Japan’s techno-pop triumvirate, Perfume, lit up NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom in concert last Saturday, closing out their third international tour with the bang it deserved. Sold out and tightly packed, the venue’s capacity was stretched to the limit; It was one of those shows where you wondered in the back of your mind if the mezzanine was going to fall from everyone jumping together. It was awesome.
Perfume’s A~CHAN, KASHIYUKA, and NOCCHi, were both adorable and badass with their soft, high voices and razor sharp performances, brought their EDM-heavy discography to glorious life without once losing their edge to fatigue or complacency. Perfume doesn’t play around when it comes to performances, as they’ve mentioned to us before. They firmly believe that live shows are an artist’s true stomping ground, and since their policy is to literally be the only three people on stage at any moment, they stomp it hard. It probably also helps that every atom of energy they display onstage is returned a hundred-fold from their hyped up fans, creating this perpetual cycle of excitement. Once science figures out how to harness that, we could probably serve the energy needs of small nations on Perfume concerts alone.
A remix of euphoric synthpop tune “Spring of Life” was the first track of the night and a marvel to finally see in person with all the precise hops and robot-like motions. It seems almost impossible for them to stay in lockstep for the whole song, much less an entire concert after that.
“Synchronization!” said KASHIYUKA at the pre-concert interview, when asked what Perfume cares most about onstage. “We three must synchronize. That’s the most important thing.” Yes, definitely important: Thanks to Mikiko, the choreographer who jumped on board back in 2003 around the same time as genius producer Yasutaka Nakata, Perfume’s moves are defined by high-impact, interlocking sequences that require perfect timing and concentration. One wrong turn, and someone could get a knuckle to the face or a sharp heel to the shin.
Perfume’s only English single, “Spending All My Time,” apparently takes the crown as the group’s most challenging choreo to date, but not because it was exhausting. “It’s not about the body movements — it’s the hands. It’s like a puzzle,” A~CHAN mused when asked about the dance she had trouble learning, “We only have two hands, but it was difficult. I just couldn’t get figure it out.”
Hammerstein wasn’t by any means the largest stage Perfume has performed on (hello, Tokyo domes), but the group made excellent use of the space thanks to tech direction by Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks. Part of the creative team behind Perfume’s famous projection-mapping performance at the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival, Manabe complimented Perfume’s electric performance with oscillating lasers for “Glitter” and “Fake It” to perfectly-timed lightsaber pulses during “Game.”
In addition to Perfume’s standard hyper-tech stage equipment, the venue was also rigged up with cameras that pulled double duty: Capturing the action for the group’s upcoming tour DVD and live-streaming the show straight to select movie theaters in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The idea of fans lining up halfway around the world for 4 am dance party only ramped up the excitement Stateside. After all, some of us had been waiting nearly a decade for Perfume to grace the US with their blessed LED light, and now we were actually going to participate in their global event. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Every stop on Perfume’s World Tour 3rd boasted a unique set list mostly composed of re-arranged tracks from their latest album, Level 3, but also notably including a tailored song for the local crowd (for example, a cover of Crayon Pop’s “Bar Bar Bar” when the trio took South Korea last month). LA and NYC’s special treat was Frozen’s “Let It Go,” complete with a hilarious “freezing” dance and Elsa’s storm off at the end.
The treats were not limited to concertgoers, though! A talk break revealed just how much fun the trio were having in the Big Apple that weekend, with A~CHAN waxing poetic about our bagels and cupcakes and turning “Bagel! Cupcake!” into an interactive game with the fans. Even the ever-cool NOCCHi felt it necessary to mention in our interview that NYC bagels were, in fact, where it’s at. (Hear that, Japan? Our bagels are the shit, so send your pop groups over more often! It’s not for us — it’s for them.)
The last hurrah before the encore may have been “Polyrhythm,” the addictively-repetitive track that gave Perfume their first major US exposure on the Cars 2 soundtrack. But, alas, it was their techno-house banger “Party Maker” that really set the crowd off just a few songs before. About a minute into the music, the trio’s signature, near-emotionless vocals (ordered specifically by Nakata so the audience can attach their own feelings to Perfume’s music) gave way to one of the sickest beats you’ll hear out of Japan this year. One of the girls screamed “JUMP!” just before club-like chaos ensued. In the madness I forgot who it was, but she didn’t have to tell me twice.
Photos courtesy of Universal J