Pharrell Summer Sonic 2015


Mance Thompson

The 16th edition of Summer Sonic, Japan's leading dual-venue international music festival, this weekend delivered the sort of worldwide stars and dance grooves that concertgoers have come to expect. Held simultaneously at Makuhari Messe and QVC Marine Field in Chiba near Tokyo and Osaka's Maishima site on Aug. 15 and 16, the fest also hosted all-night events Sonicmania, Hostess All-Nighter and Osaka Midnight. In total it saw 235,000 partiers pass through the gates.

Headliners Pharrell Williams, the Chemical Brothers, Imagine Dragons, Ariana Grande and Zedd led the way outside Tokyo at the 35,000 capacity QVC Field, while Marilyn Manson, Manic Street Preachers, Babymetal, Epik High, All Time Low and others played on the seven supporting stages, three of which were in the Makuhari Messe convention center. In all, over 125 acts performed.

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Creativeman reports ticket sales generated roughly 3.25 billion yen ($26.5 million).

Ariana Grande and her cast of colorful dancers were the first of the headlining acts on Saturday. Grande has been a phenom in Japan since My Everything spent nine weeks atop the iTunes Japan album chart last year, making it the longest running No. 1 in 2014. The stadium was about two-thirds full as she ripped through her tracks "Bang Bang," "The Way" and "Love Me Harder." "Break Free" had a special resonance because it was produced by Zedd and the house artist took the same stage the next day. Grande closed things out with hit "Problem." 

The Chemical Brothers are known in Japan as the darlings of rival event Fuji Rock Festival, but this year chose to perform closer to the metropolitan centers at Summer Sonic. The QVC stadium was jam-packed for their thunderous set and its impressive visuals. They opened up with "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" and laid on the beats hard and thick, including the cuts "Star Guitar," "Chemical Beats," "Elektrobank" and "Galvanize," before shaking the house with "Block Rocking Beats."

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On Sunday fest, promoter's Creativeman pulled off a coup with third headliner Zedd. The stadium was completely crammed with revelers as the German-Russian producer cranked out a house set that alternated between dance floor beats and pop remixes. He called on stage Nasri of Magic! (who had played earlier in the day) to sing on the group's smash hit "Rude" and also dropped Maroon 5's "Sugar," the aforementioned Grande track "Break Free" and Empire of the Sun's "Alive."

Imagine Dragons followed and the dwindling crowd showed they've yet to attain in Japan the popularity they enjoy in the U.S. They offered a fine and heartfelt set, with frontman Dan Reynolds expressing his love for the audience numerous times. Standout tracks included "Gold," "I Bet My Life" and their huge hit "Radioactive."

Finally, Pharrell not only brought his coterie of musicians and dancers to perform but also called so-called "audience members" to join him on stage. (The suspiciously beautiful folk looked well rehearsed.) The hit maker's set relied on tracks he'd guested on, as well as many from his 2014 release G I R L, including "Come Get It Bae," "Frontin'," "Hunter," "Marilyn Monroe," "Brand New," "It Girl," "Lose Yourself To Dance" and "Gust Of Wind." He wound up his hour-and-a-half set with "Drop It Like It's Hot," "Blurred Lines," "Get Lucky" and "Happy" before tacking on the coda of his recently released "Freedom."

Pharrell Summer Sonic 2015

Mance Thompson