An Unsatisfying Goodbye: Review of Kagrra,’s “LAST LIVE” DVD

Kagrra, was a visual kei band known for their “Neo Japanese” style, combining a Western rock sensibility with traditional Japanese visual and musical elements such as kimono, koto, sensu, and magatama (the “comma” at the end of the band name). They were a unique thread in the tapestry of Japanese music for 11 years, then in 2010 they announced their plans to disband, releasing their final album in February 2011 and holding their final performance at Shibuya C.C. Lemon in March 2011. Unfortuantely, the “LAST LIVE” DVD lacks the spark that one would expect from a final live performance, has poor technical quality, and even cuts out elements that fans expect from any live DVD, leaving the viewer unsatisfied with the overall experience and uncertain about the DVD’s value as a collection piece.

 

The DVD opens as the band takes to the stage. The stage itself is simply set: other than a projector screen behind the band, there’s nothing to take attention away from the band itself. Isshi (vocals) comes to the stage last and the band gets right into “Kotodama.” It’s energetic and fun, a great way to open a concert and get everyone into the mood. The band then moves into “Afurase Tanmaina” with its striking combination of heavy sound and delicate acoustic guitar. “Gen’ei no Katachi” gives us a great solo and some fun crowd interaction from Nao (bass), then the band goes into the more nostalgic-sounding “Shiroi Mashu,” and finally “Rin” begins to take the tempo down a bit.

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Straightener "STOUT" Review

Written by Erin Grace

“STOUT” is Straightener’s lastest album, released on January 12th.

I’ve got to level with you: this is my very first Straightener album. I can’t pretend to know anything about them or their discography. I can’t fawn over any recurring motifs in their music or wax nostalgic about previous songs. Until last week, the only thing about knew about Straightener was their name. Although I heard later that this is an album of self-covers, I didn't have time to listen to any of their other music before I completed the review. This album has had to stand on its own two feet.

That said, I’ve come out of the album with one big question: Straightener, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! This is The Band I’ve been waiting for. Well, maybe it’s The Album I’ve been waiting for (since, you know, “STOUT” is all I know of them). “STOUT” delivers true, solid rock. It doesn’t try to act any more highbrow than it is. It doesn’t try to make itself something else. It doesn’t wander away and bring back random adjectives that would only dilute it’s sound. This is no frills rock at it’s best.

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Is This Who She’s Becoming?: BoA IDENTITY Tour DVD Review

Written by Erin Grace

 

BoA has undeniably been one of the biggest acts in Japanese music history. Sure, she’s not a legend like GLAY or Ayumi Hamasaki, but as the only non-Japanese Asian performer to have two albums sell over a million copies in Japan, and as one of only two performers ever to have six consecutive number one Oricon-ranked studio albums, she certainly commands some respect. The 2010 “IDENTITY” tour marked her first live tour in two years, and as a live concert DVD, it’s flawless. However, despite excellent quality everywhere else in the DVD, BoA’s own lackluster performance makes you wonder if her identity is shifting from J-pop princess to burned out diva.

 

The concert opens up with “This Is Who I Am,” a gorgeous song featuring piano and strings, and BoA appears at the top of the set, a massive group of interlocking staircases. The song does a great job welcoming you into the concert, and BoA amps up the energy by quickly moving from it into “EASY,” then into “Energetic,” which lives up to its name. She takes a quick break to give the audience a little MC time, then she picks it back up with “make a secret,” starting a set of slower songs. So far she’s doing great: the dancing is everything you would expect and the vocal performances are flawless, if very likely lip-synced. Still, if they are lip-synced, they’re not obviously so, and it helps to maintain the high quality in the other elements of the concert. BoA’s job is to entertain, and if that means lip-syncing sometimes so the music doesn’t suffer for the dance moves, I don’t see any shame in that.

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