Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

Kaze Fujii held a concert the other day. Nobody could actually go and watch it live. But the whole thing was livestreamed and is now available on YouTube to watch in full.

Can you believe!?

A Japanese artist held a whole ass livestream for free, and the whole thing is up on YouTube on their official channel the next fucking day, with no 'Limited availability before archive' bullshit. Kaze also performed a brand new song "MO-EH-YO (Ignite)" which was made available on streaming platforms the very next day.

Honestly. Kaze is doing this online shit right. I wish I could say that this generation of J-Pop artists is gonna turn shit around, but Japan loves its structure, familiarity and is not fond of change. But it's not just the way Kaze went about the distribution of this concert which is admirable, but the concert itself. Kaze's Free Live was refreshingly weird, because it was an honest look at an abnormality the pandemic has caused.

This was never going to be a normal concert given the circumstances, and Kaze made no effort to hide the weirdness or how it made him feel. He wanted to sit in that, and have us sit in that with him. It was like he wanted us to be uncomfortable with what we saw. To lay the truth out that many try to hide or just flat out ignore about what it's like holding a concert responsibly in 2021. And it felt incredibly poignant coming off the back of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics and Paralympics, which half of Japan felt shouldn't have been held; a sentiment many around the world shared.

During the intro of "Yamashita" the gravity of what he was doing seemed to hit him. He was playing a concert in an empty stadium, with no band, no backing singers, outdoors, in the rain. There were moments throughout where Kaze's thoughts displayed clear across his face; as though he was questioning why he ever agreed to hold this concert in the first place, and then reminding himself of exactly why he chose to. To connect with his fans, and show that we're all experiencing this moment in life together. Even if some of us are experiencing it alone, we're still experiencing it together under the same sky. Even if that sky isn't always blue and it rains sometimes.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

Kaze has a pretty carefree and almost weed-head like energy to him. But even knowing this, he seemed on the verge of losing optimism, as the gravity of the effects of the pandemic which led to this strange concert of circumstance began to bear down on him. Kaze took moments after each song to speak his mind, address the situation and also centre himself. Taking moments to take deep breaths. Almost in a bid for him to channel not only the will to carry on, but to allow himself a minute to remember why he was doing this in moments of doubt.

But in a weird way, a concert under these circumstances also feels par the course for an artist like Kaze. His music videos have often played with the narrative of somebody being placed in unusual life circumstances which don't always make sense, but still persevering. And whilst Kaze has been fortunate enough to tour and play gigs with live bands, backing singers and everything that comes with a tour under what were normal circumstances, his career did start with him playing gigs where it was just him on a stage with a piano. So as bizarre as it is to watch Kaze sit in the middle of a stadium on his own, it also feels like an strange full circle moment which is on brand for him.

The universe has really odd ways of displaying the poignancy of certain moments, but I truly feel that this concert was one for Kaze.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

The stillness and the silence of this concert presented many moments for Kaze to just riff off on things between songs, and go off script in way I don't think he would have in the setting of a normal concert. He mentioned the weirdness of the entire concert itself. He urged everybody to take a break from the internet. He laid on the grass in white T-Shirt (I could never) and took a lil' power nap. And he also prayed and thanked God and asked him to bless us all. Most would watch this ask if Kaze was high for this concert, but it's just him being him. And the lack of pretty much everything he would have had for a standard-ass concert are not there to buffer, to distract or occupy the space around him. So Kaze is just riffing his weird ass through it all, which as a fan and a viewer is both strange to watch, but also amazing; because his heart is on his sleeve for every single second he's in the centre of the Nissan Stadium alone.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

I'm not sure whether this venue was booked pre pandemic for a gig or it was a post pandepocalyptic decision. But either way Kaze was fully aware of what he was doing here, even if he was in the midst of a mental game of Pong, deciding if he had made the right choice. But regardless, Kaze seemed to embrace the weirdness and absurdity of the entire situation where he could. Almost as though to prove a point of just how un-normal the situation is, but that it's a reality now. Sure, it's not one which will last forever. But it's still a reality.

