“Inko no Mure Vol.4 – Christmas Night” Concert Report

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Thanks a lot to yuifaninperth for the detailed report!

I was lucky enough to attend FLOWER FLOWER’s “Inko no Mure Vol.4 – Christmas Night” concert at Shibuya Club Quattro on 25 December 2017. I asked Kikino if he would let me publish a report about this experience. I wanted to write this as there are few reports in English about FLOWER FLOWER concerts. This report also details some of the challenges and idiosyncrasies of getting tickets and attending gigs in Japan, which may or may not be useful to anyone else planning to see FLOWER FLOWER in a similar-sized venue.

Note that this is quite a long article (over 7,000 words) but I wanted to get down all of my thoughts. I hope you won’t find it too self-indulgent.

I should state that I’m writing this more than a month after the concert. In fact, I’m writing it the day after FLOWER FLOWER’s new album ??????? (Spotlight) was announced. I was unbelievably excited to read that the bonus DVD for this album will feature footage from the exact concert I attended. Writing more than a month after the concert from my memory (I don’t keep a diary and I didn’t take any notes), what follows may be slightly impressionistic but hopefully still accurate. I guess everyone can see for themselves how good my memory was when they watch the concert DVD in about 5 weeks from now.

By way of background, I don’t live in Japan. I am a regular concert goer in my native country and city (Perth, Australia). When I was younger, I’d attend a gig once every week or two, usually local bands but sometimes bigger acts too. I’ve even been fortunate enough to be able to travel to distant places to see concerts.

I’m also a regular traveller to Japan, going about once every 18 months since 2008. I only stay 2-4 weeks each time and I’ve never attended a concert in Japan before this trip.

I should state that I didn’t go to Japan with the intention of seeing FLOWER FLOWER. I booked my plane tickets in late-January 2017 and knew I’d be there from mid-December 2017 to mid-January 2018. Of course, FLOWER FLOWER had no concerts scheduled at the time I booked my flights. However, I was secretly (or maybe not so secretly) hoping they would announce a concert which I could attend.

As the months of 2017 wore on with no announcement, I became resigned to the fact that FLOWER FLOWER wouldn’t be playing during the time I was in Japan. I was able to get a ticket to see Rihwa, another artist on my wish list. Even that was difficult as her concert in Tokyo (where I was staying) was scheduled for a date after I left Japan. Hence, I ended up having to see her on an earlier date on her Japanese concert tour, which involved me travelling to Osaka for a day-trip. This was totally worth it, despite the Shinkansen tickets being around 10x the value of Rihwa’s concert ticket!

As the date of departure for Japan grew closer, FLOWER FLOWER did announce they’d be playing at some big festivals. I’ve never been keen on seeing bands at festivals. The crowds are always huge, the stage is far from the audience and not everyone is a fan of the band you’re there to see. It’s probably different in Japan as people are more polite (more on that below) but festivals can be poor experiences for bands as they play to crowds where not everyone is interested in their work. I would much prefer a head-line gig any day.

About a month before I left for Japan, the announcement I was waiting for came. FLOWER FLOWER were playing at Shibuya Club Quattro. The iconic venue featured in their only official concert DVD (the bonus DVD released with ?). I’ve ripped the audio from this DVD and play it often on my iPod. I also re-watch the DVD or the 1080p rips from Youtube every now and then. To have the chance to see FLOWER FLOWER in this same venue was exactly the concert I wanted to attend. A headline gig in a medium-sized venue in their home-town – truly a dream come true.

As a regular concert goer, one of my areas of expertise is buying tickets. I’m proud to say that no matter the gig, nor how huge the act nor how strong the demand, I’ve never failed in securing a ticket to a concert I wanted to attend. I’ve even snagged front-row seats to iconic artists on occasions. All without ever reverting to the secondary ticket market. Naturally, I was confident of getting a ticket to see FLOWER FLOWER’s concert. After all, there’s only 13 million people in the greater Tokyo area. Not all of them could be FLOWER FLOWER fans, could they? Plus this was the only head-line concert FLOWER FLOWER were playing, so maybe a few people elsewhere in Japan would be willing to travel to Tokyo (just as I was travelling from overseas), increasing the demand.

