Last night at the conclusion of the combined New York ComiCon/Anime Festival, Puffy had their first New York concert in four years, along with Echostream, Zazen Boys and Boom Boom Satellites. Collectively this was known as the "Far East to East Showcase", although the Irving Plaza marquee and my tickets listed only Puffy Amiyumi. This was a show put on at least in part by the convention itself, although no real mention was made of this fact during the show. Odd.
I didn't get to go to any of the pre-show convention activities, which included a panel and signing on Saturday, but I did go to the concert. This is my third Puffy concert now and I confess I'm becoming a little jaded about certain things. But it is always great to see Ami and Yumi on stage, which has always been and still is where they belong. They rocked it, as they always do.
Unfortunately in a major dick move on X Japan's part, that band scheduled their own show at Roseland on the same night - after FETES had already been announced. X Japan is a huge band with a lot of crossover in their audience, and faced with the choice I personally know of a lot of people that chose X Japan over Puffy. There aren't many Japanese bands that play in New York, and there are 365 days in a year - why the hell would X Japan choose this date, knowing that another major Japanese concert was already scheduled for the same night? That would be like Weezer playing a club show in Tokyo and all of a sudden Foo Fighters swooping in and booking Budokan for the same night. My wife is a huge X Japan fan herself and was torn between the two shows, but ended up sticking with Puffy because she knew I'd rather go to that, and because we already had bought our tickets. Me, I'd have stuck with Puffy just because X Japan are jerks. It was a cloud hanging over the whole thing for us, though, and it was all the fault of X Japan.
Anyway, so we were happy to see that there were actually some people still lined up for the show when we arrived, and that eventually the line stretched around the block. It wasn't a complete sellout - no big shock, given the competition - but to me, anyway, it was surprisingly well-attended. I'd say that eventually the hall was about 2/3 full, and Irving Plaza holds 1,200 people.
I'll just spend a few sentences talking about each of the opening bands before I get to Puffy - it seems like some of you guys liked them too.
I'd never heard of this band and they were clearly the smallest of the four - and they also seem to be western (unless they just have a few Americans playing with them). But they were pretty good, playing some straight-ahead melodic guitar and piano-based indie rock, with a female singer with one of those angelic-sounding voices. They played about four songs, and I enjoyed them. Afterwards one of the guys in the band threw a bunch of free t-shirts into the crowd. I'll probably check out some of their stuff on YouTube and see if they're worth pursuing further.
This is one of those bands that I respect more than I like. I hadn't heard them before either, but they basically sounded like a Japanese version of Primus on stage. Progressive rock mixed with dance music and hard rock. Lots of non-standard tempos and tempo changes, not a lot of melody to their music. They played very well and their music is obviously technically difficult. My wife really liked them and the crowd seemed to as well. I wasn't sure how I felt. I got yelled at by one of the event staff members for taking video while they were playing.
By the way, the photo above is the only one that came out clear - and I love that it's just completely non-representative of their show. It looks like they all just stood around like a bunch of dorks at a wedding reception - no, they were pretty into it at all other times (except when I snapped this photo, which is probably why it's the only clear one).
Boom Boom Satellites
I knew of this band but had never really listened to them before - but they practically tore the place down. I wanted to ask my wife "who needs X Japan?" but the music was too loud. Their recorded music is pretty good (my wife bought the CD they had on sale there) but they really just tear it up live. Most electronic-heavy bands are the opposite, standing around on stage and pressing buttons (even Zazen Boys did this a bunch of times), but Boom Boom Satellites amp up the guitar and bass live (they really can play), and their new drummer, Yoko Fukuda, is AMAZING. She brought an impact to those songs live that you just don't really hear on their recorded music. They just filled that concert hall with sound and energy. Definitely go see this band if they ever come back. You don't even need to know their songs - I didn't.
Update: just check this out. Make sure you watch all the way until the end - Yoko Fukuda kicks ass! (Compare to the studio version - good too, but just not as crazy, and with oddly muted drums!)
And now the main event! Puffy didn't go on until a bit after 9:30 - the show started at 6PM! By this time, especially after Boom Boom Satellites, I was kind of worn out. It was too many bands - it was like a little mini-festival. That's ok if it was billed and organized that way, but I didn't feel like it really was unless you went to the con panel - everything just said "Puffy AmiYumi", which I always assume means "and guest", but I wasn't really expecting four bands total and 3 1/2 hours of standing around before Puffy even took the stage.
Once Puffy did take the stage, though, all was pretty much forgotten - as it usually is when the headliner finally begins playing. Here was their set list (thanks to cm and Cerahbes for helping me with two songs I didn't remember):
JOINING A FAN CLUB
HIHI PUFFY AMIYUMI
CIRCUIT NO MUSUME
AI NO SHIRUSHI
AJIA NO JUNSHIN
NAGISA NI MATSUWARU ETC.