I also have to say that it was nice to see an artist take the pandemic seriously and use their show to highlight it. I get anxiety just watching videos of all of these music festivals taking place across the US and UK, with crowds of people and not a single COVID safety measure in sight. It's why I've not bought a single ticket to see any shows, despite artists who I really want to see holding shows this year and hitting London. I'm just not ready to be in situations where I'm surrounded by people. So seeing Kaze in the middle of an empty stadium was weird, but also calming.

So many other artists, even the responsible ones have leaned into trying to mask and shut the effects of the pandemic out of what they do, to give us respite from what of it we face daily. You don't always see the empty venue, or have a sense of the skeletal crew that's having to work on the show. There's not always a sense of any void that's been left. Kaze could have booked a smaller venue. Done a 'normal' show, but he didn't. And it's just another thing that makes Kaze so special and different, and what made this concert weirdly amazing. It was all so fucking honest and real at time when it can be difficult to know what is.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

By highlighting the isolating and odd nature of performing in an empty stadium, Kaze's show managed to feel relatable in ways that few other pandemic produced shows have. Kaze showing us 'This is really weird and out of the ordinary' is a feeling that we've all had at some point over the past year and half. Maybe some of us haven't stopped feeling it at all. Whether you're in the medical field, working in a grocery store, a public transport driver, a courier - we've all found ourselves having to work in situations which are so abnormal and it's felt weird. And with things going 'back to normal' in some countries, THAT now feels weird.

I really sat and watched this concert expecting something bubbly and cute. Not to sit and think as much as I did, and focus on the silence and the space more than the music. But the whole thing was still an oddly calming experience, made better by Kaze's choice to perform every song with nothing but him and a piano, which was a delight, and strangely transformed the songs into a soundtrack for the abnormality of the entire concert.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

I think many of us take for granted how strange it must be for an artist whose livelihood is performing to venues full of people, to then have to pivot to playing empty venues. Whilst we and the artist themselves know why it has to be this way, it doesn't make the experience any less strange. And this Kaze Fujii concert really highlighted the strangeness of the situation alongside the absurdness of what an artist is willing to do to ensure they can still perform.

Concerts and music have been a lifeline for many of us over the past year and a half. Artists have found the strength and the will to still make music and still find ways to deliver performances and give something to their fans. But the part we overlook is that for many artists, this is their job. Their only job. It's their life. It's more glamourous than some of the other jobs out there. And some artists are at a point where they have and can maintain a luxury and a greater protection from the pandemic than most. But it's still a job. And the same weirdness of working a job during a pandemic that we've all felt is no different for the artists who have chosen to take the pandemic seriously. And whilst escapism is nice, sometimes we need a dose of reality in our entertainment to remind us of the times we're in. And that whilst it seems the worst of the pandemic is over, it still isn't over. Millions of people are still dead. People are still being infected. This is a moment in time which is now a major part of history and we are all experiencing it together.

Kaze Fujii's Free Live 2021: Refusing to pretend that life isn't strange right now | Random J Pop

Return to normal things shall, but it's a huge page to turn, and this concert was a reminder of that. In addition to being a reminder that it's okay to not feel 100%. It's okay to find everything weird, because it is weird. And also that where we can, even when its hard, we have to find ways to still do the things we enjoy, because we're fortunate to still be alive to do so. We're still free to at least try.

I'mma need Kaze to consider releasing this as a live album, or dropping an EP of piano covers of his own songs. It was great hearing some of the songs stripped down to a piano, which is probabaly how Kaze originally wrote them.

Kaze is such a refreshing talent and a versatile one at that. The fact he can sit at a piano and just captivate without any theatrics around him, but can still put on a big ass show with all the bells and whistle makes him a threat. "Kikari" already showed that he's out here learning choreo. Fellas better step that pussy on up.

This is one instance where YouTube Music actually comes in handy, because you can play this entire gig on YouTube Music or through your smart speaker - which saves you having to have the YouTube app open on your phone or on a browser tab. No. I am not a YouTube Music partner. I just like sharing my pearls of wisdom on the rare occasion I have them.

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