J-pop artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu performed in front of an actual audience for the first time in over a year on Apr. 17, at her Premium Live “Great Invitation” double concerts at Ex Theater Roppongi in Tokyo.
The icon of kawaii is celebrating her tenth year in music in 2021, having made her major label debut in August 2011 with her mini-album Moshi Moshi Harajuku. In January, she launched her own record label called KRK LAB and released the first single off the new imprint, “GUM GUM GIRL,” to kick off the milestone year.
The Premium Live “Great Invitation” event was Kyary’s first live show during her anniversary year, and also the first time she performed for an in-house audience in 14 months. The performance on the two stages strictly adhered to Tokyo’s COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, with fans sending love Kyary’s way by waving glow sticks and clapping only.
The evening show began with an opening video in the style of a black-and-white old movie, showing the 28-year-old singer waiting to be invited to a party. When the phone rings at long last to relay her invitation to the gala, the video transforms to show Kyary’s smile in full color.
The curtain then rose to the sound of a toy piano, and the Harajuku princess wearing a red-and-white dress and big ribbons in her pink hair opened the set with “Candy Candy,” her second single from 2012. Seated in an armchair in the living room at first, she stood up during the second verse to deliver her song and dance with two other dancers to the live audience. Her long-awaited reunion with fans at the beginning of the show was already an emotional moment so soon into the set.
The pop artist then moved left into the kitchen to perform another early release, “Cherry Bonbon” (2011), wearing an apron that one of the dancers handed to her. “Clap your hands!” she called out, the crowd eagerly responding to her request. She then scooted over to the right into the bathroom area and sang “Choudo iino,” also off her 2011 debut mini-album. Waving the shower hose in one hand and joined by dancers who hop out from the bathtub, Kyary performed the tune in a flurry of bubbles.
After the bathroom segment, the singer delivered “Scanty Skimpy” (2014) with a dancer in a suit. Later joined by four other dancers, the vibrant performance of the swinging number was like watching an entertaining musical film.
Kyary then paused to address her fans. “Hey everyone, long time no see! How’ve you been?” she asked, and the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause. “It’s been a year and two months since I last saw you. Thank you for coming even though the pandemic is far from being over. I hope you enjoy this premium, one-day-only live show called Great Invitation.”
She then went on to explain the concept of the opening video. “The clip you saw in the beginning like a scene from a movie expresses the year I spent feeling sick of waiting to be able to do concerts again, because I thought that a phone not ringing for a year really captured that sentiment,” she shared. “When I found myself not being to do live shows [because of the pandemic], something that I used do on a routine basis almost, I thought a lot about things like what I’m capable of providing.”
“The theme of this show is something like ‘my home.’ I love being at home, so I wanted to give you all a peek into the wonderful world that is my home. Enjoy!”
Kyary then launched into a nonstop torrent of nine tracks, kicking off with her cover of Capsule’s “Super Scooter Happy” from 2013 to brighten the mood. She then followed up with “Todoke Punch” (2017), performing the track alone and encouraging the audience to punch the air together with her. Next up was her hit song “Tsukematsukeru” (2012), performed with a team of dancers and fans providing backup by happily doing the “Tsukema Dance.” Kyary seemed moved by the sight and thanked everyone for joining in.
The segment was far from over, and Kyary further hyped up the crowd with “Mottai-Nightland” (2013), delivering a blaring live rendition that highlighted the dynamic nature of the sparkly pop tune. While fans weren’t able to sing along or cheer during the set, the pop artist made sure everyone joined in on the fun by making eye contact and providing pointers on how to mimic some of her hand moves. Like the way she prompted fans to raise their hands during “Kizunami” (2018), her desire to uplift everybody in the audience was apparent.
“Having fun? Now let’s dance together!” Kyary called out, as the familiar dance beat of her debut single “Pon Pon Pon” sparks a wave of excitement over the crowd. Donning a hat decorated with flowers, she performed the bubbly electro-pop tune while the audience danced along with her. The marathon continued with Steve Aoki’s “Ninja Re Bang Bang” (2013) remix, the 8-bit game music beat further fueling the euphoria in the air.
Kyary kept the momentum going with a bop from last year, “Kamaitachi.” Originally slated to be premiered in front of audiences during her cancelled 2020 tour, the live version of the romantic number featuring Japanese lore in its imagery was delivered to fans at last. She wrapped up the nonstop run with “Gum Gum Girl,” her latest single that features some serious battle scenes in the accompanying music video. Repeating the key phrase, “Ippon! Ippon!,” Kyary nailed the aggressive choreography that also incorporates kicking action, portraying a cute but tough ninja that embodies her signature aesthetic.
The singer finally took a little break to address fans again. “Going from ‘Kamaitachi’ to ‘Gum Gum Girl’ really makes me lose my wind,” she confessed, sitting down on a chair to catch her breath. She then opened up about the inspiration behind her costumes for the show. “Do you know a great French actress named Brigitte Bardot? I love her and wanted to channel her style as the motif for my costumes in order to express this at-home feel. It ended up being a bit like my look in ‘Furisodation,’” she shared, and went on to explain that the props such as the lamp, vase, and teapot were all antiques that she actually owned, plus some other personal belongings. “Believe it or not,” she gushed, “the cushion was a birthday present from [popular actor] Go Ayano!”
The singer then informed fans that she used her quarantine time from the past year to remedy her vision. “I got an operation called ICL on my eyes during this past year and two months, and now I have 20/20 vision without contacts. So I see all your faces really clearly!” she said, pointing out that she’d been aware of the signs that fans had brought. “And I see that sign that says, ‘Happy 10th Anniversary.’ Thank you.”
Emphasizing that “Yes, it’s my tenth anniversary,” she voiced her hope of doing various live shows during her milestone year. “Please look forward to it!” she said, to the delight of fans responding with loud applause.
Kyary then kicked off the remainder of the set, performing “Sai & Co” (2016) and encouraging everyone to dance with her to the marching beat. Riding high on the happy mood, she closed her hit-filled set with “Otona na Kodomo” (2013), with lyrics that express the desire to become a “sparkly” grown-up, in line with her will to keep evolving after ten years in music. The curtain fell slowly after Kyary finished delivering her positive messages to fans, and the concert ended with a video that concluded with the words: “to be continued 10th ANNIVERSARY YEAR.”
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s first concert in front of a live audience since the pandemic began brimmed with the cuteness and joy that fans love and expect from her, while also displaying her maturity and strength as an artist and entertainer. Her determination to throw the best party even during a pandemic could be sensed from the way she kept the crowd engaged in spite of the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 protocols, encouraging everyone to participate and enjoy. The balanced mix of throwback tracks and recent releases showcased Kyary’s evolution over the years, raising expectations for what’s more to come from the princess of kawaii.
This article by Keisuke Tsuchiya first appeared on Billboard Japan.