Event Report

August 6-7, 2005 at Hideaway, Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
Featuring Akira Kushida, with guests MoJo, Ryousuke Sakamoto, Kenta Satou, Keiya Asakura and Shocker OH!NO!

Ten times since 2000, Akira "Qu-cy" Kushida has served up the ultimate in service: the "Kimi Mo Solo De Utau-zo!" event, where fans can gather to enjoy Qu-cy's songs and stories, and get a taste of what it's like on the other side of the mike, singing their favorites onstage for Qu-cy and the crowd. Once an annual event, "Utao-zo!" has expanded to three weekends a year--and the second of 2005, held August 6-7, was its gala 10th renewal. The site was cozy live house Nishi Shinjuku Hideaway, with reservations for the 3000 yen-a-day event taken in advance on Qu-cy's official site.

Wearing a black hockey jersey airbrushed with a big Bugs Bunny, Qu-cy got Saturday off to a roaring start with "Kinnikuman Go Fight!" and "Chase! Gavan." Next was "Uchuu Keiji Sharivan," and he confided that sometimes, just before the last line of its chorus, he wonders for a split-second whether the word following that drawn-out "Uchuu Keiji..." is supposed to be "Sharivan" or "Shaider." (The hazards of singing two theme songs whose last lines have near-identical music and words...!)

After that he sang a pair of songs from Jaspion, "Chou Wakusei Sentou Hokan Daileon" and "Ginga No Tarzan." Jaspion and Jiraiya (both late-'80s tokusatsu series for which he performed the theme songs) are currently booming in Brazil, and in July he journeyed there with Hironobu Kageyama, Takayuki Miyauchi and Yoshiki Fukuyama to perform at that country's huge Anime Friends event.

He shared some of his Brazil adventures with us, and coupled one tale with a Jiraiya trifecta of me singing opening theme "Jiraiya," Rei-san singing ending theme "Shi-No-Bi '88" and Mukou-san singing "Jiraiya Sanjou!": When Qu-cy arrived in Brazil, an airport Customs official who was examining his passport recognized his name from the Jiraiya TV credits. The official called his buddies over, and other airport staff and curious public came flocking too--"Akira Kushida! Ninja Jiraiya!" The disturbance drew the attention of airport security, and as Kushida watched worriedly, a gorilla of a guard came over, eyeballed the scene...and then muttered into a walkie-talkie, "It's, uh, Ninja Jiraiya." We were hooting!

When I came up (introduced as coming from "Gunma, America," hee!), Kushida-san mentioned how glad he'd been to see me, Yo-san, Ken-san and others in the audience at NHK's Anime Shudaika Daizenshuu concert in April. He asked if I had seen Jiraiya in the U.S.; I had to admit that I'd only seen the opening titles so far--and that had been at the previous weekend's 24-Hour Anison 1,000-Song Nonstop Medley. (He recalled recording the opening message for that event while he was at Narita Airport, about to leave for Brazil, and was tickled to learn that his "Tsuyosa Wa Ai Da" and "Kawaita Daichi" were the Medley's final two songs.) I had heard the "Jiraiya" song on his "I Am The One" best-of CD last year, though, and it's been a favorite ever since. That was the perfect chance for emcee Notchi to get in a quick plug for the small stack of that CD available for sale at the Hideaway's bar. (Qu-cy's second best-of CD, "Feel So Good," came out in late July; he kindly autographed mine there.)

"Jiraiya" is already a super-kakkoii song, and great fun to sing--but the experience of singing it here just blew me away, it was so much more fun than I'd dared hope! In between several of its lines are lines sung by back-up singers, and the crowd was spectacular on the in-between lines and singing harmony on the chorus! It was such a great feeling!

The day was full of fun moments (wish I'd recorded it--several folks had MD recorders and IPods along the Hideaway's tables, capturing the action), and one that brought a bellylaugh was when Kushida and Notchi touched on the meaning of Uchuu Keiji Gavan ending theme "Hoshizora No Message." "It's pretty grown-up," Qu-cy observed, and Notchi became a youngster ogling an imaginary TV and digging a finger into one nostril--"I don't gettt iiit..." Hee!

