It's hard to know even where to begin with this so I guess I'll just start at the very start. Warning: extreme long post with much fan girling to follow.
Every Arashi concert I've been to in the past, I've had to buy tickets from scalpers though various sites. As well as the crazy, inflated prices, there has always been the risk that you get to the door and someone will do an ID check. To be honest, I have no idea if this actually happens or if it's just an internet rumour posted on fan sites but it's NOT something you want to happen.
This year, I had fan club membership so I could apply to get tickets. I think there is like a 1 in 10 chance (maybe even less now) that you will get tickets if you actually apply. Since one of my friends is an Arashi fan and now living in Osaka (we weren't friends until she moved there but she was at uni with my sister), we arranged to do swapsies if one of us got tickets.
LOL, as if we'll actually hit for tickets, we thought. My sister has been totally convinced for years that you will never get fan club tickets if you have a katakana name.
So, the day of the ticket draw, I am clicking refresh on my email every 5 minutes. Okay maybe more often. Nothing, nothing, nothing. People have posted online saying they received their email to say they weren't successful but we still have nothing.
Then our friend got in touch. Saying she'd got tickets! We were going to the concert. Holy moly.
I got a rejection email for my attempts. It'd gone into spam. But, since you can apply for tickets for up to 5 nights, we'd also checked the fifth "anywhere, any time" option. But you had to wait two weeks for the Sapporo and Tokyo concerts to be decided.
After much debate, we decided to book as though we were just going to Osaka. My sister couldn't afford to stick around Japan for an extra 2-3 weeks to go to another concert anyway and she really can't deal with being away from Gemma-dog that long. I figured if we got other tickets, I'd stay and my sister would sell hers.
Then... dramatic pause... we found out another friend (actually I'd never met her but again, she went to uni with my sister) had got tickets for Osaka and was interested in selling them. We got in touch with her and started awkward negotiations. We didn't want to pressure her into selling to us but we really, really wanted those tickets.
So, with the concert, you find out you have your tickets but the seating is all done randomly and you only find out where your seats are a few weeks before the concert. It's kinda good because it means anyone has a chance of good or bad seats -- unless you buy off scalpers then you just pay the big, big bucks for the good seats. Seriously, you do not want to know how much people pay for the best seats. Let me just say, it's a lot more than people were selling scalped tickets for The Rolling Stones here.
That meant a few more anxious weeks of waiting to find out where we were sitting. God, I've written an essay already and I haven't even got to the concert yet!
Finally, our friends got the email. The friend selling us the tickets posted on facebook first. She'd actually got ARENA seats. I don't know if you call it arena elsewhere. I don't even remember what you call it here. It'd probably be standing or floor tickets. Anyway, the best seats. The ones right up the front.
That got us panicking. She could sell those tickets for a fortune so would she still want to sell them to us for the much less than a fortune price we'd agreed on? With shaking fingers, I messaged her. Because she is a good and awesome person, she'd never even thought of not selling them to us. We screamed and shouted and got teary-eyed. They were some great seats. We didn't even realise then just how great.
Our other friend couldn't check her mail until she got home from work late that night. Finally, she contacted us. Her tickets were up in the nose bleed seats. Not great but any ticket is a good ticket.
So, we arrived in Osaka on the Thursday, with tickets for the Friday and Sunday concerts. Our flight got in at 8.00 am and our hotel was on the airline train line so our first stop was to drop off our bags. From there, we headed straight to the concert goods line.
As usual, I had my small and sensible list of goods to buy. As usual, I got in the line and decided I needed all the stuff. Well not all of it - I never buy things like photo books - but more than I had on my list. I have like 10 Arashi concert towels. I am never going to use those towels. Yet I still keep buying them.
We'd heard that the goods lines at Fukuoka had been hours long so weren't looking forward to the wait but they must be more organised in Osaka because it took next to no time. We got all our goods then went back to the hotel to check in and have naps.
Okay, there is a really important part about the goods. Usually, for concerts in Japan, you get uchiwa (flat fans) and pen lights for the concerts. For this concert though, instead you got a combined fan light - a fan with lights embedded.
Before the concert, you had to get your fanlight touched on. Normal penlights flash on and off but the pen lights were wifi controlled! I was so looking forward to seeing that and I was not disappointed.
Friday, before the concert, we did some shopping. My sister replaced her walking stick because we'd left it in the overhead locker of the plane. Since she'd got it from Daiso, we weren't too concerned.
