Fiesta! Fiesta! opened the set-list for the UK fans, and everyone went nuts for it. A blur of movement on stage was all I could see through the heads of everyone, sparkles capturing the light as fans screamed ‘FIESTA! FIESTA!’ in response, penlights waving through the air as the familiar, spicy sound of the song filled up the venue. A mixture of the members’ voices and the fans came together, and joining in, I jumped around like a mad kangaroo, crying at the top of my lungs as the song played, accidentally whacking my friend with my penlight in my surge of madness and energy.
Every now and again, I captured glimpses of members through the heads and shoulders of the other fans in front, and waved my green-lit penlight even more enthusiastically than before, in the hopes that one of the members would see me.
All I can say is, this song is so much better live than I had ever expected. Sayuki and Ruru, to powerhouses within the group, delivered their lines with such vigor, and I was amazed by how incredible they sounded live, similar to the power and precision they delivered in studio recordings. Fiesta! Fiesta! was a brilliant, dazzling performance from all members, and opening with it sent a surge of energy and determination through the fans, allowing both Juice=Juice and their audience’s energy to come into full-swing, just moments after beginning the set.
The cool and expressive sound only continued from there. Followed by Hadaka no Hadaka no Hadaka no Kiss and Date ja nai yo Uchi no Jinsei wa, Juice=Juice delivered their first three songs with exuberance and quality, never disappointing for one second. Hadaka no Hadaka no Hadaka no Kiss especially was met with a great display of delight from the fans, and before long, the members were standing on the stage, smiling brilliantly as they greeted the UK fans, in English. When Akari introduced herself, I went a little overboard, jumping and waving my penlight like a sword. Chances are, I whacked my friend again. Oops.
It wasn’t long before the next song began, right after the members’ greetings, but I was surprised to hear the familiar tune – Hajimete wo Keikenchuu, an oldie, but a goodie that was one of my favourites from the early Juice=Juice song selection. From the moment it started, I went made – again – for the song, delighted that it was being sung live, right in front of me. Seeing the group transform from cool to cute in mere moments was exhilarating, and hearing it was a true experience; they were endearing, demure and sweet all the way through, with Akari standing out for her purity, and Karin delivering her lines with such sincerity. At this point, I came to realise what a gem Karin truly is; her voice is actually this cute in real life.
Of course, Sayuki’s sudden change from powerhouse to a cute, gentle-voiced girl was incredible, but I doubt she will ever cease to amaze me.
Ça va? Ça va? and Tick-Tock Watashi no Shun continued the set list, and it was coming to light by then that Juice=Juice were playing a nice, flavourful variety of tracks for us, each with a unique sound, and something that would tickle each individual nationality in terms of the songs origins. It was Jidanda Dance, however, that delighted the fans and had me going a little more than overboard, once again.
Donning yukata robes over their plaid green outfits, Juice=Juice showcased a vibrant display in this performance of Jidanda Dance. An expressive song, it is just as hyperactive and entertaining live as it is in the studio recording and music video, and by this points, the fans were pumped. With a Japanese flare, Jidanda Dance truly spiced up the international flavour they had been performing since the beginning of the night, and the fans were absolutely loving it. I was no different; penlight in hand, merciless as ever, I bounced around on the spot and screamed my lungs out.
And, though it was unintentional, I think I wota’d far too hard, and hit someone in the back of my head during this song, to which I immediately apologised. I was perhaps a little too extra in my enthusiasm, and at that point, I reigned it in a little; yes, I was in the back and there was room to move, but there were still fans around me, appreciating the concert in a quiet manner. I needed to watch myself, before I actually hurt someone.
