On March 31st, 2010, under cherry trees in full bloom, Maaya Sakamoto pulled off a special one-night concert, “Gift”, at the Budōkan. Join us as we reflect on the DVD of this surprise-filled concert that celebrates her 15-year career as an artist as well as her 30th birthday.
[Japanese] Text: Mayuko Ueda
The Blu-ray and DVD of your “Gift” concert from your 30th birthday are in stores now. When you thought back on the concert once more as you watched the video, what were your honest impressions?
Sakamoto “I’m in a completely different mode now than I was on the day of the concert, so I watched it with a very detached attitude. I wanted to make something that would look good on video, so I can’t help but see it from an objective standpoint and focus on details like the editing and the sound, and so even though it’s my concert, I guess you could say it doesn’t quite feel like I’m watching myself.”
I see. It was a memorable 15th anniversary concert—when it came to the setlist, how did you go about deciding the order?
Sakamoto “From the beginning everyone knew we’d start with ‘Gift’, the main concert would end with ‘I.D.’, and then the encore would end with ‘everywhere’, and after that we’d do one more song, ‘Empty Your Pockets’, which is a standard ending song at my concerts. So, unusually for me, I settled on an order easily and without much hesitation.”
Seeing your attempt at the guitar in “Get No Satisfaction!” was a pleasant surprise. What made you want to try the guitar at this concert?
Sakamoto “When we set the song order, since that song came after the session with Yōko Kanno, I decided I wanted something that would make an impact and throw the concert into a higher gear. Everyone would probably be excited after Ms. Kanno’s appearance, and so I wanted to do something after thatthat would top everyone’s expectations by one more level. Since the intro for ‘Get No…’ has just one chord, I thought if I practiced I could manage to learn it, but after actually trying, I underestimated how difficult it was to learn the right timing for muting the strings…I kind of wished I hadn’t thought of the idea (laugh). But I kept at it without giving up, and I’m glad it sounded better in the concert than any other time.”
It was very cute, with a bit of a punk feel—it was really amazing! The photo of you playing the guitar was used as the cover for the regular editions of the Blu-ray and DVD, right?
Sakamoto “That’s right. It was the best photo, so we went with that one.”
And what were your thoughts after performing alongside special guest Yōko Kanno for the first time in a while?
Sakamoto “For some time now I’ve had chances here and there to be on stage with her, so it didn’t really feel as though it had been a while. Since we’ve known each other for so many years, it felt as though we were naturally in tune with each other’s breathing.”
Also, Shōko Suzuki, who has contributed several of your songs, made an appearance as a special guest, right?
Sakamoto “A concert with twin drums is something I’ve dreamed of doing one day. I’ve had several opportunities to have Ms. Shōko play the piano for me, but I fell in love with the absolutely amazing sight of her playing the drums while singing at one of her own concerts, so I asked her, ‘If you can find the time to be in this concert, I’d love for you to play the drums!’ ”
With the stage surrounded on all sides by the audience, what was your view like during the concert?
Sakamoto “It was a really impressive sight. I went up and sang only about a meter away from the seats right behind the stage, but when I got too close it was as if everyone turned shy, and when I walked up to them no one would look back at me (laugh). When my eyes met with someone else’s, they’d quickly look away…it was kind of amusing, I guess, but I felt bad about it (laugh).”
I couldn’t be more jealous. Prior to “I.D.”, the last song in the main concert, hearing you talk as you reflected on your music career until then left a particularly strong impression. What kinds of thoughts were going through your mind while you spoke?
Sakamoto “For that talk, since it’s something important, I wanted to communicate it clearly, but putting it into words is difficult. Being in that setting let me take things I normally don’t get a chance to speak about and carefully spend time expressing them in words, so I hope you’ll watch that segment just as it is (laugh).”
OK (laugh). The bonus features include video from the rehearsals, in which you’re seen suggesting several of your own ideas for the musical arrangement. On the music side of this concert, what areas did you pay special attention to?
Sakamoto “The setlist is a sort of parade of ‘classics’ and ‘popular songs’ that kind of sum up these last 15 years, so I wanted as much as possible to avoid changing the arrangement and to give the music an impression similar to the CDs. I felt like a live performance that was true to the style everyone’s been listening to for all these years was probably the ideal form for this concert.”
The “Daily Maaya Sakamoto 0331”, sold on the same day in place of a concert pamphlet, with you as the editor-in-chief, boasts an incredible amount of content, from a photo shoot with Yōko Kanno to a conversation with CLAMP and a self-composed review, all of which makes it a wonderful volume.
Sakamoto “I’m glad you like it. I wanted to make it something that would go beyond the concept of a concert pamphlet, a kind of magazine-like book into which we compressed 15 years’ worth of history, and I’m very pleased with how we were able to make it in line with my wish to give it a format resembling that of a magazine filled with content. As the editor-in-chief I had a hand in the tiniest of details, from the planning and layout to the design, and to be honest, putting it together was a lot of work! But thanks to the kind work of my trustworthy staff and creators with whom I share a deep bond, I think it turned out as a wonderful issue that’s the treasure of a lifetime. Judging from the reactions of those who bought it, it seems everyone enjoys it, which makes me happy.”
Today, if you were to look back again on that one-night concert “Gift”, what sorts of feelings come to mind?
Sakamoto “It was an unforgettable birthday. Being able to cross that 30-year milestone in such a wonderful fashion, being able to keep singing for 15 years, having so many fans who feel something in my music as they listen to it, having this time now when I’m supported by amazing companions—everything leaves me overwhelmed with feelings of being truly blessed and thankful.”
I’m told that you have a covers of Yumi Arai’s “If I’m Surrounded by Kindness” and Sugar Babe’s “DOWN TOWN” coming out soon.
Sakamoto “It’s such an honor to be able to sing these favorite songs of mine. I hope you’re looking forward to when they’re done.”
In closing, please leave a few words for the fans who are enjoying the DVD.
Sakamoto “The sight of that stage surrounded by 360 degrees of the audience is still spectacular, even seeing it again like this. We tried all sorts of creative ideas to produce a video that would let those watching the DVD feel as though they were standing in that ring of seats, so I certainly hope you enjoy it.”