One youngster likely sharp enough to get it was the day's youngest attendee, Ta-kun. An "Utao-zo!" veteran who looks to be about 8 and attends with his mother, Ta-kun sang "Ginga No Tarzan" this time. (The first line of "Ginga No Tarzan" is "Chichi o shiranai, haha o shiranai"--"I don't know my father, I don't know my mother"--"You don't know your mother?" Qu-cy jibed him afterwards. "There she is!") Mother Hi-san sang too, performing "Ai No Tsubasa."

(At the "Utau-zo!" before my first one, Ta-kun had sung "Shippuu Xabungle." Then I sang "Xabungle," and he sang "Jiraiya." This time I sang "Jiraiya," and he sang "Ginga No Tarzan." Hmm, I have an inexplicable urge to learn "Ginga No Tarzan" now... ;^) )

After everyone had sung, there was a brief break. (During the break, I asked Qu-cy if he's a fan of Bugs. He said he really likes Bugs and the other Warner Bros. characters too.) A signboard was surreptitiously making the rounds of the crowd, with us writing congratulatory messages on it and trying to keep it hidden from Qu-cy's view. It turned out something else surreptitious was going on too: Suddenly there were two boxes filled with gift-wrapped packages on the stage...and those gifts were for us!

The youngest got to choose first, and after Ta-kun nabbed his choice, the handful of ladies were allowed to pick next, followed by all the guys. Talk about great loot: CDs, toys and model kits from anime and tokusatsu series with Qu-cy songs! I got a mint-condition vintage kit of ninja crows from Jiraiya!

Kushida-san sang "Kidou Keiji Jiban," and then mentioned that although Hi-san and Ta-kun usually attend on Sunday (the larger and longer of the event's two days, with special guests), he'd learned they were here today because they had to leave for a trip tomorrow. So to help make up for Ta-kun having to miss Sunday, he invited him back onstage for a special duet of "Shippuu Xabungle"! It was so adorable--Qu-cy crouched down to Ta-kun's height, and they went to town!

After that, we all joined in on "Fuji Safari Park" (this has been one of the most famous commercial songs in Japan for years, and finally got a CD release in 2005!). Qu-cy brought the evening to a close with "Uchuu Keiji Gavan," sharing the mike for each of us to sing a different line, and then saw us off with thanks. I was able to get the next-to-last train back up to Gunma...and then turned around a few hours later to come back for Day Two. (Next time, have gotta remember to make a hotel reservation in time...)

Before opening time, folks were lined up on the steps leading down to the basement-level Hideaway, and I got there right after Yo-san. After we'd been standing a while, my attention wandered to the top of the stairs just as some giggles broke out further down--and I turned back to the shock of finding Akira Kushida suddenly on the step between Yo-san and I! He greeted us, grinning impishly, and then popped back out of line and headed up the stairs.

R&B songs are Kushida's first love. He's a great fan of the Temptations--and the Temptations heard about their Japanese fan, and sang with him. An experience like that is something you'd never, ever forget--and so is the kindness that made it possible. Qu-cy in turn is spreading that kindness. Getting to sing "Kawaita Daichi" in a duet with him at "Utau-zo!" 9 was one of the greatest thrills of my life. The way Ta-kun was beaming after the previous night's "Shippuu Xabungle," he's never going to forget it. It wouldn't surprise me if every "Utau-zo!" attendee has had a special experience with Kushida-san.

Giving Daffy and Sylvester equal time on another customized hockey jersey, Qu-cy launched Day Two with "Uchuu Keiji Gavan," "Kawaita Daichi" and "Fuji Safari Park," and again shared some highlights of his Brazil adventures. The place was packed with what looked like three times the attendees, and time would only allow for two verses of each song.

It turned out three of us had picked Kinnikuman songs--and a couple hours in, the first went up: Kaku-san, primed for a show-stopping performance and looking every inch the part with his flashy white outfit and bright red shoes. The music for "Kinnikuman Sensation" started, and he ricocheted around the stage, delivering a wild falsetto version that had us howling with glee! Kaku-san ended to thunderous applause, as Qu-cy picked himself up from the floor, where he'd taken cover--"So that's what you've all been waiting for!"

