I’ve never done a concert review…but this most recent concert tour of Morning Musume’s made me want to.
I’d been waiting for this concert for a long time, partly because of how much I enjoyed Resonant Live, but also because I really loved the ninth album, enough that I was beyond curious as to how some of the tracks would translate live. Some times it’s better in the studio and sometimes a song is better live. There have been a bunch of album tracks from Momusu that I felt pretty neutral about until I saw them performed. Then suddenly there was something wonderful about them. ‘Love and Peace (etc)’ is one example.
So, I wondered if this concert would make me love the album more or make me think that most of it was better in the studio. Saying that “it was better in the studio” isn’t necessarily a crack at their singing abilities. It’s a matter of preference. Like I said, some things just sound better on the album because they are hard to translate live.
With Resonant Live they really stepped up with their dancing and their stage presence. The costumes were awesome (with two noteable and baffling exceptions) and it was interesting that they gave us some new tracks before the album came out. It seemed like they were really enjoying themselves, but also that their stability had given them their confidence back.
I remember the dark year after Yossy and Miki left, when they were finding their feet and how disastrous the Singles concert was for me. It felt like they were singing someone else’s songs. It was Morning Musume performing the songs of another group. This has less to do with the fact that the original lineups were absent and more to do with the annoying fall-back-on-Takahashi way just about every song seemed to go.
As a performer, I think she’s top-notch. However, having Takahashi plus her backup dancers is just boring.
I realize some of the girls had solos and whatever, but it was so hard to watch. A Momusu concert should never be hard to watch.
Resonant Live gave me confidence in them as a group. I keep saying that I love the way they are now and such. I really think a new member would have messed them up. It was a smart move to let them be for a year or two (however long these nine girls have been together now). Now they not only have a stronger bond, but they have two albums done and, including the upcoming, seven singles to call their own.
Before I start this review thing, which will be organized according to whim (cause that’s just how I roll), I must say that I honestly didn’t enjoy this one as much as Resonant Live, BUT it did make me think about some things, notice some things and get horribly disgusted with Winky (Reina). And not for the usual ‘herhairisthesamestopwinkingandeataburgersquirrelvoice’ reasons.
So, on with the capping. Ah, I love capping. It’s what having a blog and way too much time on your hands is all about.
1) Things I just did not Understand
The costuming for some of these numbers…
Firstly: giant things on their heads. All the time.
Look! Hippy mumus + enormous pink hats! Also, there are flowers on their boots. Emphasis on the pink giant flowers. Why do they need these exactly?
What is their obsession with giant things on their heads?
I’m sorry, is it cuter somehow when the bow is bigger than her ENTIRE FACE? And she would have looked so cool without it.
That’s not as bad as this though:
Second thing: Too. Much. Pink.
The song is not too bad, considering it’s Nutjob…who I think I’ll call Koharu for this review because in this concert she’s really toned it down.
And yes, I will admit her voice has gotten better. It’s kinda like Ishikawa’s used to be. Junjun has completely become Michishige’s disciple. I can’t tell if she’s channeling Sayu because she wants to be that character or because she’s subtly making fun of it.
Some times you just can’t tell with Junjun.
Now we come to the darkest of the bad costuming.
Look! A birthday cake ate a box of crazy hats and then THREW UP ON THESE THREE!
And again, the hats are too freakin big. I think there are things that are supposed to be flowers, but remind me of those over-sized ears from that “oh my ear got bigger” gag.
Yes, Guruguru Jump is a crazy, colourful song…but give us a break. There is being creative and there is just slapping a bunch of props on some pink dresses. Their costumes for this song in Resonant Live were at least coherent, if not overly colourful (plus they looked a hell of a lot nicer).
Oh…the hats. These costumes aren’t as bad as they could be. Just…bright.
The hats are just too much for me.
I do love that Koharu’s hat is the biggest and the most crack-tastic.
Firstly: Michishige’s solo – It’s You.
I love the song because it’s not the usual Michishige fare – something sugary and saturated in pink. She still manages to have her mickey mouse ears and pink lighting, but it feels more like she’s teasing that version of herself. She’s toying with a sexy image here that is always mischievous and never steps over the edge into ‘too much’ or ‘cartoony’. She was confident and cute and absolutely basking in her spot light.
That’s always been the best thing about her – her absolute confidence in whatever she was doing. It seems like she’s always been herself without worrying about anything. You really get the feeling here that she was born to perform.
