PERFUME Live in London

Japan’s technopop trio make their UK debut…

There was a point not that long ago where the idea of an outfit such as Perfume performing in the UK would have seemed absurd. Following on from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s performance earlier this year, however, it’s clear that times are changing.

When tickets were first announced for the London leg of the Perfume WORLD TOUR 2nd, they sold out almost immediately, prompting a move from the O2 Islington (capacity 800) to the larger O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (capacity 2,000).

It was a surprisingly sunny, hot day in London. Eager fans had begun queuing from early morning at the venue and it was clear from their outfits (and Perfume fan club shirts) that the hardcore element were out in force. In fact there were several Perfume lookalike outfits, including Fragrance – a tribute act who had flown in from Perfume’s original home of Hiroshima especially for the concert.

By the time everyone had finally made it into the venue in the early evening, there was a palpable atmosphere of enthusiasm. With the house lights lowered, there was a huge roar of anticipation from an excited audience.

Making full use of the video projections on their dresses, Perfume recreated their Cannes performance featuring the remixed ‘Spending All My Time’. It served as the perfect intro and the song was given much more impact, enhanced by the superb projections both on the dresses and on the screen. There were times when you couldn’t be quite sure what you were watching as the projections would randomly break up the profiles of the girls on the darkened stage.

Then it was straight into the harmonic melodies of ‘Magic Of Love’, Perfume’s most recent release, and a performance in which the audience could finally see the girls more clearly with much cheering in response. But it was the technopop treats of ‘Laser Beam’ that really set everyone off. As one of Perfume’s most well known numbers, it transferred seamlessly into a live setting. The criss-crossing lasers creating a dazzling mesh of light that suggested the stage was far larger that it actually was.

Keeping the fans happy early, ‘Polyrhythm’ followed next, prompting an enormous reaction from the crowd. Then it was time for a break as the girls brought the house lights up for an MC segment. This allowed Aa-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi to introduce themselves properly – and included a point where Nocchi grabbed a towel stating “Too hot – Sweat girl!” Then it was time for an impromptu Japanese lesson as the girls asked if everyone used Facebook – and then taught everyone the Japanese version of Facebook’s ‘like’, which is ii ne.

Keep the conversation UK-focused, the chat then moved onto food and the traditional British dish of Fish & Chips which, apparently, is much tastier than the Japanese equivalent. This also prompted the girls to induce a little rivalry by declaring the stalls crowd to be “CHIPS!” and the upper balconies to be “FISH!”, insisting each section call out their assigned name when prompted.

After all those fun and games, it was time to jump straight back into the songs with a heavy bass-enhanced ‘Spring Of Life’ followed by an equally percussive rendition of ‘Seventh Heaven’. The latter seems an odd choice for the setlist when the outfit has so many more heavy hitters in their arsenal. Its one that also interestingly appears to have a few Kyary Pamyu Pamyu-style licks in its closing bars. ‘Spice’ follows up with a more stripped-down stage presentation with the girls flawless choreography picked out by simple spotlights.

There’s a brief interlude at this juncture (with video projections and an instrumental version of Handy Man), allowing the girls time to leave the stage and change their outfits. The trio return having swapped out their white dresses for more dazzling outfits with bold triangulated colours. Then it’s straight into a rendition of ‘Daijobanai’ – again another usual choice of song, originally the B-side of their earlier 2013 ‘Mirai no Museum’ single release. It’s a stomper of a song though with its rapid-fire beats perfectly complimented by Perfume’s synchronized movements. That’s followed by the percussive glory that is ‘Electro World’ whose driving beats and crunchy rhythms seem almost custom-built for a live performance.

After that rousing section of the show, it’s time to stop for another MC for the PTA Corner segment of the show. This is a regular feature of standard Perfume gigs and consists of call-outs to sections of the audience. So if you’re a girl, shout out, if you’re wearing glasses, then shout out etc. Then it’s onto a call and response performance of the ‘Hamigaki’ (toothbrushing) song, which did appear to lose much of its impact on a UK audience. This shapes up into what appears to be an aerobics performance as the audience are guided through hand-waving techniques to take part in an upcoming song. It’s a tricky thing to follow and makes you appreciate how complicated the choreography actually is – and we were just trying it with one hand.

To win the audience back over however, the Perfume trio embarked on a brief rendition of Queen classic ‘We Will Rock You’, which got an enthusiastic response with the whole venue clapping in unison.

From there, it was straight into the last section of the concert as the sped-up intro of ‘Fake It’ kicked off. ‘Dream Fighter’ follows, with handy lyrics on the screen for the audience to follow. Then it’s time for the instantly recognizable intro to ‘Chocolate Disco’, one of Perfume’s earlier and yet still consistently popular songs – particularly live as the crowd are encouraged to thrust their hands up at the end of each chorus.

Sadly, it’s then time for the last song, which is the energetic ‘My Color’. This gives the audience the opportunity to practice the hand choreography from earlier, so congratulations if you managed to pull this feat off.

But the crowd is still hungry for more and a frenzied bout of clapping and chanting begins until the girls return to the stage. And now it’s decision time as a list of tunes appears on stage inviting us to vote for the final song. Will it be ‘Nee’, ‘GLITTER’ or ‘Love the World’? The crowd is encouraged to shout the loudest as each track is read out, but to my ears every song is equally welcomed. In the end the girls decide that ‘GLITTER’ has got the biggest response and so our final song of the evening is the bassy beats of this 2011 track. Along the way, the girls encourage once again the “FISH!” and “CHIPS!” segments of the audience leaving everyone on a high. As the girls say their goodbyes at the end, Aa-chan thanks the audience and states that they all “feel the same passion for music”.

Merchandise was available at the venue, although copies of some of the singles and the Love the World CD swiftly sold out – as did the special PTA T-Shirts. Lucky people at the end were able to snap up some of the live DVDs however. Plus, there were plenty of tour shirts and towels to go around at the end.

So what’s the conclusion about Perfume’s historic UK debut? It was certainly a superb performance, albeit not the full-on epic scale visual spectacle that their Japanese concerts consist of (for comparison, Tokyo Dome has a capacity of over 50,000).

Also, Perfume are now at the stage where they’ve released so many songs, that making setlist choices is going to be difficult. Personally, I’d have liked more Triangle-era tunes like ‘One Room Disco’ or ‘Night Flight’, but for the moment we’re going to be wondering on what Perfume’s returns plans are, if any. I suspect that judging by the enthusiastic response of their fans tonight though, this is a foregone conclusion.

Issue 3 of ELECTRONIC SOUND features an interview and article on Perfume. More info:

This article originally appeared on J-Pop Go.