To celebrate her third year since her debut with Momo no Hanabira, Otsuka Ai held a special concert at Hibiya Yagai Ongaku-Do on September 9, 2006 entitled 【LOVE IS BORN】～3rd Anniversary 2006～. But this was more than an anniversary concert for her, as September 9 was also her 24th birthday and hence the title of the concert “Love is Born” as Ai’s name means “love” in Japanese.
The concert’s DVD was released on January 1, 2007 making it the 3rd DVD concert released by Ai. In addition to a special 40 page photobook that was released as a first press item for the DVD, fans who pre-order the DVD online from mu-mo by November 16, 2006 also received a replica of the staff passes used at the concert.
Short video clips that were recorded on the day of the concert were shown as Birthday Song was played in the background. The video clips contain messages from fans with most of them wishing Ai Happy Birthday, congratulating on her 3rd anniversary and showing their love and support for her. After a brief shot of the concert symbol and title, we are brought to backstage where Ai, the band and staff are just about ready to start the concert.
The personal messages from the fans were a very nice touch and once again, it helped set the concert towards a friendly and warm mood.
Ai must have been trying to tap into her character from Tokyo Friends because throughout the performance she barely smiled and had her eyes closed most of the time. All attention was focus on her with a few shots of the whole stage, audience and the band. There were a few close up shot of the base’s guitar during his solo, and at first I found this weird. But after awhile I noticed there were some interesting stickers on the guitar, which got me thinking that maybe they purposely did that to add a little more spice to the concert. But hey know what? I love this song so even if they only shot this performance from a single angle I’ll still love it.
Just like her first concert JAM PUNCH, Ai behaves more like herself during the second song: we see that big grin more often, moves around the stage more and looks like she’s really enjoying herself. I love how she twirls and plays with her red skirt, looking like a little girl rather than a 24 year old. High up on the back of the stage there are 4 men with brass instruments to help reproduce the way the song is heard on her LOVE PUNCH album. But unlike the album version, instead of using a pre record backup vocal of Ai, the band does the singing making them more than just band members and more involve in the concert.
MC1, Amairo Parasol (Amaenbo b-side)
Ai takes a short break and talks to the audience. She exclaimed that she never thought she’ll able to hold a concert on her birthday and through this concert she hopes to get closer to the fans. Ai really wants this to be a relaxing concert and apologize in advance if in the middle of a song she suddenly burst out laughing it’s because that’s how she truly feel right now. With the next song, she hope to go back in time to 3 years ago when it all started.
Besides more shots of the band, nothing visually especial really happens. But what makes this performance special is the fact that it’s never been performed live in a concert like this and is a b-side from her earlier days. The part where Suzuki starts echoing the lyrics is both cool and creepy because after hearing Ai’s smoothing voice for the entire song suddenly this totally different voice jumps in. But just like the GIRLY performance, I’m really glad that the band is playing a more active role in her concerts.
Himawari (Momo no Hanabira b-side)
By now the sky is pitch dark as the stage slowly lights up with red and yellow lightings as if the sun was rising; a perfect opening for Himawari, which means sunflower. Before she made her debut under avex, Ai and a friend formed a band called HimawaRi. Though it’s never been officially confirm, I always like to think that this is a very special song for Ai and that she wrote it for her friend.
Momo no Hanabira
I felt like I was watching the PV instead of a live performance, because Ai’s facial expression was almost identical to the PV’s. The lighting also helped reproduced the PV feel too with green lighting in the background and a few pink spot light moving up and down like peach flower petals falling from the sky.
MC2, Kaerimichi (Sakuranbo b-side)
Ai sits on a stool as she reflect on the live performances from before her debut, reciting how she felt back then in front of the crowds. When she asked who had actually saw her very first live performances, Ai was surprised to find that a lot of the audiences were there and had remain Ai’s fans since then! She commented how when she performed Sakuranbo back then, all the audience did was stare blankly back at her and didn’t yell out ‘mouikai’. As a way to reflect on the old days, Ai then performs a song from her debut live, the b-side to Sakuranbo, Kaerimichi.
This is one of my most favourite b-side from Ai, and I’ve been just dying to see her perform it live. And this performance has certainly met all my expectations: the gentle whistling intro done by Suzuki and Kota and the role as back up singer during the chorus is just lovely. With the stage light set to the warm orange tone again, Ai and the band settling down in their stools for the performance. The setting fits in with the song’s folk style perfectly, giving the imagery that the band had just finish a hard day’s work they’re enjoying themselves with music as the sun set slowly behind them.
