Sunday, November 01, 2015

SCANDAL at Tokyo International Music Market, 10/21/2015

So I saw SCANDAL for the fourth time in four years on this trip, which is pretty unbelievable, to be honest. I never plan it out; they just always happen to be playing when my wife and I go. This time they were doing some kind of special show for the annual Tokyo International Music Market with Androp, who I'd never previously heard of, and FLiP, the guest opening band.

By now I've been to several Japanese concerts but this was my first "live house" (aka club) show as a member of the general audience. (I'd previously seen Aldious as a guest of the band). It was at Zepp DiverCity Tokyo, not to be confused with Zepp Tokyo (where the "Everybody Say YEAH!" DVD was filmed), although they are literally a few hundred feet apart. (We went to Zepp Tokyo the night after for Chara's Yen Town Band, although that's another post.) Both venues are in Odaiba, one of my favorite areas in Tokyo, and within walking distance to our hotel, which was pretty awesome.

Zepp DiverCity is right behind the giant full-size Gundam that the area's sort of famous for. It's literally inside a mall, with a giant food court right next to it. How many rock clubs have a food court? It feels kind of like going to a 1980's mall multiplex. We did have to wait outside for the show, though - and I'll write up a lot more about the general Japanese club show process and experience in my Yen Town Band post. Things were pretty chill at DiverCity because the crowd wasn't actually that big, but Zepp Tokyo was a lot more hectic.

We got our tickets to SCANDAL from e+, the official ticket seller, and by the time we did we had a pretty high number, so we were lucky to get pretty close to the stage (about 8 heads deep) with a railing to lean on. The venue was not full, which was surprising for a couple of big bands. I don't think SCANDAL advertised this show all that much, and anyway their fans would know it's a small show and probably a short one. Still, these days you don't get a lot of opportunities to get really up close at one of their shows without getting very lucky, so I'd have thought the place would have sold out.

As always, photos inside the venue were not allowed. I tried to grab a snap of the stage but the venue staff were staring at me the entire time - I was right at the side railing with security sitting right next to me (and I'm a westerner so I draw more scrutiny). Luckily the band themselves posted a few shots to their blog and Facebook:

The band looked exactly the same as they did at Rock in Japan Fes. 2015, if you can't tell by the photos.

Some thoughts on the opening bands:

FLiP: To be honest, I didn't know who they were the entire time they were on stage! I've heard of them and seen pictures, but I don't know their music and I'd never seen them play. They rocked pretty hard, though. They feel a lot more like an American indie rock band than SCANDAL does these days, and I dig that. They're raw and unpolished, but in a good way. They only played three songs, but they extended the last one for some audience participation, with the drummer coming out to rile up the crowd the same way Rina sometimes does for SCANDAL.

Androp: There were actually quite a few people in the crowd who were there just for Androp - I saw a lot of Androp t-shirts being worn, and more than a few people left after they finished. But I just didn't get it at all. To me they sound like any generic Japanese rock band you could name; they're a walking stereotype. I suppose their distinguishing feature is supposed to be that they mix electronic music and rock (that's "genre-defying", apparently), but a lot of bands have done that over the past 20 years - it's not unique. I found their melodies unsatisfying, their songs mostly boring, and their stage act predictable. They're like a Japanese Jesus Jones.

As for the main event, let's start with the set list:

M4.Shunkan Sentimental
M5.Shojo S
M6.Kagen no tsuki

M8.Your song

EN1.Awanaitsumorino, genkidene

When I saw SCANDAL on the STANDARD tour, they practically blew the house down with their opening song (the title track to STANDARD). "Stamp!" does not have that same effect, and in fact the mix was strangely quiet - I'm used to them being very loud but this was almost like listening at home. Thankfully they got louder as the show went on. I will say that the crowd was into it from the start - now that I've seen a few more Japanese bands (in fact seven bands in two nights on this trip), I can definitively say that SCANDAL's fans are easily the most nuts about the music. SCANDAL somehow can get the whole place jumping in a way that no other band can.

From "EVERYBODY SAY YEAH" through "Shojo S", it was like the SCANDAL of old. In fact I was a little surprised at how many old songs they chose to play at such a short show, but I was happy that they did. "DOLL" served as the towel-waving song at this show, and luckily this time I managed to buy one so I finally got to participate. It's surprisingly tiring!

All of their old songs sounded heavier than they do on the albums, and I think "DOLL", "Shojo S" and "Shunkan Sentimental" sounded better than I've ever heard them before. They were very crisp and had that nasty attitude that the band used to have but that you rarely hear from them anymore. Haruna's voice has also just gotten better and better since her pre-Budokan vocal troubles, and she's easily hitting all their high notes now with no problem at all. Maybe for the first time, I felt like I was really seeing the same band sing these songs as I saw in their original promotional videos.

Even the choreography for "Shojo S" looked better than I've ever seen it - and it's always one of the most fun things to watch anyway. Haruna obviously loves to do it - I wrote in my Budokan report that she seemed a little over it, but this time she got completely giddy when they started doing those kicks, and all of them were in perfect unison and really put their whole bodies into it. With a short show, no need to save energy!

I missed a bit of the MC but what I did catch sounded like the standard stuff they say at every show, with nothing extra except a couple bits about the HELLO WORLD documentary and their upcoming arena tour. They hadn't prepared any little skits or special announcements for this short concert. Haruna dominated the MC; I don't even remember the others talking at all. Rina fans would have been really disappointed by the entire concert - she was basically invisible from start to finish. At smaller shows the band seems content to just let their leader do all the talking.

The second set was all newer songs, although they all sounded really good - even "Sisters", which is... not my favorite. It works a lot better live than on a recording - if you've seen the video, it really is like that (except their concerts have a lot more guys in the crowd). It's a song tailor made for pogo dancing. And they played it perfectly.

"Your Song" was used for audience participation, as it was last year when I saw them in Nagoya. The "whooooa" parts were extended, with Haruna coming out to fire us up, but it wasn't quite as energetic as Nagoya and it was also a bit shorter (I wrote last year that I felt like Haruna led us into many more "whoas" than planned, just because she loved it). She also hit a couple sour notes on her guitar duet with Mami, which I could see her frown a bit over before shrugging and laughing it off.

Overall it was a really good set for a short show, although I'd always rather see "SCANDAL BABY" in the set list somewhere, and preferably as the encore.

Some random thoughts:

* It was fun to see them in a live house setting, but they really "feel" like more of an arena rock band at this point, unlike FLiP. They're just really polished and professional, and they project seemingly beyond the walls of a live house.

* The rest of the band is always consistent from show to show, but Haruna seemed happier, more relaxed and more confident at this show than at any other I've been to, including Budokan. Maybe it's the effect of getting the braces off?

* SCANDAL's live and recorded personas are definitely diverging. Their releases over the last year have been pretty poppy, but live they are still a really straightforward rock band. In fact, at this show I felt like they had even finally found a way to channel their younger, more aggressive selves a bit to better fit their older songs.

I have a feeling this might be the last time I see them for a while, barring something unexpected - I don't have another Japan trip planned for next year, and anyway my luck's going to run out at some point. I've now seen them play at least one of every type of show - arena, hall, live house. (I guess I haven't seen them play a festival, but that's ok with me - festivals are always a nightmare.) I wish I could have seen another of their big arena shows, but if my last time turns out to be seeing them play these songs this well, and this close to the stage, I can't really complain.

This is my fourth SCANDAL live report - read them all!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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