It’s amazing to think that it’s taken more than two decades for a concert featuring music from Japanese animation (anime) and video games to gracefully make its way into the Christopher Cohan Center.
Thankfully, the first and hopefully not last concert, which was rightfully called “Tribute,” left its entire audience Saturday night with smiles from ear-to-ear.
Apparently people like good music. Who would have thought?
What started as a “coffee shop performance” idea last fall eventually turned into a 50-performer production led by computer engineering senior Blair Baker.
Once the ball got rolling and Baker had “Sister T,” a nun from Nativity of Our Lady Catholic Church, as the concert’s vocal coach, the production simply had to be at the Performing Arts Center. Several calls later and Baker had students, alumni and members of the San Luis Obispo community involved.
Just as promised, “Tribute” showcased the jazz, blues and rock themes from the anime “Cowboy Bebop,” the unforgettable ballads and epic themes from the video game series “Final Fantasy,” and an assortment of other entrancing Japanese scores from shows like “Macross Plus” and video games like “The Legend of Zelda.” Assistant producer Angelo Alcid made it all seem even grander with touching and poetic spoken introductions to each song.
The crowd favorite easily went to the “Super Mario Bros.” medley performed by pianist Michael Soliman. Laughter and childish smiles filled the theater with every note Soliman hit. The performance was handled well and I was pleased to see it performed without people dressed as plumbers frolicking about. It was simply nostalgia crossed with remarkable talent at its best.
But I found myself most consumed by beautiful ballads like “Tina” from “Final Fantasy VI,” which was performed with such grace and emotion by architecture sophomore Josephine Chan. It’s hard for anyone to not be in love with the music, especially when someone like Myla Soliman (wife of the “Super Mario Bros.” master) stands up and sings the lovely ballad “Adieu” from “Cowboy Bebop” as though she’s been waiting to sing it her whole life. Soliman’s captivating voice marked the first time I’d heard a flawless performance come out of the Christopher Cohan Center.
The night ended with an incredible “Final Fantasy” battle themes medley arranged by music senior Chris Pasillas and performed by nearly two-dozen musicians and a 16-member choir. It was certainly epic, but there was a need for more microphones to really get the point across. I sat three rows away from the stage and had trouble hearing many of the instruments. The stage arrangement consisted of four pianos at the front of the stage and while it was impressive to watch, the first 10 rows couldn’t see the choir or most of the musicians.
Nevertheless, between the brilliant blend of tones in the lighting and surprising talent, the concert was easily a success.
The best part of the night, however, was seeing everyone in love with the wide range of breathtaking music – parents, professors, high school students, Cal Poly students, nuns, people of all color.
If more people continue to take risks and look beyond the wording on the cover, this genre of music will never die. Thanks to this historic concert and hundreds more across the country, it looks as though Japanese music appreciation in America is here to stay.
“Tribute” couldn’t have asked for any more than that.