Anyway, I entered the ticket pre-sale lottery. In Australia, a pre-sale means that tickets go on direct sale (usually for selected or not-so-selected people) and you can buy at this time, provided you get in fast enough. In Japan, it works differently. The pre-sale allows many people to enter a lottery and only those lucky lottery winners are able to buy tickets. I was hopeful. I was wrong.

OK, no dramas, there’s still the general ticket sale. How many tickets were in the pre-sale lottery? How many were left? What’s the venue capacity anyway? Despite not knowing the answers to any of these questions, I was confident. Again, I was wrong. Tickets for general sale disappeared before I could even hit the “buy” button on the website. I was shattered. For the first time in my life, a concert was happening in a city I’d be in that I wanted to attend, but I had failed to secure a ticket. What’s more, it was FLOWER FLOWER. At Shibuya Club Quattro. In Tokyo. When I’d be in Tokyo. What to do?

I’d never considered turning to the secondary ticket market and indeed I’d never had need to. However, the thought of missing out on this gig was too much to bear. Tickets had a face-value of ¥4,400. Immediately, they started appearing on the secondary ticket market up to ¥20,000. It was obvious that none of these ticket sellers were simply people who honestly bought a ticket and then ended up not being able to attend. They were all being sold by speculators. Profiteers. Scalpers. Ticket touts.

While I didn’t want to support their behaviour in any way, the lure of FLOWER FLOWER at Shibuya Club Quattro was too strong. I bided my time and finally caved at ¥13,000. I’d paid more for concert legitimate tickets before, so I rationalised. However, things did not go smoothly here either. At this time, I was still in Australia. I tried paying for the tickets with a credit card but it was declined. Not to worry, there was still the option to pay at a LAWSON in Japan. No problems, I said, I’ll be in Tokyo in a few days, so I’ll pay then. I selected the “pay at LAWSON” option. “Please pay within 30 minutes” the website said. The secondary ticketing website wasn’t kidding when it warned “do not sign up to this website unless you live in Japan and speak Japanese”.

Again, I bided my time until I arrived in Japan about a week before the concert. I checked the secondary ticketing situation again. The secondary ticketing company actually has an iPhone app with alerts when new tickets to concerts you are interested in are listed. Luckily (or maybe not so much for my wallet), more tickets appeared at prices I could afford. I made the reservation, ran to the nearest LAWSON and made the transaction.

I was still nervous at this point. Secondary tickets can sometimes be scams. Even though I was assured this was all above board in Japan, I couldn’t help but worry. For the website I was using, the agency kept the money I paid in escrow until I confirmed that I had received the ticket, which made it slightly less risky in my mind.

Another worry for me was that the tickets were supposed to bear the names of the buyers, presumably to prevent any on-sale of tickets. Of course, the secondary ticket sellers have gotten around this by buying tickets without giving names in some instances – the seller for the ticket I purchased noted that it had “no name” on the ticket. Instead of having “no name”, some of the secondary ticket sellers advertised specified they bore a “girl’s name”. What happens if the ticket doesn’t arrived? What if the venue questions why there is no name on the ticket? Despite all of the doubts in my mind, I still opted to proceed as the opportunity was too great to pass up.

True to their promise, the secondary ticket seller posted the ticket and it arrived a few days later, which was in turn a few days before the concert. As promised, no name was on the ticket. The ticket number was in the 580’s – this will become important as you read on.

_____
The day finally arrived. I’d been thinking about what time to arrive at the venue. Should I arrive early and try to get near to the front? I figured there would be plenty of hard-core fans who would get there super-early, so I decided to arrive around 6 PM. From my records, doors opened at 6:15 PM and there was one support band ???? (Friends).

When I made it to the venue, the atmosphere outside was festive with FLOWER FLOWER fans milling around on the street:

For those who know Shibuya, the venue is reasonably close to the iconic Shibuya crossing and quite close to my other favourite Shibuya landmark, Tower Records.

As to the venue itself, Shibuya Club Quattro is on the fourth floor of a building with a music store (?) underneath. Naturally, nobody was being allowed up to the fourth floor yet. I got close to the door and saw the sign below:

I need not have worried about turning up early as they were allowing entry based on your ticket number. As I was in the 580’s, it would be some wait. People started to form queues, which seemed strange to me as you didn’t enter based on your position in the queue, but when your ticket number was called. Still, I guess Japanese people like to queue. People still milled around as well, with venue staff periodically calling out for everyone to stop blocking the street where the occasional car still passed by.

