Friday, September 09, 2016

PERFUME at Hammerstein Ballroom NYC 09/04/2016

This past weekend, Japanese electro superstars Perfume paid their second visit to New York City. And WOW, what a show.

Let me take a step back for the uninitiated. Perfume is still not very well known in the United States, and it's easy to look at them and think they're some kind of cheesy pop group. They are not.

Perfume describe themselves as "idols with artistry". Produced by Yasutaka Nakata of electro group Capsule, their sound crosses from pop to trance and house. But their sound is only half the story. Every one of their songs is accompanied by a visual overload of futuristic lighting design and stage effects, as well as incredibly intricate and difficult synchronized dance routines. All done in heels. Respect!

Think Daft Punk, if both members of Daft Punk were constantly doing a mix of synchronized hip hop dance, ballet and martial arts moves all concert long. In heels.

They're a true sensory experience like no one else. They make other electronic groups' live shows seem like a bad joke. They have literally redefined the skills required to entertain as an electronic act. Whenever I just listen to one of Perfume's CD's, I feel like I'm missing something. I don't feel like I'm really getting the point.

This is the point. Full-on performance art, just a lot more fun:

That's not my video - in fact that's from their 10th anniversary concert (and may be taken down eventually, so hopefully you see it first). That was shot at Budokan, which is actually a small arena for them in Japan - they often sell out stadiums in their home country. They are YUUUUUGE.

In New York, they've played Hammerstein Ballroom both times they've been here - a much smaller venue than they're probably used to. I saw them both this week and in 2014 - there's actually an official disc of the "WORLD TOUR 3rd" 2014 NYC show:

(also ripe for a record label takedown - enjoy it while you can. Then buy the actual disc.)

I really hope they give this week's show the same treatment, because it was even more visually impressive and it was also the last show of the tour. Drones, lasers, LED costumes, projection mapping, they threw the kitchen sink in there this time around. There are a few fan videos floating around on YouTube - I don't like to embed fan videos, but feel free to search.

I didn't write down or memorize the set list, and I haven't been able to find a good source for the show on the 4th. But here's the set list for the 3rd if anyone's interested - it should be the same or similar:

Cosmic Explorer
Pick Me Up
Cling Cling (Album Mix)
Miracle Worker
Next Stage with YOU
Medley: Relax In The City / Toumei Ningen / Spending All My Time / Fushizen na Girl / Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow / Computer City / Imitation World / Sweet Refrain
Baby Face (Performed with English lyrics)
Dream Fighter
Fake It
Jenny wa Gokigen Naname
(Juicy Fruits cover)
Chocolate Disco (2012-Mix)

STAR TRAIN (Album Mix)

I don't know a lot of their songs by heart yet so I was a little disappointed they didn't play the few that I do know and really like: Game, Party Maker or edge. (They played two of these in 2014.) But, it's a tour promoting their latest album "Cosmic Explorer", so most of the songs were from that. Otherwise, they played a few of the songs that made them famous, which I can't fault them for.

Ah, what the heck. Here's Party Maker again, probably my favorite version of it that I've seen, from the 4th TOUR IN DOME disc:

That's just fantastic. Have you ever even seen a show like this from anyone else?

At the show this week, there were a couple of long MC segments, as is common for Japanese groups, and this time it was almost entirely in English. Nocchi and Yuka-chan are both getting very good at English, and were even able to carry on a conversation with the crowd. A-chan is a little shakier - she's obviously learning but she had to recruit a Japanese-American member of the audience (his name was Ken) to translate most of her comments. This led to some unintended comedy as Ken often wasn't ready and even once admitted to "zoning out" while he was supposed to be listening. Nocchi, who was on his side of the stage, eventually had to give him cues to keep his head in the game.

I'm always amazed at how they can do what they do for hours on end. If you look at the set list carefully, and imagine a couple of long MC's thrown in, you can see that they do give themselves breaks every once in a while. But still - the amount of energy they put into a single song is more than most artists put into an entire show, and that's regardless of genre. And they barely break a sweat. And they do it, again, in heels. This point can't be emphasized enough.

I'm normally more of a rock person myself, but there's just no way to look at what they do and say "eh". They are probably the only group of any kind that makes me say "whoa, look at that!" whenever I see them. And that's true almost whether or not I actually like the song they're singing. (Do they actually sing live? Sometimes. Yes. Not always. The singing's not really the point.)

I'm really not sure how long they can keep this up - they've been around for quite a while now, and this has got to be physically demanding. They said at the show this week that their goal in America is to make it to Madison Square Garden (with all of us). Here's hoping they can do it soon.

ONE TIP: If they somehow make it back to Hammerstein, get tickets on the floor. Both times I've been in the second balcony, and while the sound is good (and loud) everywhere and it's a lot closer than you'd ever get to them in Japan, it still can feel a bit like you're watching the show from outside. Like most Japanese bands, they have no opening band and they start on time. So you don't need to worry about standing around for hours waiting - there was plenty of space only about 20 feet from the stage as late as about 7:45PM, with an 8PM start.

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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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