Admiring the meticulously designed House of Blues theater, the wait for SCANDAL as I stood in the standing area proved less arduous than I had expected. The venue was artfully lit with vibrant colors and antique dressings; the uninhabited stage lit in sparkling blue. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a live concert, but it took seconds for me to remember what the live experience was like: feeling the energy of excited fans, chants spawning out of a void, an ever-growing and changing sea of claps, hollering, and hands thrust into the air in unison. When the hushed blue light turned crystal clear, the roar of screams jolt through your system and you find yourself doing the same. SCANDAL steps through the blinding lights, picks up their instruments, and the next hour becomes a complete blur.
SCANDAL starts the concert with “Love in Action”, a favorite from their latest album, “Hello World”. It’s a perfect song to start the concert: it has an incredibly infectious stop-and-go quality to it that you can’t help but move to. From the left side of the stage, Bassist Tomomi provides the first line of vocals, her uniquely high and chipper voice reverberating through the entire room. She’s all smiles as she hops all over the stage and plays to the crowd. Lead vocalist and guitarist Haruna follows, her cool demeanor and pulled-back hair gives her a striking appearance in the center position. To her left is Mami, the lead guitarist, with wild two-tone hair and displaying a ridiculous amount of talent with her musical weapon of choice. Sitting behind the three is the drummer, Rina; who, despite the hyper-aggressive nature of percussions, displays a staggering amount of elegance and presence on stage — and draws some of the biggest cheers.
SCANDAL has been a band since 2006, and their well-earned chemistry and dynamic play well to the crowd, something everyone from die-hards to curious newcomers can easily see. Speaking of die-hards, SCANDAL showed plenty of love for the fans who followed them since their early years. An oldie but goody, “SCANDAL Baby” is performed, which has a powerfully melancholy melody and even sadder lyrics, but still outputs such energy and spirit. “Doll”, a 2008 classic, roared through the venue and generated one of the most fun crowd interactions: switching back and forth between clapping in unison during the verses and devolving into complete and utter bedlam when the chorus erupted. It’s a quality many SCANDAL songs have; the interplay between sweet and aggression is a big part of their iconic sound, and the effect is amplified exponentially when played against a huge crowd.
The middle section of the concert was devoted to member’s solo songs from the “Hello World” album. Mami, Tomomi and Rina performing “Hon o Yomu”, “Kan Beer”, and “Oyasumi”, respectively. These kinds of songs could easily be the lowlight since they play towards specific fans, but these select songs turned out to be the most interesting of the night, showing great variety and an energy that was unique from the staple favorites. The remainder of the set list from then on was dedicated to performing the rest of the tracks from the “Hello World” album, with the surprise appearance of “Taiyo to kimi ga egaku STORY”, a single from 2010; a song that I remember fondly from when I first heard of SCANDAL.
The band finished the night with “Image”, and strutted off-stage — but that wasn’t the end of it of course. After a lengthy round of screaming “SCANDAL!” across the room, the blinding lights shined back onto the arena, as the members picked up their instruments once more for the encore. The first song performed was “Awanai Tsumori no, Genki Dene”, one of the more mellow songs (comparatively of course, as they’re pretty much all high energy), and proceeded to finish the concert once and for all with “EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!”, encouraging the crowd to become a violently churning mixing bowl of jumping and hollering; really the best song to end the crazy experience with.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when SCANDAL returned to the States to perform — I was certainly excited, since I was in awe of their performance in Anaheim four years ago, but I had slacked and haven’t been following their releases for at least the past year. What this concert proved to me was that SCANDAL still has the spark that many bands lose after being around for nearly a decade. They are not a band whose best years are clearly past, but a band that refuses to rest on their laurels and may actually be on their way to surpassing themselves in the near future.
This article was a joint production between David Chang from New School Kaidan and Dae Lee from OtakuReview.net