Wednesday, December 15, 2010

R.G.W. Bonus Concert Footage Review

Bundled with the deluxe version of the R.G.W. single were six songs from Puffy’s 2010 Gekidan Asesu tour. I am really enjoying that this single is jam packed with six concert clips, which is about double what previous singles had. From reading Puffy’s blog , this might be a function of Puffy being between albums and serving as a way to fire up fans. For me it works, but I am somewhat qualified in that assessment.

This concert footage is from Puffy’s July 11, 2010 show at Showa Women’s University Hitomi Memorial Hall.* The quality of the footage is on par with the clips from the Bring it! singles, though to me it looks like they are fewer cameras and some of the shots are not as well composed. Hitomi Memorial Hall looks to be a step down from Shibuya-AX (which is relatively close by) and my impression is mainly that it is not as loud of a venue. The audio is crisp and very well engineered.

My overall impression is if you like the slower and poppy Puffy songs you will be very happy with the Gekidan Asesu concert selections. I did like that guitars were the usual driving instrument but this is not nearly as pronounced as the past. Both lead and rhythm seem to be a little less aggressive and seem to default to a surf revival sound. Keyboards felt more subdued than the last set of concert selections. Drums and bass remained good, but the bass volume could have been turned up a notch. It could be the rest of the concert was electrifying. It might be the venue was not optimal for recording. For me there was something lacking with the songs selected, but I cannot exactly put my finger upon it.

A big plus on these selections is that Ami seems more engaged this go around. Yumi seems a little detached. That is just an impression based upon past selections. I could very well be wrong as this is a fraction of the concert. Both Ami and Yumi look great, but a totally different make-up style than previous tours. Think more like their Lavuschka adverts than Tour 10. Yumi is back to short hair, Ami’s just past halfway down her back. They are not trying to look older or younger than they are, which I find to be nice.

Continuing to drift in Cosmopolitan Magazine territory… I will note Ami and Yumi are dressed up as color blind sailors. While I appreciate they do their own thing when it comes to appearance, the fine line between eccentric and ridiculous has been crossed. I now miss the plaid overalls from Fever*Fever and I never thought I would hear myself say that. However the dancer’s costumes totally take the sting from a wardrobe selection I do not like.

The overall track selection is hit and miss for me and it goes as follows:
1. Nice Buddy
2. Ai no Shirushi
3. Circuit No Musume
4. complaint
5. Boogie Woogie No 5
6. Youkai Puffy

Nice Buddy is one of my favorite Sturmer songs of Puffy’s and this rendition is a bit slower and mellow. I like the dueling bass and electric guitars near the end. It is pretty rare (if at all) Puffy’s bassist ever goes front and center and I thought that was nifty. One of the nice things about Puffy is that they give room for their backing band to contribute. Over all I liked Nice Buddy.

Ai no Shirushi is song that plays tug of war with me. I enjoy the studio version and (going against my usual preferences) the remix on An Illustrated History / PRMX also. As a concert selection it rarely works for me, it is too little of a song in a big room. That combined with a more subdued performance it becomes a performance that doesn’t work for me.

Circuit no Musume was not a selection I was looking forward to… similar reasons to the above. But for whatever reason the tone of the concert made this one fun. It always cracks me up when Ami and Yumi mug to the camera and break the glass barrier as-it-were. Backing vocals were fun and different making Circuit no Musume is an unexpectedly great track. I like it very much when Ami and Yumi surprise me.

The studio version of complaint via honeycreeper is a track I have always liked, so I was looking forward to hearing a live version. Of the concert footage for the RGW single, it is the fastest paced and comes together nicely. The guitarists are slightly out of synch with their backing vocals, but that is a minor quibble. I could listen to live songs like this all day and be perfectly happy.

Ska without horns? It feels weird to not have Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra supporting Boogie Woogie No 5, I am feeling spoiled from the Tour 10 Final live version. With a flip to the more electrified verison, I found myself not missing the horn support at all. That came as a surprise.

Also lots and lots of backup dancers… which is an understatement for Boogie Woogie No 5. So far as a visual performance I can take or leave dancing, but as it is in the show, it was good. The dancers costumes are ridiculously awful however. Good synchronization with all involved and Ami and Yumi do more dancing than as they say, a drunk person could handle… This was very cool to see. Boogie Woogie No 5 fit the tone and tenor of the show well and at times was kicked up a notch.

Youkai Puffy… of the six songs I was most looking forward to this one. As some might recall from my review of honeycreeper that this was one of my favorite songs from that album. Or I paraphrase it was a barn burner of a Skooby Do episode on meth. This version is something of a missed opportunity and while I still liked it… there were things I did not. The aforementioned dancers are en masse on stage then peel off to a pair. Then about a third of the way through the selection Ami and Yumi go off stage and their dance choreographer comes on stage.

There are a couple of funny tidbits to be had, but end result is she goes through a Youkai Puffy dance for the crowd. However you know something is padded when the producers of the DVD literally fast forward through the grindingly slow bits. I won’t say this killed it for me, but Youkai Puffy is a song built for speed not pit stops.

Ami and Yumi come back on stage and with a slow lead in Youkai Puffy gets back on the rails. The only benefit to the padded dance instruction is the crowd is now moving in synch with everyone on stage. I wish this selection has been more cohesive because the two parts were both great it was that middle part that put me off.

The bonus concert clips from R.G.W. were good fun. I would not categorize it as my favorite live footage as it felt slightly toned down. After watching the selections a half dozen times I was still thrilled to see Ami and Yumi's live performance. Their stage presence and ability to sing live are things I have greatly appreciated over the years and here is not exception.

Overall grades:
Music: B
Performance: B+
Production: B-

*say that five times fast…

h/t to the great Peace. Pop. Puffy for some of the concert details

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