Anime, Japanese

Anime Expo 2011: Kalafina in Concert

July 7, 2011 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Anime Expo 2011: Kalafina in Concerton Twitter

It’s been awhile since we covered the work of Kalafina. For those who don’t remember, the group is a trio of vocalists with none other than Yuki Kajiura as their music producer, and their beautiful harmonies and Gothic musical styling have made them a favorite of anime fans, as they’ve recording some very high profile opening and closing themes.

We were fortunate enough the see them perform live at the 20th Anime Expo this past weekend. They performed a small set at the intimate Club Nokia in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Our last look at Kalafina was at Anime Boston a couple years back, so join us as we get reacquainted.

First, let’s start with the afternoon’s set list:

01. Overture
02. Lacrimosa
03. Kagayaku Sorano Shijimaniwa
04. Storia
05. Fairytale
06. Oblivious
07. Magia
08. Sprinter
09. Kyrie
10. Ongaku
11. I have a dream
12. Hikari no Senritsu

You can see that they leaned heavily on their work in the anime field, which is appropriate for a show at Anime Expo.

Let’s talk about the stage setup. The trio performed on an empty stage without a back-up band. This is understandable given the cost of bringing the artists to Los Angeles and the nature of the short performance. The musical back tracks were pumped through the venue’s speakers (along with some additional harmonies that that went beyond the capabilities of three singers), and a stream of concert video and corresponding anime footage was shown on screens scattered throughout the venue.  Regarding the stage, I do wish they had sectioned it off to hide the emptiness behind the singers, but this is a minor detail.  I also have to admit that the synchronized lighting was at times seizure-inducing from the balcony area above the stage.

In terms of the performance, however, I think it was hard not to like if you’re a fan of Kalafina. This was essentially a ‘best of’ lineup, covering everything from their ethereal Gothic stylings to their heavier rock and electronic themes. “Kagayaku Sorano Shijimaniwa” from Black Butler 2 was particularly beautiful with its piano and woodwinds, while “Storia” sported a cool galloping rhythm and some great call and response between the vocalists. “Oblivious” is probably the song I think of the most when I think of Kalafina, and it had the audience clapping along with the beat, while “Sprinter,” a heavy rock track with chugging electric guitars, also got a huge fan response. The trancey “Kyrie” with orchestral elements was one of my favorites of the evening, while the two last pieces performed, “I have a dream” and “Hikaru no Senritsu” were also very beautiful. “I have a dream” is from Time of Eve, an anime that focuses on robots in the future who attempt to integrate into human society, and the track’s robotic sound effects and reverberating vocals capture that setting. “Hikaru no Senritsu,” on the other hand, is a folksey piece with guitar and woodwinds which again had the audience clapping along.

What I found most interesting as a fan of Kalafina, however, were the group dynamics. The three singers, Wakana, Keiko, and Hikaru, all have very different personalities, and, well… capabilities. Wakana is probably the most talented singer, hitting all of her notes each and every time, although her stage presence isn’t stellar. Keiko, on the other hand, was not only a fantastic dancer, really getting into the pieces that were performed, but she also had the most energy in terms of audience interaction. She generally sings lower notes, so it’s hard to be ‘amazed’ by her vocal performance, but I have to say that she’s my favorite of the trio. Hiraku on the other hand had a lot of trouble throughout the performance. She consistently was unable to reach her high notes, which was really a shame. My biggest complaint about the trio’s stage presence, however, is fact that they do not synchronize their movements. Each singer sways, moves their hands, or does whatever in their own time and when they want, which I think detracts from the cohesion of what was seen on stage. I’d love for them to synchronize a bit more and give us a the feeling that they’re a single unit instead of three individual singers.

Aside from performing their music, there were several times that the trio read from scripts to talk about Los Angeles, Anime Expo, and the group in general. Of course, being in the United States, and at Anime Expo, there was a lot of fan feedback to what they were saying. I know that fans in Japan are not so open with their comments, so it must have been a shock to the group. There was a moment where Keiko was talking about site-seeing in Los Angeles, to which a member of the audience shouted out, “Come site-see my house!”  At the end of the concert, the trio stated that they wanted to take a picture with all of the fans.  It was a cute gesture, and you can see the photo taken above.

Overall, I was very happy to see Kalafina perform at Anime Expo.  The Club Nokia venue was perfect for the group, although I mentioned a few things could have been set up differently.  Still, I had a great time, and you can’t argue with the set list that was performed, as it featured their best work.  While there were some performance issues, for the most part, the trio sounded amazing, and I’d love to see them again at a full-length concert.

Have you kept up with Kalafina?  What do you think of their set list, and do you think I’m being too picky in terms of synchronized movements on stage?  Let us know!

[Photo Credit: Kaori Suzuki at Sony Music Entertainment Japan]

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