KOKIA in Concert in France

live report - 03.17.2006 07:00

Live report of the concert on Saturday 21st of January 2006 at l'Espace Saint Martin, Paris, France.

The wait

Saturday January 21st, the beginning of a mild day. It's about 15:00 when we discover the queue. A bit over 100 people are waiting in the queue already. The majority are boys, about three quarters at first glance. The average age is a little older than those of people at visual kei concerts, though without exceeding that of a Ryuichi Sakamoto live. A few sparse visuals are present in the crowd, we don't exactly know why, especially for such an artist, but well, everyone has their own ideas about these things.
It's past 16:00, and the queue facing l'Espace Saint Martin has grown quiet a bit. After having waited another moment on the steps, people begin to enter the hall.

During this time, certain people buy some things. The items present are a small Kokia mirror (7€), her latest single in limited edition Ai no Melody / Chouwa oto~with reflection~ (12€, a little bit expensive in comparison the the price in Japan, 1260 yen), the Onmyouza collector's DVD Yuugen reibu (55€) and finally the first album of Ra:IN The Line. The seller mentions that the album best-of - pearl ~ The Best Collection~ by Kokia will be received at the end of the concert, after the expedition having had a few hold-ups. The first people to buy the single receive a small present, a signed card of Kokia.

Once they've arrived at the security, the crowd is quick to react: when they are asked if they have bottles in their bag, and the answer is positive, the bottles are thrown directly into the bin.
No cameras are taken away, despite the fact that there are notices everywhere prohibiting the use of cameras and filming during the concert.

The entry into the hall

The arrangement of the hall is surprising, because hundreds of seats are placed in such a way to organise two distinctive groups, on the left and on the right, then a group a little bit higher is arranged towards the back of the hall. The places are not numbered, the first to arrive are therefore the first to fill up the 300 seats. The grand piano, superb, is already placed on the stage next to the microphone. The hall presents itself as a superb auditorium, it is therefore much easier to hear a sound with a good accoustic reverb. Some people take photos of the hall and their friends, before the inhibition comes into effect. Some security are placed at the sides, as well as some officials.
After a few minutes, a voice is made heard to specify once again that it is forbidden to take photos at the expense of being thrown out of the hall immediately, and that it is not possible to move and to throw yourself in risky positions (no slam or headbanging, this is reserved for other concerts!)

The concert

Kokia is announced and enters shortly after, as usual bare-foot, in a beautiful modest dress and nicely maked-up. The public cheer her arrival, some people chant her name.

1. The guitar, played by a soundtrack, initiates the concert quickly and Kokia, with only a few words, provoques a complete silence in the hall. In a few notes the young lady has quickly caught the attention of the auditorium. A little pause in the singing, and she presents us with a little "Hello to everyone" (in French) before resuming the song, starting out with some singing close to a monotonous chant. Her gestures are close to oriental movements, much like certain tones performed by her vocals.

At the end of the song, her interpreter (Thomas) presents himself to the hall and announces that the different speeches of the artist will be translated, so that the public will be more adequate with her and understand what she wants to share with them during the breaks.

2. Second song, Kokia recites some words accompanied by the piano, then a sound of synthesizers comes to accompany her before she begins the the song itself.

3. With a more powerful voice, Akiko Yoshida (alias Kokia) goes back to the piano, mixing english words with japanese.

4. The introduction is more calm until the progressive rise of Kokia's voice which mounts crescendo. She plays musical instructions (pianissimo, mezzo and other strengths) with a disconcerting ease. She reinforces the idea that it is not necessary for things to be complicated to be beautiful, beauty is therefore simple and even more accessible to all and everything.

5. On more traditional vibrancies, Kokia recaptures this series of significant tunes from Asia. Her voice captures the audience and warms our hearts.

A short break, Kokia puts a necklace on her left foot, which will soon be explained in the follow up...

6. The artist returns to the front of the stage infront of her microphone. She is accompanied by a traditional instrument which seems to belong to the category of the sanza, basically a piano of African origine, and it seems to be a kalimba (originates from Uganda). The few first notes played start the base of the melody, the reverb is very particular and interpellates. Kokia begins a little dance in which she marks the rhythm with the necklace on her foot while singing. Bit by bit a soundtrack of the sound of birds develops. An imaginary universe is created reminding one of enchanting forests in children's fairytales.

The song ends, Thomas translates Kokia's remarks.

Kokia (by intermediate of an interpreter) : "It feels like we're in a forest... breath in air!"

7. The sound of a running river joins the sound of birds which hasn't stopped yet. Without music, Kokia starts some superb singing, continuing to mark the rhythm with the necklace. She finishes with a little spin and says a little "Thank you!".

She removes the necklace.

8. With just a guitar as the soundtrack, Akiko Yoshida sings a few "I love you"s in japanese. An accordeon begins playing alongside the string instrument, and then the maracas beging playing. The style is more latino, more close perhaps to the bossa-nova. Kokia looks at the whole audience, as if she wee singing for everyone individually and only for them. The audience, moved by this gesture and by the music applaud her.

