JAM PUNCH Tour 2005 is Otsuka Ai’s highly anticipated concert tour. This is Otsuka’s first concert tour since her debut in September 2003. The name JAM PUNCH is a play on the titles of her two albums: LOVE PUNCH and LOVE JAM. The concerts were held in 10 different cities across Japan and on 14 different dates. Two DVD editions were released on July 27, 2005: the regular edition had a blue cover and included footage from the June 1 concert filmed at the Tokyo International Forum Hall A. The deluxe edition had a gold cover that included footage from the concert and off shot scene from the tour. The overseas deluxe version DVD (region 2) and VCD were released on August 15, 2005.
The set list for the DVD is slightly different from some of the earlier concerts. For example, Strawberry Jam was performed instead of pretty voice, Sakuranbo and Happy Days weren’t performed in the encore section. Ai also wore different costumes for the first few concerts.
The concert starts out like an opening to a movie. First the JAM PUNCH Tour 2005 blue logo is shown. Then it shows “ai otsuka”, much like how Pixar shows their name in opening credits to movies produced by them, with LOVE the bunny hopping on to the screen. Then they use 20th Century Fox’s style, and show “JAM PUNCH Tour 2005″. This is a very creative and interesting opening to a concert. But I can’t give them all the credit since it is very similar to Pixar and 20th Century Fox’s opening style.
It starts with 3 identical “aliens”, doing some dancing here and there. More than half way through the song, Ai’s real face is finally revealed. The way Ai chooses to perform this song really draw me into the concert. Not only is this a unique opening, it is also a rare chance to see Ai dancing with dancers. Plus, the visual effect and the whole alien idea really go well with the techno style of the song.
Here is a little bonus if you’re the kind of person that’s picky about lip-singing and all. There are parts in the song where Ai’s voice is alter to give it a more techno vibe. With today’s technology, I’m sure there are ways in which they can alter Ai’s voice for the needed parts. Still, some people might still argue that it’s a pre-record track. The beauty of the alien costume is it covers Ai’s face so you can’t tell if she’s actually lip-singing those parts or not.
Mousou CHOP is neat and all, but it isn’t really the “Ai fun style” that I know and love. It is a relief when Ai acts more like herself in this performance: moves around the stage, made hand gestures and kept that beautiful smile on her face. The camera focuses more on the band members and some of their actions help create the mood for the song.
The PV begins to play on the big screen while the band starts with the intro. Meanwhile, Ai has her back facing the audience while she “winds” up. The winding up must have worked because she seems to be having more fun and not as nervous. She also interacts more with the audience by encouraging them to sing along the chorus.
Momo no Hanabira
Ai takes a little break and introduces herself to the audience. The talk is used as a transitional point for the concert: from upbeat fun songs, to more mellow soft tunes. This is also where you really get a good look at her costume.
This is a soft ballad with a beat to it: the band starts the soft flowing melody and the audience adds the beat with their clapping. Ai stands still and moves her arms slowly with the tempo; you can tell she’s really into the song. When the camera switches to the band you can see that they, too, are trying to move gracefully with the tempo. This song is smoothing and all, but it can be a dull if you’re not a fan of this song. It would have been nice if they had played with the lighting effect, like peach flower petals floating slowly around the stage.
FRIENDS ~SABAKAN ver.~
As I watch this performance, for a moment there I don’t see Ai on the stage; I saw Rei, the character that Ai plays in Tokyo Friends. With the screen playing clips of Tokyo Friends, it feels like Rei is performing the song one last time for her friends.
The tempo was faster than the CD version. This doesn’t really flow with the song because it feels like they are rushing to get this song over with. Then again maybe Ai purposely speed up the song because at the end when the song slow down, that moment is just beautiful.
It’s a very typical band introduction of a tour: someone gets introduce and they get the spotlight for awhile. However, Ai takes it a notch up and introduces the members through a mini “home made” video. The video is very amusing, it gives the audience a sense of each member’s personality and specialty.
