Otakon 2013 – Ishikawa Chiaki and Kanno Yoko Piano Me concerts

Ishikawa Chiaki-san opened the concert with four songs. Press was allowed to take photos for the first two. The second song, ‘Uninstall’ was met with high cheers and chorused singing from the fans.

She went into a special bridge for the song…but the security thought it was a new song so asked us to stop shooting. The video that accompanied the concert was grey ambiance and mixed scenes recorded scenes of flowers and trees. Unfortunately, what was shown on the side screens was what was shown in the overflow room. So for Ishikawa-san’s short opening concert, the audience in that room didn’t see Ishikawa at all. That was bad planning on Otakon’s part.

    01. TW
    02. Uninstall (Bokurano OP)
    03. Gyakko
    04. Fukanzen Nenshow

The song showcased Ishikawa-san’s beautifully strong voice, ethereal melodies. Unfortunately, the video that accompanied the pieces were not complimentary to the music that we are hearing live. But that is fine, as my focus was the music that flowed from the stage.

Piano Me

Thankfully, for the Piano Me concert for Kanno-san, the camera gave full view of the stage. Kanno Yoko appeared onstage in a white outfit and bunny ears. Rabbit from the moon theme perhaps? Because upon unveiling, her piano was white as well and the first song began with the round yellow moon lowering in the sky…turning into a chick.

    Otakon’s Sunday Concert features the world premiere performance of Yoko Kanno’s presentation new project, “PIANO ME”, at Otakon. For this concert, the simple intimacy of one performer with one instrument will be enhanced by experimental live visuals that respond to her performance.

    Our Sunday show with Yoko Kanno is aiming for a different vibe, reminding us that beauty and wonder can come from the power of something as simple as timeless music performed live on a single piano. It’s a statement that no matter how big and crazy Otakon can feel, we can still create those special, intimate moments where an amazing artist can connect directly with fans and make magic happen. ~Otakon concert info

And magic did happen. The Piano Me concert is a feast of music and light special effects projected onto the white piano. Barefooted while playing, Kanno-san’s cute smile and expressions coaxed the crowd into her world of music. And we were certainly drawn in. From the very first song, ‘The Real Folk Blues’, we were in tears.

After playing a few songs-each blending into another-she stopped to pull the fabric up over the piano legs. I’m guessing it’s part of the ‘performance’, but it’s so naturally Kanno-san that I and I’m sure everyone else couldn’t help but smile despite our tears. Than she went to lift the lid off the grand piano…but she couldn’t so her producer came to help. Than began the magic of music and lights.

    Nomad Soul
    Innocent Green
    Resonance of the earth
    Gravity ~Baltimore special medley

    Apollon Blue
    Power of the Light

    Someday My Prince Will Come
    The Real Folk Blues
    Wo Qui Non Coin

    Star Spangled Banner

    Tank! (reprise)

The piano is covered in white fabric and the piano is special…modified with additional petals. For the projection? Perhaps. The specially modified piano also has a long cable covered in the same fabric as the piano. Projections are shined upon the piano, revealing a wondrous illusion. Although the piano lid is slanted, it appears flat to the eye. And the pictures are centered to the shape of the piano, never going beyond it. With Kanno-san bathed in darkness, our focus is only on the images we’re shown and the music that is played.

As the producer insisted, we sang along to songs we knew, one of the which was Gravity (Wolf’s Rain). Though Kanno-san may have shook her head when we messed up on some of the lyrics verses, her sweet smile never left our eyes. It was in ‘Memory of Fanelia’ (Escaflowne) when the moon turned yellow chick appeared running about to the laughter of the crowd.

The line for something like a heart monitor beeped along for ‘Monochrome’ (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex…and a rare moment, Kanno-san singing. We’re spellbound. Her voice is strong, clear yet delicate. There were so many different projects, snow, hearts, flashing lights, balls. All in rhythm of her feet. ‘Power of Light’ (Brain Powered) was accompanied with lights flashing. Some projects appeared to covered the stage completely, accompanying the projections that still appear over the piano.

Even in the dark, she was having fun playing her music and we loved every moment of it. Every piece had a standing ovation. It was not forced, nor was the applause and the tears. It was natural. Happy tears I assume though I’m sure every person who cried had a different reason for crying.

For me, it was the intense emotion of the song. A fast happy beat, but filled with feeling. It already had so much power, but to hear it live, I was overwhelmed by it. To be able to hear such music, to feel the intensity from the melody, I was happy and saddened at the same time.

After every song, everyone got up and applauded. It was that powerful. I won’t describe the imagery much more since it is pointless to describe something which needs to be experienced. But the simple light show was only a decoration to the music which Kanno-san plays. Because it truly is about the music. Such a simple piano performance can hold so much. Her singing and playing in the dark touched everyone’s hearts.

For her first encore, she graced us with Snow White’s ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ and we all sang along to ‘The Real Folk Blues’. To ‘Wo Qui Non Coin’ (Cowboy Bebop), a video is shown of a floating plastic bag with credits of the organizers. Her second return surprised us. Though we gave a standing ovation for every piece, we always sat when she is playing. But when she began playing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, we all stood. This was special for several reasons. Besides that legendary Kanno Yoko was playing, she was playing this song for us. Even if she did another performance in the US, I doubt we’ll ever hear her play this song ever again. She disappeared again, but for not much longer. Her third encore of ‘Tank!’ seemed to be faster than the first one. And with that, she bowed out.

    待っていてくれた方、この機会をくださった方、piano meを通じて出会えたすべての皆さんに感謝します。」

    Thank you for not leaving me by myself on the stage. I was very happy we could make music together. To the people who were waiting for me, to the people who gave me this opportunity, to everyone I met through “piano me”, Thank you! ~Kanno Yoko

~Photos are from Kanno Yoko-san’s Piano Me staff