Takahashi and Kamei are back-up dancers, looking cool but you really don’t need them there. Michishige pwns. Her legs look amazing…
The silhouette effect was really awesome. She gets everything right there: her pink, her spotlight and her cool.
I really get the feeling that she’s worked hard for this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but she’s always done duets and she’s never gotten a solo. Ishikawa and to a lesser extent Koharu proved that you don’t neccessarily need an amazing voice to be a good performer. If you can captivate the audience with some sort of charm, something that draws the eye or makes someone smile, then you’ve pretty much got this idol thing down. Michishige has it. She’s by no means my favourite of the girls, but I was pretty proud of her. I couldn’t take my eyes away.
And really, who else can pull off sexy with mickey mouse ears?
Secondly Jounetsu no Kiss wo Hitotsu – Winky, Takahashi and Niigaki.
I honestly don’t think I can call Niigaki by her old nickname ‘mame’ in this review. I want to, because she really is still the sweetest thing ever…but in this performance she is not little anymore. It’s like she woke up that morning and decided she was a mature, drop-dead gorgeous woman. She and Takahashi pwn so much that Winky seems like a completely superfluous addition.
I’m not just being mean to poor Winky, I really think she added nothing to what was otherwise an amazing performance. I was worried because this song is pretty different for Morning Musume. I don’t mind Reina in the album version, but once I saw her on stage I just thought she couldn’t pull it off at all. First is the chair. All the girls ‘interact’ with this chair. I suppose it’s supposed to represent the love their singing about. I don’t know the meaning of all the lyrics, obviously, but I’ve gathered that it’s a bittersweet love story – one that is quite sad and passionate. You just did not get this from Winky.
She seemed like she was pouting the whole time. Like she was sad, but it was making her indignant more than anything else.
I also wish she’d let her hair down. The sidefro makes her look much younger than she is. She needed to have a mature look and she really didn’t.
Takahashi, meanwhile, emotes like crazy. She was afraid to touch the chair for all the pain it caused her. She was frustrated, she was wistful, she was nearly in tears…And she pwns the hell out of her every line. All the vocalizations she does in the album version were impressive, but on stage it could have gone really badly, or been squeaky. She sounded strong to me. All that emotion really surged through those lines. This girl was really made for musicals. She oozes maturity mingled with vulnerability. Yes, her voice is always strong and so on, but this song needed a strong base and she was just that, both in terms of vocals and in terms of the ‘acting’ that was going on. The chair idea might have been a little odd, but they made it work. Acting is a lot more interesting and adds a lot more depth to the song. Just standing there singing the song might have been dull.
While Takahashi is the emotional base for this song, Niigaki is the sensual base. There are times when she is so wistful and dreamy-eyed that you aren’t sure where exactly she is inside that gorgeous head of hers. She completely makes love to that chair, in a classy and subtle way. Everytime she sits, this look of rapture passes over her face and then she looks abandoned and stares into the audience, looking for wherever this person who left her has gone. At the same time though, she can’t hold back a smile or two, because she can’t quite forget that she absolutely adores singing. Her sweetness never goes away, but she feels the song all through her.
Winky needs to learn that there are times when you can be the idol and there are times when you need to show a bit of vulnerability. I understand that pretending a chair is the object of your bittersweet love is a bit much, but at least try. Don’t pout and pose and look like the chair just refused to buy you a new purse. If she really is the new ‘ace’ of Momusu, she needs to be more versatile. I will say that her singing was spot on. I just don’t really get why she was there. She still has the air of a kouhai. It’s almost like she’s riding high on her popularity and is leaping ahead when she should be still and learn a bit more. Takahashi and Niigaki really do seem like leader and sub-leader in this performance. They give the emotion, the joy and the skill of real performers. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying, it feels like they are simultaneously giving in to the pain of the lyrics and the joy of singing onstage.
Regardless of my bias against Reina, especially in this concert, I do think my concerns are valid. She felt fake in this one. Arrogant when she had no right to be. Maybe it really is just me, but she still needs to learn a few things before I’d consider her an ‘ace’.
All – How do you Like Japan + Love and Peace (etc.)
The random leopard-print-kitty-hoodies are all kinds of awesome. It’s the Momusu way – take something that should be flashy and cool and put kitty ears on it. It works somehow. I capped the hell out of ‘How do you like Japan’ and I couldn’t capture anything close to the energy of this performance. Everyone goes for it. Even those girls, like Kusumi or Kamei, who were sort of holding back a bit eventually start thrashing about and yelling, “say yeah!” I wish I could properly describe the way it built and exploded.
