April 21, 2011

Tamura Yukari LOVE LIVE 2011 SPRING *Mary Rose* day 1

On April 15th 2011, I attended Tamura Yukari's spring concert in Budokan. A good live experience begins with a day of queuing, so at 4AM I struck out for the concert hall from my hotel on foot. By the time I arrived, it was nearing 5AM and there were already plenty of people around.

The last time I went to Budokan (quite disasterous if you'll recall) it was very late at night, but today, it was already light out so I finally got a first good look at the place. Budokan's layout is a bit like a fortified castle. To enter, you must first walk halfway up a big hill, cross the bridge over a wide moat surrounding Kitanomaru Park, and then step through large imposing gates into a stone walled courtyard.

Though there were still 5 hours until merchandise tables opened, many fans were already wearing official goods bought from the previous day's early sale, and the throng of similarly dressed fans pressed against the courtyard's outer gates at the top of the bridge made it look like an organized siege from some invading force (in this case the Yukari Kingdom army). By 5:15 AM, the crowd at the gate had grown to about 200 strong, an impressive number for so early in the morning. However, it turns out the line started at the street instead of the gate so when a suited guy helped up the "最後尾" sign at the bottom of the bridge he nearly caused a stampede.

Luckily for me, I was near the bottom at the time anyway. I had figured 200~ was still a safe number, and saw no point in squeezing into the mass at the top. My decision to stay at the bottom and snap some photos of the cherry trees filling the entire park instead means I had the luck of winding up 50th in line.

The guide led the group through the courtyard then through another set of gates to the Budokan grounds where a long row of booths had been set up. Since the weather was nice, the wait wasn't too bad. There was no freezing rain to contend with for example (see Niigata). Each time the wind blew, we'd be treated to a shower of cherry petals and it was almost like a big group doing hanami, in a way.

We watched staff unload boxes of goods into the booth until 10AM, when the line started moving. With upwards of 10 separate purchasing stations taking on customers, I was in and out of the goods line within half an hour. I tried to stick to the planned list, but as usual, this planning is wasted because I always break budget. The most popular items this time around were the Cherry puppets, puppet one piece, redesigned happi coat, and gachagacha - all of which sold out within 2 hours. Since I could get into a lot of details for each of them, I'll do a separate post about individual goods in the next few days.

After goods, many fans stuck around in the area. There was some chatter about whether or not Yukarin would make a surprise appearance and wave to the crowd from the top balconies (referencing her stunt as seen during the "Making of" segments in Love Live Chelsea Girl 2008 DVD). She didn't appear, but we were fortunate enough to get to listen to a full sound check in the afternoon, where she went through several songs including Cherry Kiss. A nice enough reward for waiting around!

At 5:00 PM, Budokan doors opened and people starting making their way inside. In some corners, groups would first erupt into "Go Happy, Go Happy, Go Happy Yukarin" chants before going in. I found my seat in the third row of the 1st floor balcony, which offered a decent view of the stage as well as the crowd below. Woah it was a sea of pink! With vast majority in happi or parka, this audience was definitely the most uniformly colored group out of all the Yukarin shows I've been to so far.

An hour later, lights dimmed and the arena got flooded with pink glow of pen lights. Introduced by the giant screen up top, Momoiro Danshaku, NEKO and NECO, and Momoiro Mates came out to lots of fanfare, and there was even a fully suited Momoiro brass band. When the dancers all pulled out pompoms, it gave away the 1st song and the crowd cheered in anticipation for "Love Me Now." It was a surprising choice considering pompom songs usually came at the end during previous lives.

Once the music hit, Yukari rose from the trapdoor in the center stage (but no jump this time). She had a silver/white two piece dress that ended just above the knee and a crest of white feathers in her fixed up hair. When she raised her pompom, the crowd followed in kind, jumping and waving with pompoms of their own. This song has its own unique moveset thanks to being worked into a PV, but it's pretty easy and possibly less complicated than even just default concert calls (Love me now *HEY!*). Having experienced this song live twice already, I was able to follow things without much trouble.

