Perfume World Tour 2nd: Dreams are made of this July 10, 2013Posted by ayasawada in Music, Travel.
Tags: Jpop, Perfume
Sometimes good things happen. And sometimes AMAZING things happen that make you feel suddenly connected and belonging to your life and your world.
After the miracle of Singapore, I vowed to see Perfume, my favourite Japanese group, again someday. But I was stunned when just two months later the group announced a European tour. They would be coming to Cologne, Paris…. and London.
I intended just to go to London, but my friend Andy (who I met at the Singapore live) and I got a bit nervous that the London tickets would sell out really fast (which they did). The Paris tickets went on sale immediately, so we got a couple of those just in case. When we managed to get London tickets too, Andy shrugged and said, “It would be rude not to go to Germany too…” :P
What followed was a whirlwind. Twelve months ago I thought I would never see Perfume perform live. If you’d have told me then that a year later I’d have seen them not once but FOUR times in four different countries, I wouldn’t have believed it. If you’d have said I’d also have met them in person, I’d have laughed in your face.
ALL THESE THINGS CAME TRUE.
The day before we were about to leave, Andy called. “Do you want the good news or the bad?” he said (my immediate thoughts: OMGACCHAN’SSICKTHETOURISCANCELLEDOURTICKETSAREFAKEWTF!!!1111). “We’re not going to have time to go to the cathedral…. We’re going to be too busy meeting Perfume.” :O
Andy had won two places in a lottery for the Cologne meet and greet (a rather rare thing that they’ve been doing for World Tour legs). The chances of us being picked (especially, ahem, not being German) were tiny. But there we were, on a wet Wednesday afternoon in Cologne huddled in the entranceway of the Gloria Theatre, the charming venue for that evening, with eight other fans, whispering “Are you here to meet Perfume?”.
Soon, a representative from Universal (their record label) appeared to tell us the rules. No autographs, no individual pictures, though there was a half hour allotted. We thought it would be a really brief thing, probably wait around for 15 mins, get a very quick drive-by handshake with the girls, or possibly a quick group Q&A with them on stage and us on the floor. The reps led us into the tiny corridor between the auditorium and the cafe at the front. Thus started the most nerve-wracking 5 minute wait of my life. Every time the door to the auditorium opened we caught a glimpse of laser lights. Every time the door opened our hearts skipped a beat as we waited to see who emerged. After the fifth roadie had walked past us I thought the two German girls next to me were going to collapse :P
Suddenly the management sprung to life. Two who would act as translators went into the auditorium and from the other side of the door we heard some familiar high-pitched voices being informed of the sequence of events. And then it all got surreal.
The doors opened and there they were: A-chan, Nocchi, Kashiyuka – 3 of the most famous people in Japan greeting us with a happy “konnichiwa” and double-handed waves. They were beautifully decked out in white heels and gorgeous matching print dresses/tops, each of them customising a little with a skirt or shorts (Kashiyuka chose the full-length dress option).
My first thought: they’re so small and thin! About my height. And they were so touchy-feely! I felt so nervous shaking their hands – like I’d somehow commit some sin by invading their personal space or might accidentally bruise their skin if I grasped too vigorously (to be honest, I was more worried about how clammy my hands might have been after 5 mins of nervous waiting…). Through their main translator, A-chan, Nocchi and Kashiyuka expressed their thanks for us coming all the way to meet them and the three then separated with individual translators to meet each of us one by one.
This was beyond what I’d imagined. I was third in line, so I had a chance to just drink in the moment and tell myself, yes, that really is Nocchi talking to the girl next to me. Yes, that is Kashiyuka with her back to me less than a metre away. Yes, that’s A-chan to my left excitedly receiving all the gifts a couple of fans had brought them from France (I was mortified when I realised we hadn’t brought any omiyage from England to give to them >_<). OH. EM. GEE.
I beamed like an idiot listening as Nocchi worked patiently with the translator to ask the German girls so many things: how old were they? How did they come to be fans of Perfume? Were they coming to the concert that evening too? Thank you so much for following us from so far away! Then suddenly it was my turn.
