I arrived at the hall in good time and watched the people around me. They were literally men and women of all ages. Teenagers in jeans and T-shirt, men in business suit, people in their sixties, and schoolchildren. It amazed me once again that Chihiro is loved by all walks of life.
I took a seat on the center balcony. Although it was a little bit far from the stage, the acoustics were well-balanced, with a generous amount of reverberations.
The first half of the concert was backed by nine strings. Four violins, two violas, two cellos, and a contrabass. No piano. The concert opened in a refined manner with an instrumental played by the chamber orchestra. Shortly after the overture was finished, Chihiro appeared in black robes.
Although her voice was only heard through microphone and speakers, it sounded quite normal, clearing up my previous concern. I was embraced by the warm, agreeable tones of the strings. Chihiro sang attentively one song after another, with little talk as always. She must be comfortable this way. "Memai" played without piano had a taste totally different from the original. It was so beautiful and I liked it, too. My concern was that her voice was tinged with huskiness just as the people attended the Osaka concert reported, and that she seemed to have difficulty in singing high notes.
After a 20-minute intermission, the second half opened. A Bösendorfer had been brought to the stage during the break.
The strings did good work at the opening and won applause from the audience. (Ms. Miki took part in the recording sessions of "infection", "Ryuseigun", and "Sign".) When "call" was sung to Mr. Haketa's piano, I noticed a pleasant accident. Since the reverberation time of this hall is very long, scattered piano tones may at times whirl around within the hall space. During this singing, this kind of echoes were heard somewhat like the original recording included in INSOMNIA. I was impressed by the way she danced in a slow movement as she sang "Arashi-ga Oka".
Chihiro was called back to the stage. Now she was in jeans and T-shirt. She also wore a cap on which the word "RAT" was written.
"Beautiful Fighter" was accompanied by two acoustic guitars played by Mr. Nishiumi and Mr. Haketa. The entire audience voluntarily kept time with hand-clapping. After the song was finished, Chihiro threw her cap at the audience to give it away. But, the cap returned onto the stage like a boomerang! (or did she accidentally threw it sideways?) Everyone burst into laughter. "I'm sorry I'm no good at sports," said Chihiro, embarrassed. She threw it again, successfully.
She went on. "And I'm sorry I'm not in a good condition when I'm on the stage of such a beautiful hall. So let me sing an additional song as a token of my apology. Since I decided this only yesterday, I don't have any backing for this song. So I want all of you to become my band. When I hit this tambourine, clap your hands along with me." On the stage, she was standing alone with a tambourine in her hand. She began to sing the well-known tune "Take Me Home, Country Roads" without accompaniment. She sang it both in English and Japanese. The hall resounded with her tambourine and hearty clapping from the audience. This was a happy moment of being united.
The last number was "Sign". But what a pity! She lost her voice at the highest notes. Somehow she managed to finish the song without losing heart. It may be controversial that she, a professional singer, ventured to sing the song when she knew she wouldn't be successful. But I was glad she dared. After all, it's more like Chihiro. Some of the audience stood to applaud her.
Throughout the concert, I didn't feel the punch in her voice. But it's OK because this was not such kind of concert. Surely she was not in the best condition, yet Chihiro wove a new spell that enchanted us all.
Suntory Hall, Tokyo
August 19, 2003, 7:00-9:15 p.m.
Copyright © 2003 Folia. All rights reserved.