I was on the plane from MAN to DXB when I finally sat down proper to watch SCANDAL‘s incendiary live performance at Yokohama Arena (‘YokoAri’) on 29 June 2014. The entire gig was televised live on WOWOW but due to bad weather, the first few minutes of the broadcast was messed up. However, the gig was re-broadcasted together with SCANDAL’s other live performances at the Budokan and Osaka Jo-Hall in previous years. Which meant there was an opportunity to get a *koff* copy of the show online, thanks to an unnamed industrious fan somewhere out there, and it was in 1080p to boot.

I had seen a bit of it on my TV (damn, it looked/sounded great) but there was also a 720p download which I converted into .mp4 format and uploaded it into my iPad. I had seen SCANDAL live twice and of course seen many of their live gigs (DVD/Blu-ray/televised), hence, like any ardent fan of the band, I have watched their progress with much interest. It’s no secret to us fans that SCANDAL is a (kind of – not in a Spice Girls way) manufactured band, but they’ve worked their arses off real hard to be where they are now (they are called Japan’s No. 1 gyaruzu bando many a time of late).

When I saw them live in Singapore back in 2013, one would never have thought they pretty much never played guitars/drums just seven years prior. Although, if I were to really nitpick, my gripe with the two Singapore gigs were the lack of variety in their set lists and play-it-as-it-is-on-the-record performances. Not a bad thing, if you think about it – many established bands play the same set night in night out. And to play one’s music live as it is on the record mere reaffirms the girls’ skills as musicians. I’d still like to see them step out of their comfort zone as it were, perhaps more spontaneity in their ad libs. The girls do occasionally attempt ‘free jams’ in their live shows like the bit before Everybody Say Yeah – I sometimes feel MAMI could do so much better in her licks, especially with her having played the guitar for a good few years now. And one thing about MAMI is, she also hit bum notes in the most obvious bits. So, I was looking forward to see their YokoAri performance with some trepidation.

Prior to watching the YokoAri recording, I was stoked to see the set list included their first live performance of SCANDAL IN THE HOUSE. After the house lights came down, the large video screen showed a countdown, following which was the shakuhachi intro to SiTH with the girls arriving onstage all dressed in glitzy circus/harlequin/clown-inspired costumes in tune with the FESTIVAL theme of the YokoAri show. And man, SCANDAL gave the fans a right treat with a fun-filled live rendition going around the three ego ramps that ran out from the central stage.

The main set then kicked off with Awanai after a hearty “YokoAri, IKUZE!!!” from HARU. They didn’t waste a single second and went on to the seminal SCANDAL BABY. HARU didn’t do her 「さいこうのよるにしようね」 shout out until the first MC following which the played Satisfaction, Overdrive and DOLL pretty much back to back. I was really enjoying the flow of the evening thus far with no drop in momentum whatsoever.

I really enjoyed what came next – them performing STANDARD. MAMI was just superb singing the verses whilst HARU did her spoken word bit in the background. This is one of my fav off-kilter SCANDAL song as it is a right rocker compared to their other pop-tinged songs. You could see the audience going pretty nuts at this stage too.

There was a video interlude of the girls during which time they ran off backstage for a costume change. This part of the set saw the bit where HARU is dressed up like the red Angry Bird[1]. The costumes were kinda steampunk-ish in bits but if something like this works for the likes of Lady GaGa, why not eh? They kicked off this segment with Runners high, followed by a mini jam before erupting into ESY during which time the stage was also lit up by multiple tiki torches arranged around the band. One of my favourite bits came soon after when MAMI was doing some echo/phase-shifty noodling on the MAMIcaster as the intro to Kagen. Not too shabby – more of that in gigs to come, MAMItasu, onegaishimasu.

The 2nd MC saw HARU making a comment on her own Angry Bir… I mean, red costume, and what she looked like from the side[2]. The following segment was mellow, starting with the bittersweet tune, well, Bitter Chocolate. Things didn’t stay quiet for long. After Haruka, the sound of thunder and the rain on the PA only meant one thing – Rainy.

The girls looked really serious[3] during this tune, especially RINA (she wrote the words to this one). For some reason or other, HARU’s onstage persona does remind me of Keiko Terada. SCANDAL collaborating with her on recent TV spots is probably rubbing off on her. Oh, I just love MAMItasu’s wah on the solo.

Eventually, smiles were back onstage with Taiyou, Space Ranger and Namida! They ended the set with poignant Departure with a clockwork image on the background screen that reminded me of the imagery associated with the Final Fantasy game series.

SCANDAL came back onstage for the encore typically clad in tour T-shirts to play their latest single, Yoake no Ryuuseigun, from the upcoming Pokemon film. To end the show, TaiKimi saw the girls in each corner of the YokoAri stage playing their hearts out.

The lasses all looked well poised onstage at this gig – TIMO was no longer teary-eyed as she was at OJH in 2013, HARU’s voice was spot on, RINA’s double pedals were a bit more obvious at the end of songs and MAMI was owning the stage, roaming around the three-pronged stage with her guitar like the consummate pro, especially with her Mist Blue Gibbo LP. And I am so glad to report, my MAMItasu didn’t play a single bum note. Yay. The flow of the 20-song set was great and I loved the way they ploughed through the songs from one rocker to another. And there were more chicks in the audience. That’s a sign of making it – to paraphrase Lars Ulrich.

I have to go see them on their home ground. So, here’s to hoping that there will be a new record this autumn and a hall tour in November/December[4].

SCANDAL IN THE HOUSE / 会わないつもりの、元気でね / SCANDAL BABY / サティスファクション / OVER DRIVE / DOLL / STANDARD / Runners high / LOVE SURVIVE / EVERYBODY SAY YEAH / 下弦の月 / ビターチョクレート / ハルカ / Rainy / 太陽スキャンダラス / スペースレンジャー / 涙よ光れ / Departure // 夜明けの流星群 / 太陽と君が描くSTORY

[1]Sorry, that was a tad unfair. ^^
[2]A calculated guess. For a rough translation of MC2: MC-2 YokoAri
[3]I don’t really mind – they need to look badass once in a while.
[4]I will be in the country! Woohoo!