I started listening to SCANDAL about three years ago because of the anime BLEACH[1], especially after watching this PV[2] of 少女S: 

Yes, the dancing-in-the-rain-whilst-playing-guitar routine sold me and I have been listening to this quartet from Osaka ever since. What I hadn’t bargained for was that I was to see the girls live, and I got to do just that this weekend in Singapore. Twice.

SCANDAL announced a short Asian (more like South East Asian) Tour for 2013 to begin shortly after their massive Jo-Hall Arena gig in Osaka in March. The four-day tour dates included two days in Singapore, and luckily, I was to be in KL at that time. The last (and only) time I did a two-day-in-a-row was for Pearl Jam[3] last summer in Manchester. I snapped my tickets for both days the moment SISTIC opened the sales online, and luckily they were very easy to obtain. Perhaps SCANDAL fans are less rabid than those I’m used to when obtaining tix for the likes of Metallica, Pearl Jam… in fact, anyone/any band that I have seen in the UK. The great thing about SISTIC was that I could get the tix printed at their official agents, one of which was a stone’s throw away in Mont Kiara. So, no worries about tix getting lost in the mail.

The venue was near Orchard Road and it was pretty much a complex that contained yoof-related goodies including a hall for live music performances, a skateboard park and shops. I swung by the place at Saturday lunch time (the day of the first gig) only to find that hardcore fans had started queuing since Friday night[4]. We returned to the venue an hour before the doors were opened and once we got in, I made sure I was at stage left[5]. There wasn’t an opening act (which was great) and it was a painless wait as with the short line check, plus a couple repeats of the Microsoft Windows 8 ad, it was less than an hour until Haruna et al hit the stage.

A prompt start at 7PM saw the girls kicking off the set with HARUKAZE (lit. spring breeze) which was another BLEACH-related ditty. I have to make this comment now, though – although the fans went bonkers from the band’s first note, the punters were, shall I say, well-behaved. You won’t be caught in a mosh in this crowd, and all you need to do is survive the painful joints you get from waving light sticks in time to the beat of the music. Shunkan Sentimental, another anime-related tune came next. Everyone clapped along and those who knew the words, despite not being their mother tongue, sang along. I am bad with lyrics, let alone those in another language, so no way in hell I’d be able to do a SCANDAL sing-along (apart from the uh-oh uh-oh in Satisfaction). Gear-wise, Haruna had her glittering double-humbuckered silver Squier Tele and Tomo her black Fender Precision. My dearest Mami-chan had her American Standard black HSS Strat and, man, was I the happiest bloke on the planet to see her. They did switch their guitars but due to the short length of the tour, the girls didn’t carry their entire arsenal of guitars with Haru playing her Fender Thinline Tele, Tomo her blue racing striped Squier Jazz bass and Mami-chan’s white customised Squier Jazzmaster.

I was made happier when they did Shoujo-S. Whilst they couldn’t do the one-legged-back-kick dance routine in its entirety, they did enough of it, I can assure you that. They played a couple of harder tunes from Queens Are Trumps, their last proper record (the recent release, Encore Show, was mainly a collection of B-sides) – Rock ‘n Roll which segued into Queens are trumps accompanied by way of Mami-chan’s guitar feedback.

My favourite and most anticipated segment of the gig was DOLL, their debut major label single. This song when performed live has the audience twirling their towels[6] during the chorus, and prior to its performance, Tomo would grab a towel telling the punters to twirl by saying “Mawashite! Mawashite! Mawashite!” (まわして! lit. turn), in time to Rina’s drumming. This time, however, being in Singapore, Tomo actually went “Twirling! Twirling! Twirling!” ^ ^. After, あの。。。 twirling to our hearts’ content, we were treated to Pride followed by early material in the form of the rocking Kagerou, a single released independently limited to a few thousand copies prior to them being signed to Sony/Epic. Want You was a Mami-chan-penned Haruka B-side from 2011 and this was the first time I’ve heard it live (couldn’t see any YouTube vids of this song before). By this time, I realised that apart from the MC segment[7], the girls were belting out tunes pretty much non-stop.

The familiar Space Ranger (or phonetically Supesu Renjiyaa), their first ever single, came as a treat next but I was further stoked when Mami-chan played the 4-note repeat riff for Taiyou Scandalous (lit. scandalous sun?). This time, I was able to do more than na na na na as I only know two lines – かなりスキャンダラス! and 神様お願い。Heh. I think I got a lil’ carried away by mawashite-ing the towel when no-one around me did during the last na na na na bit. Oh well, no one died or lost an eye.

By the time they played LOVE SURVIVE, any gig-goer who had not seen SCANDAL can tell that the girls are real. Real in the sense that they are real working musicians and not just some souped up girl band playing pretend[8]. If anyone does think that they are just onstage looking pretty whilst wielding guitars, they are so wrong. Everybody Say Yeah was a major jump fest for the punters and they ended the main set with Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku STORY.

