The following is my own opinion and does not necessarily reflect those of the other Selective Hearing staff, the sites partners and/or affiliates.

Morning Musume ’14 Live in New York

On October 5, 2014 Hello! Project’s flagship group Morning Musume。’14 held their first U.S. headlining concert at the Best Buy Theater in New York. Depending on how long you have been a fan of the group you are either on the side of having your 5 years of agony ended with this return to American shores or you were excited to finally go to your first idol concert ever.

Regardless, it was an exciting event for all the fans that managed to make their way to New York for this event.

Pre-Concert

Of course this would not be an idol concert without a few hiccups along the way. I have heard and read various complaints before and after the concert and I would l like to address those that I feel are valid and universal across the board for everyone who is attending a concert of this nature.

First thing newcomers and even veterans must learn is that the line ups are going to suck.

You may be asked to move several times to different locations if the mob of unruly fans gets to be too large, or if the barriers that define the line are finally set up. Lining up is half the battle and if you don’t like lining up then you are going to the wrong type of concert.

Second is merchandise, hereby referred to as “merch” to save me from typing the entire word over and over again. From what I heard from some of my friends in the VIP line there was a mad dash into the building to get to the merch table. Like 100 meter dash Usain Bolt type of sprinting to be first in line.

If you don’t want to get trampled by wota screaming “TAKE MY MONEY!!!” you are best served to hang back and let natural selection take out the weaker of the herd. Honestly merch is always going to be a bit of a disaster zone at these types of events.

From what I saw when I got into the Best Buy Theater all sense of orderly conduct was thrown out the window at the merch table. I would not put blame on the staff as they were trying to get to everyone. It’s just that some of you are like vultures on a fresh carcass when it comes to merch.

I guess I’m more accustomed to tents set up outside the venue instead where people can queue up and get their goods before going into the concert. It seems more orderly than the feeding frenzy I saw at the merch table in the Best Buy Theater.

Main Event

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On to the concert itself. Since I was a general admission plebian I did not have the luxury of getting into wota row to party it up. The VIP folks and their peeps already took many of the prime spots. Instead I sat in the balcony section (only a few rows up from Tsunku and company) and I had a very good view. I could see everything and there were no tall people in front of me. There was also a TV mounted in front of my row in case I absolutely needed to see everything up close, but my natural view was enough.

The only real distractions were the Japanese dudes a row ahead of me with their DSLR’s & video cameras filming the entire concert. Which I found kind of funny since I figured those guys would be the ones uploading the show on YouTube after it ended. How these guys managed to get such obvious rule breaking equipment past the staff at the doors was beyond me, but I’d like to learn their secret ways.

From above it looked like the pit was packed with glow sticks of various colors and as show time neared the standing room area extended further back until people were closer to railing area separating the pit from the rest of the venue almost to the sound board.

As the concert started there was a female voice giving intros for each member as they made their way out. Apparently people in wota row could not hear these intros, but everyone else above them could. I’m not sure if that was because it was so loud down there or if there were no speakers to relay the audio.

Of course Sayumi’s intro was the best playing up to her character perfectly.

The set list for the concert was as follows:

1. One Two Three
2. Help me!!
3. Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke
4. MC
5.TIKI BUN
6. Wakuteka Take a Chance
7. The Matenrou Show
8. Brainstorming
9. MC
10. I WISH (Updated)
11. Lalala ni Pipipi (Sayumi Solo)
12. Shabondama
13. Kimagure Princess
14. Souda! We’re ALIVE
15. LOVE Machine
16. The Peace!
17. Love Revolution 21
18. MC
19. Password is 0
20. Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai
21. What is LOVE?
22. Encore
23. Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe
24. MC
25. Happy Daisakusen

As you can see they did not dip into the well of past classics and stuck closely to their current sound found on their remake album and recent singles. For a live house show it was the correct thing to do as the crowd was kept hyped the entire hour and a half.

It’s no secret that I have not been the most dedicated supporter of Hello! Project recently and I’ve been off trying to complete the trifecta for another idol organization for the past few years. But I do have loyalty to Michishige Sayumi and since I will not be able to go to her graduation concert in November, this was my last opportunity to see her live or otherwise.

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With that said I was very impressed with this current group of Musumes. From a dance standpoint they are comparable to a lot of K-Pop groups with their use of various formations and levels. I was commenting to my friend during the show that they are fairly close to SNSD (a.k.a. Shoujo Jidai) when it comes to dance skill and complexity.

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Vocally? Well that was a surprise as well as I did not expect a lot since many of the current Momusu songs have heavy audio processing and auto-tune on them. But they did manage to hold their own on the singing front as well. Some members had issues holding long notes but still stayed in key. Other than that, they lived up to the reputation of generations past and sang live the entire time.

The highlights for me other than the performances themselves were the first MC where the girls introduced themselves in English and then later on, the sea of pink.  In regards to the MC’s I think Oda Sakura probably has the most comprehensible English out of all the current members. Not to say that the others were completely speaking Klingon but, she seemed to have a stronger grasp on the language than the others.

It probably also helped that she sounded hella cute speaking English as well, so a bit of a bias there I guess.

Suzuki Kanon got a lot of love from the American crowd. So much that she forgot what she was supposed to say due to being overwhelmed. When she composed herself she was able to say she had a big breakfast. Funny stuff.

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As for the sea of pink. There was a project to light the Best Buy Theater in pink if Sayumi either had a solo song or after the encore chant. Apparently these instructions were difficult to understand for some, but thankfully the sea of pink showed up both times. So yay people for following instructions. It looked great from above.

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But boo to the people who had the orange and red glow sticks up in the pit during the Sayumi solo.

Post-Concert Handshake

When the concert ended there was a handshake event that I would like to briefly go over. I  was not expecting a lot of time with the members because the staff were being kind of inconsistent and somewhat pushy.

Were the staff  managing this portion of the event rude?  I didn’t necessarily experience the rudeness that other fans did. I can only assume people were mad at those handling the management of the handshake lines because they had higher expectations of this portion of the event.

I was in one of the very last rows to get a handshake and I just watched to see how much time I would have and my calculations were 2 – 3 seconds at best before I got the tap on the shoulder or as some have stated, “MOVE IT PEOPLE!!”

It was very similar to my NMB48 and AKB48 handshakes last year. A blur of quick greetings and then getting shoved out of the door. I managed to at least tell Oda her English was very good and got to look all the other members in the eye for a good couple of seconds to say thank you before getting to Sayumi.

I congratulated her on her upcoming graduation in Japanese before being pointed towards the exit. That’s all one can really ask for when there are 800+ people to go through and my handshake experience was rewarding in that sense.

Final Impressions

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My first Morning Musume。concert was way back at Anime Expo 2009. When I compare that experience to this recent one, New York wins. The venue was much better, fans were actually there to see the group (instead of wandering in for a free concert and a break from Anime geeking) and the concert wasn’t anywhere near an anime convention. (Fandoms colliding and all that)

I had fun from all the way up in the peanut gallery and I am inspired enough to keep an eye on Morning Musume。’14 after Sayumi graduates. I’m not completely back in the fold but I may add one of their concerts to my list of things to do when I go back to Japan next year.

And that ends my whole concert experience. In the end it was a good time and maybe I’ll show up to the next Hello! Project concert in America. Hopefully it is C-ute coming over since they are the only the group of the big 3 that I am missing from my Hello! Project concert bucket list.

Morning Musume。’14’s Official Sites

http://www.helloproject.com/morningmusume/
https://www.facebook.com/Morningmusume.Official