Monday, November 25, 2013
Yes, it was FINALLY happening.
I am going to try to remember as many of the details of this adventure as I possibly can but since we were not allowed to take pictures or video during performances here in Japan, I am going to have rely on my memory to help relive and tell about my very first true blue Rain concert.
The first hurdle was getting to Tokyo, the next was getting to the venue to meet up with Hina (Cloud Japan) to pick up my tickets. Then, it was all about standing in that line waiting for the dude with the megaphone to call my ticket number so I could go in and grab my spot for the night.
But let’s back up a moment because we (Cloud USA-ers Maria Cammarota and Tammy Harriel were with me) had to head out for the day first and foremost to find the house Rain was to rock that evening – Zepp Tokyo. We found the right train, took the ride and got to the Tokyo Teleport station stop, stepped out of the station and could not see the venue anywhere!! Asking the random bus drivers was a bust. However, when they put together music and concert, they had that a-ha moment, directed us, and we were on our way.
Venue found. We were in the right place but we still had to locate Hina to get the tickets AND we had to load up on Rain goods which were set to go on sale in front of the venue doors at 1:00PM.
But first….fangirl moment when I eyeballed this hanging from the rearview mirror of a huge equipment bus parked alongside the venue:
Oh indeed, for a split second I thought about trying the door handle just to see if I could set that staff pass free and wear it as an accessory! This is a thought any loving fan in their right mind would have if they wanted to meet their beloved idol…right?
Procuring tickets for these shows was a difficult task and not without moments of uncertainty, anxiety, anticipation and ultimately relief. But if anyone ever has to work with Heidi and/or Hina (Cloud Japan), you will be set and ready to rock and roll. Heidi helped me apply for tickets, Hina delivered the tickets. These two Clouds are doing the rest of us such a service by making sure WE all get a chance to experience Rain. My other Rain fairy godmother is Michiko Ikeda. If there was one thing I knew for sure through ALL of this was that I was going to have a ticket for each and every one of Rain’s shows in Tokyo! Breathe……..breathe!!!
Before going in we spent time mingling with Clouds and we were often asked where we were from and many were amazed that we took the trip to Japan JUST to see Rain. Yes…..we most certainly did (well, I did anyway….LOL). I have to say that one of the best things about this whole experience was meeting people I already had a connect with on either Twitter, Facebook or both. I was ECSTATIC when I got to meet Thai Clouds Superdog Spinz and Rainna Su Cha!!!
In addition to being totally cool beyond comprehension, they are both so adorable and sweet!
Clouds begin lining up at 5:30PM, doors open at 6:00PM, and the show starts at 7:00PM. I cannot explain the feeling of utter excitement when the doors to the venue opened and we started going in. Each ticket number is called in sequential order, literally one by one. Wait, the dude was calling numbers out in Japanese. I can’t count in Japanese. What if I missed my number??? Every now and then I would ask the ladies standing behind me what number we were on and then proceeded to count along with him – that didn’t always work because he was announcing things in between! Uffffft! Still, l managed to enter as my number (100) was called mostly because the Clouds by me gave me a loving shove to get moving!! 🙂
When I entered the venue I was amazed at how small it was. SMALL small – like no matter where you stood, provided you did not have someone tall in front of you, you were going to catch all of the action. I ended up in the second row from the stage, a step or two left of center and oh what a spot that ended up being. Prime real estate to be able to see everything as it unfolded on stage. It was a spot right behind a Cloud I met at the West Gate in Seoul back in July – Mikako!!! Rain’s reach is far and wide but we Clouds are most certainly connected and the world (Rain’s World) is that much smaller. I cannot even begin to explain how excited I was. And, nothing was going to prepare me for what was about to unfold. Oh my god….I feel my heart racing at the thought of various moments of the evening that were just outrageously amazing. Rain is good, people. Rain is really, REALLY good.
Prior to the lights dimming, the Clouds began chanting for their prince ‘Jung Ji Hoon, Jung Ji Hoon, Jung Ji Hoon!’ I can only imagine how this must pump him up. As the lights dimmed, the large screen at the back of the stage begins to play a video that opens with a few rain drops falling into a complete downpour as lightning flashes and thunder booms from the speaker system: Nagoya Nov 14-15 BOOM Fukuoka Nov 18-19 BOOM Osaka Namba Nov 20-21 BOOM Toyko Nov 25-28 BOOM!
Cue Rainism. There is a door set back center stage and when that thing opens up and all you see is his shadow as he is standing there…….words cannot describe the feeling. It was magical, magnificent, heart-stopping, exciting and intoxicating all at once!!! He launches from behind that door into Rainism with a vengeance and it is explosive. And there he was SO CLOSE. OHMYGOD!! Rainism is every bit as intense and provocative as every version of it you see out there today. But when you see it live, it is intense because the energy Rain emits is potent and powerful. Then there is the crew and they are dancing and moving across the stage with as much intensity as Rain. Frankly I do not know how the stage did not start on fire!!!
Without pause he goes into a raucous rendition of 나 (Na) from his first CD. Dear lord. The man sounds as fresh and vocally strong as the day he laid that track down in the studio. But then it was time for Michele to lose her mind when the opening strains of Touch Ya began to play. One of my all time favorites, it was absolutely AMAZING to see this one performed live. The only way it would have been better was if he were backed by a live band. Still….it was HOT.