Nocchi is exactly as I’d imagined her. Polite, but not cold. Calm and keeping a professional tone while at the same time being very interested in your answers. The funny thing was, Nocchi’s translator was Paul Tsu – the same guy who’d arranged the Singapore ticket lottery seven months before. You should have seen his face when he saw me. “Hey!” he said, “I know you! The London guy in Singapore!”. Nocchi was really surprised as Paul explained the situation, which launched me into the whole story of how I ended up there, and here, in conversation with the Ayano Omoto in my really-should-be-better Japanese (9 years of study – all for this!). I told her how the friendship between Andy and I, and indeed with several of the international fans who were already queuing outside, was really thanks to them; how Perfume were honestly bringing people together across national boundaries through the sheer love of their music. This was something I ended up babbling about to all three of the girls (>_<). Nocchi listened very patiently though and even made sure to remember Andy’s name so that, when she came to him 10 minutes later, he was stunned when she opened with, “Hey, you’re Andy!” XD
We had a good 5 minutes or so with each of them, which gave me plenty of time to ask Kashiyuka about her stunningly wide music tastes. Does she really like Simian Mobile Disco? Aren’t Phoenix fantastic? I said how I used to be really into Vampire Weekend and she told me how much she really loved their new album, Modern Vampires of the City. I asked her to please always have this cool a taste in music (or something equally embarrassing to that effect). All in all she came across as 100% genuine and truly down to earth, the exact opposite of how we imagine most celebrities to be.
The management were surprisingly relaxed, helping to take everyone’s gifts and carry the bags/boxes as the girls walked round. There was no strict rules about keeping your distance and each of the girls reached to grasp our hands with both hands and make a real connection, not just a light touch followed by sanitising lotion :P But of all of them, A-chan was especially bubbly. The MC of the group, she was inevitably the most thrilled to meet us all. She took great interest in my abstract Godzilla T-shirt (featuring the kaiju-eiga star made out of famous European landmarks with Mount Fuji in the background). And she was particularly fascinated by the multi-coloured World Tour 1st wristbands I was wearing and, in what I will forever remember as the ‘A-chan stroking incident’, I had the surreal pleasure of trying to conjugate comprehensible Japanese sentences while the de facto leader of my favourite music act examined my forearm (there’s no way for that not to sound weird, is there?). She seemed really touched when I told her of all the people from all over the world waiting outside, of the friendships Andy and I had made from liking their music and attending their concerts. Mind-blowing arm-fondling aside, the thing I remember most from the whole World Tour 2nd gigs is just how genuinely thrilled she was. While both Nocchi and Kashiyuka maintained their usual straight faces as the girls performed their immaculate routines, A-chan was just beaming, grinning like a schoolgirl on her first trip to the zoo. To see that delight up close was beyond my wildest dreams.
It was a short 30 minutes, but felt like a lifetime. As the final words were said, the managers herded us into the corner to take a group photo, as A-chan trolled the fans in the cafe outside by waving at them through the small window behind the bar (sadly,
none only one of them saw her!).
And suddenly it was over. Like some kind of weird daydream.
None of us could really believe it, so we badly needed a drink after. We decided to sit and have a few pints in the Gloria cafe and discuss the insanity of what just happened. Imagine our surprise when suddenly the sound of Dream Fighter came strongly from the back. Perfume were rehearsing, live, just metres away, an early preview of their World Tour 2nd set. It was the icing on the cake of an amazing hour.
Personal moments aside, the three gigs themselves were amazing. Both the Gloria in Cologne and the Bataclan in Paris are lovely, intimate venues with a real European feel. In fact all three, including the much larger Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, have a bit of the look and feel of old theatres, particularly with the balconies, which the group must have really loved. Acoustics-wise there was incredible bass throughout, but the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, for its sheer size and set-up as a modern specialist live-music venue seemed particularly well kitted up and louder overall (or maybe that was just us Brits really going for it :P).
Like the venues in World Tour 1st, these are much smaller places than the stadium’s Perfume tend to sell-out in Japan nowadays, so the big plus for us was the chance to see Perfume really close up and with European audiences weaned on live music and more than willing to pogo and shout their heart and souls out for the artists they love. We managed to get decent spots for all 3 despite not joining the queue until mid-afternoon each time. A comfortable middle spot for Cologne and London got us close enough to the stage and well in the mosh pit, while a really lovely back view from a raised platform provided us with a panoramic view of the whole stage in Paris.