Then out of nowhere, a familiar brass opening...and then "OMG CAN IT BE??". As someone who has rewatched Pinkle Twinkle Party DVD about 3 dozen times (not all complete rewatchings), there was no way I could mistake the first song of that fantastic 2006 concert: Picnic! It's one of the few songs that I can recreate all of Yukari's motions by heart, so I was able to see she nailed the performance with the same grace as back then, but with a few variations (improved shuffle). Picnic is one of my all time favorites, but it seems it was just a normal song for the crowd or it was simply too old for current fans ("のんびりいこうぜ、ゆかり!" and "笑って" calls were a bit sparse.

Next song was Happy Life, an upbeat song that called back to the time when she first performed it live here in the same location during Chelsea Girl 08. For this song she took off the top layer of her dress to reveal the skirt was actually part of a frilly one piece, then joined her dancers on a large moving platform that sent them down the middle aisle of the arena. The platform traveled all the way to the end of the arena where it stopped for the rest of the song before returning to the stage to do MC.

First MC was a bit shorter than average, but pretty standard fare for Yukarin. She welcomed everyone to day 1 of Budokan. "But even though it says "Opening Day" it's only just a back to back performance." Then as usual she played with the audience, running around the stage calling out every part of the stage (Arena, 1st floor, 2nd floor, etc). Amazingly she resisted the usual temptation to omit certain sections.

Typically, it goes something like:
Second floor!
Ok that's it"
*1st floor goes EEEEEEHHH*
"Ok fiiiinnnnee. 1st floor"

But today Yukarin was surprisingly nicer than usual and hardly had an insult for anyone. Ok, she did at least try to tease the fans in the stage side seats, calling them はみ出席 being in such a bad position but it winded up being cute instead. She would run all the way to one side of the stage and hide behind a speaker, poke her head out, and say "Hah if I do this you can't see me right?". It was so cute the other side demanded she hide for them too. Guys with full balrogs of ultra bright glowsticks started going nuts trying to flag her down. Yukari seemed to enjoy the spectacle since she gave them plenty of attention, though I get the feel that fans who do full hands of glowsticks are more numerous in recent times than the old lives shown in DVDs. Without any official endorsement though, the opinion on this shift is divided among fans especially since some of the guys don't even use pink (why would you balrog ultra green at this kind of concert)??

Interestingly, she also didn't do any weird crowd surveys this time like getting age ranges, male/female ratios, working vs unemployed, people who came by train/plane, dads who brought their kids, guys who went to comiket and bought dirty books, etc (all real things asked in past lives before). Instead of her usual prolonged teasing, she transitioned pretty into full blown SERIOUS teary eyed mush mode (typically reserved for finales) and concluded the MC by thanking everyone who came, wishing for everyone to have a good time, and hoping they'd take back great memories. Woah? Spoiled princess Yukarin being so nice to us in opening MC. She must have thought hard on this and decided to open with a more sincere note to really appreciate people who came in light of recent earthquakes, though she didn't reference this directly.

She sang the title song of her latest single Platina Lover's Day. The song is too new to get its own special cheers but it got a pretty good response crowd-wise since we all knew this song would be included. It's a good medium tempo live song that fits "Yukarin" calls well. Then she jumped back in time again, to Spring Fever from her 2005 album Kohaku no Uta, Hotohira. This is not an often performed song, but enough people knew the calls since she had a four-stop tour in 2005 named after it (see extras on Cutie Cutie DVD). It was a good choice considering the season, though I personally did not know it too well - only watched those Cutie Cutie digest extras once or twice.

Next was Don't wake me☆ up. It's a very simple yet catchy tune that I used to loop quite a bit when Tomorrow came out and pretty much describes my work life. Inexplicably, it got skipped in the set lists for both Dreamy Maple Crown and Princess a la mode, so I'm glad it finally made live rotation at least once. During the song, Yukari came over to top of the stairs on the left and right arms of the arena so that 2nd floor sides (where we were) could see her up close. After the song, she left for a costume change while announcer Haramaki Kouji (and Yukarin's real life cousin) narrated for band member introductions.

Momoiro Danshaku was the same members as usual except...the brand new P-tan on keyboard, who has now replaced Nobupyon. Looks like they are still trying to find a permanent keyboard position ever since Julian left (stripped of baron nobility??). As an aside, I believe Masanyan currently has the longest tenure among the danshaku right now. While most band members played a quick piece, GOD as usual came out with his own special pompom dance.