Then we got ready for the concert. This is where the whole not having adjoining rooms things got annoying. Plus my sister took forever to put her makeup on and that stressed me out. Luckily, the hotel is only two train stops (maybe three) from Kyocera Dome so we got there in plenty of time.
We went to touch on our penlights. Again, we'd heard of nightmare queues (which is why I was stressed about my sister taking so long to get ready) but it was too easy. A fair way to walk to the "Digitiian" area but we were straight in and out.
Then we waited for our friends. They both work so it took them a while to get there. Finally, we headed in and found our seats. We were in the front row of the last block in the top section. That meant we had a step in front of us with no barrier. I was also on the end of the row so I had a drop to my left too. Not a huge, plummet to your death drop but enough to maybe twist your ankle. Scary stuff!
Okay, this is finally the bit where I talk about the concert.
While we waited, I checked out the staging. I'd read about it in concert reports from Fukuoka but I had no concept of how it worked so there is really no point me describing it since you wouldn't understand anyway, I guess.
Finally, the lights dimmed and all 45,000 people in Kyocera dome started screaming. All the fan lights turned from being controlled by us to being wifi controlled so they simultaneously flashed in the same colours.
Five figures covered in lights lit up at various places on the stage. We weren't sure if they were the Arashi members or just the figures that had been there before the concert started. Then a video came on with all the members in foetal-like positions with those medical heart rate things on them. There were numbers on stage for each of the members that kept changing and apparently that was their heart rate.
Then they all sprung onto the stage. More screams then they sang "Asteroid" with lots of robotic dancing. All the fan lights turned white and flashed white and blue to the beat of the song. It looked amazing.
The next song was "Take Off" which is my favourite song off the new album. It's so bouncy and fun. And it was written by Sho because he is a literary genius. And mostly because I love it when he says "My fellow Arashians..." And when they change the 'five' to 'six'... total fan girl love there.
So yeah, I screamed a lot. After that, to keep the excitement up, they did "Welcome to My Party" which I love a lot. I was jumping around and going crazy but trying to be conscious of where that deadly step was at the same time.
Then they did "Wonderful" which, to be honest, I think is a pretty shit awful song. It's so murky and nothing. But they did lots of dancing and the fan lights looked pretty. And Bittersweet, which is another song I don't love.
After that, was the intros. All the usual stuff like Nino yelling "Irrashimase" and stuff like that.
After the intros, Jun did his solo. Now normally at Arashi concerts, Jun's solo is the most over the top, amazing of the solos. Even if his song isn't the best, the staging and design is mind-blowing. So, to be honest, I was disappointed with his solo this year. The song is all dance-y and disco-y but the staging just didn't fit with it. He wore a loose white shirt that looked like something a middle-aged woman would wear on holidays in Bali and there was dancing and stuff. To further contrast it, all the juniors doing back-up dancing had on robot type outfits. It was like he'd just thrown something together at the last moment. Which might've been the case since he does all the staging for the concerts and this one was so outstanding.
Now I have to be totally honest here. Leader's solo followed Jun's and I took the opportunity to go to the toilet. I often find Leader's solos a bit boring. I think they are trying too hard to showcase that he's the best singer and dancer in Johnnys that they don't do much to entertain. Well, I guess if you are really into dance stuff, it's good to watch but I need more than that. Also, everyone knows he lip snycs his solos.
After that, was "Tell Me Why" which I love to bits. I loved it on the new album but just went crazy. It is like the perfect melange of Sho's rapping and Leader's epic love ballad singing. I think it is becoming my favourite Arashi song. The members were all in those little tower stands that rise up during the concert with laser lights in their member colours. When Sho goes from the slow rap to the fast rap, it's freaken amazing. The bit at the end when Leader sings the "I'm so sorry..." is just perfect and heart wrenching. There are no words for how awesome this song was live.
Then "Trap". another song I wasn't so keen on from the new album. But they had fire. Colour changing fire. So that made up for the not so great song. I mean, it's not an awful song, it's just not that great.
After that, they did a bunch of old songs - "Oh Yeah", "Hadashi no MIrai" - OMG it's hard doing the furi when you are holding a big, non-aerodynamic fan light instead of a pen light! Then "Love Wonderland".
