*Note, special thanks to my friend Sara that also attended the concert with me, and the one that took all of the photos used here!
First of all, I had the amazing experience to be able to attend Japanese-based, international hit Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s concert in NYC, the last of her Nanda Collection World Tour 2014 destinations. This is a little late, as the concert was held on March 8, 2014.
Kyary happens to be the same age as me, but already is a Kawaii fashion and big-time idol inspiration to all, ever since her song PonPonPon became a Youtube sensation (it has now over 60k views with many fun parodies, a Japanese pop staple).
What’s fun about her is the blatant, over-the-top style she has that adds the wackiest things in her music videos and colorful outfits. She has extravagant wigs, less than practical themed videos, and crazy dances (and talented background dancers). Coupled with songs that are repetitive but catchy to sing/dance to, Kyary’s message is clear “If you are wearing clothes that you enjoy wearing, everything you do in life becomes fun” (from her interview with Japantimes).
Cute and quirky isn’t the only thing she rocks, but also a bit of “creepy/edgy” with motifs of the disturbing and out of place. Funnily enough, right before I left to the concert while I was deciding how I would dress up, I told my roommate who thought my coordination was overdoing it, that “This is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu I’m going to see, this girl wears eyeballs on her clothes.” And lo and behold, she did indeed wear a dress with eyeballs on them!
Rewind a bit and my friend and I are waiting on a relatively young but long line around the block that is rather dressed up. People are taking pictures of the girls that came out in wigs, lolita outfits, or full blown Kyary outfit cosplays. Many had waited a lot longer than us, but popping on the line around 6pm to be let in at 7pm was no big deal, since a lack of VIP tickets meant we weren’t going to be standing in the front of the crowd anyway. The Best Buy Theater has a small to average sized accommodation, and since the standing crowd was already packed in the front, we simply elected to sit in the middle-back seats of the seating partition, which afforded us a great view and comfort. While there was a live camera with small TV’s all around, they were unnecessary given the unobstructed view. There was a coat check, which we didn’t need to line up for since we could just take our bags to our seats. There was also a crowd around the vendor booth with tour merchandise like posters, an inflatable pink bunny, and the popular shirt t-shirts and hoodies (which despite the price, were at least well-designed, had cute color schemes, and good quality material – another friend of mine purchased the ones below:)
Echoes of a music box straing of Mottai Night Land filled the gap until some ten or so minutes past 8pm, before Kyary made her big appearance with her single “Invader Invader” on a stage set up like a child’s room.
Most prominently, there was the large working TV screen that flashed background videos to accompany her songs much like her own music video backgrounds. From the large bear on the left to the other toys and building blocks that spell out KYARY on the right, everything matched the whimsical colors that Kyary sang and danced to. The famous KYARY Kids, four of her best child background dancers (including the one boy, P-chan in purple), also were jester-themed with matching wigs, dancing in perfect synchro to each other. Often they would dance in pairs and switch off for every other song, except usually the largest numbers. If you haven’t seen them move before, you are really missing out. Their wacky but sharp movements can hardly be described to do them justice.
Kyary herself has a voice that is very steady but somewhat unchanging after hearing her songs over and over with the loud and crazy accompaniment tracks, but listening to her live is a different story. She has an altogether fresh feel, her sweet voice standing out and sounding very controlled without missing a beat live. The entire crowd surged with her performances, those with glowsticks waving in tune, and everyone else dancing when they could and jumping otherwise. Sitting down, unfortunately, does take a lot out of being one with the crowd of fans, but I enthusiastically joined in from the back.
Attempting to speak English from her script in between songs, she said she was glad to be “Back again in NY” after coming from single day shows for the past few nights in Toronto, San Francisco, and the others in her line up. Then she taught everyone to clap together every time she sang “Bang Bang” in her other single, “Ninjari Bang Bang”, which everyone did in time.
The playlist typically included her hit singles at the highest points of tension, with some choice album songs in between. There was “Mi” from her latest Nanda Collection, along with my personal favorites “Super Scooter Happy”, “Cherry BonBon” and a new favorite “Saigo no Ice Cream” since it sounds a little unusual as a cheerful Kyary song. Other songs were quite whimsical, such as the “Nanda Collection” opening track with bagpipes and the repetitions of “Pamyu Pamyu,” and “Noriko to Norio.”
She had three outfit changes, starting with her first and rather trademark Kyary-esque puffy pink dress, changing into her eyeball dress, to one of her outfits in braids from her latest single “Yume no Hajima Ring Ring” as she appeared singing it after intermission. Intermission in question was a dancing bunny that interacted with a hide and seek game using the pointer finger on the screen. They also showed an interesting short video, which had Kyary appearing in an interesting Yankee girl parody outfit, shouting encouraging lines while acting tough, and playing poker with some foreigners. Against a royal flush, Kyary won the jackpot with a bunch of cards that instead had written on them a message in Japanese. While it was interesting, it was unfortunately rather hard for English-speakers to make out the punchline.
The entire venue was especially excited upon recognition of any song, including of course the pick-me-up singles such as “Mottai Night Land”, “Furisodeshon” and “Tsukema Tsukeru”, and I never thought I’d be so excited to dance to “Pon Pon Pon” again, after the viral video craze had me hearing every single variation in the span of a few months. Still, I proudly followed with all of the hand motions I had learned. Calling it her “cool” song, Kyary ended the show with Fashion Monster to a crowd that equally loved the single. However, none of us could let it go like that, and none of the crowd made a move to leave – we intermittently shouted and clapped for “Kyary Kyary!” in encore, and as the lights flashed in beat with us, we assumed we were doing something right.
Finally, we were rewarded with a bunny-eared Kyayr returning on stage in her own tour t-shirt. She once again thanked the crowd and sang another number, an encore with the last remaining single “Candy Candy” and then waving us goodbye officially this time with the chorus “See You Again!” in her song “Chan Chaka Chan Chan”.
Afterwards, the last of the merchandise was being sold out as VIP fans got to line up for an exclusive meet and photo with Kyary before she left to return to Japan and prepare for her rounds in Australia.
It was honestly an unforgettable experience seeing one of my favorite Japanese performers live and spreading light-hearted cheer just like that! I hope that Kyary continues to innovate Japanese pop and fashion, and the world’s perceptions of music and clothing as well.