Spectacle.

Saw FictionJunction at AX 2012.

First, before I talk about the show itself, which I loved, I have to say that I wish I had some pictures. We went in expecting the normal press drill, and got last-minute word that Kajiura was camera-shy. And, you know, okay. We're generally the kind of outlet that abides by requests like that. But it would have been nice to have some pictures, to show those sights, just as they were.

And while I'm on the subject, I miss the Nokia Theater. A convention hall is no substitute. It's got the acoustic charm and sight lines of a warehouse, and the effect isn't helped by their decision to leave half the house lights on. Trust me, I know I'm sitting on a convention floor. I don't need to have the concrete walls as a constant visible reminder of this fact.

But even so, FictionJunction did a great concert. Exciting, fast, spot-on timing and pitch-perfect. Kajiura's music was brilliant -- coruscating and immersive. (Would probably have sounded better without the clashing echoes, but we take what we can get.)

And whatever. We perform in adverse conditions. I loved Kajiura's introductions, which featured very subjective, heartfelt descriptions of the singers. I'd also forgotten how enjoyable Kajiura's onstage chat is. Very definite, soft, firm. Excellent English.

And of course, I'm mostly familiar with her older stuff. Some of it, like the 4-part vocal version of Vanity cuts like a bone saw through the emotions. Still one of my favorites.

And one of the virtues of a concert like this is that it brings together different pieces, lets you hear things that you never noticed just by their proximity. I never noticed, but "In the Land of Twilight, Under the Moon" has a sequence of running notes that sounds straight off of Fiction. Style, after all, is what you can't help doing.

I just wish the acoustic environment were better. On "Parallel Hearts," I could barely pick out the violin, much less the interwoven vocals. It's less of a problem on "Salva Nos," probably because I still know all the words. Sometimes I wonder what it must feel like, performing works from so long ago -- certainly I was very different when I first heard it, and now it seems like something that happened to someone else.

But, of course, this is a totally different, exquisite four-part version. The vocal climax is amazing -- perfectly managed buildup of interdependent threads. And then there's more. And more again. The effect is one of unimaginable opulence.

And she keeps playing songs that I know, and I realize that this is more of a retrospective than anything else. We're hearing Kajiura reprise huge chunks of her career. You have to wonder, again, what it's like for her. Does she wish she could rewrite them anew?

Now she's on "sis puella magica," which is certainly recent. I wasn't immediately pulled in by the multipart version -- Madoka Magica is about isolation in some sense. But this is an extended version. There's more to it, this way. Kind of stunning.

"Forest." No one knows this one. It has a perfect moment with three rising piano notes into the stillness of a finishing vocal phrase.

"Credens Justitiam." Right before the drop, there's a surprise. And this one's more about the drums than the vocals, somehow. You hear different things live.

And some of these songs I've never heard, and they don't have much emotional payload for me. They're still Kajiura, they still have that style, so I have something to latch onto. Aldo's right, though -- the camera mixer should be shot. To borrow a hockey analogy, he keeps skating to where the puck was.

"Zodiacal Sign." Just when you think you've seen everything, Kajiura starts singing. Seeing her sing is wonderful, even if I'm not sure the mike is live. There's something charming about it, and somehow I know, at that moment, that these songs still have the resonance of something she cared about a great deal.

"Open Your Heart." And this band, she says, referring to the backing band, the drums, violin, everyone -- this band never performed together before. They've had ten hours of practice. This arrange has a call-and-response quality that I like.

And, as an aside, I'm so proud that we now know enough to keep clapping until the band comes out or the house lights come up -- it really means the world to me. We've come a long way.

—chris