Finally, venue staff started calling out numbers. I should state at this point that my Japanese language is not fantastic. From what I could tell, staff were calling out in blocks of 50. People proceeded to the ground floor entry, showed their ticket to the staff and were allowed entry into the building (not the venue, just the building).

As the numbers got higher, I feared missing my turn and being even further to the back of the venue than my 580’s ticket permitted. Based on the ticket numbers I saw advertised on the secondary ticketing website, the capacity of Shibuya Club Quattro is around 800 people (I never saw a ticket advertised that was higher than the high-700’s). I asked a few people also waiting what numbers were being called. I found the easiest way was to show them my ticket and they’d shake their head indicating that I had to wait longer. One guy even pulled out his phone and typed “up to 500”. I guess he was as confident in English as I was in Japanese. Still, it was nice of him to respond and everyone was really friendly.

Finally, the time came where they called 550-600. I proceeded to the door, showed the staff my ticket and was on my way in. I proceeded up the 4 flights of stairs (imagine a fire-escape painted black but inside a building) to the fourth floor. At this point, there was more queuing. There was also lockers here for people to store their large things. This will also become important later in this story. On this level, they were again calling out ticket numbers, this time in groups of 10. They got to 580-589 and I was in.

Incidentally, if you think this was an onerous process for venue staff, spare a thought for the staff at the Rihwa concert I went to in Osaka where the guy at the door called ticket number individually: “Ticket 1”, “Ticket 2”, etc. Thankfully that was a smaller venue and the poor guy only had to call out 200-300 numbers!

Anyway, back to FLOWER FLOWER at Shibuya Club Quattro. I rounded a corner and encountered the following inflatable fellows, which were popular photo opportunities:

After another small queue with my fellow 580-589 ticket holders, the official entry was in sight. At this point, I was still slightly nervous as this was the point where my ticket would be properly inspected. I had my passport for ID and even had a story as to why my ticket had no name. It turns out that I need not have worried. The official ticket-checking girl casually took my ticket, tore off a piece and handed it back to me, indicating that I could go in. She didn’t ask for any photo-ID. She also handed me the “surprise gift” for those dressed in festive red and green:

I should state that my dress was not spectacularly festive. Travelling from overseas with limited luggage space (and planning to buy a lot of stuff in Japan), I didn’t pack any specific “Red and Green” attire to wear to this concert. However, I did manage a red polo shirt underneath a khaki jacket, so red and green-ish. From what I could tell, everyone who attended the gig got a coaster regardless of dress, which was nice of the band.

Right after this ticket check, I rounded another corner where there was a big merchandise desk for the support band ???? (Friends) on the right hand size and a disappointingly small desk for FLOWER FLOWER merchandise on the left hand side. The FLOWER FLOWER desk only had CDs – nothing else. I saw many other attendees with FLOWER FLOWER merchandise, some still in their original packaging. I assume there must have been a bigger merchandising desk somewhere, but I didn’t see it before, during or after the concert.

Rounding yet another corner was the entry to the venue itself. Proceeding inside, I exchanged my compulsory ¥500 drink token for a small bottle of water. A sensible choice as I knew I’d be standing in the same spot for several hours and I didn’t want my bladder to cause me to lose my spot as it may have if I loaded up on booze. I also wanted to be completely alert for this once-in-a-lifetime gig.

For people who have never been inside Shibuya Club Quattro, it consists of two levels. The lower lever is the largest and holds around 80% of the crowd. There is no seating and no slope, so sight-lines to the stage are a problem anywhere towards the back of this section. There is also an upper tier which is semi-circular, occupying the back and sides of the venue.

The venue had a mild-Christmas feel. There was a white Christmas tree erected near the bar and the ceiling had been decorated with red and green bunting. Here’s 2 photo from someone’s Twitter:


If my Japanese was correct (no guarantees of that), the ???? (Friends) female vocalist noted that FLOWER FLOWER did this decorating themselves.