Once the band was introduced again, Yukari reappeared on the stage with a new costume: a deep blue skirt with white polkadots, shoulderless red top lined with black trim, and high heel slippers to sing Nagareboshi Jenny, the c/w song on the latest Meron Ondo CD. Of course at the time, I only just bought the CD hours before and hadn't listened to it yet, so I was standing around wondering "WTF when did this song come out?" But it's great. It had this 1950s musical feel, with dancers coming out in opposite colors of Yukarin (red polkadot skirts, blue top) and doing a zigzagging line dance that looked like it came straight out of a broadway production. Yukari's dance routine for this is also really RELALY cute - possibly one of her best routines ever - with her kicking her tiny heels up and back like a swing dancer during the "only you" sabi (and she has such nice legs for it)! It's something I'll rewatch on a DVD just for the dance.

After this, the stage went dark for YOURS EVER, the first acoustic performance of the night accompanied by P-tan's piano. It was another song I didn't recognize, but actually it's on the Sincerely Dears album, (I only listened to that 2 or 3 times so I must have just forgotten). No matter, acoustic corner is time to just enjoy singing without worrying about calls so I just tried to soak in the sound. I mentioned in older live reports that acoustic corners are one of the best parts of a live since it gives you a chance to just take in a performance. Although 神曲 are really fun, they also divide your attention as you desperately multitask between watching the singer, listening to the song, trying to do calls, and watching others do calls out the corner of your eye to make sure you're not doing everything wrong. So I took these rare opportunities to listen hard. Unfortunately Budokan's acoustics (or perhaps my location) was not too good so I felt like the sound was a bit off. I remember from Niigata when she sang Namida no Loop it was so sultry my ears nearly melted off. Yukarin tried her best today, but the sound just wasn't on her side this time. I hoped next time might be better.

Following the acoustic performance, Yukarin moved on to Floral Blue (c/w song from Platina Lover's Day) Yukari sang while two dancers appeared at the top of the stairs in short blue one pieces to perform some sort of slow tango.

Giving band members time to set up again, there was another round of member introduction for Momoiro Mates, who each entered after being announced with the slightly oddly phrased "Number 1 *adjective* Girl." In Yukari Kingdom, everyone is No. 1 in something! Each girl had a few seconds to show off some dance moves. There were high kicks, cartwheels, spins, and jumps although some dancers did some hilariously out of place moves like booty grinds.

Unlike Momoiro Danshaku, I didn't recognize any of the Momoiro Mates. It's hard to keep track because there are so many regulars who rotate in and out of lives, and the absence of some known members doesn't mean they're gone or replaced. I really only remember MAMIKO and NATSUMI's faces because they taught me the Meron on Theme dance in the Chelsea Girl DVD and Happy Loop in Pinkle Twinkle Party respectively. So I looked for either of them, but no luck today.

Once dancers were done, Yukarin reappeared in a fancy dress that looked like a big purple candy wrapper and was adorned all over with large ribbons that circled her entire person and went into the next song baby blue sky.

Now getting to the the third song I didn't know, I was starting to wonder if I had missed an album release lately. I prefer getting to know and like a song before I hear it live so I was kicking myself for not researching new releases. But, a lot of the crowd was also a bit lost so we just tried to fill in with normal cheering.

Then came MC which explained everything.

Wait! Wait a minute everyone! This song was the first song I ever wrote
"So how come there's such a pitiful reaction? It's more like people are going 'what the heck is this song?'"
*Crowd laughs and denies, even though they know it's true*
Tomorrow. If, IF by chance this song happens to play, I want you all to get really excited about it. Even though you don't recognize it. Because you know, if this song gets on DVD, I get paid 0.03 yen in royalties! Well that's less than 1 yen per copy, but anyway if this gets played tomorrow I want you all to get pumped up for it! First, when you hear this opening, I want you to yell KITAAAA. Let's practice

Ahhh greedy Yukarin is the bestest. Yukari opens her arms wide and starts singing the little tune and yelling "KITA!" The band plays the opening again, and everyone feigns extreme excitement. After a HUGE KITAAAA scream, Yukari leads the fans in "hey" chants, and then mimes out her fantasy scenario of seeing tomorrow's fans getting totally confused by the heavy cheering. She also mentioned very specifically not to reveal the plan online. Apparently she wanted them to get the same weird feeling we all got, but intensified even more because hey EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS IT! When she asked who really didn't know the song this time and got a big response, she explained that it was a coupling song from her 2002 single (Love Parade). Woah that's before I even became otaku, but unlike Baby's Breath it was never played enough for most people to know it unless they were really long time fans of Yukarin. On a separate tangent, she finished off MC by telling a story of the previous day about how she tried to make some melt some chocolate cream over bread, but when she baked the combination, it hardened instead.