The 5-minute wait for the encore saw the audience shouting “Encore!” slowly evolving into “En-ko-ru!” which is the way it is done in Japan. The girls came back onstage and I was disappointed that they didn’t change into their tee-shirts as they do in their Japanese gigs. I guess this was due to the shorter set on this Asian Tour. Haruna expressed how happy she and her bandmates are to be back in Singapore (this is their third visit) and promptly kicked off the encore section with Satisfaction, which was originally another Haruka B-side but is now used on the Japanese Windows 8 ads. The encore was bookended by Scandal Baby, the obligatory encore song for most of their shows.

For the second gig the next day, the show started earlier in the afternoon, and I was hoping that there would be a difference in the set list. In all honesty, they could play one song on repeat throughout the show and I would still love it, but my dream set list was to include KOSHI-TANTAN, Playboy, Tokyo, Roppongi Shinjuu and Right Here. They hadn’t played any of their slower songs (like Sayonara My Friend or one piece, to name two) or the more ‘playful’ sounding Ring! Ring! Ring! at all, but I’m not too bothered. However, I had noticed that day 1 had an identical set with that of Jakarta’s gig earlier in the week.

The girls got onstage promptly onstage at 3PM and from the first few songs, it was obvious that there was no change. So far. But hey, that was OK too. It wasn’t until mid-way into the the set that Haruna said they were playing Hoshi no Furu Yoro Ni (lit. in the night of the falling stars), which they performed at the recent Osaka Jo-Hall gig. Once again, the second night was superb and I somehow felt Haruna sounded so much better. My friend who was on Tomo’s side of the stage noticed that she wasn’t her usual spunky self. That aside, Rina’s drumming was spot on and for a pretty lady, she doesn’t ‘maintain ayu‘ at all – headbanging baeek punya. My last personal observation is of Mami-chan’s playing. I had noticed bum notes in the past and unfortunately they occur at the climactic end of some of her solos. Nary a bum note on both these nights (and in recent performances, too). すごい!

What I haven’t mentioned yet here are the brief meet-the-band seshes after each of the shows (hi-touch session, which implies a milder version of the high five with the girls). I had some choice complimentary phrases in nihon-go for each of them and when it was my turn, security told me to hold on for a while as they wanted the line ahead of me to move on. Hence, when I got to the girls, it was just me and them, and the first thing that greeted me was a smiling Tomo-chan going “Helllllooooooooo!!!” And all those choice phrases went immediately out of the window. I could manage a garbled arigatou (I think) to Rina-chan and Mami-chan, and managed a じゃまたね (see you later) to Haru-chan. Of course, I was immediately taunted with “photos-or-it-didn’t-happen” comments on FB but no photos were allowed, and even if it was, it was at most ten secs spent with the girls and it really not feasible. For the second gig’s hi-touch, I was a bit more prepared. I was to jokingly say まわして!まわして! (in reference to the towel-twirling during DOLL) to Tomo-chan but it was Haruna that was first in line. Managed a みなさんはすごいです/すばらしいです whilst high-fiving Rina-chan and Mami-chan, but my favourite bit of the sesh was my request for them to play live in England to Tomo-chan (イングランドにきてください、おねがいします!) to which she went “KYEEEEEEH?!!!” in true Ogawa Tomomi style. I do hope she didn’t think I had just said something rude instead. Heh.

Happy man? What do you think?

I would like to say a big どうもありがとうございました to Azizul and Sidney once again for their help with many things SCANDAL this past weekend.

All photos © 2013 E.Ang/Sony Music Entertainment.

*SCAPE, Singapore
16.3.13 set
: HARUKAZE / 瞬間センチメンタル / 少女S / Rock ’n Roll / Queens are trumps / DOLL / Pride / カゲロウ / Want You / スペースレンジャー / 太陽スキャンダラス / LOVE SURVIVE / Everybody Say Yeah / 太陽と君が描くSTORY // Satisfaction / Scandal Baby
17.3.13 set: as above, except 星の降る夜に in the place of スペースレンジャー

[1]I don’t watch that much anime, but BLEACH seems to hog quite a bit of good stuff (including those from up and coming groups/bands/singers) for their opening and closing montages.
[2]PV means promotional video (or as they say it in Japan – promotion video~プロモーション・ビデオ), not that medical examination.
[3]Best band on the planet. Period.
[4]I’m all for dedication but my days of being on my feet for 13 hours straight to be at the front row are over.
[5]The まみ zone, of course.
[6]I’ve seen beer bottle openers, hip flasks and g-strings sold as band merch, but towels with the band name printed on them are pretty much very Japanese.
[7]MC in this instance is in the context of the original term ‘master of ceremony’ and in Japan it denotes a break in between performances where the singer/band speaks to the audience. Whilst this is common practice in any live music performance, I find that MC segments are specifically highlighted in live releases of Japanese artistes. On day 1, the girls described their penchant for popiah and laksa, whilst the next day saw them talking about missing Japanese food as well as talking about Universal Studios in Singapore. Tomo-chan’s humming of the Jurassic Park theme and Mami-chan’s まみやき remark just made wanna… nemind. ^ ^
[8]There is this YouTube video which showed one of their earliest gigs, and suffice to say, they have worked pretty damn hard to be where they are today.