime such as Angel Beats, Sword Art Online and Nisekoi, in addition to her own music being released as well.
My quest to see LiSA began in April, when a friend of mine roused me from sleep to tell me that LiSA is coming to Manila in June to perform at SM Aura’s Samsung Hall. The early morning of April 20 found me up and about running towards SM Megamall to buy a premium ticket (Php 2,999) which would be a ground level position, and inclusive of an autographed poster from LiSA herself.
The catch-22 on the ticket though is that it is free-seating only, meaning there is no guaranteed seat that comes with the ticket, which kinda defeated the purpose of my running and panting to Megamall in hopes of getting one of the first tickets sold in Manila. The premium ticket was soon complemented by a cheaper ticket, priced at Php 999 which gets you a seat on the second level balcony, but with no poster and still a free-seating deal.
I’d never been to a free-seating concert before – during Mr. Big’s concerts here, I’d always gotten a sure seat as the ticket (VIP) always gave you a choice of seats at the event. This was going to take some kind of plan to ensure that I will see LiSA as close as I could, which is where the marvels of modern day technology and social networking came to the rescue.
One of my acquaintances had formed a group called the LiSA – Mini Live Group to gather fans who’d be coming to watch our idol’s first performance here. He added me up after I’d posted a photo of what seems to have been one of the first physical tickets bought for the concert, or at least posted online. It seems that ticket sales started online before the mall had opened, but it didn’t matter to me anymore since free-seating takes away any advantage of buying at midnight through a computer.
The plan called for the group to be in the mall before it opened, run (like madmen presumably) towards the event hall and wait it out (camp) until the gates opened for the event. In anticipation of the concert, I took a leave on the date of the concert to ensure that I would not be coming from work for the concert, and that I would have all the energy needed to shout her name at the top of my lungs.
I was all good with this plan, except that on the day of the event itself, a sudden emergency came up (had to drive to Antipolo to get some stuff squared away) that required me to ditch my place in the Mini Live Group. That was not wholly unexpected, but I was trying to avoid any hassle to say the least, but hey, what’s got to be done, has to be done and done right.
A friend of mine had been carefully following the event details (I wasn’t) and told me that when the event opens, in order to accommodate the first 200 premium ticket holders and not cause chaos, a numbered stub will be issued to those already in line. Since all of my friends from J-Culture have decided to camp out (one was even there as early as 6AM), I ran to my friend’s house late at night to give my ticket and maybe ensure that I will have a numbered stub.
Come Saturday morning, I drove to do my errand then rushed home to change then got my father to bring me as close to Aura as possible. The day before, I got word that portions of BGC (Bonifacio Global City) will be closed to make way for Marlon Stockinger’s drive with his Formula Renault. I figured we he would have to drop me as far as the old main gate or Gate 3, but luckily we were able to make it to Market Market. Not wanting to risk my father being stuck hopelessly in traffic, I told him to turn back for home and I will walk the rest of the way. I arrived at almost 1100 to see my friends already inside, and I feared for the worst.
Luckily, the plan did fall through flawlessly and I was able to get a numbered stub, which was marked 012, meaning I was very well within the first 200 to go in and select seats. The numbered stub assured us that we do not have to camp and go hungry while in line, and that we can roam around the mall as we please, secure in the fact that we have first dibs with the seats.
Before we went down though, I bought a concert shirt as a souvenir. We had lunch at Jollibee, went out for a snack afterwards and made our way to the garden on the top of the building just outside the Samsung Hall. I really appreciated the company of my friends that day because we talked and bonded, took loads of pictures and generally kept boredom at bay.
While we were cajoling around the garden, one of our friends pointed to someone in a summer dress standing just outside a door that maybe connects the backstage to the garden. Since we were quite some ways off, a little squinting of the eyes showed us who it was – were looking at LiSA herself. She was catching a quick break of sorts, and she turned to see us. We were all locked in a staring match until one of our dudes wanted to make a run for her – he was promptly stopped by another dude saying that the possibility of an AFA (Anime Festival Asia) in Manila rests on our shoulders, and what we’ll be doing in the next few moments.
[sorry no photos of that]
See, the event management explicitly told everyone that the crowd is not allowed to take photos, nor have autographs signed on items that were not official merch from the event. With that in mind, we just looked at her until someone from our group waved and shouted “Hi! LiSA-chan!”. At that, our goddess who’d been smiling at us waved back at us and I think I heard her say “Hi-chi!”. It was a few magical seconds of awesomeness until someone from behind the glass door behind her knocked and signaled her to come back in. She walked towards the door waving at us, until she disappeared beyond the transparent crystal barrier.
[sorry no photos of that]
Our moods rejuvenated, we went back to the hall itself to start forming up since it was almost 1700 already – the show starts 1800, and the Japanese are well known to do their stuff on time, all the time.At this point I would also like to commend the staff of Cosplay.ph for a job well done in keeping things under control.