Kuroge Wagyuu Joushio Tanyaki 680-en
The lights came on and we see Ai in a long dress with her hair down. Right from the beginning, Ai takes command and directs the band and the lightings. Ai isn’t afraid to show her feminine side and play with it to fit the mood of the song. With the new costume and her seductive moves, it’s as if a brand new Ai emerge from backstage!
The track version of this song is very upbeat and pop, so it was certainly a surprise to hear this as a ballad with Ai’s solo on the piano. The performance is very pleasant and smoothing. Ai shows off her talents, by being able to turn an upbeat song into an amazing ballad.
Ai’s piano solo continues. In this PV, Ai portrays a cute innocent girl who sings about her relationship and how sweet it is. In this performance, however, Ai ditches the cute and innocent feel and look, but at the same time still manage to perform it with just as much emotion. As the song continues and Ai builds up her emotion, her voice overpowers the piano so much that you can barely hear the piano. Usually this is bad, especially for live concerts. In this case, it’s a good thing because her voice makes the song that much more powerful.
Ai works her magic on the piano and plays a shortened version of the song. It was pure piano solo, no lyrics. It feels like a piano concert. As Ai finishes the last note and the lights go dim, the song starts up as if the instrumental version is being play on a CD: the band is back. Throughout the performance, the stage remains dim with only a red-orange spot light on Ai. Nothing much happens during this performance, but the piano performances really help set the mood for this song. And with the only spot light on Ai, you can feel the isolation and loneliness feeling of the song.
The lighting is good, it matches the song well. Towards the end of the song, snow begins to fall which is a nice touch to the performance. But those are the only 2 things I like about this performance. Near the middle of the performance, right after the second verse, the guitar just died. Did they do it on purpose? Probably, but it sounds really awkward. The guitar solo after the third verse, it came out too strong and ruin the overall mood. Then there’s Ai’s voice. During parts of the song, she tries so hard to push the feeling that it sounds like she’s shouting rather than singing. Overall, I think this is the one performance that I am not too happy with.
The stage turns into a planetarium fill with millions of stars, a very magnificent sight. Instead of performing with the soft tone like the soundtrack version, Ai performs with a more powerful and emotion tone. With this tone, the song no longer sounds like a sad depressing ballad. Rather, it sounds like a sad farewell ballad.
Ai appears on stage with a new outfit: a graphic shirt and a pink hoodie with knee length jeans short and a cute pink cowboy boot. She interacts more with the band and encourage the audience to go wild with her. Instead of playing harmony vocal tracks in the background, one of the band members sings along with her. The harmonizing would have sounded better if they had blended their voices together.
I thought this performance would be more upbeat and Ai will move around more, especially since she has taken the time to interact with the audience and get them wild before performing the song, however it didn’t really happen. There are more shots of the audience and the band this time, which is nice because you get to see that the audience and the band are really enjoying themselves.
This is a fast and flashy performance, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is really fun to see Ai get all worked up and running around, slow down for a brief moment to catch her breath and go wild all over again. The entire band sings the ‘Pon Pon’ with Ai, a really nice join effort from the group. The blast of smoke at the end is a real nice touch from all of that crazy performance.
Being one of Ai’s best selling singles, this performance certainly lives up to the expectations. Ai has fun being herself, the band is enjoying the performance, and the audience has a great time going wild. It would have been nice if Ai had sung ‘Happy Days’ during every chorus. And the “grand entrance” of the drum, got to love that.
A perfect song to wrap things up. I think because this is a fan favourite, they really try to get the fans involved by providing lyrics on the big screen. Especially during the chorus when Ai just lets the fan do the singing. When you see the fans’ participation on the performance, you can’t help but sing along with them.
Ai appears on stage with her JAM PUNCH tour t-shirt with jeans and sneakers. This is just another feel good fun performance. They invited the SMILY dancers on stage for the performance and had the SMILY logo with hands on the big screen. This gives the audience a chance to clap, dance, and sing along with Ai. I can’t help but notice that in the beginning when Ai was counting the beat for the band she goes “One two san (three) go!” Did she forget how to say ‘three’ in English?!