The set list:
M01 Spending all my time (Extended Mix)
M02 Magic of Love
M05 Spring of Life
M06 SEVENTH HEAVEN
Handy Man (instrumental video)
M10 FAKE IT
M11 Dream Fighter
M14 MY COLOR
EN01a Love the World (Cologne)
EN01b Glitter (London)
EN01c ねぇ (Paris)
The first four songs were absolutely spectacular, with the Spending All My Time mix featured the same show the girls had performed at Cannes Lions Festival a few weeks before (I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed when I first saw it on video, but the act was spectacular live).
I guess the only thing bad about that mix is that it skips the main chorus, which the crowds were really geared up to jump to. That was more than made up for by the triple-whammy of Magic of Love, Laser Beam and Polyrhythm, by which point I don’t think I’d ever screamed so much in my life (and I did it 3 times!).
As this J-Pop Go review notes, a few of the new choices for World Tour 2nd were pretty surprising. I would never have guessed Spice and particularly Seventh Heaven though both are good songs. Similarly, I nearly fell off my chair when we heard Handy Man and Daijoubanai in the Gloria rehearsal (even if Handy Man turned out to be a musical interlude). If I’m honest, I think the set list for World Tour 1st mixed together a little better (while also being a song or two longer). As one fellow fan said, the previous World Tour setlist had a much harder electronica edge to it with songs like Edge, Butterfly and Night Flight. I missed hearing some of those but am glad they mixed it up a bit. There were a few other minor things, like an understandable loss of momentum when some things like the fan translation and a conversation about “German Potatoes” got a little muddled in Cologne. But you expect these things, particularly in the first gig of their first European tour, when the girls were understandably a bit nervous (and probably less familiar with German than English or maybe even French?).
They had similar pressure in London where the crowd was double the size, not to mention the 30,000 people watching the live and delayed streams in cinemas all over the world. You could definitely see the whole set getting much more polished and the girls more relaxed as the tour went on and, honestly, that’s being nit-picky. Any Perfume concert is nigh on spectacular. The laser beam effects add significantly to (of course) Laser Beam, but also Seventh Heaven, where the combination with a bit of smoke makes for a beautiful surrounding, a bit like being in a virtual reality sim from the 90s. London had an amazing disco ball used to fantastic effect for Chocolate Disco and nothing, nothing beats losing yourself to the tune of FAKE IT, especially with A-chan’s crowd-chanting segueway from PTA Corner.
Speaking of PTA Corner, there was much anticipation over how they would divide us up for the chants. Cologne got a rather plain up/down and here/here, but we Brits got “fish and chips” XD. A-chan suggested that to the French too, but I don’t think they were particularly amused at being labelled with an English food :P They got “crois/sant” in the end, despite my best efforts to get them to do Croque Monsieur :P But Perfume always know how to work a crowd, from the language-personalised “Perfume desu!” greetings to general chat about local cuisine, how much Japanese each audience knew, and the usual surveys of “glasses/contact/natural” and “boys/girls/[+everybody else for Paris(!)]”. London and Paris also got a little bonus when Perfume again did their “We Will Rock You” sing along in the Perfume Locks segment of PTA Corner. In London especially, Queen in the home of Queen was pretty perfect ^^
Elsewhere, it was great to see Kashiyuka and Nocchi step up for the first MC session. And I LOVED how they translated the lyrics for Dream Fighter into each local language, subtitling the song on the screen behind. I really fell in love with that song when I first saw a fansub of the PV and realised just how meaningful the lyrics were, so this was very special to me.
Each gig finished up with the now traditional My Colour + PTA dance. Though I was a little disappointed not to hear Kokoro no Sports at least once, My Colour has such incredible meaning and unites the crowd in such a spectacular way that it really is the perfect tune for the World Tours.
As for the encore, there were no special guests (not even Doraemon :P) and they only did one song, but they did give the audience the choice of which. You sensed in Cologne they would rather not have done Love the World (“It’s the hardest choreography of all three!,” said A-chan). They also expressed surprise (really?) that everyone knew Glitter! Thankfully, for those of us going to all three gigs, we got a different song each time. Whether this was engineered a little beforehand (A-chan had the last say, after all) or if the 50 or so groupies (like me) following them around Europe had any sway, who knows.