After Jidanda Dance had ended, my reign of bouncy terror subsided, the members of Juice=Juice delivered an MC in Japanese. I understand absolutely none of it, said to say, but it was still nice to hear everyone speak. I waved my penlight in green and yellow for both Akari and Sayuki, watched the reactions of the crowd – all positive, I assure you – and heard the cheers the fans emitted as the girls spoke. Cries of members’ names erupted all around the room, and before long, it was time for another collection of songs,
Romance no Tochuu, Samidare Bijou ga Samidareru and Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya ne made their appearances here, and honestly, I felt such a wave of nostalgia and happiness upon hearing them all. These are songs that all long-time Juice=Juice would know, classics that introduced us to the group and hooked fans from the get-go. It was an overwhelming performance, in fact, and I could feel the happiness and energy from all around me. We sang along, chanted, rolled our penlights above our heads, and made our presence known – the UK Family were loud, proud, and filled with the utmost adoration for Juice=Juice as they performed before us. Hearing them sing those songs, witnessing the maturity and growth and just how far they had come since singing these songs, all those years ago, was a beautiful, emotional moment. In that very instance, I realised just how amazing Juice=Juice had become, and how much they had improved in their years together.
In that moment, I was enlightened. I was so glad to experience this, and witness the growth of Juice=Juice from so long ago, up until now.
It was just before Samidare Bijou ga Samidareru when both Nanami and Ruru left the stage, bidding their goodbyes to the fans and expressing all of their gratitude at being given this chance to perform in front of the UK fans. Of course, it was not the end of the groups performance; after performing eleven songs, the seven-member Juice=Juice that had entered the stage, now stood as five. It was a moment of overwhelming nostalgia for a lot of the fans – this was the Juice=Juice many of us had known, the group that had started our fandom. For so many of us standing there that night, it would be the final opportunity to capture the memory of 5-nin Juice=Juice on stage together.
With all their power and determination, Juice=Juice continued their live, as if both Nanami and Ruru were still standing with them. The girls never faltered once, ans certainly made up for their missing comrades. Everything flowed naturally, and no matter what, Juice=Juice were impressive, flawless, even, and continued to hook me with each song they sang.
It was KEEP ON Joshou Shikou!! that stood out to me the most during the concert. At the point when this song came out in 2016, my interest in Juice=Juice had waned greatly, so I had never been interested in it, but once it played, there was something about it that gripped me. The energy, passion and confidence in the song had me bouncing around, jabbing my penlight in the air as I looked for the girls through a sea of heads, and I realised quickly just how good the song is. It’s my new obsession, and hearing it live just proved to me how incredible it is.
The catchy, energetic tune caused great excitement for myself, allowing me to truly appreciate just how diverse and intriguing Juice=Juice’s sound is, whilst similarly reminding me to kick myself for ever thinking that KEEP ON was ever a dull song.
Goal ~Ashita wa Acchi da yo~ soon followed, filling the venue with sentimentality. Fans toned down the energy at this point, allowing us all to savour such a sweet, appreciative moment together as we waved our penlights and vocally expressed our support. It was a subdued moment, and though there was an expressive power within the song, I couldn’t help but note how nostalgic and gentle it sounded against the rest of the set-list that night. At one point, my friend turned to me, expressing how nice the song was, and I wholeheartedly agreed; Goal ~Ashita wa Acchi da yo~ is such a pretty sound, standing out from the rest of the songs beautifully.
And then it was the encore. Out night was coming to an end, and as the members left the stage for a brief few minutes, fans cried out ‘JUICE! JUICE! JUICE!’ with as much energy and power as they had before the concert had begun. All too soon, the members of Juice=Juice had returned to the stage, appearing before us in colourful, flowing costumes to the delight of the everyone watching.
As the girls stood on stage, tall and bright with smiles gracing the crowd, they announced their encore before beginning their last few songs. Starting with the groups second major single title, Ijiwaru Shinai de Dakishimete yo, fans cried out their appreciation as Juice=Juice delivered a cool and enticing performance, each fan waving their penlights – and a panda bear plush, somewhere – as they sang along to the track, chanted, and supported each girl with all their might. It was a moment to remember; the nostalgia we all felt as the familiar, jazzy tune we all knew and loved from their early days played, and standing before us, the Juice=Juice we had ever thought we could experience. They were simply dazzling, and so much more mature and capable than we had ever seen them.