"Ok it's about time to get to the next song. Super Special Day"

What!? Don't announce something as awesome as Super Special Day so casually! Even though not many people knew a song from 2002, they sure as hell knew this. Though this song is even older (2001), it got the biggest reaction of the night so far. To be fair, this is a popular fan favorite from Tokimeki Memorial 2 and has actually been played during lives with its own calls (L. O.V.E. Yukarin!) And the calls were very loud. Everyone was just so excited about this coming back since it hasn't seen at a live since Sweet Milky Way in 2007. I personally didn't think I'd ever get the chance to do this song or picnic.

Jumping forward to more recent times again, Yukarin followed with Koi ni ochita painter which was one of the songs on her Citron no Ame album that she didn't get to sing during SCS tour. After this song, Yukarin changed costumes again while each brass band member did a piece. No member got introduced by name though.

Koi no ageha is a jazzy song from her 2008 album Komorobi no Rosette. Though I'm not a huge fan of the melody on this specific song, these jazzy songs in general are interesting because they let Yukarin drop a few octaves and go into deep voice mode. It was a good choice especially since she had the full brass band today and could make good use of them, so we got all the real instruments instead of a recording. I couldn't remember if she was usually supposed to have a cane in this or not, but she didn't have one today.

For Shinseiro, another newer song on her latest album, Yukari got on the moving platform again and it brought her to the center of the stage. As she was singing, a gilded white cage lowered in from above. After she stepped in and closed the door, the cage lifted back up until she was around first floor eye level. The lighting changed again, and a slow rain of feathers came down all around her. This must have looked pretty dramatic from the front, but being at the side, it just looked kind of weird. The cage was slightly tipped at an angle from her weight, and all the feathers were falling slightly behind. So my view was basically this:

That's not a complaint though. Yukari in the bird cage brought her within much better viewing distance to us, and any effort to do that is always highly appreciated.

Next was Hoshizora no Spica. This is a pretty popular song that got a decent reaction. Similar to Douwa Meikyu, its live rendition is accompanied by pyrotechnics. During climaxes of the song, blasts of fire would shoot from the stage in a pattern as if someone were playing a flame organ. It did seem to be manually operated because I recall the at least one time when they forgot to trigger the flame. I guess the operator was too engrossed in the scene.

Finally came the most highly anticipated moment of the night, Meron Ondo time. A video came up with NEKO and NECO in Happi coats. They went over each move, step by step and paused at each segment for the audience to repeat what they just learned. Narration was done by Yukari in her "Yukari-chan" voice (I believe that is the name given to her chibiko form now, at least according to the FC page's web comic). This is the same voice as used to say "めろ~ん音頭がはじまるよ~" She even did sound effects, going "aaaahhn" when having everyone lift their hands which drew muffled laughs from the crowd. Now imagine an entire instructional video like that.

Once the video was over, Yukarin came out along with several members all wearing the happi coats. Rather than just having only the 8 dancers who were already introduced, there were also some new faces including a bunch of kids in the group. Some of them seemed no older than 12 yrs old (woah shouldn't you girls be in school?). I guess they were all there to give it a "festival feel."

With everyone out on stage, we all raised our hands into the starting position. The dancers stayed on stage, while Yukarin, NEKO, and NECO all got onto the moving platform to lead the audience from the middle of the arena. Then music started and it was all *clap-clap-clap* A~SORYA for a few wonderful minutes. This is certain to look sooo crazy on video. My only wish was that they clarified the correct starting side, because the problem with Yukarin moving on the center platform is for everyone in the front half of the arena including us, halfway through the song we need to turn around and then...uh...which direction should we do now? Same "mirrored" direction as before, OR, copy Yukarin exactly now that we are facing the same way? Eventually I settled on copy exactly, swapping between mirror/original depending on the location. Minor details such as this aside, ondo was definitely a fun time.

