Saturday, April 29, 2006

You're Beautiful

Today I was going to write about how much I love Japan and the Japanese, I was thinking about it all the way home on the train from Osaka on Friday. But then these two idiots at Otake Station made me so mad, so I'm going to save that for another day when I really feel it. Argh!

So instead I'll write about the AMAZING James Blunt concert that I went to on Thursday. I don't know who will care about this to the extent that Steve and I do, so just bare with me.

The concert was awesome! I'm so disappointed that it was his last night in Japan, as I would have scheduled to see him more than once if I had known how much I would enjoy it. He played in a very small venue on the second floor of a business park. The room had no chairs, and it was like a high school auditorium but smaller, with a raised stage. Very intimate. Actually, it was completely dark right before the band walked on, and I noticed that two people stood on either ends of the stage, each with a flashlight to create a walking path for the band, and with just two flashlights they could illuminate the stage from one end to the other.

I was surprised by how great his band was! I'm not a musician, so I don't really know how I was judging it, but I was terribly impressed. The music was very loud (which I really enjoy) and very clear. His voice was richer, if possible, and had more depth, if possible, than on the album. That really struck me. It didn't sound like he was straining at all, but it did sound like he was singing more powerfully than on the album. The quality of his voice is amazing.

One interesting thing about performances in Japan is that the audience is completely silent when the artist is singing. Most of the time you could hear a pin drop. I think it's perceived as rude to yell and cheer when the performance is actually going on. So the crowd erupts right after a song is finished, but not a second sooner.

He didn't do a lot of talking, just a sentence before most songs, but he did use several Japanese words and phrases, which won me over immediately. It did seem that he's fairly humble and very likable, with a great sense of humor.

During "No Bravery" there was amateur film footage of war-ravaged Kosovo running on the screen that backed the stage. That was very moving. (And it prompted me to later read his bio here and here, which I knew would be interesting.)

He said only, "This is a very personal song" before "Goodbye My Lover".

He sang everything from "Back to Bedlam" and also "Sugar-coated" and maybe two or so others that I didn't know. He said that we were very unlucky to hear one song, but that the keyboard player had chosen it, so he was not to blame. It was a fun song, but all I remember about it was that it contained "Boo-hoo."

For one song he told the audience to sing along, but said, "This is a song for the girls to sing, not the boys. It's too high. But I have a girl's voice so I can sing it."

At the end of "Wisemen" after he sang the closing line, "Got to ask yourself the question, "Where are you now?"" he yelled, "You're in Osaka, Japan!" and people went nuts.

"You're Beautiful" was the last song of the encore, and, as you can imagine, the crowd went crazy when the first few notes were played, and then fell totally silent when he started the song. They went crazy again after the first time he sang, "My life is brilliant." It was so exciting, you could tell the crowd was about to burst over the performance of that song.

Isn't that exciting? Definitely in the top two of concerts I've ever seen, and I'm a bit of a concert-goer. (The other one would be an acoustic performance by Jackson Browne in Hiroshima a few years back.) His voice is so unique that it seems people either love it or hate it, but I love it. And his performance was outstanding. Be sure to catch him on tour if you can!

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