When Maaya Sakamoto finished producing her sixth album, “Windreader”, released this January, she described feeling “an otherworldly kind of happiness.” It was a feeling born from realizing that not just the months spent producing that album, nor the three years and three months since her previous release, “Loop in the Evening Calm”, but that ever since she began to sing, and even before then the roads she has walked are all connected as one journey. Coming to this realization must have been like receiving fresh energy from pausing at the summit of her travels to gaze upon the road thus far and to again press forward with her dreams in a manner true to herself. At this stage in her journey, her words were simply, “I want to put on a concert.”
Her wish became reality in her first Hall Tour, “MAAYA SAKAMOTO LIVE TOUR 2009 ‘WE ARE KAZEYOMI!‘”, held after the release of her album “Windreader”. Starting in Nagoya (at the Aichi Prefectural Arts Theater Main Hall) on January 21st, the 22nd saw her in Ōsaka (in the Ōsaka Kousei Nenkin Kaikan Main Hall), with the final concert in Tōkyō (in the Tōkyō International Forum Hall A) on the 24th. Excluding mini-concerts limited to fan club members, it was her first official tour in five years. The halls vibrated with the attendees’ eager anticipation of her long-awaited performance even before the start of the show.
Maaya’s appearance in a red mini dress makes for a vivid opening scene. The band, with Shin Kōno (piano, keyboard, and guitar), Yasuo Sano (drums), Tomohiko Okanda (bass), Masato Ishinari (guitar), Izumi Misawa (percussion), and the Shōko Oki Quartet (strings) delivers a sparkling sound that reverberates powerfully through the hall and stirs the hearts of everyone there. All can tell that the countless rehearsals to remove all causes for worry, as well as Maaya’s own level of passion are not in any way halfhearted. A song lineup that of course features numbers from “Windreader”, such as “Get No Satisfaction!”, “Remedy”, and “Weathervane”, along with classics from her debut period, such as “I Don’t Need a Promise”, “Sea of Miracles”, and “Platinum”, all carefully selected by Maaya with the criterion of “songs that I most want to sing at this time,” is sure to please both long-time fans and those who are seeing Maaya in concert for the first time. As it bursts forth from the stage, her powerful and at times cute performance captures the transitions between each song’s viewpoint with a delicate voice and bold expressions, and leaves not even a slight sense that the last five years were left blank. Heard in person, Maaya’s unrestrained voice overflows in a crystalline pleasantness that enchants the ear, while her every move and gesture draws the eye, and one cannot help but acknowledge this display of natural talent.
But as the concert draws near its end, Maaya begins to speak of her motivation. “I feel I have to give a reason for why it’s been five years since my last concert as I’m on this tour.” In her open confession that follows, she speaks of the driving force behind the tour, and it becomes a precious moment that deepens the bond between the audience and Maaya Sakamoto. All carry a weakness—an invisible wall scaled by turning to face it head-on. Spurred on by her album “Windreader”, Maaya allows us through this tour to share a moment with her as she takes a giant step forward. After she speaks, she passionately sings “Let There Be Light” with arms raised to the sky, a brilliant moment that imprints itself forever upon one’s heart with its moving emotion.
The red mini dress she wears in the first half goes well with the bright and happy flavors of “Get No Satisfaction!” and “Praline”, and makes for a truly dramatic contrast when she changes to a black dress in the middle to sing such emotive numbers as “I Don’t Need a Promise” and “Ring”. Clearly throughout her long career she has come to grips with her daily thoughts and feelings through the personal expression that is song. Especially as an artist in the field of music, Maaya Sakamoto has always used her powers of expression to pour without reserve her real, serious, and raw emotions into her craft.
From her ending rendition of “Universe”, as she was moved to tears by a surprise from the staff and the audience, to her heartfelt piano performance, the concert is filled with moments that one dare not miss. As her first concert DVD, MAAYA SAKAMOTO LIVE TOUR 2009 “WE ARE KAZEYOMI!” is packed with unforgettable scenes. It features the complete video of the Tōkyō performance, including Maaya’s speeches, in a two-disc set with a documentary video chronicling the rehearsals as well as the songs and outfits from Nagoya and Ōsaka. This video reveals her nervousness before the show, her relief after finishing her piano piece, her tears of joy, and many other sides of Maaya Sakamoto. Above all, this DVD shows the energy-filled atmosphere created by the intersection of Maaya’s courage and the audience’s warmth. It promises with a single press of the Play button to make anyone, whether they were there or not, a “Kazeyomian”. Anyone can share in this time when Maaya’s 14-year career arrives at a summit to find a new door opening. And from that door flow beatiful songs and a flood of light that lifts the spirits.
[Japanese] Text: Miki Ueno