Last week we published an account of Maaya Sakamoto’s 15th Anniversary Concert: Gift, which took place at the Budōkan on her birthday. This week we present a backstage report from the day of the concert courtesy of M, a staff member at Flying Dog, Maaya’s record label.
Maaya’s first Budōkan concert celebrated 15 years since her debut. What’s more, it took place on her 30th birthday, and the release day of her first best-hits album. I’d like to present a brief look at the events of and leading up to that special, memorable day.
Everything began in January 2009 when Maaya, who made her debut in 1996 at 15 years of age, conducted her first official concert tour in five years. After completing her “Windreader” album and finishing the wildly successful tour, the wrap-up celebration saw Maaya animatedly tossing around ideas for the next concert.
And so in the joy of having scaled the wall of putting on a successful concert, right away she set out toward the next goal. Before long she settled on doing a special one-night concert at the Budōkan on the milestone of her 30th birthday on March 31, 2010.
Discussion sessions gave way to the first real rehearsals in the beginning of March (after all, January and February were taken up by the recording of new tracks for her best-hits album and promotional activities).
Rehearsals lasted six days. With it being her 15th anniversary, there was no end to the list of things Maaya wanted to do! The time between rehearsals was filled with outfit adjustments, interviews, and conferences.
Inside the studio are familiar faces from last year’s concert and past recording sessions: bandmaster Shin Kōno on piano, Masato Ishinari on guitar, Tomohiko Okanda on bass, Yasuo Sano on drums, and Izumi Misawa on percussion. Also included are a strings section and backing vocals.
As she sings in a lilting voice and gives directions, Maaya’s intensity radiates throughout the studio, but during breaks she samples sweets with the band and is all smiles in the relaxed atmosphere.
She is often described as having a delicate, pretty voice and appearance, and it would seem there are many who imagine Maaya herself is a dainty person. But in reality she has an extremely bold personality and powerful, robust vocal cords.
Her choice of drink during rehearsals is Throat Coat (supposedly favored by vocalists) with honey, and nothing else. With just this, why is she able to sing for so long??
Also, for this concert Maaya set up her own hurdle: the guitar. I’ll say it once more: the guitar. The instrument that frustrated her several years ago and became a place to hang clothes in her home: the guitar (that’s three times).
Upon declaring that she wanted to “create music with her own hands” about two years ago, Maaya took up the piano. And in an exemplification of her belief that “no matter how old I get, wanting to do something makes it possible,” she settled on attempting to play the guitar this time around (despite it being her first time at the Budōkan!?).
So after picking a song with a casual (or maybe reckless?) air—“I want to play this one because the intro is cool!”—practices began.
She bought a red Telecaster that she loved the looks of and practiced day in and day out under the tutelage of Mr. Ishinari, but the sight of Maaya brandishing a guitar in the studio and during meetings was hard to get used to. But since it was a surprise for the fans, even inside Flying Dog it was kept strictly under wraps (^^). Trips to the recording studio didn’t stop Maaya from practicing, but when March came her expression took on a hint of worry about whether she would be able to play.
However! Her performance at the concert was the best ever!
“It wasn’t good, but I’m glad I did it [I’m glad I made the attempt]!” Seeing her smile as she said this was inspirational.
By the way, a bit about the outfits.
Following on the concert’s title of “Gift”, it was Maaya’s idea of, “Put me in wrapping like a present!” that gave birth to the “Maaya as a gift”-themed outfit. Several ribbon-wrapped giftboxes were attached just like that to the skirt. With a bow across her back as well, it was quite an impressive feat of wrapping. Along with this was a white wedding-style dress, which she took off to reveal a rainbow-colored outfit. Throughout the fitting sessions the outfits are adjusted as Maaya imagines how she’ll move around in the concert and tries things like jumping, running, and waving her arms. In these situations it always occurs to me that while the way the outfits look from far off is of course considered, when you see them up close they’re even more beautiful. Even small things, such as the lacework (made in France!) adorning Maaya’s chest, are handled with stylish attention to detail.
As mentioned in last week’s concert report, everything added up to a Budōkan concert in cherry blossom season that was nothing short of spectacular! Thank you so much to everyone for your attendance!!
This Budōkan concert and the best-hits album “everywhere” are the first in a series of things planned for Maaya’s 15th anniversary. After a little while we’ll announce number two (wink). Please stay tuned!
This concert was a momentous, important day for Maaya. I imagine it will have a positive impact on her future activities.