When we went to see ‘Back To The Future’ in Concert last month we were handed a plastic bag full of promotional material on the way in as is quite common in Japan. Most of it was junk but there was one pamphlet (below) advertising ‘La La Land in Concert‘. As fans of both the film and its soundtrack we were both keen to attend so a few days later the tickets were aquired.
A decade ago I saw ‘Star Wars in Concert‘ at Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho and that was the venue this time too albeit in a different hall to then. We made our way to Hall A for the 5 pm start on Sunday 21st August (there had also been shows on the previous three days) and took our positions on the very back row.
Yet again we hadn’t really done our research beforehand so didn’t know exactly what to expect. I thought it might even be like a musical with actors and dancers on stage whilst the soundtrack was performed by a live orchestra. When I picked up a sheet (below) detailing the schedule and the performers I noticed the name of the conductor. It was Justin Hurwitz; the man who composed and orchestrated the songs and score for the ‘La La Land‘ (2016) movie. I really was not expecting that but I guess that was probably known by everyone else in attendance!
The architecture of Tokyo International Forum both internally and externally is pretty cool, and this was a far more sophisticated occasion than the ‘Back To The Future‘ one probably in part to cosplaying not being such a prominent part. Having said that, there were a few ladies wearing yellow dresses similar to what Emma Stone’s character Mia wore in the film.
A female MC walked on stage at 5 pm and introduced a video message from John Legend who not only wrote some of the songs but also starred in the film as the character Keith; a former classmate of main character Seb (Ryan Gosling) who is the singer in a jazz fusion band.
We were in for another surprise (again probably down to our ignorance of what would actually be happening at the event) as the movie’s original piano player Randy Kerber came on stage. As a studio keyboardist, he has had a prolific career in the world of cinema and has worked on over 800 motion pictures.
Composer and conductor Justin Hurwitz was then introduced and interviewed. It was presumably a pre-rehearsed interview as the MC never asked the questions in English but he seemed to know them before responding in English which was then translated into Japanese.
The music began with an introductory theme played by the orchestra and then the movie started in full. This kind of film probably lends itself more to the in concert treatment than other movies as its about music and a team of a dozen dancers came on stage during the opening song ‘Another Day of Sun‘. It was hard to know where to look as there was so much going on!
The movie played out on a big screen behind the orchestra whilst there were a couple of smaller screens on either side which focused on the musicians particularly Kerber’s fingers as he played away in a seemingly effortless way. Whether it was like that for him I really don’t know but he certainly had a chilled out and relaxed demeanour.
I was so relaxed too as I fell asleep momentarily during the first half which was 62 minutes in length according to the schedule. This doesn’t mean I was bored or anything but it just seems to happen in the cinema or theatre from time to time. There was a 20 minute interlude at the half way point but the toilet queues were so long that I just had to give up on that idea.
The second part was slightly longer with the highlight for me being ‘Start A Fire‘ by John Legend. I do love this tune even though it’s supposed to be the one the audience doesn’t like as it completely goes against Seb’s principles for what he likes in music. The dancers and constant fire being blasted out at the sides of the stage really added to the spectacle.
Even though I’ve seen the film a few times it was still quite moving at the end but that’s not such a surprise I guess as it isn’t really the happy ending one would expect. There was the inevitable encore which was a special jazzed up version of ‘City of Stars‘ which Hurwitz wrote in his hotel room ahead of these shows. This was really good and gave some of the musicians their own moment in the spotlight.
When my wife and I went to see ‘La La Land‘ at the cinema back in 2016 I can’t say I was too excited at the prospect of seeing a musical but I ended up liking it a lot, and we both regularly listened to the soundtrack. We missed out on seeing this show in concert when it came first came to Tokyo a couple of years ago so would not be denied this time.
Click here to read ‘Watching Back To The Future On The Big Screen Accompanied By A Live Orchestra’
Click here to read ‘Star Wars: In Concert Live In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – Universal Studios Hollywood Tour (2002)’
Click here to read ‘Back To The Future Event At HollyCon #5 In Tokyo’