I have to confess that, if I concentrate really hard, I can kinda follow the MC but listening that hard to Japanese gets exhausting so I just zone out. Plus there was a really bad echo when they spoke so I figured I'd just read an English translation on the internets. Still it was nice to have a break to sit down.
After the MC, a mikoshi moved across the stage with curtains to cover the insides. Then Aiba got out in full disco gear to do his solo. OMG, it was the most hilarious thing ever. It was the closest I've ever got to peeing my pants in my adult life, I laughed so much. The whole "Disco Star" routine was like Disco Stu from the Simpsons with lots of hip thrusting and cheesy disco dance moves. I loved it so much. I spent the next four days singing "boogie boogie freaky funky girl..." I am kinda glad that no one bothered to tell him that "angel" is pronounced "anjel".
Nino came out for his solo in Christmas gear - red checked pants and a green, fur-trimmed jacket. I am pretty sure that this song and his song about his mother last year have been written to maximise his song-writing royalties around the appropriate holidays. It's such a cute song and he did it totally Nino-style with the guitar. You know, he actually plays the guitar. I thought he just faked it so I watched closely this time. Anyway, he looked well pleased with himself throughout the song because he's a smug bastard.
If there is one thing I love more than just about anything else in this world, it's when Sakurai Sho talks English. When anyone else talks English, it's just talking English but when he does it, it's like sex in spoken form. I don't even know why, it just is.
So, of course, when he did the introduction to his song in English, I was in heaven. He asked 'what is your dream? What is your happiness? Who are your people?" and I screamed loudly because he is so perfect. Really. His solo is so good too. It's a really fun song. He wore a primary colour outfit and during the song, pulled his jacket down to show "Hey yeah" written across the back of his shirt.
They all jumped on carts for "One Step", another favourite from the new album. After that, they did a few older songs
The next bit is hard to explain. They came on stage, first Leader who did a crouching movement and the music changed as he moved. Not just the music but the graphics on the screens and the lighting as though he controlled it all through his body. Then Jun came on and did a finger snap thing and a similar thing with the lights and vision. The two of them worked together making a little melody then Nino came on followed by Aiba then Sho. Each of them did a different movement that created the sound and lights until they did it all together and it lead into "Hope in the Darkness." It was simply amazing. I can't even put into words how it all worked. I'm sure it'll be on the DVD but I doubt they'd be able to capture how amazing it was. Though the movement Nino did was a bit like wanking, TBH.
Then they did Zero G which was a lot of fun.
After that, they went off stage to prepare for the encores.
The break before the encore in Japan is always short. I like that. It's no dicking around pretending they aren't going to come out for an encore. No lingering back stage getting blow jobs while fans wait around bored and chanting (well unless they are ultra fast blow jobs during costume changes).
Because we were at the back of the venue, we'd had a great overall view of the stage and got the full effect of the fan lights and we'd got to see the members reasonably close when they came around on the carts. But the back is the back, right.
A countdown of the last 15 years came up on the screen.
Then they came out of the encore in motherfucking hot air balloons, right at our eye height! I was about ready to explode from excitement. And they did "A.RA.SHI." which I rarely listen to outside of concerts but, when they do it live, I get all sentimental and teary-eyed and it's like this moment when all the crowd comes together and it's all just love.
Each member's balloon had photos of them throughout the last 15 years on them which was really cute.
They did a medley of their older songs. I think one song from each of the 15 years. But they'd cut it short from the setlist they did at Fukuoka and cut some of the better songs.
At one point, Jun's balloon stopped in front of us and he kinda did a double take and smiled at us. I always doubt people when they say the members smile or point at them during concerts because how much can they really see in the crowd? But it really did seem to notice our whitey faces when he did that double take.
Later, Sho pointed at us. I have kinda blanked this out of my mind though because it's too extreme for my fan girl brain to handle but my sister said he definitely did.
Gradually, the balloons dropped and they were back on stage for the last few songs. GUTS was awesome with lots of baseball moves in the choreography and these finger movements which I think might be baseball signs. I know nothing about baseballs.
Then they did their thank yous and I got all like OMG this concert can't end. It must never end.
For the finale, they did "Kimi no yume wo mite iru" which was a sweet song to finish on.
I'm not going to go into too much detail because the concert format was pretty much the same as it was on the Friday night.
