Anime Expo 2007
Anna Tsuchiya Concert

by Jonathan Mays,
June 30, 11:30 a.m.

“All lines are open!”

Gosh, it's nice to hear that after last night's awful delay.

12:30 p.m.

Scratch that.

The fog machine at 11:57 was just a tease. I hear they're handing out tons of free tickets in the Exhibit Hall. Meanwhile, 1,000 of us wait impatiently before an empty arena stage. At least the DJ has a sense of humor: Vitamin C is playing. “Put a smile on your face…”

Red lights and fog at 12:42 to a remix of “We Will Rock You.” Anna Tsuchiya's band takes the stage, leading claps as if the audience needs the help. Tsuchiya strolls on stage in a torn Dalmatian t-shirt, red hot pants, and black leather boots. The guitar revs, and Tsuchiya's off to the races. For someone who doesn't know the language, her English vocals are superb. Nice third beat accents, too. Ju-Ken, fresh off last night's performance with S.K.I.N, brings the same bass energy to Tsuchiya's crew. It's the guitarist, though, who wraps the song in classy fashion. As long as Tsuchiya's set has a hint of variety, this is going to be a heck of a concert.

No break before the next song. A tempting two-beat intro yields to Tsuchiya's naked take on the verse of “Scream.” Electronic modulation on the studio track was definitely a good idea. Tsuchiya's confidence returns in the chorus. The structure is fragile but creative, with a mid-song bridge and cursory regard for tempo. Tsuchiya hangs onto the last note for five full seconds.

“Thank you! Konnichiwa! Are you having fun?” Yep.

“Take Me Out” is a whiny, milquetoast song that Tsuchiya performs respectably. Let's forget about that one. Batting clean up is a straight rock take on “Somebody Help Me,” the theme to the short lived Tru Calling show. Whoever found this song for Tsuchiya deserves a raise. Her producer, too: E flat major is a better key for this song than whatever the original used. The crowd throws devil horns.

A quick MC: “The next song is from the NANA anime!” Someone screams, “I love you, Anna!” and gets a chuckle from the singer. With all the equipment on stage, it's too bad they couldn't spare a piano for this special rendition of “Kuroi Namida.” It's still superior to her studio recording, but it could have been the highlight of the show. Tsuchiya soars in her first solo of the afternoon. If only the light board operator had the same attention to detail; the green and red spotlights are about a quarter of a beat behind the music. The crowd cheers with Ju-Ken's final bass note. It seems they have no patience for the synth piano, either.

“Let's introduce the band members,” Tsuchiya says in Japanese, then English. Ju-Ken is the only one who speaks clearly, but I think the drummer just said, “Kochi wa Jack Bauer!”

“Neko-chan!” Tsuchiya calls the keyboardist to the front of the stage. Several tries later, he complies. Then it's back to the music.

Motto, motto, come on, come on!” One of the guitarists starts in the solo spotlight, but he steps back a few seconds later. Tsuchiya sings the chorus with a twang underneath Ju-Ken's trembling bass. The crowd has built by at least a hundred, perhaps from those Exhibit Hall giveaways.

The guitarist doesn't even come up for air before the next song. Double tempo. Tsuchiya has only a few seconds to drop the twang and get traditional again. At least one floppy-haired fan approves: someone in the back of the second deck is having a great time all by himself. There isn't another person within 50 feet. This must be another NANA number. It's nearly identical to the first song, right down to the accents in the chorus. Boring, except for the chugging bass/guitar bridge. That part is awesome.

Finally, a good light show—where has this been? Blue and yellow lights flash in synch with the music, and a disco ball joins the action late into the song. Ju-Ken and the guitarist kneel and strum in synch. For such a silly move, it sure looks cool. Not as cool, though, as the guitarist ending the piece with some wildly embellished chords. I wish I'd heard his name!

“Rose” is next. Rocking the bass isn't all Ju-Ken can do: he harmonizes with Tsuchiya's vocals for more than half of the song. As the lights go purple, Tsuchiya hangs to the microphone stick with her left hand, the mic in her right. She hasn't been doing much on stage. Well, except singing, which is plenty for someone so talented. Another guitar flourish wraps the song.

Saigo!” (“Final song!”) Yeah, right. “Zero” has a nice punk opening, but the chorus—I mean, come on. It's almost exactly the same one that was in two earlier songs. I get that they like the form, and the tail end has some creative spark, but gosh, even though the accent is two beats earlier, the chorus starts with two pickup beats. It's the same thing.

Regardless, Tsuchiya and crew give a crowd-pleasing performance. She dances for a camera on stage left during the bridge. The guitarist fights for her mic in an entertaining sequence, and a fist pump sends the song packing.

“This is the last song!” Still doubtful. “So give it everything you've got! In the back, I can't hear you guys!” The crowd picks it up. “Good! Come on, jump, jump, jump!” Man, that always works. The drums take the lead for, I think, the first time in the concert. Nobody's going to remember these verses, which is just as well. The catchy chorus has all the action. In an awkward moment, Tsuchiya ends the song with her hands outstretched (and no microphone nearby) while her prerecorded voice wraps the song. The extra layer was great for the chorus, but it definitely should have tapered off when Tsuchiya started to improvise.

“Thank you very much! Bye bye!”

Chants of “An-na!” fill the arena. Two minutes later, she's back.

Ju-Ken and the guitarist toss a couple of water bottles into the crowd. Tsuchiya's twang returns in the first encore, an 80s pop tribute that shatters the last song's tough girl image. The syncopated bridge is ridiculous but fun. "Bubble Trip" has all the makings of a guilty pleasure.

As if that wasn't surreal enough, she follows it up with a cover of the Sex Pistols' “Anarchy in the UK.” Fans crash the floor, and atmosphere is rocking—until the arena staff sends them all back upstairs. Everybody in the band, and most of the crowd, sings along to the chorus. The guitarist makes the most of a brief bridge, but it's just a warm up for a twenty-second explosion at the end.

“Thank you! Have fun! Bye bye!”

And…that's it? No Frozen Rose? And she even teased it at yesterday's panel! Late starts and early finishes—I hope this doesn't become a trend. Still, it was a great show. Give Anna Tsuchiya another hit song or two, and she'll have a long, prosperous career on both sides of the Pacific.

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