Finally, after almost an hour, the first group of 20 people (myself included) were called in to take our seats. After some time the hall was filled, and it was an amazing sight because the premium ticket section (ground level) was almost filled, save for some seats at the very top. My Shinkan bandmates also came in, but since they didn’t secure stubs early enough and arrived later in the day, they had to find other seats. Yours truly though picked a seat on the second row, center, right where a T-shape was duct taped on the floor. I knew that was LiSA’s spot and hurriedly took the seat. I initially wanted to reserve four additional seats for my bandmates, but since they were probably still outside, they didn’t get in quickly enough as a burly JMF worker sternly told me “no reservations”, which was actually one of the policies they highlighted before everyone was let in. I tried making all sorts of excuses but to no avail, sorry guys.
The concert promptly started by the host, who had the hall to chant LiSA’s name so she’d come out – why we had to do that I don’t know but I didn’t mind, neither did the crowd. After a few tense moments of thunderous chants of her name, she finally came out! Dressed in a top that seems to have been culled off the shelves of Kultura, her trademark tutu and Doc Martens boots, she was every bit the LiSA we had come to know and love. And remarkably, she was pretty tall for a girl! I was under the impression that she’s quite short as I surmised from Youtube videos of her.
Things kicked kicked off with a big bang that blew our universe, starting with a rousing performance of “Crossing Field”. I looked around me, and everyone was singing and going “oy! oy! oy!” to the rhythm of the song. But we were missing a very crucial component of a J-pop concert – a lot of the crowd had glowsticks, while we didn’t. But that didn’t matter much since most of the crowd didn’t have theirs either.
After that number, she called out her guitarist to start an acoustic set, and to my surprise it was neither Takuya nor Fu-chan. She’d brought along Co-K, her current guitarist. I admittedly do not know of the guy, but I’d known that the Girls Dead Monster line-up had been replaced by her touring band. He was still an amazing performer on his own, and the crowd had also started cheering for him as well. They belted out a very beautiful performance of “Ichiban no Takaramono”, one of the most memorable songs from Angel Beats!.Jesus, her live singing voice is amazingly powerful, and while the song was an acoustic number, one can’t help but go on a feels trip – especially so that I am a big fan of Angel Beats! She did around 10 songs, performing such fan favorites like “Oath Sign”, “traumerei”, the insanely danceable “electrolyrical” (where CO-K) also demonstrated that he is able to dance as well. Halfway through the set, she also entertained questions that had been submitted online beforehand and one of my friends’ question was picked by LiSA. While she spoke mostly in Japanese through an interpreter, she also peppered the conversation with English, and tried her hand at speaking in Tagalog, or at least a few words, which the crowd went nuts for. She then went on to finish the set with “Rising Hope”, but since we weren’t about ready to let her go yet, there were shouts of “ankoru!” (encore) from the crowd. She did come back to do “Crow Song” from Angel Beats!, and had started to bid the crowd goodbye.
She also thanked the crowd, and admitted that prior to coming to Manila, she was nervous if anyone even knew of her and that she was relieved at the amazing turn-out. She made one last statement – and promised the crowd that she will be back…with a full band.
The hall almost exploded with an uproar, and one can feel the electrifying excitement in anticipation to the fulfillment of her promise. With the show over, an announcement came up that the premium ticket holders will be ushered to get the autographed poster that was part of our package. The queue was arranged in such a way that the top seats on our level was led out of the hall first, and meant were were gonna be among the last ones out.
After a few tense minutes, we were led to get our posters – lo and behold, it was LiSA herself handing out the posters and greeting each person who got it. When it was my turn to get my poster, I stood there in front of her and noted her features – she really was pretty tall, almost at my height and not entirely skinny. Her eyes sparkled with happiness that the show was a big success, and there I was in front of her. I said nothing. There was nothing but a wall of silence between us. It was only when was about to be led away did I utter “thanks” – I guess I was too starstruck or conscious of the language barrier or something.
This had never happened to me before – when I met the members of Mr. Big, we shook hands and chatted before our photos were taken. I measured Paul’s hand, brofisted with Billy, joked with Eric and even got to hug Pat to tell him to beat the fuck out of Parkinson’s.
Looking back on it, I was a dweeb to not even say a word to my current J-Pop goddess. After everything was over, and our J-Culture group was out of the hall, we took one last photo together, and went down to catch dinner.
It certainly wasn’t just a great day – IT WAS EPIC! Certainly one for the books!
Now let me discuss a little something on the side. I hope that the success of this concert is the beginning of a time when big names in J-pop / rock / anison will start to see Manila as a destination for their performances. The crowd demonstrated good discipline that night by strictly adhering to the no camcording policy, and by being orderly while in line. I sincerely hope that I will get to see other artists such as Mari Iijima (the voice behind Lynn Minmay), Masami Okui and many others. I still do not see us pulling in stratospheric names like L’Arc~en~Ciel, Scandal and One Ok Rock, but I hope that it won’t be so far off into the future.
I eagerly await for LiSA to come again and I would really really love if she performed more songs from Angel Beats, namely “Shine Days”, “Alchemy” and the likes. It will surely be another great day in Manila when LiSA does come back with her band for a full show.