For us, it had one big difference though. We were in the arena. We got to our seats and they were in the back row of the block. The walkway stage that jutted out from our side of the main stage was two seats away from us and there was a big exit row behind us. That meant that when the members walked back from the end of the walkway to the main stage, they couldn't help but see us.
Before the concert, our friend went to Daiso and got some cheap uchiwa and then with fluro tape, wrote "Australia" in katakana across the four uchiwa. She did it so neatly too. I'd have made a total illegible mess.
Every time one of the members came near us, we held up the uchiwa.
Firstly, Aiba came down the walkway stage, waving and smiling. He saw us as he walked passed then did a double take and then came back and squatted down near us, waving and grinning. I think my heart exploded. Oh my god, he is so freaken cute up close. I love that guy.
Not long after, Leader came down our side. He checked us out and gave us the thumbs up. Then kept staring. I think he was trying to read our fans because he's not strong with katakana (who is?). Since he was staring at us, I thumbs up him back. He looked at me and smiled and gave me another thumbs up and, in that moment, he went from being Leader to "my new boyfriend, Ohno Satoshi". He's usually my most overlooked member of Arashi. I know he's a great dancer and singer and he's funny and all that but my focus is elsewhere. But, up close, he is so incredibly good looking. Much better looking than on TV.
Then Nino came our way. Nino is my sister's favourite member of Arashi but, for me, he comes 5th. As he came towards us, he mouthed "Australia" so our signs definitely caught his attention. He gave us a grin. Not even a smarmy, smug grin. My sister was pretty cool about it but fell apart about a day later when it sunk in.
Later, Sho came down the walkway and I was trying to emotionally prepare myself for him looking at us. He got to the bit just before us and turned to wave to the crowd in the other direction. And kept looking in that direction until he got well passed us. I was a tiny bit disappointed. Well, devastated more like it.
Jun didn't come down our side at all.
As well as the 'all about me' part, our seats were so fantastic. We were so close. We could actually see the member's expressions as they danced on stage. We could feel the heat from the flames on stage. We got to see a lot of the interactions between members when they weren't singing. Even if Sho didn't look at us, he did dance in front of us quite often and I got to see his necklace swing around as he danced which ranks up there on sexiness almost as high as him talking English.
I actually have a lot less recollection of the second concert. I think the nearness of Arashi and them actually seeing us froze my brain. It really was a magical night and I don't think I'll ever appreciate anyone in this world like I appreciate our friend for selling us those tickets. She later said she was so happy because she'd only gone to concerts on her own before.
Both nights we were in one of the last sections to be let out of the venue which was annoying.
During concerts, usually during the encores, they release a whole heap of streamer ribbons with the concert details on them. Unless you are seated in the arena, you can't get them. We had plans for getting us some ribbon but, when they were released, they mostly went into the walkway behind us. These little bitches rushed out and grabbed armfuls then went back for more at least three times (because you can sell them for money). We couldn't get out of our section. Some of the security guards gathered ribbon and handed them out to people but the guard in our section was a lazy bastard and we missed out.
I was a bit disappointed about that but, unlike some people, I wasn't going to waste valuable concert time worrying about it. Some people make "toilet breaks" to get ribbon or other scams. I don't even get people buying it online. The whole point to me is something to remember that concert that I went to, not just to have the ribbon.
Anyway, during the concert, when the members were on their individual stands, they showered them with stuff. Our friends wanted to try to score some and planned to sneak to the other sections after the concert. We said we'd meet them at the Aeon Mall food court because my sister and I wanted to get out and smoke cigarettes.
On the way out, the glittery stuff which were blue hearts in our section, were all piled up to the side behind a barrier. The staff kept moving people on so they couldn't get them but, because my sister had her walking stick, she speared some and dragged them over to us. The staff were a bit annoyed but what are they going to do? Kick us out? Then, on the escalator on the way out, we swapped some for purple ones.
Finally, we got out and the concert was over. I seriously thought about getting tickets for Nagoya but it wasn't to be. I even thought about staying in Japan longer and going to Sapporo or Tokyo concerts but I was waiting on book royalties to be paid to me and the uncertainty of when I'd be paid made it a bit risky. I got them the day after I left Japan, of course.
I think of all the Arashi concerts I've been to, this was the most amazing in terms of staging and the whole set up. The fan lights were so mind blowing, adding a whole other aspect to the concert. And it really had been designed so that all the sections had a great view. I am so glad I got to experience it.
If you've read all this, thank you. It's a marathon entry.