After Mero~n Ondo, NEKO/NECO treated the platform like a canoe and rowed Yukarin back to the stage. On stage, NEKO did a disappearing/reappearing trick with a cloth and the stage trapdoor. It was pretty obvious how it worked, and anyone on the side could easily see behind the cloth but everyone humored the magic trick anyway with applause and cheering. Once NEKO finished, Yukarin also wanted to do it too. Her trick involved an extra step where she switched places with a Cherry puppet before finally returning. "Ah but I forgot my meromero stick! That means I can't do mero~n"

Cue a guy coming in with the stick while chanting "UnUnSodaSoda" which the crowd also copied. As an aside, I always get my hopes up for Meron no Uta when this chant starts but it never happens. So this guy says he COULD give Yukarin the stick, but he wanted some attention first. "Come on guys, what's my name?"
Audience responses were: *silence*, "Uhh", and "おまえ!!" orz
Finally someone got his name. Actually it was sound producer Tamachan. After I heard that, I remember I saw him twice before during Starry Candy Stripe tour, but I forgot his face entirely.

Yukarin took the stick and did usual demonstration by waving all the band members. Since P-tan was new she told him to pay special attention to his first ever mero~n. Masanyan actually dodged mero, but Yukarin must have not seen it because she didn't give him too hard a time. Once danshaku all fell to the floor after getting meromero she said it looked like BL.

Then it was the audience's turn. Since she mero~ned a few times already without n~rome, we all just assumed n~rome wasn't coming. So when she did try it everybody had to scramble back into mero~n position. Redo! She tried it again but just decided to freeze the audience in their backbreaking position without releasing them. "Ahh I'm tired." Fans yelled "EEEEHHH" but she just said she enjoyed seeing such a wonderful lit up sight of everyone's face in pain. So cruel, himesama! Finally she returned everyone to normal with n~rome and started into Oshiete A to Z.

I got plenty of "A to Z" practice last year so it was easy to follow along. The standard fare during this song is the double-clap, single-clap rhythmn.

When she followed up with You & Me immediately after, that was the signal that we must be getting close to the end. You & Me is such an energy hog, since the audience winds up shouting 30% of the song. Not much to say about the song that I haven't already said for SCS, but the audience seemed especially loud today. Fans just really love their rap.

Next was Koiseyo Onnanoko. YES! The 1st Yukari song I ever memorized the entire choreography for. I had only did this song once during Animelo 08, and I didn't have a puppet back then. I had hoped for it during SCS but it never came. Now was my chance, and this time I was able to follow everything, from jumps to waves to drawing giant hearts in the air. For my puppet, I chose to use Chocola with the latest one-piece, because she's such a good girl.

Keeping the momentum of high level songs, Yukarin jumped onto the moving platform and continued with Cherry Kiss, a very popular song is usually saved for ending concerts on a high note like Dreamy Maple Crown and Princess a la Mode. I love this song, and knew to expect it from the sound check, but I often confuse the chorus with that of candy smile (they're pretty similar and both act as closers IMO) so I was constantly thinking "hey when she was gonna do that famous kick?" After was Kono Yubi Tomare, another from the latest single. This is a fast paced pop tune that is definitely going to be a staple of lives in the future. Lots of "hey, hey" in it that fits well with concerts. Yukarin and dancers all held up towels that they started to swing around during the chorus. All the fans did the same. Well, except me, because I didn't buy one of the Live towels that day and I certainly wasn't going to use the microfiber towel with Yukarin's picture on - way too fragile. Made a mental note to go buy a pink towel the next day.

For the final song, she ended with Chelsea Girl - now an "always play" during lives that we all know and love. But, I don't think we've had Chelsea Girl with full brass band since the last time she did it in Budokan in 2008, so that was a major plus. As is usual with final songs, during the chorus, ribbons shot out and fell into the crowd to celebrate the end of the show.

After wave and waves of encore chants, Yukari returned to do Gratitude. I have great memories of this song thanks to SCS tour, and the ARIGATOU parts still lifted my spirits as much as ever. It's easy to overlook if you only listen to it on CD (as I did before SCS) but as soon as I heard it live I fell in love with it and I was very happy to hear it live again.