I didn’t find one single solo line that I didn’t like, with the minor exception of Takahashi’s attempt at Yossy’s crazy line. I’m sorry, no one else can make ‘bloopblipwhateverthedamnsoundwas’ cool the way Yossy could. She tried.
Linlin got a solo line and pwned.
No matter how many I capped this moment, Junjun always looked extremely pissed off.
Niigaki. Kicks. Ass.
She’s absolutely fierce. Hers was the only “say YEAH” that always hit me the way Yossy does when she pwns a line. During this song, she completely lets go. It ceases to be Morning Musume and becomes Niigaki and her bitches. She revels in it. I really think the rest of them fed on her energy.
Where did Mame go?
Normally I think there is no way she can sell gangsta tough or whatever the vibe is supposed to be for this song, but in this performance she just owns the stage for me. Everyone was awesome though. I can’t put it into words any better than I have and my caps fall horribly short of showing just how awesome this performance really was. This song was made for Niigaki. It might not have been that way initially, but she must adore this song, because she just takes it over.
Some performers just make you so happy…
And Love and Peace (etc.).
There is a lot of member love during this song, which is always the best part of it. The reason I loved it so much is because of all the times Takahashi is attacked.
Junjun, goin’ for the face.
Ai does not want.
Not to be outdone, Michishige takes what should be an innocent frolic…
…And turns it into this.
So Takahashi says, “What the hell. She won’t stop till I do it anyway.”
Nope. Still does not want.
(short flash forward…)
Aika, however, always welcomes a kiss…they kiss at least three times in this performance.
Michishige, stop taking advantage of the young ones!
(and now back to Love and Peace)
Then we have Winky and Kamei doing something completely random. Notice Niigaki winking like a mad-thing up there on the screen.
No idea what’s going on. It was just random as hell…
8th Gen is also insane. Aika gets the crowd to sing for her, Junjun channels Michishige and Linlin is laying an egg, ballerina style.
It was just all kinds of joy. Less of a structured dance than a crazy free-for-all. For this song, it works.
3) Tanaka VS Junjun
What a bitch.
Ok, seriously though. Winky was kinda mean.
I realize that the MC in which she rejects Junjun’s offer to come over and teach her English was meant to be cute and silly and such, but why did she have to say, “I’m interested, I just don’t want you to come (to my home)” rather than a simple “no thanks”?
Then why did she have to make fun of her tone of voice and tell her she hated her character?
[Paraphrased] “You keep coming up to me, even backstage and talking in that weird voice. I thought, ‘are you in love with me or something’?”
Uh…no. She’s trying out things. You, as her sempai, must remember the days when you were trying out characters and things, right? Even if you don’t like it, there are nicer ways of telling someone that. Like, backstage and NOT in front of thousands of fans where Junjun is not allowed to have any other reaction than to smile politely?
She did say she likes the normal Junjun ‘better’ and on her radio show she has said she’s very glad that Junjun is in Momusu along with Linlin, but…that moment just really rubbed me the wrong way.
It would have bothered me no matter who was saying it.
Later on, when they’re saying their goodbyes, Junjun gives a really sweet speech about how thankful she is for the fans smiles and their loud voices. She says that it makes her feel that they are all always together and she’s happy to have seen them.
And how does Winky respond?
Sarcastic jazz-hands: “Theeeeeeere’s Junjun…tsch. gawd!”
She really bothered me. There was a layer of arrogance in everything Winky did in this concert. Admittedly, Junjun was a little odd. She was really trying out this cute character that reminded me of Michishige (as I’ve said) and some times it worked and some times she just looked like a freak.
I like it better when she’s cool and pimp-like, ala the last two singles. So in a way I can’t blame Winky for speaking up. But, really, be nice about it.
Also, make your solos a bit more interesting.
Sounds great and yet it’s boring.
4) Favourite Performers
Two girls stood out, aside from Takahashi who is consistently strong.
That girl can sing.
It’s been said before, probably by everyone who saw this concert. When you give her a line, she will sing her little heart out. Her little gospel-inspired intro to ‘Aozora wa Itsumademo (etc)’ was completely unexpected, strong and beautiful. Her voice reminds me of Ayaka (Coconuts Musume) a little bit, with more strength, although that could be more about how she looks so much like her.