Magic of Love (J=J 2015 ver.) came soon after, a classic track in the Hello! Project song collection, and one that the group has made their own since covering it. I’d never heard Magic of Love before this, but much like KEEP ON, the song has stuck in my mind since witnessing Juice=Juice’s performance of it, and I am simply in love. With passion and delight, the members delivered their penultimate track with distinct, vibrant vocals, creating a personal touch as each girl sang. Juice=Juice was simply astounding, with Sayuki’s voice vibrating throughout, Karin giving it her all, and Tomoko dazzling on the stage like it was her second home. It was overwhelming, and once again I found myself jumping around madly, cheering the group on and crying out all of the passion I had in me as they delivered yet another stellar performance, one that will stick in my memory for a long time from now.
And once Magic of Love came to its end, the final MC of the night came just as quickly after it. Expressing their thanks, Juice=Juice gave their messages to the English fans. Penlights switched colours as each member spoke, each fan showing their support for everyone, regardless of their oshimen, and I listened as fans cheered and roared when each girl talked about being in London, performing around the world, and their desires as a group. Fans laughed raucously once Sayuki boldly proclaimed ‘I want to stay here, in London!’, her smile radiant as she pointed down at the stage.
Once their messages came to a close,Juice=Juice thanked their UK Family again for everything, bowing to us all and waving, before finally coming together in their next formation, ready to begin their final encore, which would bring our night to an end.
Wonderful World (Eigo ver.) had me screaming – blast all the poor listeners around me, I was going to throw myself into this song – and my penlight was once again merciless to all who stood in my way. I sang along. I cheered. I screamed until my throat hurt, jumping on the spot as if my energy knew no bounds as this song played. It was sung entirely in English, with the members continuing to impress me with their own energy and drive as they delivered their final track to their UK fans. With loud, clear voices, Juice=Juice were vibrant as they stood before us, their vocals powerful against the din of all us noisy fans. This is the song where I sang along completely, this was when I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed by just how wonderful the group looked and sounded, and this was where I knew that I loved Juice=Juice once again, because finally experienced Wonderful World was amazing, and it solidified my impression of Juice=Juice in my mind completely.
But once Wonderful World came to its end, so did the concert itself. Staring into the crowd, Juice=Juice cried out their final ‘Thank you’s!’ to cheering fans, bowing low to us all as we screamed with warmth, love and appreciation, waving our glow-sticks and penlights one final time with great strength.
As Juice=Juice descended down the steps and made their way out of the venue, the girls waved to those who could see, smiling before they finally left the room, where the fans all stood, taking in the event that we had all just experienced just an hour and a half ago.
The lights came up then, and slowly, the crowd began to dissipate. A few fans were making their final purchases at the small goods table, whilst I went to find my friends within the crowd and talk to various people about the concert. We were all in a daze – after witnessing both the seven-member and five-member Juice=Juice, we couldn’t believe any of it had really happened. It still feels surreal, because it was all so overwhelming and exciting.
I met with Junya-san in the venue just as everyone was leaving, and in that instance, we shared a personal moment together, with Junya-san expressing his utmost thanks for all the fans supporting Juice=Juice and coming together to experience this incredible live. It was emotional, hearing Junya’s delight at seeing how fans from all over the world come together to see a group he has watched since their debut. And, after hearing what Junya had to say, and experiencing it myself, I can honestly say that coming to the Juice=Juice concert was an incredible, passionate display, and that the UK fans are a truly amazing force. We showed our love for Juice=Juice, and we made sure that we were heard, to prove that we adored them, and that we wanted them back again, sometime soon.
I was even able to get the impressions of the organiser of the event, Xavier from 33Degrees. I was happy to hear from hims that, after witnessing the live, he has desire to bring Juice=Juice back to the United Kingdom, in a bigger venue if he could. Hopefully, this will not be the last group we see from Hello! Project, either. I asked Xavier if there were hopes to bring other acts to the UK, France, Germany and other countries in the near-future, and he agreed that he would like to see ANGERME, Morning Musume and others perform overseas, too.
After seeing such an energetic display from the UK fans, I’m sure that Xavier understands how serious we are, and how much we love these groups, regardless of the language barrier. This is a hope we have as fans, and a dream we can look forward to where we can one day see the groups we love most, in our very own countries.