When I arrived, the venue looked packed. There was almost no space in the lower tier. I tried there first, but I was right at the back. I then tried the upper tier, which was also pretty packed. I did my best to get a good spot, but it wasn’t that great – right at the back of the venue, but at least slightly elevated. Remember I was 580-ish of 800 people – where were the remaining 25% of patrons going to fit?

Then, something great happened. Venue staff shouted for everyone in the lower tier to move forward, which opened up the area behind them. I rushed from the upper tier down to the lower tier to occupy this newly created space. I moved quickly as I’m sure others would have had the same idea. Experienced concert goers at standing-room-only venues will know that when the crowd is in motion is the best time to secure a (hopefully) better spot.

I ended up pretty much right in the middle of the lower tier. There were around 10 rows of standing people in front of me and the same number behind. I was also approxiately in the L-R centre of the space. This was a pretty good outcome for me, especially as 75% of the people had been allowed into the venue before me. Obviously I would have loved a spot in the front 1-3 rows or a spot at the front of the upper-tier, but that was impossible. Being at the centre of a FLOWER FLOWER crowd in a club gig was a great way to immerse myself into the concert atmosphere.

I should also state that I’m just slightly shorter than 6 foot tall, so I could still see the stage pretty well. I had to occasionally move my head to see in-between the heads in front of me, but I could usually keep most of the band in view for most of the time. I did feel sorry for some of the people around me (both in front, beside and behind me), especially some of the girls who were noticeably shorter than me and spent all of the concert being unable to see much of the stage. Still, the atmosphere and camaraderie of being amongst hard-core fans made it special for everyone, regardless of how much they could see. It’s this collective euphoria of seeing your favourite band at their headline show which is lacking at festival concerts. This is doubly true when your favourite band is playing their head-line show in an intimate venue and not a stadium. The night was set-up to be memorable and I was hoping FLOWER FLOWER would deliver.

However, before FLOWER FLOWER, it was time for the support band ???? (Friends):

http://friends-jpn.com/

I had never heard of them before this concert and did not check out any of their music of PVs in advance of the concert. They are a 5-piece with vocals being shared between a female vocalist with dyed pink hair and a male vocalist/MC. The male vocalist/MC was sporting a very snugly fitting Santa costume and sun-glasses.

Their music was enjoyable, with party-style songs which the crowd seemed to enjoy. I can’t comment on the lyrical content as my Japanese is inadequate to understand the lyrics, especially some of the fast rapping. Their style was not like FLOWER FLOWER at all. However, this made them a good choice for a support act – not similar enough to enable direct comparison but still quite enjoyable to warm up the crowd. Their inter-song banter was also free-flowing and in contrast to FLOWER FLOWER’s sometimes stilted and silent pauses between songs.

The band also seemed to have it’s share of fans in the crowd, with a few people having ???? (Friends) merchandise. The band did try to promote their new sweater at one point. When they turned it around to show the design on the back, the band stated “kawaii”. I couldn’t help but thinking this design was far from kawaii. Judge for yourself here:

Friends’ Goods

I did note that during their set, nobody around me looked at their phone once. I know it is forbidden to take photos, but nobody even removed their phone from their pockets. People also gave the band their full attention, despite only being the support band. There was absolutely no talking, either during or between songs. I love this about Japan. People in my country would be talking (OK, shouting) over the music, drinking, constantly looking at their phones, taking selfies, etc. I’ve always found this to be incredibly disrespectful to the band playing and to everyone around them who is trying to enjoy the band.

After the ???? (Friends) set ended, roadies started removing and setting up FLOWER FLOWER’s gear. Most of FLOWER FLOWER’s equipment was already on stage, with ???? (Friends) equipment being in front of or beside FLOWER FLOWER’s. The roadies were mainly making last minute adjustments and sound-checking.

To my surprise, Mafumafu and Sacchan both casually walked on stage to help set-up and sound-check. Not a huge response from the crowd, but some acknowledgement. Mafumafu also placed what appeared to be a Christmas toy (a monkey?) on top of his amp towards the back of the stage. After a bit of sound-checking, both disappeared off stage.

