Review: Japanese Pop Artist Elisa Has First Ever North American Performance at Sakura-Con 2014


They say that there’s a first for everything, and on April 19th, many attendees of Sakura-Con 2014 were treated to the first ever North American performance from Japanese pop singer and model Elisa, and many attendees were anticipating the hell out of it. After all, it’s not every day you get to experience an event as historic as a famous musician’s first ever live performance in a major territory.

At the convention’s Opening Ceremonies Friday morning, Elisa was brought out as a special guest speaker to help promote the concert, and the crowd was instantly smitten by her charming minimal English skills and her infectiously bubbly and upbeat personality. It was certainly enough to sell me on her concert, so I decided to take a chunk of time out of my Saturday night block to see her performance, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Now, for those not in the know, Elisa is a 25-year-old Japanese pop singer and model whom first got her start in 2007 with the song “Euphoric Field”, which was used as the intro to the anime adaptation of the psychological thriller eroge Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two, known as Ef: A Tale of Memories. Since then, she’s had her songs featured in other somewhat under-the-radar anime including Nabari no Ou, A Certain Scientific Railgun and the recent Valvrave the Liberator.

Elisa took to the Main Stage at 7:00P.M., and the room was absolutely packed. It seemed like whoever set up the schedule for the con did so in such a way that nothing else would be going on during this time, so even those who wouldn’t’ve given up their firstborn to see her first American performance live were there. The standing room floor (where I was) was supercharged with excitement. A large percentage of the crowd were sporting their Elisa T-shirts and holding up their white glow wands with her name on them (the latter of which can be seen in the gallery below). You could practically physically feel the hype, and when she first came out, boy was the crowd fucking wild.

She didn’t have a backing band or any sort of flashy visual accompaniment (save for some bright lights of varying colours, which were just left over from the rave) to try and enhance the mood or anything, it was just her and her microphone, and she just killed it. Since a fair number of the songs she performed were slower ballads, one might expect the concert to get considerably redundant after a while, but she managed to keep everyone’s attention from beginning to end.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’d never listened to any of Elisa’s music before, mostly because I don’t really listen to J-pop in my own leisure time, but I was taken aback by her. She has an absolutely beautiful singing voice that perfectly fits both the slower, gloomier songs and the diabetes-inducing sugar-rush of happiness of the more lively forms of J-pop. She performed the full version of “Euphoric Field” a cappella, and that was one of the highlights of the entire convention for me. I was completely entranced.

On top of sounding absolutely lovely, she had a surprising amount of complacence and stage presence for a concert as important as this one. She had a good amount of interaction with the crowd in both English and Japanese, though the former was a tad limited. At one point after a drink of water, she tried explaining to the crowd her thoughts on water, ultimately saying, quote, “Water does not taste,” to which both she and the crowd laughed in a mildly-mocking manner, but both sides had fun with it.

That’s also something I can say for the concert as a whole: it was just a fun experience for everyone involved. If there was a mopey Flyman-esque sadsack at the concert, I didn’t see them. Elisa’s performance at the con was an hour and 15 minutes of pure halcyon, and nobody seemed more joyed to be there than she did. It was one of the most enjoyable moments of the entire convention for me, and I would definitely love to see her perform again.

Your friend,
Jess Casebeer

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