The more music a band produces, the harder it is to really critique their set list because there will always have to be things left out and things that they're probably just tired of playing. I will say that I felt like they played a short set - and checking back, it was four songs shorter than when I saw them in 2005. When they played Ajia no Junshin - traditionally the closing song at their shows - I was thinking "what is this doing in the middle of the set?" I was disappointed when I realized no, that is the end of the show (except for the encores), but only because I wanted more.
|Doing some of their old choreography for Ai no Shirushi.|
They seemed extremely amused any time a song called for choreography.
I was very happy that I finally got to hear them sing Nagisa ni Matsuwaru Etc. live, which has always been awesome on their DVD's but rarely gets played in the USA. I was not disappointed! (Except, again, in that it was the last song.) This is always one of their most energetic songs live.
Some other thoughts on their set list (I know, I said I wasn't going to critique it):
a) no songs at all from Nice (unless you count Teen Titans), none from Honeycreeper, just one from Splurge (and not the one I'd have expected).
b) they still seem to be tailoring their US sets to American audiences, with mostly harder songs. All the times I've seen them they've just thrown one or two older, lighter songs in, and it always sounds really jarring compared to the rest of the set.
c) as someone who's seen them three times, I was really hoping they'd do something a little different for this one-off show in which they're not really promoting anything - like they did in Japan a while back - and play some songs that they rarely ever play, or play some of their own instruments again. Alas, it was a pretty conventional show, much like the others I've seen. Though they did play some songs I'd never personally seen them sing, so that was good.
They sounded great, as usual, and had the same energy they usually do. Ami looked happier and more energetic on stage than she has in videos I've seen in the past couple years - she wasn't letting Yumi carry the show like she sometimes does. Yumi was the same as always, or at least the same as she has been since I first saw them. She obviously just loves performing, and no longer seems nervous in the United States.
Their famous banter was there too, although like in 2006, they repeated a couple of things from the previous concert. Last time they asked, "what's the hottest place to go in New York right now?" And the punch-line is that someone apparently answers "my house!" which they then act surprised and mock-disgusted by. They did the same bit this time, and no, I didn't actually hear anyone give that answer before they reacted to it. They did keep it all in English this time - in 2005 and 2006, they slipped into Japanese a few times and the English-speaking crowd grew impatient. (That annoyed me; American audiences don't seem to realize that the banter is part of their act, and whenever they'd slip into Japanese, people would yell for them to get on with the music.)
|They still had to read from notepads, though.|
I'd love to tell you who was in the supporting band, but I'll have to edit this post once someone lets me know in the comments :) I do know that Shigeo Naka of Surf Coasters was on guitar, and I recognize the drummer although I don't recall his name. The keyboardist was Shun-chan. The second guitarist was new, and while most of the crowd seemed to know him, I didn't. If anyone can fill in the rest from these pics of the band being introduced, let me know and I'll edit this paragraph.
|The new guitarist. His name, please?|
|The drummer had some kind of equipment malfunction during his intro.|
|Shigeo Naka, the one guy whose name I know.|
|Ami introducing Shigeo Naka, who they called something else that I forgot. Who is the bassist in the background?|
As I mentioned in an earlier comment, Ami also said they were "working with the band" on their new album right now. I thought that was interesting phrasing - it implied some more collaboration than normal for them, and a more regular band lineup. (Or, it could have just been unintended nuance in her English, but her English is pretty good.)
I can't forget to tell you about the merchandise! As they sometimes do, they had a little bonus for those who got there early - an autographed poster if you bought a CD and a t-shirt! And this was a big poster and a big autograph - by far my biggest Puffy autograph yet. I have a feeling these were leftover posters from what was supposed to be the meet & greet session at the con (that was apparently canceled). They only seemed to have about ten of them, and I snagged one along with my t-shirt and another copy of the Hit & Fun CD.
I hadn't planned to buy Hit & Fun again and only did because of the poster, but it turns out this is the 2010 Hong Kong release with a full honeysweeper tour concert DVD included! I didn't realize this at the time, nor did I even know this version existed. So I was pretty happy when I got home. I haven't watched the DVD yet, but my guess is this is the same footage as we got with a few of their singles in 2008 or 2009... but there could be additional songs? My memory is fuzzy on this whole thing, and whether we talked about this release here earlier.
|Hong Kong version on the left, original Japanese version on the right. You can see the track listing.|
And yes, the color is slightly different too. It's not that dramatic in reality, but it's there.
They were also selling Splurge at the show, oddly enough, though I believe (and could be wrong!) that it was just the regular US version that I already have. It all seemed kind of hastily put together - they also announced literally days before the show that both Bring It! and honeycreeper are now available in the US, but only for download. So they weren't selling those albums at the show - meaning their only CD's for sale were from 2006 and (originally) 2007, along with tour shirts from 2009, with that year displayed prominently. Weird.
Anyway, the show has had the effect of putting Puffy back into the forefront of my consciousness, which is of course part of the point of playing live from their perspective, so job well done on that front. I need to see a band in person every once in a while after that initial discovery phase is over or I kind of forget about them; I need to feel that real connection. I admit that this show didn't have quite the same impact as when I saw them in 2005, but there were just a lot of planets aligned just right to make that show seem really special. I can't say they were really any different this time, although I do wish they'd played a bit longer.