Finally, it was time for FLOWER FLOWER to take the stage. I don’t even remember what music was playing as they made their way on stage. In the Christmas spirit of the concert, all of the band had an outfit with some kind of red. I was going to describe each one, but here’s a picture of the attired line-up:

I’m guessing this promo picture was taken the day of the concert as they were all outfitted identically to this photo.

Yui emerged last of the four. Before playing a single note, the crowded started chanting “Yui, Yui, Yui…” You could tell that Yui didn’t want to acknowledge these chants, not because doesn’t appreciate the audience, more that this is a FLOWER FLOWER concert, not a Yui concert. After a while, she eventually caved and gave the crowd a small wave, which was met with much cheering.

From now on, I’ll give my impressions and recollections of each song in the setlist, as far as my memory allows.

1. ? (Aki)
Just as the band were about to start their first song, for the first time that evening, someone started talking really loudly to their friend in the crowd. This was about 2 metres to my right. I was about to lean over, tap him on the shoulder and give him my “I didn’t travel 5000 miles to hear you talk” speech, but thankfully he shut-up just before the band started playing.

From the first chord by Mura?Jun, I knew it was ? (Aki). I’ve listen to the ? EP countless times and I usually watch the DVD rip where all four songs are set to scenes from the wonderful “Little Forest” films. Yui wasn’t playing guitar, but instead periodically playing some hand-held cymbals. I tried to find a good picture of them online, but couldn’t locate anything exactly as I remember. My best guess is that they were taal:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taal_(instrument)

The feeling produced was magical. The sound was fragile and delicate but still quite full. The atmosphere was perfect. If I closed my eyes, I could almost see Ai Hashimoto cycling in from the left of the stage:

I had read FLOWER FLOWER sometimes start concerts with a song from the ? EP. I would have guessed they’d pick ? (Fuyu) for this concert as it was in the middle of winter, so ? (Aki) was a slightly surprising choice. I will also confess that before this concert, ? (Aki) was my least favourite song on the EP. This has all changed after this beautiful performance with it now being one of my favourites. Every time I hear it now it takes me back to the start of this concert and the wonderful memories that brings.

The crowd was intently immersed in the performance, with not a sound as they performed. There wasn’t even any applause until after the last reverberation of the last chord had died down. Again, the Japanese fans are showing how to respectfully enjoy a concert. In my country, some idiot would no doubt start applauding just before the song ended so he could prove to everyone that he knew exactly where the song ended.

2. ???? (Coffee)
After the wonderful and beautiful first song, it was surprising to hear something I was not familiar with. Judging by the mild reception this song received, it appears that a lot of other people were not familiar with it either. I remember Yui was playing an acoustic guitar (I hope I’m remembering this correctly!) but not much about the song remains in my memory. I’m sure that more will come back when I hear it on the new album and hopefully on the live DVD.

I should write at this point that I hope the concert is included in full on the bonus DVD. SONY has a habit of only including partial concerts, especially for bonus DVDs. This stretches all the way back to the YUI era. If you’re going to film the whole concert, you might as well release it in full. After all, the concert was only 70 minutes. If they cut out the inter-song banter and encore break, it would only be 60 minutes for all 11 songs. Hence, there is plenty of space on the DVD for every note that was performed tonight. Time will tell if the DVD has all 11 tracks or if some are dropped from the release.

There were noticeable silences between the songs, although the banter did become more effusive, lengthy and free as the concert wore on. In between the early songs, all Yui could muster was a meek “Merry Christmas”, which was still met with a strong “Merry Christmas” response from the crowd.

3. ? (Tsuki)
The third song is where the concert kicked up a gear and things started to get moving. With the first chord of this now familiar song (their first single), the crowded started to loosen up and move a little. I seemed to remember the lighting was the familiar blue gels that are often used for this song. Quite a nice performance with good playing by everyone and strong vocals from Yui.

4. ?? (Kamisama)
If things kicked up a gear for ? (Tsuki), they moved into over-drive for ?? (Kamisama). Right from the initial discordant slide, the crowd started jumping and thrusting their hands in the air. ? (Tsuki) and ?? (Kamisama) make a great 1-2 punch and it was a stroke of genius to play them back-to-back. I was lost in the excitement and atmosphere, so I can’t tell you any nuance of the performance, other than I enjoyed it immensely. I was little concerned about stepping on someone’s feet but couldn’t help and go-with-the-flow, jumping with every beat and becoming lost in the intensity.

