Well I’ve never been to anything quite like that… true, I am free to throw out hyperbole like it’s going out of fashion because I really haven’t been to a mid-sized gig before, but don’t let that fool you. Perfume – one of Japan’s biggest pop/dance acts – took the unusual step of taking their “World Tour 2nd” to Europe for the first time, something practically unheard of with acts of their standing.
True, why would they bother? The British charts’ involvement with Asian-language music begins and ends with Psy, so why not just stick to their power base? Indeed their first ‘world tour’ was a little more local – Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan & Singapore. But still they managed to sell out the 2,000 capacity O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire with adoring fans. So much so that the Empire was an upgraded venue after the O2 Academy Islington sold out in a flash.
So what’s all the fuss about? I’ve been following Perfume for a little over a year now, having seen the video for “Spring of Life” on a flight back from Japan. They also appeared at the ABU TV Song Festival last Autumn, and are currently prepping the release of their fourth big-label studio album “Level 3” (thanks to Derek the comment troll for the semi-correction!).
The girls – A-Chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi – dazzled the crowd in their opening segment, using state-of-the-art LCD projectors and unfolding dresses to create a really superb effect. Perfume are quite heavy on visuals, with dizzyingly complex dance routines to match their giddy dance-pop onslaughts.
The opening barrage of some of their biggest and newest hits – “Spending all my time”, “Magic of Love”, “Laser Beam” really took the roof off, and showed anyone that the smaller venue was not going to hold one of Japan’s biggest acts back from putting on a visually spectacular show. “Laser Beam” in particular was insane, I love the song anyway, but the visuals really set the whole thing off.
The opening segment was followed by a long – and at time, totally bewildering – chat session with the audience. The girls have limited English, and even roped in a Spanish guy from the audience to translate. For a short gig it did take a rather long portion of the runtime, but if anyone hadn’t been familiar with the girls themselves (as I wasn’t), it was an endearing little encounter and with hindsight it really made the intimate gig that little bit more special.
After that came a barrage of big hits and fan favourites: “Spring of Life”, “Spice”, “Dream Fighter”, “Chocolate Disco”, “My Color”, “Electro World” and “Fake It”. I didn’t recognise them all, so I’m excited there are plenty more gems to dig up. I couldn’t even gauge which songs were the big favourites, people seemed to be losing it to most of them.
“Dream Fighter” was a particularly nice moment, as an English translation of the lyrics flashed up behind them. It really underlined how their music has travelled outside Japanese shores and their message is still getting out there despite the language barrier.
An audience participation section to let the girls catch their breath went down well, as well as allowing them to interact with the thousands of viewers watching a live webcast of the gig. After trying with limited success to teach everyone an unexpectedly difficult dance routine, they went for a bit of arm-waving and clapping and a rendition of Queen’s “We will rock you”.
After “My Color” closed the set, the girls returned for one more song, the audience had the choice of three: “Nee”, “Glitter” and “Love the world”. Fortunately for me, my favourite “Glitter” was picked and rounded off an amazing night. I hope one day the UK finally realises that J-Pop (or any non-English pop really) is as sophisticated as anything we’ve got over here, and being politely condescending to acts from Japan is our loss.
If they ever do this again, I really hope I can be there, otherwise I’m going to have to see them in Japan! Totally lovable girls, amazing songs, brilliant effects. I couldn’t have asked for more!