The lights went down, the audience began to roar, the spotlights began to shine, the band began to play, and there she was in a flash, Hatsune Miku.
The Hatsune Miku Expo 2014 New York concerts took place Friday (Oct. 17) and Saturday night (Oct. 18).
This concert was not like your typical concert, because the pop star performing does not physically exist. Miku is a three-dimensional projection on a special screen fixture who performs just like a regular singer and dancer. You might hear this and think, "Oh this is just some cartoon character made to do what real singers do." Well, it is pretty normal to think that. David Letterman must have felt a similar way - he seemed somehat dumbstruck by it all - when Miku performed on the "Late Show," according to Hollywood Reporter. However, what happened there in the Hammerstein Ballroom of the Manhattan Center proves otherwise. There's just something about Miku and what she stands for that just fills you with joy and excitement when you see her perform live.
The show had singing, dancing, a live band, lights, big speakers, large screens showing the action for those sitting near the back and hundreds upon hundreds of screaming fans. There were even smoke and fog machines and streamer blasters.
The singing was primarily in Japanese, which can be a turn-off for many who do not have experience with Japanese music, but when you give it a chance, you'll find you don't need to understand 100 percent of it to feel the emotions behind it. There was some English, and a couple of songs actually had lyrics across the screens so people could sing along. There was fan interaction too. At times, Miku would stop and gesture to the audience to sing along with her. She also paused at one point to talk directly to her fans and express her own excitement to be back in the U.S. and to thank them all for supporting her in this joyous occasion.
As with any concert, the music was very loud and occasionally overpowered the singing, but only for brief moments for the most part. Still, when you couldn't hear the lyrics, you had the dancing to enjoy, as well as the variety: Miku did not come alone. She brought her entire performing vocaloid family: the energetic and dynamic duo of the child twins Kagamine Rin and Len, the handsome veteran Kaito, the confident and sexy Meiko and the bold and beautiful Megurine Luka. Each of them had a distinct voice, singing style, unique dances, and each was extremely popular with the fans.
There were also occasional costume changes, and unlike flesh-and-blood performers, it all happened in a flash of light or a puff of smoke, right there on stage ... or rather the screen on the stage, so there were no dead spots at all. The digital visual effects on the main screen and in the rear screens were varied and very well done, ranging from falling cherry blossom and a space-like background to digital props like mic stands and speakers.
The band was small but powerful - four men was all: a guitarist (Kota Nakamura), a bassman (Tsusuhito Honno), a drummer (Ryoichi "KIKU" Kikushima) and a keyboard player/DJ/manipulator (Kei Suzuki) - and from the way they carried themselves in the midst of all the noise and excitement, it was clear that they were enjoying themselves almost as much as we were. All the best bands in the world love doing what they do and have fun doing it, and quite a few of them had four men or fewer. The concert even took a pause to introduce the bandsmen, which no concert is complete without.
The playlist consisted of 27 songs, 24 in the main set and three saved for the encore. Miku performed about 70 percent of the time, but every vocaloid member sang and performed at least one song. The distribution of the performances between the different members, on the other hand, could have been a little more even (perhaps Kaito and Meiko could have performed more than just one song apiece). Even though it was, of course, Miku's concert, it's likely a lot of fans would have loved to see at least a little more of Kaito and Meiko than did. They also could have blown the roof off even more of they'd set up a Rin and Len duet as they often do, but this time it was not to be.
Overall, the show was an almost perfect way to spend a night out. 4-3/4 stars. 9.5 out of 10. In short: you don't have to like or know anything about anime to love Miku (although it sometimes helps); you just need to love music and have an open mind.
Hatsune Miku is a rather special celebrity, having started out as the mascot for a voice synthesizer software by Crypton Future Media, but it didn't take long for her name to spread throughout the music world as an icon of a worldwide creative movement. She may not exist physically, but Miku is as good as real in the hearts of her legions of fans. Lady Gaga even loved Miku so much that she brought her in to open her ARTPOP Ball tour.
Once a user purchases this software (the most recent version is sold for $163), that user can compose music for Miku to sing. To date, well over 100,000 songs using Miku's voice have been released, as well as over 170,000 YouTube videos, many of which are created free for the users under the license of Crypton's Creative Commons, according to the New York Times.
Miku's name translates to "The First Sound of the Future," and as the translation hints, the virtual singer could potentially symbolize the future of live music. You have to admit, they don't need any of the fancy accommodations that so many flesh-and-blood performers do.