At the end of this song, something unusual happened. I read some reports (in Japanese) that the concert was stopped because “someone fell down and was injured”. However, I can give YUI-Lover readers the exclusive story that this is not what happened. I know because the event happened right beside me.

As the song ended and the crowd noise died down, crazed and panicked screaming could be heard. I looked to my right and a young women was on the ground, on hands-and-knees, screaming. Incidentally, this young lady was not to my right at the start of ?? (Kamisama). However, with all of the crowd movement and jumping during the song, people were shuffled around somewhat. I immediately used my phone to illuminate her and see what I could to do help. It soon became apparent that the women was not injured. However, she had a small back-pack which had come open during the crowd movement and all of her stuff was scattered and lost. She must have been a hard-core YUI fan as I saw her madly trying to put stuff back into a GREEN GARDEN POP folder sleeve. She was genuinely in a panicked state and I’m surprised venue staff didn’t come and investigate as her distress went on for some time.

As nobody on stage could see what was happening, the band had to pause playing. This essentially forced FLOWER FLOWER to engage in banter. It started pretty slowly, but soon the band were chatting to each other and talking to the audience. I read after the gig that some people have rated this the best FLOWER FLOWER concert as the band talked a lot. The truth is, they were forced to talk a lot. That one girl’s misfortune created the opportunity for FLOWER FLOWER to engage with their fans, which everyone really enjoyed. I wish I could give the specifics of what was said, but my language was not adequate enough to follow. There was much laughter from the band at several points, they I think they were enjoying it too.

After a few minutes, Yui asked “more chotto” in the vague direction of the screaming. “More chotto” screamed the distressed girl. “More chotto” the crowd said back to Yui. And the banter continued, which was very polite and kind of the band. Stopping an entire concert for 5 minutes for one panicked girl is something that probably wouldn’t happen in my country. Again, I’m surprised that after 5 minutes, venue staff had not come to investigate. The girl was making progress at this point – her wallet was handed back through the crowd to her. However, a lot of her stuff was apparently still missing and she was still looking for it.

Eventually, the girl got to her feet and made her way to the back of the venue, maybe to continue sorting out what was accounted for and what was still missing. I didn’t see her again after this.

“More chotto” asked Yui after a while? “OK” I shouted giving the thumbs up. With that, the concert re-commenced.

5. ??????? (Subarashii Sekai)
This song was also really well received, from the initial keyboard riff. It was another track where the crowd was energetic – not as much as ?? (Kamisama), but with a high energy. It would have been thrilling to have the 3-song combination of ? (Tsuki) then ?? (Kamisama) then ??????? (Subarashii Sekai) played without the extended break. In terms of intensity levels, it would be like climbing a mountain with ?? (Kamisama) at the summit and the other tracks on either side.

6. ??????? (Startline)
While I’ve always liked this song, it wasn’t until I heard the live version from 2013 on the Shibuya Club Quattro concert DVD (performed in this exact venue, 4 years, 2 months and 18 days prior to tonight’s concert) that I started to love it. The version from 2013 on the concert DVD recording really pushes Mura?Jun’s Hammond-organ to the fore and, for me, greatly increased by appreciation of the song.

The performance tonight was equally good. Yui was in really fine form. I vividly remember her scat singing at the end of the song (just like on the CD version) but with more power and with genuine passion. She was really letting it rip vocally, which was great to see and hear.

7. ?? (new song)
There was much excitement prior to this song, prompted by something Yui said. I didn’t know what she was saying, but in hindsight, she must have been introducing this new song, played live for the first time at this concert. Just as with the unfamiliar ???? (Coffee), the reaction to this song was pretty muted, especially compared to the 4 songs that had gone before it. Again, I wish I had more of a memory of this song but nothing is springing to mind as I write this. Hopefully something will be triggered when I watch and listen to the concert DVD.

