|Artist: Utada Hikaru
Product Code: TOBF-5506
Release Date: 2006.12.20
Debut Ranking: #4
It’s only been a month since the release of her last single, “Boku wa Kuma”, and Utada has finished the year off by releasing a DVD of her summer tour, “Utada United 2006”. Being a HUGE Utada fan, I was obviously pleasantly surprised when the tracklist contained almost all of her singles (with the only obvious ones missing being “for you/time LIMIT”). Unfortunately, I was also disappointed by the appearance of some “Exodus” songs, which I felt were complete crap.
Although the cover of this DVD is bland and uninspired, the set is completely different. Utada and the band stand on this oval-shaped platform which seems to be a giant screen too. There is a giant screen made up of lights at the back, with some thinner movable strips which are also composed of lights. It is amazing how good the images look on it (especially from a distance)! However, when the camera focuses on Utada, you can see that the lights do not show well close up.
The concert starts with Utada’s head on the screen, with cherry blossoms floating past her. It is the same as the “Ultra Blue” commercial, but this time, she blinks! This is played to “OPENING”. Nothing big here until Utada pops up from under the stage. The music for “Passion” starts playing and Utada sounds amazing! The instruments are almost identical to the actual recording. A great start to the concert. I did notice that Utada seemed to be really weird with her microphone stand. She keeps sliding her hands down it and pushing her head back. I know this is probably part of the actions she was told to do, but it was just awkward…
This Is Love
After a 5 second pause, “This Is Love” starts. I have never really liked the song, but after listening to her singing it live here, it’s starting to grow on me. Utada walks around the stage and does weird actions (putting her hand up and putting it down very quickly). What was truly bizarre was the doves in clouds that was displayed on the screen. Don’t they usually show the artist singing in the background so people from the back of the stadium can see? However, Hikki seemed really energetic and it’s promising up to be a great concert XD.
traveling, Movin’ on without you
The ending of “This Is Love” is sequined into “traveling”. The crowd goes wild as this is one of Utada’s most popular songs. The video of “traveling” plays on 2 strips of the screen and on the platform itself. Right after the “Can you keep it up…” part, the music for “Movin’ on without you” starts. This song has never grown on me. It is here that I realize that concerts WOULD be better if they used a backing track instead of back-up singers. There is virtually no chance of a mix-up (Ashlee’s was a drummer’s mistake, not a technical one!). Also, the weaker parts of the song are made stronger too, giving it an overall more enjoyable experience.
Sakura DROPS, FINAL DISTANCE, First Love
“Sakura DROPS” was up next, and the beginning composed of Utada moaning (recorded of course). She then sang the beginning part acapella with a strong echo effect. It was so completely not what I had expected, and I was caught off-guard. “FINAL DISTANCE” was the emotional-expressive piece of the set, and Utada seemed close to tears towards the end. “First Love” was sang perfectly after a little bit of mc-ing, but nothing outstanding to report.
After a 3 minute recording of a poem? (not really sure since it’s in Japanese), came the part I dreaded the most – the “Exodus” songs. Scary noises – thunder and demonic sounds were played, which signaled the start of “Devil Inside”. This was what the screen was perfect for. The sudden change from black to red, and the devil playing the cello: it was a visual treat. Utada changed costumes too. What was absolutely surprising was how good Utada sounded though. She sounded strong and confident unlike her showcase in New York a few years ago (or was it just last year?). The only disappointing fact was that she didn’t sing “The Scumfrog Radio Edit”.
Kremlin Dusk, You Make Me Want To Be A Man
“Kremlin Dusk” was the perfect opportunity for Hikki to showcase her vocal range. The lyrics are terrible, but the scales were astonishing. She also looked like a princess – a black leathery modern one anyways. This was also the only non-single song, making it obvious that it’s there only to showoff her vocals. At the end, when she repeats the same phases over and over again, she looked like she was having a seizure though. Nothing special about “You Make Me Want To Be A Man”. Mediocre performance for a mediocre song.
Be My Last
And the worst performance of the tour goes to…. (drumroll) “Be My Last”! It started off perfectly enough – Hikki sang with only a solo cellist or whatever. Then we reach the chorus, where she held the “Be My Last…” part too long, and the “uh HUH uh HUH uh…” part too sharp. The music didn’t accompany the second verse at all, and made it sound very… off. Utada also ran out of breath in the middle of an “UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” part. At the last chorus, she sounded like she was in pain and dying. Make it stop!! “Be My Last” is one of those types of songs (like “Fergalicious”) that should NEVER be performed live.
Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro, COLORS
“Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro” is one of those “Why is there so much pain in the world?” songs. The screen shows scenes of suffering around the world – an atomic bomb explosion, a starving beggar, children in Africa, war etc…This completely brings down the mood of the concert, and it never really seems to recover. Although it was a pretty good performance, it is easy to see that Hikki has tired herself out and goes off-key for a few of the high notes, and struggled to hit some of the lower notes. Her voice also seems to be wearing a bit thin. Again, at the end, she seems to be in tears. The most destroyed song on the tour – “COLORS”, is next. Stripping it of its experimental pop edge, it is presented as a ballad. Here, Hikki’s voice cracks a bit. Afterwards, Utada chats a bit with the audience.
Can You Keep A Secret, Addicted To You, Wait & See etc.
When “Can You Keep A Secret?” started, my heart broke a little. The first part of the song was sang like a ballad. Then the lights switched from blue to green, and the familiar beats of the song came back. This was a gigantic improvement over the ballads she just sang. She then sings “Addicted To You” and “Wait & See ~RISK~”. Nothing spectacular there, although she did sing the ending of “Addicted To You” in a higher octave, which sounded horrible. Afterwards, she talked with the audience a bit more. Nothing special from “Letters”, although she did sing at a higher octave at the end again. “Keep Tryin’” was bad; it sounded like an 8 year-old girl trying to sing. Her voice was very worn out, and she needed a rest before she continued with the concert.
The encore came with performances of “Automatic” and “Hikari”. Hikki’s voice seemed much more relaxed during “Automatic”. She moved around a lot more, and as she was wearing a much simpler costume than before, more natural too. “Hikari” as the last song surprised me, as it seemed so much like an opening (and it was for the last Utada tour). Towards the end, confetti fell and Utada kept singing “la la la…” to the rhythm, but it sounded like an 8 year-old again.
What started as such a promising tour ended with the worst vocals I have ever heard Hikki sing with. The 2 hour long festivity was too much on Hikki’s vocals, and she should have considered a shorter one instead. Also, I expected more “Ultra Blue” songs, as this tour was supposed to be for support for that album. Overall, not the best work of hers ever.
- This Is Love
- Movin’ on without you
- Sakura DROPS
- FINAL DISTANCE
- First Love
- Devil Inside *Utada
- Kremlin Dusk *Utada
- You Make Me Want To Be A Man *Utada
- Be My Last
- Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro
- Can You Keep A Secret?
- Addicted To You
- Wait & See ~RISK~
- Keep Tryin’