MC3, Birthday Song
As the lights come back on, realising it’s already 6:50pm Ai gets cranky and complains that September 9 is almost over yet no one had sing the “Happy Birthday” song. All at once the crowd goes wild and unanimously agree to sing the song. Ai said that just saying “Happy Birthday” is too normal, so instead she suggest singing ‘Happy Birthday Song’ which can be found under Otsuka Ai on the internet. But because today it’s her birthday she’ll weird saying “happy birthday” so she asks the audience to help her out. The audience cheers loudly as Ai’s bright smile appear along with, oh what’s this, little devil ears saying, “It’s everyone willing to play along and let me be a brat for awhile?”
Because the band’s music will over power the audience’s song, the audience will create their on beat by clapping their hands and stomping their feet.
Ai starts off the song, and the audience takes it away at the chorus with Kota softly drumming to the beat and Tomomori ringing the bells. The focus is on the audience and their involvement with the song. The sight of seeing the whole audience up and singing along is indescribable, it really makes you wish you can witness the whole performance live. The high light of the performance is the end when Ai giggly apologizes for having everyone to put up with her earlier.
Hane ari tamago
With the audience still shouting endless “congratulations”, the dark stage lights up to reveal Ai sitting in front of the piano. Ai’s solo on piano was never meant to be super fancy but the beauty of the raw performance, and this one is no exception. You can see a few glow stick moving around, but that’s about it. The audience is probably too caught up with the sudden change of pace to the concert and caught off guard by how peaceful this performance is. Not only did she hit every note and key on the piano, but did it with that extra emotion which truly reflects her passion for music. Ai must been really happy with this performance too as she later released it is an audio track of this live on her 13th single, Renai Shashin.
Not only is the music rearrange, the lyrics is also rearrange to fit the feeling that piano solo performances have. At the same time, Ai manages to keep that “innocent brat girl” tone that was present in the original single version. The way she holds the last note is beautifully done, but it would have been perfect if she had continue the piano solo for at least a few more bar instead of ending it on the dot.
A song like Planetarium shouldn’t be perform as a piano solo, period. Especially not after all those amazing and spectacular live performances with all the special effects. The blue lighting with star projections on the ceiling and the performance itself was nice and all, but I was expecting much more. If I have never seen the live performances I would probably had been satisfied with the performance, but I know Ai can do much better than that.
I felt that Ai was trying to pull away from the typical Planetarium image with the piano solo. But at the same time she refrain the song image by having the star projections on the ceiling.
They decide to play it safe and use the image of the original single with the help of the light they created the illusion of Ai as the gold fish and the stage as an underground ocean. An excellent use of lightning for this performance, and the band sounded incredible! It wasn’t until half way through the song that I noticed the four string players in the background, which would explain why music sounded exactly like the single version.
The lighting is good, the band and mini orchestra sounds great, Ai’s vocal was amazing, yet something just didn’t seem right. It’s probably due to the incredible performance of Kingyo Hanabi, and I just can’t help but compare the two. Though this performance is excellent on its own, when compare the previous Kingyo Hanabi performance it just falls short.
Another thing that bug me is that this song is suppose to be sad, but when I see Ai moving gently along with the music I feel enlighten, and right away I’ll remind myself that it’s suppose to be a sad song which result in this weird feeling toward the performance.
To get everyone ready for the remaining concert’s upbeat songs, Ai gets everyone stand up and screaming. Just as she was about to ask everyone to clap along to SMILY’s beat, the show is interrupted when Ai spied an insect by the piano. Suzuki scooped it up and released it in the air. Oddly enough, the insect kept flying back to where Ai was standing causing her to scream non-stop. When the insect finally flew away for good, the concert was resumed with everyone clapping to the beat of SMILY.
Though the usual energetic SMILY dancers weren’t there, the audience made up for that by moving as one along the beat. Ai was also her usual energetic self with that bright smile and running around the stage.
Compare to SMILY, this song has more of a rock beat to it where anyone can bop to. And Ai proved this by jumping non-stop on stage. The band members moved closer to the front of the stage and not only were they rocking it out up there but were enjoying it too. Especially Suzuki, who finally had has shouting match with Ai by echoing parts of the lyric.
As if previous live performances for this song haven’t hinted enough that this will be one wicked performance, the smoking stage and the bright lights at the beginning certainly did it. Just when we thought Happy Days performances couldn’t get any wilder with Suzuki shouting along to the chorus and his big drum segments toward the end, Ai surprised us by bring a customized mini loud speaker to use as her microphone. With the help of the mini loud speaker, it help to reproduce the exact sound as the single version.