What I love most about her as a performer is the fact that she enjoys it so much. She still a little stiff at times, a little clumsy, a little odd, but when she really gets into her line she dives in there and feels it. I’m a complete sucker for a performer who can’t hide how much she enjoys singing. Yossy’s like that. Nakazawa is. Nacchi is.
Also, she just looked a lot cooler in this concert, if we ignore the insane ear/flower/hat/birthdaycake dress they made her wear for ‘Guruguru Jump’. The depth of her vocals really adds something. With both her and Junjun, I get the sense that they are so happy to just be on stage that they really don’t mind if they only get one line per song. They love singing so much that it’s fine just to be able to do it. And that attitude is wonderful. She seems humble too, which is always adorable when one is so clearly talented. My eyes were drawn to her a lot and that hasn’t happened before.
And now, the obvious one: Niigaki.
Channeling Yossy and making me go KAKKOIIIBWAY8Y3Q43BEKFI7YGASJBFASGH!!! She and Takahashi absolutely murdered ‘The Manpower’, and I mean that in a good way. They gave her Yossy’s part and she was awesome.
I’ve gone through most of what I would have said already: how much she loves performing and how obvious it is, how sweet she seems and how mature she’s looking. In this concert she just kept showing all different shades of herself: she’d be bubbly, smiley Mame, then smouldering sexy, then mischeivous, then fierce…and so on. Her voice is confident, it’s rich, it’s sweet…it’s all kinds of things. She’s grown up so much, but that child-like gratitude she’s always seemed to have that she’s in Momusu at all is still there. Ever since Yossy has been gone, I’ve not really known who to watch – pathetic as that must sound. I tried watching Kamei because her dancing is so awesome, but she just wasn’t as interesting as Niigaki was. She smiled, she sang well, she danced well, but she didn’t make me sit up and yell, “she’s so friggin’ awesome!” which I did for Niigaki several hundred times. Ask my poor brother, who had to watch it with me. I wouldn’t shut up about her. Well, I wouldn’t shut up in general, but that’s beside the point.
Look at that face! I was so happy they gave her Yowamushi. It should have been hers from the start.
I have so many more screencaps of her that I could do another post with all of them. She was that good. As the title suggests, she was the reason I decided to do this post. I’ve said it before: I really think that she’s still in it for love of Momusu, more than anything else. All the girls have their own reasons and I’m sure money has something to do with it, but I’ve never seen Niigaki do anything but adore her job.
She’ll be an amazing leader. We already know she can hold her own against anyone else in the group, that she can tease or scold, that she’s a bit of a mother-hen and that she’s always loved the group. I can’t wait to see her in the future. She’d probably be better in a group, but I want more solos from her.
A little Mame/Linlin love.
– This concert is worth a watch if you’re fond of the new album. The tracks translate well, even if some of the performers aren’t quite up to it. Kamei’s solo song is lovely, but boring to watch. I liked Takahashi’s though. She seems to really get into that song and the costume suits her. Winky sings ‘The Bigaku’ but I couldn’t watch it. Koharu really tones it down here and uses her real voice, which I’ve not heard in a long time. Linlin and Niigaki really come into their own and the rest ooze confidence. Our leader and sub-leader are definitely leading every performance though.
-Take off is Now is always good. This time they didnt’ have the insane ruffle dresses though. The effect is extremely cool.
The intro was also all kinds of awesome. Niigaki is always really into this song. She can do the spoiled-pouty thing in a way that doesn’t irritate me. And I loved how she tried to get the crowd going as she came down the stairs.
Let her hear it, bitches.
– Some of the girls got a little teary during the last number, which made me smile. I like that even a small concert can make them that happy.
– For some reason the only song that I didn’t like in this concert was Resonant Blue. I love the recorded version so much, but it just doesn’t move me when I see it live. Like I said, it’s all about preference.
– I loved the medley. I usually hate those. Mashing together the usual Love Machine + Renai Revolution etc makes me roll my eyes because it just feels like a time-filler. The arrangements this time were a little different. It feels like their really trying to change a few things up, which is always good. H!P really needs to take some risks again.
I’d give this concert some sort of ranking, but I’m not sure that would be productive. The best song for me was ‘How do you Like Japan’ and the worst was the Koharu/Junjun duet, just because it was too pink and boring. I’m not sure why it was in there at all. Go watch the concert and see if anything I’ve said makes the least bit of sense.
I can’t wait for more from this group…but then I guess that isn’t likely to change.
Like I said: Niigaki and her bitches. Who would have thought?