The writing of this post began some time in November 2014. Heh.

A friend of mine introduced me to this three-piece from Hiroshima when I was attending SCANDAL’s gig in Singapore last spring. Perfume is a vocal group[1], comprising A-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi, that pretty much sits in the Shibuya-kei/dance/techno/EDM category, thanks to music by Capsule‘s Nakata Yasutaka. I initially didn’t pay much attention to Perfume, as I was at that moment much ensconced in all things SCANDAL.

Until bits of Perfume’s material were subliminally introduced to me by way of one of their most popular tunes, ワンルーム・ディスコ (Chocolate Disco), which was brought to my attention in a J-Drama called 13-sai no Hello Work 「13歳のハローワーク」, I began to slightly notice the trio and began to listen to some of the tunes, which were kinda all right. Then, I went to Japan in March of this year and I began to use some of their music for my GoPro time lapse videos.

Perfume played at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2013, and from what videos I got to see, that London show was a pale comparison to their mega stages they’d perform on when they do an arena tour in Japan. They then announced a world tour supporting their LEVEL3 album which included a London date.

My interest was slightly piqued especially on seeing the slightly better stage set compared to 2013, but I wasn’t still that bothered. Until I received an e-mail telling me that there were still tickets available a couple of months prior to the show. I think it was a culmination of checking their stuff out and the Japan trip, which included regular visits to Shibuya[2], which made me buy a ticket. And I bought myself a circle seat ticket (those were all that was left), but one which would command a pretty decent view.


The Hammersmith Apollo.

The Apollo (now called the Eventim Apollo) was pretty much next to the tube station. By the time I arrived, the queue had long since disappeared as people began to mill around the foyer and the first floor. There were two merchandise stands but it was a maddening crowd. Despite the lawlessness of the non-queue system they were adopting, I managed to snag a tour tee, a live DVD and something else which I managed to get but after the show. The crowd demographic was a mixed bag, including a noticeable number of Japanese expatriates.


From left: Kashiyuka, A-chan and Nocchi.

Security was pretty strict, enforcing the ‘no photos’ rule. A Perfume live performance typically includes an abundance of lasers and digital images, which meant that fans were not allowed to bring in light sticks (I still think it’s so otaku and should be reserved for certain acts) or anything to that effect. I did bring a camera (trying to push my luck) but as security was literally making the rounds looking for glowing smartphones, I kept it in my satchel.

There was an announcement in nihon-go and English that the show was about to start and again reminding the audience about the ‘no photo’ rule. A black screen hung over the stage with Perfume WORLD TOUR 3rd projected on it. Once the house lights were down, the screen showed computer-stylised images of the world map indicating the cities Perfume were playing. And that unmistakeable synth intro to Enter the Sphere. The Apollo was in mayhem. Kinda, in a J-pop way.


The jaw-dropping projection digital graphics for Enter the Sphere. [Screen capture from YouTube of the NYC leg of the tour.]

The screen went down revealing the three girls doing that familiar ‘running girl’ dance routine. Sorry, that’s the only way I know how to put it.

Spring of Life came on next and it felt like they were doing a mainly Level 3 promo until they did their current single, Cling Cling. They went on with a few older favourites surprisingly starting with One Room Disco. I have to admit that I haven’t had this much fun with dance music for the longest time. And I wasn’t the only one.

In the middle of the show, the girls asked if there was anyone in the audience who could help translate the MC that they were doing next. A guy volunteered, and unfortunately despite his best efforts, his translation was a tad clumsy. A-chan was describing how different the sun visors are in British cars size-wise compared to Japanese ones, as she jokingly complaining of being blinded by the sun in the car when they were being driven about in London. Kashiyuka said she enjoyed her visit to an English pub. They then asked the audience where in London should they go eat, and someone shouted back, “NANDO’S!!!”. ぜったいわるいよ! They also asked if there was a good place for coffee to which a myriad of answers were given from the audience. I didn’t think they heard my suggestion for Kaffeine, although I’m sure someone did shout “Monmouth!“, as opposed to, err… Starbucks.

I gathered that the set list only changed ever so slightly with every gig in this short world tour. Spending all my time from LEVEL3 was a chance for all to do karaoke (the lyrics were part of the digital graphics) although the words were pretty easy to remember. My fav bit was when Perfume did the fist-pumping GAME. To end the main set, they did GLITTER, the eponymous Chocolate Disco and Polyrhythm. For the encore, they finished the show with Handy man and MY COLOR.

By the time the encore ended, I had to concede that Perfume’s material is best appreciated by accepting and enjoying the whole lip-syncing/light show spectacle. My take on the whole thing is this – that Perfume is merely another face carrying Nakata’s vision and sound. You could tell that there was some actual singing by the girls, but for the most part, due to their heavily processed sound, the lip-syncing is, unfortunately, necessary. Despite the limitation of what they could bring on this tour, you couldn’t help but to marvel at the projection mapping[3] technology employed, although I would’ve love to actually see the wearable unit tech in action.


My stash, post-gig.

Yeah, I’d love see the girls live again, but this time I wanna see a proper full production in an arena. You know where I need to fly off to for that, don’t you.

Hammersmith Apollo, London 12.11.2014 set: Enter the Sphere / Spring of Life / Cling Cling / ワンルーム・ディスコ / ねぇ / SEVENTH HEAVEN / Hold Your Hand / Spending all my time / GAME / Dream Fighter / Party Maker / GLITTER / チョコレイト・ディスコ / ポリリズム // Handy Man / MY COLOR

[1]I’d say these girls are a straight on pop group as opposed to aidoru, although from the way some of their die-hard fans love them, you’d think otherwise.
[2]Perfume’s music to some extent is described as Shibuya sound (Shibuya-kei).
[3]Damn impressive if you ask me. Check this one out, where the projection is mapped specifically onto a costume!