I believe it was after Touch Ya that we got our first video break. The video breaks were a blast. Even if I could not understand anything, I still got the gist of what was going on and during the 4th show, I was finally standing with Michiko who graciously translated everything for me. But the bulk of the videos were basically the back story of Rain preparing for the Zepp Tour and also a day in the life of Rain. Probably a preview of the reality show yet to come. BUT, one of the best parts of these videos was that in one of them he gave us a little preview of the new music that will be on his upcoming CD. He is in his car at the time when he shares a very short clip and cuts it by saying that’s enough coupled with that gorgeous smile (didn’t want to give too much away). NOTE: The clip he shared sounded smooth and rather R&B-esque. It sounded really good.
When he returned to the stage, he was up top towards the back of the stage lit gloriously and sparkly as he sang 알면서 (Knowing) from the second CD. JUST PLAIN BEAUTIFUL. From here I seriously cannot remember the exact order of songs but I think I can remember everything he sang.
The songs from the first show that stood out for me the most were (not in the order they were sung):
Hip Song – he gave us the Ji Hoon backside view during the grind – but as sexy as that man is….he still managed to be playful as he looked over his shoulder and just smiled at the end of the grind. (By the way, this song stood out all 4 nights…it is just the bomb live but this first night it was completely off the hook. The crew was on high-octane and Rain was on fire – I will never forget it.)
Bad Guy – OMG, this one is soooooooooooooooooooooooooo amazing live. It is one of his songs that I have always wanted to see performed live. I loved every minute of it all 4 nights. Just LOVE!
Love Song – He started this song seated at the edge of the stairwell on the left hand side of the stage. He sang the opening so soft and gentle – almost plaintive. Definitely different than the studio version. The stage lighting was dark and blue hued. It was so gorgeous. Rain is such a consummate artist. He knows what looks good to the eye. I felt Rain sang this song with far more emotion than the studio version. For me, it was heart wrenching.
Instead of Saying Goodbye – This one was perfect every night. I just get the feeling that this song is very special to him and the he just really enjoys performing it. It is fun and he works the entire stage during it, has so much fun with it, encourages audience participation, is soooo playful and it is also the encore song.
How To Avoid The Sun – With the video screen filled with a huge burning sun and him standing on the platform above the stage on the right – this looked glorious. He eventually made his way down to the main stage and sang his freaking heart out during this song. This man is filled with so much soul, I don’t know how he manages to contain it sometimes. Rain feels his music to his core and when he shares it, it burns and burrows into yours. You may be able to avoid the sun….but there is no way to escape the Rain!
One – Hot. That simple.
I’m Coming – This one comes after a short video break showing clips from the MV itself where he is dropped from the sky with the wings. He emerges from behind the door center stage and at this point he is now wearing sweats and one of his hoodies – I cannot remember if he was wearing a baseball cap this first night, but he had it on the last two for sure. He looked all ‘hood and hip hop – SO HOT! His dancing during this one is off the chain – he gives us every hip movement that has been a part of this song’s choreography from the beginning and to see it up close like I did – indescribable. (Yes, the shirt does get lifted….THUNK!)
My Girl and Love Is – Two of my very favorites that he does from the platform above the stage seated at a little bistro-like table. He chats a bit prior to singing telling us that the show is coming to an close which is never received well!! But he is at his uber cutest with these two songs. I am convinced if you watch and listen to him do these two songs live, you will lose your heart to him completely.
It’s Raining – I always felt this one was probably extremely intense live and I was completely right. There is this look on his face while he is performing this one that almost seems angry and what is so lovely about him is that he will lose himself in the song for moments but then come back, almost like he remembers that he is not alone and we are there – connects with us and then will go back into this zone of intensity. It is SO AWESOME to watch him do this.
I Do – For me this song is the perfect combo of sweet and swag – especially when he does the dance break. Dear GOD!! At this point he is wearing those black leather shorts, stocking tights (they are ribbed and really cool, actually, and he has some fine legs) and black t-shirt. This one was extra special for me this first night because during the song’s dance break, he positioned himself on the stage directly in front of me and went completely to town gyrating and I don’t know what……I was a deer in headlights I was so taken by surprise. Afterwards the ladies in front of me turned to thank me because they were convinced he spent a lot of time in front of us that evening because I was there. I don’t know how true that was – but we did see quite a bit of him on that part of the stage that evening and I was totally ok with that!
Really, ALL of the songs were amazing and I am probably leaving out some of my other faves of the evening but he also sang You, With You (that one was extra special for me on day 2 – will write on that in next round), Fresh Woman (again, second night…had a little something special happen too), The Words I Want to Say (so sweet and he always added I love you in Japanese which was incredibly well-received), Familiar Face (perfect vocally and such a smooth, easy groove – sounds GREAT live).
Music is truly his lifeline – it is what breathes life into him and sustains him. I am so happy I got to experience it. I cannot appreciate or thank him enough for his incredible talent and for sharing it like he does. He truly lays it all on the line when he steps on that stage, for real!
(I apologize if I have not listed the entire play list.)
Round Two to follow soon….