3 November 2020 is a day to remember for all fans of the popular J-pop idol group Arashi. Not only was it the 21st CD debut anniversary of Arashi, it is also the date of possibly their final concert as a group, as they are set to go on an indefinite hiatus from next year.
Previously in 2012 and 2013, Arashi held the Arafes (short for Arashi Festival) concert at Japan’s national stadium. 2020 saw them returning to the new and upgraded national stadium with better performances, albeit without any audience in the stadium, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.
As one of Japan’s legendary idol groups, the lack of live spectators did not deter Arashi from putting up a full-scale concert. From stage effects to balloons to fireworks, everything was done as if there were fans there watching the concert.
In fact, each of the seats was also equipped with an LED light to mimic the presence of the penlights which fans would usually hold during their concerts. Similar to their recent concerts, the LED lights were programmed to change colours in sync with the music, presenting a wholly unique concert experience.
In doing so, even though the Arafes concert was pre-recorded and streamed through their dedicated website, fans would still receive a virtual concert experience, as close as possible to being physically there.
What makes the Arafes concert different from Arashi’s annual concerts is that the set list is based on the votes of the fans. Surprisingly, it turned out that their first digital single Turning Up, released last year, topped the single ranking and overtook their 1999 debut song A-RA-SHI (third in place). As for the album songs, their 20th anniversary song 5x20 came out first, with their 10th anniversary song 5x10 in the third position.
Although Whenever You Call, produced by Bruno Mars and released in September, was not in the ranking — it was not released yet when the survey was held — Arashi performed it regardless, in the second part of the two-part Arafes concert. With the first part accessible only to their fan club members and the second part for the global audience, this performance is a little sweet treat for their worldwide fans.
Apparently, there was a live-stream segment for their fan club members only, that aired for a few hours before the concert, between the two parts and after the concert ended. In the live-stream, apart from some pre-recorded activities, Arashi was viewing the Arafes concert streaming live with the audience, and reacting to fans’ comments on Twitter — in a way, they spent almost the whole day virtually with the fans.
In their closing message, Arashi expressed their gratitude to everyone who has supported them all these years.
“It’s been seven years since we last held Arafes. The songs that everyone chose are so wonderful,” Arashi’s leader Satoshi Ohno said, chuckling with nostalgia. “Even though there’s no audience this time, I hope someday we can hold a concert with everyone present again. Arashi’s 21st anniversary was not achieved by us. It is made possible by everyone. Thank you for bringing us up to the age of 21.”
Jun Matsumoto, who planned the concert, reflected, “It’s very lonely that we had to hold this concert without an audience. We were thinking how we could connect with everyone and how everyone could watch the concert in the same environment, while ensuring everyone’s safety. In the end, we came up with this streaming. We also had the lights on the seats, so we could imagine everyone who’s watching was there with us as we performed.”
Farewell is always difficult. But it makes us treasure what we currently have even more — in this case, about two more months before Arashi goes on hiatus.
For those who missed out on the Arafes concert streaming on 3 November, or did not manage to catch it, you would be happy to know that Arashi has decided to re-broadcast the Arafes concert! The details can be found in their English version dedicated website, although only the second part is available for general viewing.
Arashi has scheduled six re-broadcast sessions of the concert from 6 Nov to 8 Nov, with tickets going at 5,800 yen.
You can catch a glimpse of what their concert looks like in a latest clip from their 20th anniversary concert below.