Kokia (these citations are not completely exact, the interpreter had to translate everything in one go which created some difficulties) :
- Show a bit more enthusiasm!
- I have already come to France three times, once with my parents, the second time for the football world cup and finally today for this concert. This is my first performace in Europe!
- I have alot of friends in France, who I've seen and who have come to see me now. I like France alot, the food, and the fact that you, the auidence love what I am doing today, this makes me appreciate this country even more.
- Often when I compose, I think of the countries I have visited, whereas the next song will be about a country I've never been to before. I'm talking of a pink elefant which I have a memory of seeing when I was young. I would like you to make the noise of this elefant, which doesn't resemble the noise you know. You will have to do PAOOONNN PAOOONNN

The audience tries with two tests of Kokia on the piano, with alot of laughter, she has definitively captured her audience.

9. With a musical beginning reminding one of Dead Can Dance, Kokia's voice becomes deeper, here also resembling that of Lisa Gerrard (vocalist of Dead Can Dance). She starts the song Pink no zou ("the pink elefant"). Like they were asked, the audience repeats at each moment the famous "PAON". Helped by two tunes, her voice twirls around before taking on a theme tinted by the orient, then finishing with some chimes of a clock and finally a "Waouhhh".

10. Kokia continues with a more classic style, but still just as communicative.
In fact, Kokia uses the music to take us on a journey, using different kinds of music in different journeys and countries more or less exotic, amusing, oriental, asian, etc... Her high pitched voice moves everyone deeply.

Kokia (still by intermediate of an interpreter) :
- I thank everyone for coming, and that despite the language barrier. The next song is called Remember the kiss. Through this song, above the language barrier, of the skin colour, etc... you will understand everything; the message of well-being.

11. Still with her voice and the music, Kokia continues to support us, like a call to hope in opposition to the obstacles in life, that one must keep smiling and stay calm. Hard to resist, it would be masochistic not to follow this path while listening to this song.

The interpreter asks for an applause for Kokia, to thank her for coming because for us. The crowd stands and applauds for a while. You can almost feel the disease sketched on the face of Kokia. A small session of questions follows. It's Kokia who is puzzled enough to ask the first question as to why there are so many who have come to see her, she can't understand. A few responses emerge from the crowd which are simply "we love you" and "I love you", all in approximative japanese. The essential is there, she realises she has feedback from the audience despite these cultures which are so different. Kokia then questions about the favourite songs of the audience, and then a rabble of different cries can be heard, where we hear Remember the kiss, Time to say Goodbye, etc... Kokia is surprised by all these responses.
A question comes from a spectator: "When will you return to France?" Kokia first replies "tomorrow", having misunderstood the question then corrects herself saying that she would like to return accompanied by her band (drums, guitar, piano, etc...).
The interpreter announces that it is the moment for the eiga corner, corresponding to the film corner and animation. Kokia participated in the theme songs (openings and endings) of the anime Giniro no Kami no Agito of the studio Gonza (official site of the film released on the 7th of January). The next song performed is the music for the introduction to this animation film, Chouwa oto~with reflection~.

12. With a recording of her piano and synthesizers, Kokia here steps closer to a world-music style. A richer orchestration comes up next and after, hard to resist, this music is a real beauty, you could only accuse her of not having any proper musicians obviously, but it would be unfair to complain especially with the magical singing of the artist.

Thomas then presents the new song, which is none other than the theme song of Giniro no Kami no Agito, Ai no Melody.

13. This is the only flat souding song of the whole concert concerning the sound quality, the bass of the soundtrack completely covers the singing and the other instruments, whereas all the other songs went well, here it is harder to bind with and to 'enter inside'. The song stays pleasant with a choir voice, but here the soundtrack isn't really up to scratch concerning the accoustics, shame.

The interpreter speaks again, translating the words of the bare-foot young lady, saying that she thanks the audience and that the next song is one of her prefered songs. The song is Arigatou. She wishes to thank her audience for the warmth they are giving her.

14. Once again, Kokia proves her talent by juggling between a strong voice and another weak voice, but just as captivating.

Kokia now leaves the stage, the audience stands up and calls for her with alot of applauding and cheers. She comes back shortly after to finish with a song that she carries close to her heart, written for someone who was close to her but is now deceased. She hopes that the audience will transmit her stength. Time to say goodbye starts...

15. From only the first few notes on the piano, we feel the sadness that emits from this song. It has a striking melody which we can't resist, certain members of the audience had tears in their eyes. It's difficult to describe such a song, as a live this already superb melody gains an indescribable power.

The audience, satisfied, rises again to applaud her and this is how the concert ends after almost two hours.
Many people head towards the bar where albums are being sold, but the seller announces that there will be no best-of album on sale this day. A few minutes later, he even announces that everything is sold out. The attendants intervene and show out the last remaining people present in l'Espace Saint Martin. Some people who had waited to see Kokia catch a glimpse of her as she exits the hall shortly afterwards.

Kokia succeeded where many would question her on her success, she came with her gentle music, her simplicity, her generosity and she won everything. No doubt the audience will come to see her again, and it is more than good to recommend to visit a live of this artist. I discovered Kokia a while back and I didn't listen further than her discography, an error since in lives she comes out much more than in her albums. Her Time to say goodbye gave me real tingles and I was completely seduced by Chouwa oto~with reflection~.
I think that apart from the soundtracks, I like it when she comes out alone with her piano, a more intimate ambiance emerges, and this is quite simply what gives me the most emotions at a musical level. And concerning the piano, she isn't bad - quite the opposite!
You mustn't forget the audience, very respectful towards the artist, something well appreciated!

Paris Visual Prod allowed many to discover more than just visual kei or rock, Japan hasn't finished surprising us by its musical richness. So when will the next Jpop concert take place?
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