I also have to say how amazingly hard the girls worked in what was really sweltering conditions. Each venue got so hot, what with the lights and lasers and 800-2000 sweaty super-charged fans. There were at least a handful of fainting incidences at each gig so it’s a real feat that the girls could keep going at their usual pace in such a climate. To borrow a phrase from another J-pop group, this is Japan’s most sophisticated show :P
One of the best things to come out of the World Tours is the crowd singing a tribute song to the girls after the concert has ended. This has become something of a tradition after World Tour 1st, the baton being passed to each country’s fan group to stand up and show their affection for the group’s hard work.
Massive kudos to the organisers in Germany, France and the UK who organised polls, printed flyers (often at their own expense) and distributed them widely on the day. They also had a real challenge getting the thing started as the management decided to play Spending All My Time pretty loud at the end of every gig in a bid to hurry people out of the venue. Thankfully we would not be moved! Against these conditions the fan group organisers somehow managed to coordinate everyone into singing in synch and with a voice loud enough to reach the girls backstage (even if the German crew had to sing the chorus of Macaroni 6 or 7 times!). Each time the crowd got a thank you from A-chan over the mic afterwards, and the English and French even had the pleasure of her singing along to their songs. She even instigated a second chorus for the French tribute of VOICE!
Germany – Macaroni
UK – The Best Thing
Paris – VOICE
Another special moment from the Paris gig was when the crowd (or rather Perfume Disco) spotted Perfume’s mentor and choreographer Mikiko-san in the lighting control area at the end and instigated a massive round of applause and cheers of “Mikiko-sensei! Arigatou”. She seemed rather touched and overwhelmed that the crowd recognised her.
Of all the wonderful, unbelievable moments of my World Tour 2nd experience, one thing stands above all else: the fans. I’ve written before about how being a J-pop fan can sometimes be a solitary endeavour when most of your friends aren’t really that interested. I was really overwhelmed to meet so many other passionate fans in Singapore last year, and this European tour brought it on x3.
Thus, my favourite moments from World Tour 2nd were the fan meet-ups and, strangely, the queues.
With the exception of Cologne’s unfortunate downpour, each queue was treated to a glorious day full of sunshine. People were queueing from way early in the morning (as early as 5am in Paris, I heard). By 1pm there must have already been well over 200 people in the queue each time. By 3pm the queue was several hundreds long, hugging the block as it snaked down the long winding streets, causing many an onlooker to stop and ask what was going on. To think that that many people were prepared to stand for over 10 hours in the blazing hot sun before an evening gig is incredible and a real testament to Perfume’s popularity.
Fans had come from all over the world – Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and of course a hardcore contingent from Japan. Among them were the famous of Perfume fandom: Perfukky, Fragrance, Sexy Mafia, Perfume Disco. Many fans, particularly in London, cosplayed for the occasion, choosing a variety of outfits to match Perfume’s wonderful videos. We met friends we’d only known previously online, danced to the tunes, drew banners, handed out fan-made badges and gifts, and just laughed, sang and chatted about the group we love. It was like a Perfume festival every day.
I met some lovely people in the queue, particularly in London where I helped hand out some of the tribute song flyers. I was particularly struck by the camaraderie and friendship. Several of the lucky London meet and greet winners offered to collect and take fan letters and gifts (having totally failed to bring anything to our Cologne meet and greet I made a little Kashiyuka Brit mix of all her favourite British artists). And in an act of supreme kindness and karma, one winner invited our UK fan group organiser as his +1 to the meet and greet. It was a lovely gesture to repay someone who’d gone to all lengths to bring the UK fan community together online.
This was the Perfume community really coming together. It was lovely to welcome friends from Asia that I’d met at the Singapore live and make new friends from Japan, Malaysia, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the UK. We enjoyed our long hours of anticipation in the queue and had dinners, lunches, drinks and a photo-call at the Eiffel Tower. It was lovely to spend each day seeing the same friendly faces greeting you in a new European city and adding to that group each time. And in Paris, at half past the stroke of midnight our post-concert celebrations in the cafe next to the venue ended with an immaculately timed exit just as Perfume were themselves leaving the venue, allowing us to give them a hospitable send off to the whispered tune of Wonder2.
As I told each of the girls at the Cologne meet and greet, Perfume is what brought us all together. Perfume is what gave us all these friendships and for that we are the most grateful.
As A-chan said at the end of each gig: “We all love the same music, the same passion.”
“One chance, one heart.”