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Japanese Artist Utada Performs Energetic, Sold Out Show At The Fillmore In Manhattan

27-year-old Hikaru Utada performing at the House of Blues in Los Angeles as part of her sold-out "In The Flesh 2010" concert tour. She performed at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza in Manhattan on Feb. 8. (Photo Credit: Utada.com)

The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza in Manhattan looked more like a camping ground than a concert venue on Feb. 8.

Bundled in blankets, and sitting on newspaper – some dozing off in lawnchairs – scores of fans lined the venue’s sidewalk. The queue had at least 50 people by 7 a.m. The concert, however, would start 12 hours later.

By 7 p.m. – showtime – the column of shivering bodies twisted down the block, swerving around the corner, and continuing on. Passers-by would ask, “Who’s playing?”

“Just say the Jonas Brothers,” was the mantra of the crowd.

It was effective. After all, who would question why hundreds of people were braving near-freezing temperatures to be serened by Nick Jonas? No one, apparently. One group of girls passing by gave an expectant, “Of course” when they were told.

But say “Utada,” the stage name of Japanese-American recording artist Hikaru Utada, and eyebrows raise.

Utada – pronounced ooh-tah-dah – stopped by The Fillmore to perform as part of her “In The Flesh 2010” tour, in which she played eight shows across the United States, and two in London. To say she brought the house down at The Fillmore would be an understatement.

After waiting about an hour, after the bland opening act DJ Rizzo, the lights dimmed, and lyrics that sum up Utada’s foray into America spilled into the music hall: “I just wanna crossover  between this genre that genre…”

It was time to let loose. The crowd burst into a  chorus of applause and screams, and shortly after the upbeat interlude, Utada stepped out onto the stage.

Somehow the crowd got even louder.

The speakers blasted the heavy bass of “On and On,” a fast-paced song meant for the club: “Make the night go on and on and on/ You know we go on and on and on…”

It was fitting. Fists pumped the air and bodies shook to the beat. It didn’t take long for the room to heat up, a warmth generated by flailing bodies and loving cheers.

The next song was “Merry Chrismas Mr. Lawrence – FYI,” a melodious, mid-tempo track that showed off Utada’s slightly deep, but silky voice.

The other tracks were met with equal enthusiasm by the crowd, each one getting smoother on Utada’s part.

About an hour into the show, the concert climaxed during Utada’s medley of songs from “Exodus,” her first U.S. release.

The tracks, “Devil Inside,” “Kremlin Dusk” and “You Make Me Want to Be a Man” were combined smoothly, each remixed slightly differently for a heavier, more rock experience.

From the roaring drums and shrieking electric guitar of “Devil Inside” to the almost ballady “Kremlin Dusk,” the crowd moved in unison with Utada who put her heart and soul into every lyric, every line. The transition to “You Make Me Want to Be a Man” was seamless, with the piano from the previous song starting into the next.

Utada slammed the drums herself during the instrumental ending of the last “Exodus” track, a move that garnered the applause and cheers of the crowd in front of her. The crowd never got tired.

At no other time was this clearer than during the encore when the mass of fans stomped the ground, screamed Utada’s name and clapped their hands together. For three minutes they yelled, “Utada! Utada!” Over and over. Faster then slower. Then, at the end, one big scream.

Their efforts weren’t in vain. When the band members took the stage, and Utada said, “I’m guessing you want me to perform one more song?” the swarm of people still had the energy to scream, “Yes!”

In the United States, Utada is a small fry. In Japan, she’s a household name. An idiosyncratic singer who seems as genuine to her fans as her music, this Japanese songstress puts on an unforgettable show, almost flawless in delivery and emotion.

If her sold-out performance at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza last week was any indication, Utada may be making a name for herself here in the United States. And a very good name at that.

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