Note: Anime Herald received permission from Anime Boston to take and publish pictures from the concerts.
A line that coiled around the entire second floor of the Sheraton Hotel’s main lobby had formed, by the time the doors to the Grand Ballroom opened at five o’clock. One by one, fans filed into the grand auditorium, where a stage lit by an array of spotlights waited at the front. A crystal chandelier cast a warm light from above.
As the clock struck six, the lights dimmed through the auditorium. EyeQ’s bandmates stepped out onto the stage. They glanced over the crowd before one member explained “EyeQ isn’t onstage yet, but he said to start without him.”
Moments after the band began their first song, the audience erupted in cheers, as a cry of “Hey! Hey!” ran out from the back of the room. EyeQ, clad in a Mobile Suit Gundam hat and a letterman jacket, sauntered up to the stage through the center aisle, spitting rhymes as the band kicked up.
“EyeQ’s not here yet, but he said to start without us”
Moments after they begin, “Hey! Hey!” rings out from the back of the room as EyeQ saunters up to the stage through the center aisle, performing Angel (I Come In Peace) as the audience erupts in cheers. It was hard not to be absorbed by his impeccable flow and percussive style that danced with the drummer’s rhythm.
As the song reached its final lines, EyeQ cried out, “one world, one heart, a pretty picture – together, we paint a pretty picture! Anime Boston! A pretty picture!” as the audience roared in cheers again.
As the music ended, the rapper took a moment to address the audience, introducing himself, and taking a moment to remark on the tragedy that had unfolded in Uvalde, Texas, just a few days prior. It was impossible to not feel the sorrow in his voice, as he proclaimed that “every person can make a difference in a person they know. I can’t change the world, but I can change the world of someone around me. If anything else, I can’t stop the hate, but I can create love, and that is the least I can do in the world.”
His next song, Blue Bird, channeled that sadness, that desire to make the world better, even in some small way. EyeQ’s heart was on his sleeve through every verse, every lyric that he spoke, channeling his desire to bring light into the world, in this time of darkness. “In this life,” he opined, “we dare to dream, so we’ve got to believe.”
He followed Blue Bird up with a lo-fi jam, Bad Day, in which the rapper channeled his memories of a struggle to ask a girl out. It was a lower-key piece, backed by a lonely piano that underscored the conversation EyeQ is holding onstage. Like a good rakugo, he conversed with ghosts, bringing the melancholy experience to life in the minds of everyone in the audience.
As the song concluded, the rapper coyly remarked ” People always ask me – did you ever tell her?” – to which he added, “Well that’s for another episode!”
His set continued, with Inspired, a song based on a dream of his, and a celebration of creators and artists everywhere, as he encouraged them to “never forget what you love. Never forget why you do what you do, because on the days that are hard, those will get you through.”
The piece’s lyrics were a pang of inspiration, an encouragement to go out and to keep honing their crafts, and filling the world with magic. “That pie in the sky is nice to look at,” he opined, “but you can’t touch it… so you have to make it!”
The penultimate piece in the set was arguably his most famous, as footage from the video game Soundfall began to play on the monitors that flanked the stage. The room erupted in cheers, as the opening beats to Symphony In My Mind kicked up. The piece was laid-back and contemplative, as EyeQ infused a new life into the track.
The rapper concluded his set by telling the tale of a friend of his, Sammy, who was a fan of Kingdom Hearts. The two bonded, but Sammy had passed away by the time Kingdom Hearts III had come out. He dedicated the song to his fallen friend, explaining that “the thing I regret wasn’t arguing about what system we liked to play, but how we should play together more often.”
If I had to use one word to describe this final piece, and indeed the entire set, it would, without question, be “passion” or “heart.” The raw emotion, the regrets, the pain, the joy, could be felt through every single lyric that EyeQ uttered that evening. He bared his soul to the audience, who was all too happy to reciprocate.
EyeQ closed his set with a simple message before the lights went dark. “Be the change that you want to see, and the world will be a better place for it”
ASCA’s performance felt almost like a musical counterpoint to EyeQ, eschewing the live performers for pre-recorded rock tracks and backing vocals. Despite this, it was impossible to deny the very real power in the singer’s voice, as she belted out her most popular hits, like Carpe Diem and re-debut single KOE. She headbanged and danced to the melodies, and just drank in the energy of the room.
In the audience, pen lights waved to the beat, playing the part of invisible percussionists, as the glow provided a highlight to the sharp lights of the stage.
ASCA took particular joy in the atmosphere, which became apparent as she performed Villain, the B-side from her Carpe Diem single. She invited the class to clap to the beat, and the room was eager to oblige. She bubbled over the playful, poppy piece that focused on the best parts of being The Big Bad™. The song was a stark change form
It was a stark change from the driving rock of the previous pieces, with a very playful, whimsical tone and a genuinely catchy hook. All the while, ASCA danced and clapped, unable to hide the smile on her face. She was clearly living her best life onstage, and it was infectious.
Throughout the concert, it was clear that ASCA was an expressive showman, as she made sweeping, dramatic gestures literally leaning into her performance as she addressed the crowd. This was made all the more impactful, thanks to her black and crimson dress, which seemed to accentuate her every movement.
As the concert continued, ASCA showed impressive melodic sense and control, as she blended popular favorites with her deep catalog favorites. Even though she was working with a backing track, ASCA made it clear that any instrumentation was there to serve her, and her alone.
For the faster songs, the audience couldn’t help but get swept up in the energy of the moment, as they clapped and sang along, and fans with pen lights bounced happily. The slower songs felt almost like a musical sermon, as the audience sat in rapt attention to the melodic sermon that unfolded onstage.
As her set drew toward its final moments, ASCA thanked the audience for attending, her tone indicating that she didn’t want the next moments to end. Her final song, Sword Art Online theme song RESISTER, drew an immediate roar of excitement from the crowd, as the first beats kicked up. They chanted along and clapped to each thudding beat. Onstage, ASCA was attacking the song with gusto, barely able to hide the smile on her face as she belted out the familiar lyrics, which had been ingrained in the minds and hearts of everyone in the room several times over. The singer and her audience fed off each others’ energy, as ASCA’s flourishes grew more dramatic, and she broke into a dance during the song’s break.
She was living her best life onstage at this point, and was amazing.
It was an experience like no other, as ASCA could barely contain her excitement the whole time. Meanwhile, the crowd was ready to burst with joy and happiness. Fans waved their pen lights, as she pumped her fist in a triumphant flex. The cheers were almost deafening, as the song reached its close, and ASCA cried out an emphatic “thank you!!”
As she left the stage, the audience rose up in unison to deliver a standing ovation. ASCA had delivered a performance that would not soon be forgotten, both for the thousand fans that had gathered in the ballroom and for herself, over the course of the weekend and beyond.