This summer, we went to Anime Expo 2015 to cover the Momoiro Clover Z concert. Alumni and co-founder Dae Lee shares his thoughts on the wild performance they put on. Our sincere apologies for the delay in reporting. Check out our gallery of photos at the bottom!
Momoiro Clover Z can be seen as a sub-genre of idols spun out of control. Super sentai, space opera, professional wrestling; all of its inspirations and motifs are derived from larger-than-life, theatrical spires of entertainment that lend themselves spectacularly to idols and their live performances. The members themselves also have incredibly strong established identities as a result, utilizing character-building tropes and strengthening them with camp and self-awareness.
To date, Momoiro Clover has performed all over Japan including the Nissan Stadium, which boasts the biggest capacity of any stadium in Japan (70,000+). Viewing such events on blu-ray gives me the similar feeling of awe when watching the wide shots of Planet Earth, as if witnessing a massive display of impressive coordination.
The five simple colors of red, yellow, green, purple, and pink become strong identifiers for the five members Momota Kanako, Tamai Shiori, Takagi Reni, Ariyasu Momoka and Sasaki Ayaka — and equally so for their supporters. Every Momoiro Clover Z event is easily identifiable by the visual array of vibrant colors donned by its fans in mass gatherings, from t-shirts and hoodies, to traditional Japanese happi coats and cosplay that professes their favorite member. Having chroma classify members is a brilliant strategy for newcomers as well, allowing them to focus on the member’s personalities and attaching them to easily identifiable colors instead of solely on names; made much easier than others due to the fact that there are only five of them.
Illuminated by an ocean of coordinated waves of multi-colored pen lights, there’s a feeling of being in a huge festival during idol concerts, and Anime Expo was no exception — especially the closer one got to the front where the neon pen light concentration was at its highest and the most in sync. The movements of the pen lights in this area are led by die-hard Japanese Momoiro Clover Z fans who know the various choreography and chants all by heart, allowing less knowledgeable (and less confident) fans like myself to easily follow along beside them, albeit more clumsily.
One thing I’m always reminded of in these situations is realizing how idol performances highly encourage (if not downright require) audience participation. Whether it’s yelling to the rhythm, mirroring the choreography, jumping into the air, or all of the above, it’s often just as integral for the fans to “perform” back to the idols on stage. There’s a verbal and physical vocabulary of calls and motions that slightly vary between groups, but once you grasp the concept, it’s relatively easy to integrate and adapt. While there was admittedly a bit of performance anxiety when I realized just how close I was to the stage, it all melted away once the show began.
The overture that precedes is an instrumental rendition of their first major debut single from 2010, ‘Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo’, playing with brazen synths as the fans lend their shouting voices along with the beat while synchronizing their light pens forwards and backwards. Knowing the Anime Expo audience, the setlist leans heavily on their anime collaboration works; the first song to be performed is a nostalgic cover of ‘Moonlight Densetsu’, the opening song of the original Sailor Moon series. Joshiraku’s hyper ED ‘Nippon Egao Hyakkei’ follows, with great shamisen instrumentals provided by Yoshida Brothers.
As expected, Sailor Moon’s ‘Gekkou’ and ‘MOON PRIDE’ as well as Dragon Ball Z’s ‘Z no Chikai’ were met with great reception, but it was the OP and ED of Bodacious Space Pirates, ‘Mugen no Ai’ and ‘LOST CHILD’ respectively, that were the anime songs I’ve been longing to hear live, and Momoiro Clover did not disappoint. These bombastic space-operatic songs are the stuff life is made of, and were easily among the highlights of the concert. The single biggest surprise however was the inclusion of ‘Chai Maxx’, a b-side from a single from 2011 that has been a fond but distant memory. It’s a perfect example of a song with great audience participation and interaction, switching between knee kicks, dancing, and charged roars.
The energy and charisma exuding from the members is very apparent, built up over years of trials and performances. Forgoing vocal embellishments, the singing quality is impressively strong and crystal clear; nothing to scoff at when singing live is required even during the most tiring dances. Having performed in venues nearly ten times as large as the Microsoft Theater for concerts that run three times as long, the girls breeze through the setlist with panache.
For some, this was a pipe dream concert come true for overseas fans — to others, this was an introduction to one of the largest pop acts in Japan. Even for Japanese fans who have taken the trouble to fly over for the sole purpose of attending this short concert, it was well worth the trip to be able to experience a Momoiro Clover Z concert in a small venue that simply does not happen anymore in the motherland. Correction: Momoiro Clover Z has been performing at Zepp venues this year, some of which hold only approximately 2,000 people.
For me, the concert was reaffirming and re-energizing; a wake-up call of huge proportions — experiencing Momoiro Clover live, a group I have avidly followed since 2010 was just the one I needed, perhaps more than I would ever have wished for out of such a concert. Equipped with a bright yellow shirt and two pen lights, all of which were acquired at Anime Expo, my experience is one I’ll remember acutely for a very long time; not solely because of the concert itself but also the new friendships and (mis)adventures I’ve made and spent with various people in the name of Momoiro Clover Z.
Photo credit: Kenneth Uy
Article was updated at 10:08pm EDT to include information about Zepp venues – which are smaller venues.