The stream of golden papers falling from the sky is a sign that the concert is coming to an end. Throughout the whole song Ai wave her right arm back and forth, leading the whole audience to do the exact same thing. I’ve always wanted to see a concert when everyone was waving in the same direction. And let me tell you, seeing this crowd doing it was amazing and the sparkling golden paper in their hands being reflected by the stage light was just the cherry on top. Though this performance is no where as creative or energetic as Happy Days, it is still very enjoyable seeing how Ai managed to unison herself with the band and audience.
A typical Sakuranbo performance: Sakuranbo pose, Ai shares the mic with the crowd during chorus, and lots of jumping and energy all around. At the beginning there is a number of large balloon bouncing around on the audience’s heads. One by one, these large balloon pops revealing a number of small white and red balloons inside. Ai warps by the performance by saying, “Thank you! Third Anniversary!”
In terms of stage effects, there’s really nothing special for this performance. But what this performance so enjoyable is because it’s a fan favourite and the opportunity for the sing-along.
ENCORE: MC5, Renai Shashin
In her two pervious tours, Ai dressed in her tour t-shirts for the encore section. But this time around, Ai comes out dress in a pale dressy tank top and ¾ length jeans. Ai takes the opportunity to thank her fans whole heartily for their continue support since she first debuted. She goes on to say that she’ll continue performing as an artist until the day she is out of the job.
As the stage lights up, a mini strings unit is reveal at the top of the stage. The smoothing string sounds gives the song the extra romantic feel that it has on the single version. With Ai’s vocal, the performance becomes as smoothing as a lullaby being sung by a parent before bedtime. This performance sets up the atmosphere and hints that the rest of encore will be a relaxing and calm one. This is probably not what the fans want, but it certainly is a surprise and nice change from Ai’s usual energetic encore.
Neko ni Fuusen
A set of orange lights shines from the back of the stage, like a growing fire that has just been lit in a dark room. As Ai continue the performance and story of a cat the light gets brighter as if signalling there’s hope, even if this is just a cat. Once again, the setting is accompany by Ai’s beautiful vocals with the band and strings.
MC6, LOVE MUSiC
Ai announces that it’s time to say goodbye. She continues by commenting that people have the habit of saying “see you again” instead of goodbye. She wishes to say the same to audience, and truly wishing that they’ll be able to see each other again like this. She promises to work hard and continue to write songs that will touch people’s hearts.
For this performance, the cameras focus on Ai and the audience which I find very fitting for this song. Ai tries hard to fight back her tears for this song, and manages to finish it without shedding a tear. Though we usually see Ai shed a little tear in concerts, I think it’ll be a bit weird if it happens this time since it is her birthday.
When it was announced that Ai will be having another anniversary concert in 2006, I frowned and complained. Having for a concert for your 3rd anniversary is wonderful, but if you over do it and intend to have it every year it loses the special meaning. But now that I’ve watched the whole concert and understand what Ai was saying during the MC parts, I take it all back. This concert, her 4th anniversary concert, and the upcoming batch of 5th anniversary concerts are more than a celebration marking Ai’s debut. These concerts are Ai’s birthday parties and the closest thing she can get to communicating and interacting with her fans on her special day.
Compare to her last two concert tours when it comes to stage effects and costumes, this concert is anything but grand. Which is fine because this concert isn’t about putting on a good show, it’s about a celebration. And Ai celebrated by performing b-side songs that were released from the earlier days, which was a real nice treat for fans like me who enjoy these less popular songs.
What I really enjoy about the concert isn’t the stage effects, the music, and not even Ai’s performance. What I really really enjoy is the MC sessions: I enjoyed listening to Ai’s story from the early days, her interaction with the audience, and the way Ai let her true self shine through during the MCs. After watching the MC I feel I know Ai better as a person, that she’s more than an avex artist on my TV screen. I have yet to watch the 2007 4th anniversary concert, but I am really looking forward to what Ai has to say during those MC sessions.
Ai really went all out and made sure to thank all the fans who took the time to attend this special concert. For starter, during the encore Ai gave the audience a sneak preview of her 16th single ‘Pocket’. Not only was this performance not included on the DVD, but Ai also had the audience promised they won’t talk about it. So at the time when this concert DVD was released, those of us who weren’t lucky enough to attend the concert only knew that a song entitled ‘Pocket’ was performed and will be released in the near future.
Ai also revealed another gift for the audience at the end of the concert. After Ai and the band took their bow, Ai revealed that everyone in the audience will be receiving a free gift the exit: a set of pin in a red package hand drawn by Ai. This concert was truly made possible by the fans, and made especially for the fans.