Last night, I went to see the Ken Hirai Live Tour 2011 JAPANESE SINGER at Saitama Super Arena with a dear friend of mine.
This marked the fifth time I’ve seen Ken Hirai perform live – and you know what? He NEVER disappoints. The show was AMAZING! Ken Hirai is definitely “THE” Japanese male singer of this day and age. His vocals were cool and crisp – I swear, out of all the concerts I’ve been to, the vocal levels for Ken Hirai’s are the best. The songs were soulful, emotional, touching, fun,…and the feelings go on and on. You truly get your money’s worth and I’m grateful to have been a fan of his all these years.
Ken Hirai Live Tour 2011 JAPANESE SINGER
Ken Hirai originally hails from Mie Prefecture and paid his dues during his university years singing at live houses in the Yokohama area. There he learned different music styles including R&B and soul. Ken submitted a homemade music video to Sony Music and successfully landed a recording contract with them in 1993. His first release was in 1995 with the song “Precious Junk” which managed to peak at No. 50 on the Oricon charts. However, immediate success eluded him. Ken’s next few singles failed to chart. He was on the verge of losing his contract in 2000 with Sony Music when Ken had his first major breakthrough hit with “Rakuen” (translated as “Paradise”). It peaked at No. 7 on the Oricon charts and sold 600,000 copies in Japan.
“Rakuen” opened the doors for Ken and he churned out hit after hit. He scored his first No. 1 single in 2002 with the cover of the standard “My Grandfather’s Clock” by Henry Clay work, re-named “Ookina Furudokei”. Ken performed the song live from the actual location of the clock in Massachusetts, USA, on the annual NHK music show “Kohaku Utagassen” at the end of the year.
His biggest hit to date is “Hitomi Wo Tojite” (translated as “Close Your Eyes”) in 2004. The song peaked at No. 2 on the weekly charts, but was the No. 1 of 2004 selling over a million copies. The song is from the movie “Sekai No Chushin De, Ai Wo Sakebu” (translated as “I’ll Shout for Love from the Center of the World”) and is based on the premise of a first love lost tragically through death. Every time I hear Ken perform this song, it just tugs at my heart strings. A lot of his ballads do. And ballads are his forte.
This concert showcased tracks from Ken Hirai’s most recent album “Japanese Singer” with his major hits including “KISS OF LIFE”, “POP STAR”, and “Aika (Elegy)”. With one note, he can make your heart soar…and with one lyrical phrase, he can break your heart. It was magic. All of the ballads deeply moved me, but the song that really did it was the single “Boku Wa Kimi Ni Koi Wo Suru” (translated as “I Will Fall In Love With You”) released in 2009. You can see a live performance of it from 2009 below, but this song (which happened to be the final one before the encore) just took me in. Simply amazing.
I managed to score invitation tickets to the show, which I gave to two of my friends and in turn, they got me Ken Lollipops (laugh)! Thanks ladies!
One of the concert goods from the live tour: Ken Hirai Lollipops!
The following are some of my other favorite songs from Ken Hirai: “LIFE is…〜Another Story〜” (2003), “Kimi Wa Tomodachi” (translated as “You Are My Friend” – 2004), “POP STAR” (2004), and “Omoi Ga Kasanaru Sono Mae Ni” (translated as “Before Our Thoughts Become One” – 2005)
In closing, Ken has won numerous accolades over his 17-year career including numerous MTV Video Music Awards and Gold Disk Awards. Thank you for sharing your gift with us – may your voice grace us for many, many, many years to come!