The SMILY logo changes to the Bidama logo on the big screen and immediately, the stage light dims and is filled with colourful light resembling marbles. Compared to the SMILY performance, this is a weak performance: this song is more tuned down, there’s less audience interaction, and the song hasn’t gotten as much exposure as SMILY. Nonetheless, Ai moves around a lot to keep things interesting.
This is a request performance from the audience. The audiences start chanting ‘Mou ikkai!’ Ai just laughs and fell over as the band starts playing Sakuranbo softly in the background. That was enough to get Ai singing and for the audience to go wild. They perform the short version of the song, and Ai let the audience do more singing.
This is another request performance from the audience. They start chanting ‘Mou ikkai’ again. Charlie, from the band, suggests Happy Days, and that’s the end of that. There is less interaction with the audience, but Ai and the band members did fool and play around a lot during this performance.
After a big round of thank yous to everyone who made this tour a great success, Ai wraps up the concert and tour with the final song. The big screen feature the audience along with a few lines of lyrics and nothing else; they didn’t show Ai or the band. Only the lyrics ‘We are always together’ and ‘Always Together’ appear on the screen. It is as if Ai is saying: Although the tour is over, all of you will always be with me. And when the audience sung those lines, they were saying the exact same thing back to her. Ai performed this song beautifully to the very last note.
Bonus Off Shot Scene
The deluxe version of the DVD included 7 off shot scenes from the tour. Each clip is approximately 2 to 3 minutes long and it followed Ai and her band members around for the day. Some clips are funnier than others, but they’re all worth watching.
Clip 1: 2005.04.24 at Ichihara
The first day of the tour. We see footage from the dress rehearsal and the final moments in backstage before the concert starts.
Clip 2: 2005.05.02 at Osaka
Footage of Ai and the staff members at the train station and on the train. Ai visits the band in their dressing room.
Clip 3: 2005.05.05 at Fukuoka
Ai and the staff are hanging out and eating after the concert. There’s an interesting conversation about a band member that got caught on camera.
Clip 4: 2005.05.20 at Miyagi
Ai gets a few tips about the Miyagi dialect from a staff before heading on stage. The crew dines out together after the concert.
Clip 5: 2005.05.21 at Niigata
Ai plays on the piano before the concert. We get a sneak preview of her 10th single, Planetarium.
Clip 6: 2005.05.27 at Sapporo
The crew arrives at Sapporo by plane. That night, they had a JAM PUNCH tour 2005 bowling contest.
Clip 7: 2005.06.01 at Tokyo
Ai checks out the stage before the final show. The crew celebrates after the concert and Ai comments on the tour.
There is a hidden menu with 5 video clips. To access this menu, you have to press certain keys while watching certain parts of the concert. An easier way get these hidden clips is to press a different set of keys during the end credits. I don’t know if this hidden menu is accessible in the regular DVD version. I’ve only been able to test the combination of keys and access the hidden menu in the deluxe version.
Clip 1 focuses on part of the MC (Master of Ceremony) in the Osaka concert. In clip 2, Ai does the voice over for the band member introduction video clip and each member gets the spot light for awhile. In clip 3 Ai shows us all 6 of her costume for the tour and selects her favourite one. Clip 4 feature parts of the MC (from the encore section) for each concert. And Clip 5 features the SMILY dancers.
I can’t help but compare JAM PUNCH to Ayumi Hamasaki’s debut concert. Ayumi’s concert was bigger, fancier, and a lot more expensive. Despite all that, I found JAM PUNCH much more enjoyable. One of the reasons is the choice of the songs and the order of the set list. I love the interaction Ai has with her band and the audience, and Ai really takes the opportunity to express her thoughts and emotion to the audiences.
Overall, the concert was excellent. It’s near perfection. Although the DVD isn’t as good as seeing the concert live, the off shot scenes and the hidden menu certainly makes up for it. I would give this concert a 9/10. I believe there is still room for improvements that could have made the tour much more special. One thing’s for sure, there will be high expectation for Ai’s next tour: LOVECOOK Tour 2006.