20 Years In The Making
Returning for her first concert tour in 12 years, Hikaru Utada returns to the stage for Laughter In The Dark, a 140 minute concert special taped during her last performance on a country-wide tour in Japan. Mixing some of her beloved, iconic tracks with old and new favourites, Hikaru serenades us with her beautiful vocals in an impressive showcase of J-Pop talent and 20 years of hard work.
The film wastes no time getting started, with Hikaru singing Anata, Michi and Traveling in quick succession. From here she greets the crowd, grinning sympathetically as she tells the eager fans hanging on every word, “Sorry I kept you waiting”. The Queen Of J-Pop then winds back the years as her fragile vulnerability paves way for strong, beautiful vocals and a constant barrage of hits. Hikari will always be my personal favourite, the song that defined my childhood thanks to Kingdom Hearts, but there’s such a wide range of hits here, it’s hard to pick just one for this J-Pop legend.
There’s some good variety here too, breaking up the singing with impressively choreographed dance numbers. Hikaru talks directly to the audience too before a short film nestled in the middle helps to break the show up and acts as an interlude to proceedings. This segment sees comedian Naoki Matayoshi interview Hikaru. We then go into the iconic Chikai (The Japanese version of Kingdom Heart III’s Don’t Think Twice), arguably the best part of Kingdom Hearts III and certainly another big highlight.
The film continues on from here, ending with a beautiful silence sea of phone lights as Hikaru returns for an encore and a handful of songs to finish the show out on a high.
For much of the concert, the camera swings smoothly between Hikaru and the crowd, showcasing the respectful Japanese audience as they clap and cheer at the end of the songs but reserve heckling, screaming or cheering any other time until late on in the concert. Hikaru herself is a genuine heart-breaker too, with clear passion and utmost love for her fans as they flock to see this beautiful celebration of her hard work over the 20 years she’s been at the top of the J-Pop podium. This doesn’t happen by chance either and graced with an impressive vocal range, her versatility and talent really shines through here.
It’s also worth noting that the subtitles and translation work were all done by Utada too and only further emphasize how hard this extraordinary woman has worked to catapult herself into the limelight of pop music.
Fans of J-Pop should be in their element with this and if you haven’t heard of Hikaru Utada, you should definitely check this out too. The vocal range is excellent, the lyrics on-point and the stage production suitably minimalistic to keep you focused on the music. The entire concert flows perfectly from start to finish too making Laughter In The Dark the perfect way to end an amazing 20 year journey.
Verdict - 9/10