Sometimes live performances just all come together and work perfectly. They aren’t the most technically impressive you’ve seen, the most in tune nor have the biggest effects. Utada United 2006 works because throughout it all Utada Hikaru rides an emotional rollercoaster and takes you with her through the highs and lows of what I consider to be her best DVD release so far.
Opening with an extended version of “Passion” we are they treated to a mega medley of stomping J-Pop of “This Is Love”, “Travelling” and “Movin’ On Without You”. Each has new tricks and seamlessly blend perfectly into each other. There’s also some great stage effects as the entire stage is lit up from behind on a video wall. After the danceathon we get a slower trio with an emotive stripped back “Sakura Drops”, a voice breaking “Final Distance” and the crowd favourite “First Love” which improves with age for me. The the concert elevates into its own level.
The middle section of this concert is where the more daring side comes out, firstly by bringing three English songs to the table and Utada absolutely rocks out. “Devil Inside” is ten times the song it is on the record, “Kremlin Dusk” is the sole non-single track performed and its very dramatic before “You Make Me Want To Be A Man” brings you to a euphoric climax. It’s here where the culmination of everyone’s efforts its best shown. The effects, the band, the voice and the emotion let rip. The artsy passage reading prior to this section is well done too. We then get alternative versions of songs too.”Be My Last” is haunting with its cello/vocal arrangement and “When Somebody Elses Wish Comes True” is haunting for the visuals placed behind the music. Utada’s voice sounds like its about to croak its last but actually it makes it far more emotional to listen to. “Colours” too gets a complete ballad reworking and is simply gorgeous.
As the set returns to earlier tracks a normality is restored for the final third although “Letters” and set closer “Hikari” are beautifully done and the visuals throughout makes everything feel alive.
Of the three DVD concerts I have to date, this is my favourite for its diversity, its visual appeal and its great balance between technically hitting most of the marks and still sounding slightly like things are about to go Indie Pop. That’s why Utada Hikaru will possibly always be my favourite J-Pop artist of all time.