For final MC
Wow it's really hot in here isn't it. Gotta replenish water. But if I drink too much I'll have to go to the bathroom. If I keep drinking like this I'll be in trouble. lolwut? She said it in such a worrying tone too, not like a teasing fans kind of way but a "oh shit I've got a real dilemma here" kind of way. Yukari also had 3 announcements to make.

1st announcement was that she will be part of ORICON INFINITY MUSIC 2011 at Universal Studios Japan. Apparently her love of Terminator 2 came about because she took a ride on the T2 attraction in the past.
2nd announcement was that she will be part of Animelo Summer Live 2011's Day 1 Lineup
3rd announcement was that the last day of Starry Candy Stripe 2010 in Tokyo Kokusai Forum, plus tomorrow's 4/16 Spring Mary Rose concert will be on BD/DVD by sometime this summer.

Second to last song was fancy baby doll. During the extended bridge for FBD, as always, Yukarin brought out a big basket full of bunny dolls but this time there was a special bonus. While she threw a few in every direction of the arena, NEKO and NECO prepared the big guns to reach upper balconies. Enter FBD Cannon, a huge muzzle-loaded single-shot air cannon that blasted a cluster of dolls out 50-70 feet - far enough to reach the 2nd and 3rd floors. They had several of these cannons that she would just fire one after the other. The first time she took it out we were curiously cautions, then *BOOM* bunnies just fly out and smack against the balcony wall with the crowd going "WOOOAHHHH"

And finally the true last song of the night was Super Special Smiling Shy Girl, enough to kill the last of any energy we had for the night, as well as our voices. Near the end Yukarin turned the microphone toward the audience so arena, 1st floor, 2nd floor, and 3rd floor all got their own separate turns to sing the final segments and do chants.

After everything was over, Yukari did her farewell wave, going to each side of the stage plus the moving platforms so she could cover every part of the concert hall. Each section also started its own Yukari chant. Yukari even started a coordinated wave on the third floor, something that didn't happen last year. Yukari's really good at doing farewells because she just exudes this aura of gratitude - like she REALLY doesn't want to leave, and we don't want her to go either. But it was already close to 9:30PM, so after 3 long hours...LOVE LIVE 2011 Spring Mary Rose Shonichi was finally concluded.

And just as I was thinking how crazy awesome that is and how my trip was all worth it and done, it hit me that yeah, I've still got tomorrow :P

Day 1 Set list
03.Happy Life
04.Platina Lover's Day
05.Spring fever
06.Don't wake me☆ up!
07.Nagareboshi Jenny
08.YOURS EVER (acoustic)
09.floral blue
10.baby blue sky
11.Super Special Day
12.Koi ni ochita painter
13.Koi no ageha
15.Hoshizora no spica
16.Mero~n Ondo
17.Oshiete A to Z
18.You & Me
19.Koiseyo Onnanoko
20.Cherry Kiss
21.Kono yubi tomare
22.Chelsea Girl
24.fancy baby doll
25.Super Special Smiling Shy Girl

Number of songs by year of release
2001 - 1
2002 - 1
2005 - 3
2006 - 1
2007 - 2
2008 - 3
2009 - 3
2010 - 6
2011 - 5

Next post will be Day 2 MC and set list variations, followed by third post for goods report. Speaking of goods, I think I spent over $700 on them this time. Where hell did that all go? Even I haven't accounted for it yet.

Posted by Paranda at April 21, 2011 2:19 AM


Thanks for the in depth report as always!! So fun to read. The setlist seems like a good mix of rare songs and favorites.

$700 on goods... You are a beast.

Also your Japanese sure has improved rapidly!

Posted by: mandi at April 21, 2011 4:21 AM

awesome report. m(_ _m)

It's the time of the year again when I feel really lazy to write anything. xD relying on you for 2nd day report too! <3

Posted by: danie~ at April 21, 2011 4:23 AM

Awesome huge report !
So great she sang Platinum Lover's Day, FBD, Super Special Smiling Shy Girl, etc etc.
want to see her BD/DVD !
& want to see her @Animelo but she's not on Nana's day and since Hocchan will probably be on Nana's day, I chose to see the two instead of Yukari-hime :(

Posted by: Bevue at May 22, 2011 8:19 AM

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