Next up was Naniwa-san, who did "Honoo No Kinnikuman" straight and great. Then Qu-cy and Notchi took the stage, with Qu-cy telling how he had recently finished recording updated versions of "Kinnikuman Go Fight!", "Honoo No Kinnikuman" and "Kinnikuman Sensation," for release on a new CD together with "trance"-version remixes and karaoke tracks. The CD was slated for release in October.

I was listening in a daze, poleaxed at the prospect of doing "Kinnikuman Sensation" in the wake of Kaku-san. Maybe there were other Kinnikuman people who would go next. Maybe they just happened to put two Kinnikuman songs together, and would do more later...or maybe there would be a break soon and I could very quietly ask to change to my second choice, "Xabungle"...

Nope. I was called up. "So, you're going to sing a Kinnikuman song?" asked Qu-cy. Could I back out? My guts were gone. But, doggone it... "This is a song you sang at last December's Anitama live," I stammered out. "You had the audience sing a verse. Everyone was singing except me. I didn't know the words then. So now I want to make up for my crime."

The song started, and the crowd seemed surprised and glad to hear it again (it's a fun song, with parts for the audience to sing too). I'd requested a key two below the original--but guess what? The UGA karaoke system I'd based that on is wrong. It was a key too low...so I was an inch tall and trying to hit notes just beneath reach. Right before the chorus, though, someone at the controls bumped the key blessedly upward--and with the crowd going full-out, and Qu-cy singing back-up on the chorus, I went from an inch tall to sky-high and sang the song!

During the next break, I thanked Qu-cy for singing back-up and bringing my guts back. We got to talking, and he said that as much as he loves performing at concerts, these "Utau-zo" events are his favorites, getting to meet and speak with fans and hear them sing his songs. It brings him a lot of satisfaction, and is a way for fans to share in the enjoyment he gets from performing.

Another box of wrapped presents appeared. There weren't enough to go around, so we had several rounds of janken to choose the loot-winners. I was lucky enough to be one, and got a UFO catcher-toy Xabungle!

The evening's special guests trooped in soon after: MoJo, Ryousuke Sakamoto (Red One of Bioman), Kenta Satou and Shocker OH!NO!. Keiya Asakura, Turboranger's Blue Turbo to Kenta Satou's Red Turbo, arrived a little later in salaryman suit. MoJo sang "Sega Sataanshiro" and "Kagaku Sentai Dynaman," and then the guests kicked back with beers and took seats along the rear of the stage for the last few attendee performances. C-bouzu-san sang "Wakasa Wa Plasma," and when he mentioned at song's end how fast his heart was beating, he was swamped by the guests all trying to feel his chest!

Another break allowed fans to meet the stars. MoJo introduced himself in English--his pronunciation was amazingly precise!--and I told him how "Kagaku Sentai Dynaman" was the first sentai theme song I ever heard, and it remains the ultimate sentai song to me. We got our photos taken together, and I did the "We have watches!" pose.

Also shook hands with Kenta Satou and told him how much I enjoy his performances of the Turboranger and Juuranger themes. He asked if I've seen any of Turboranger (he had starred as Turbo Red); I've seen several Juuranger episodes but not Turboranger yet, and told him I'm keeping an eye out for episodes because I'd like to see it.

The final portion got underway. As MoJo grabbed a patch of floor and gleefully snapped away with his digital camera, Satou-san and Asakura-san divided verses on a Red/Blue "Kousoku Sentai Turboranger" (and Asakura can sing too!). Shocker OH!NO! performed "Tsuyosa Wa Ai Da," and then Qu-cy sang "Kawaita Daichi," "Uchu Keiji Gavan" and "Taiyou Sentai Sunvulcan," with Shocker supplying the "Eagle! Shark! Panther!" poses.

Kushida-san told us how much our support and the "Utau-zo" events meant to him...and then Notchi sprung a surprise: the four signboards that we had all filled with our thanks and good wishes! Qu-cy was deeply moved, and thanked us again with shining eyes.

As he made ready to see us off, the karaoke track of "Hoshizora No Message" began playing on the sound system, and several of us sang it together, complete with harmony, as we gathered our things to leave.

The event ran just long enough that I missed the last train--Yo-san took tremendously good care of me, hunting down an Internet cafe where I could hang out and even sleep until the morning's first train--but I wouldn't have left "Utau-zo!" early for anything!


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This page was created August 21, 2005. Last updated July 24, 2006.

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