8. ???? (Bye-bye)
The crowd picked up as Mafumafu’s bass riff signalled the arrival of ???? (Bye-bye). I was hopeful that FLOWER FLOWER would play this songs as it’s one of their more complex and difficult tracks, with it’s irregular rhythms sparse instrumentation. It was wonderful to watch the band tackle this difficult number, which each member concentrating and contributing to the sound-scape. As the song built, Yui was using her voice not just for singing but as a weapon, screaming the ???? refrain at times. The song eventually crescendoed in a wall of feedback, becoming almost uncomfortably loud but completely appropriate. I think both audience and band were slightly spent at the end of this piece.

9. ??? (Hikari)
I didn’t know it when this song commenced, but it was a wonderful choice as a main-set closing number. I always found it strange that the band used to perform ???? and not ??? (Hikari). On the album, these two tracks go together. To be honest, ???? is like foreplay to ???’s sex. It was oddly strange and unsatisfying that they would play ???? and leave the crowd hanging. Tonight, we didn’t get ???? but just ??? (Hikari). As the song crashed in with the opening riff and cymbal-infused drumming, a smile swept across my face. I wasn’t sure if they would play this track which is one of my favourites from the record. The track was everything I thought it would be, with a “wall of sound” being produced by the four players from the outset. The build-up and interruptus of the “chorus” exceeded the recorded version in intensity and Yui’s wordless voice enraptured the crowd. I’ve found this to be quite a sexy song in terms of it’s rhythm and structure. And by sexy song, I mean a song that conveys a similar feeling and flow to actually having sex. Being in a crowd of fans and moving as one, my view of this song was only reinforced. This was truly a wonderful way to close the main set with Yui’s wailing carrying us all home.

After this song, the band disappeared off stage and there was about a 5-minute break before they returned. The crowd clapped in waves to summon their return and were eventually rewarded.

? (Honou)
Yui returned to the stage and started to talk to the crowd. She moved right to the front of the stage and was in a confident mood. At one point, she even put her right hand on her hip and struck a sexy pose. Will this make it onto the DVD? Time will tell.

At this point, someone from the crowd handed her a Santa hat, which she happily put on:

The band then started ? (Honou). It was an interesting and unexpected track to play after the encore break. With it’s steady pulsing rhythm, it had almost an R&B feel. It’s also kinda a sexy song, which seemed to fit with Yui’s confident stage presence. I remember her walking freely about the stage during this song with a hand-held microphone (still on a cable, but not standing still using a microphone stand) and really connecting with the crowd.

After this song, Yui started to read from prepared cards:

I couldn’t understand what was being said at first, but after she starting listing dates and venues (one of which she noted was Mura?Jun’s birthday), it became obvious that these were new tour dates. The crowd was palpably excited to hear this, especially as there would be 2 dates in Tokyo. We didn’t know this at the time, but this tour is in support of the new album ??????? (Spotlight) which will be released just prior to the tour.

Pre-sale tickets for the tour went on sale at 10 PM, just after this concert finished. It was really great of the band to announce the tour directly to their fans before it had appeared on any website. More than that, announcing it in this manner would enable anyone present at the show to be “first in” for the ticket lottery – a really nice touch showing genuine appreciation for their fans.

Christmas Eve (cover performed with ???? (Friends)
After the tour announcement, Yui invited the members of ???? (Friends) back to the stage for a joint performance. The song performed by the group was Christmas Eve. I was not familiar with the song but I’ve since read that it’s a relatively famous Japanese Christmas song, first released in 1983. Apparently Yui was not that familiar with it as she was holding a piece of paper with the lyrics as she started singing. Before I researched the details of the song, I actually thought it might have been a ???? (Friends) song as it was performed in their style. Vocal duties were shared between Yui and the two vocalists from ???? (Friends). At one point in the song, Mafumafu delivered a memorably piece of rapping, which was really well done.

The remaining 3 members of ???? (Friends) were relegated to the back of the stage clapping. Towards the end of the song, Mura?Jun swung his microphone back so one of these members could contribute vocals – a nice touch.

The song had an “E-O-E” refrain, which was picked up by the crowd, who sung it along with the bands. Yui and some members of ???? (Friends) even started doing actions to these 3 letters – 3 fingers held sideways for “E” and a thumb-finger circle for “O”, then back to the first gesture.

All in all, this was a celebratory way to end the night. Of course I was hoping for more, but this was the last song. The members of ???? (Friends) left the stage first and then FLOWER FLOWER moved to the front of the stage to take a bow. They disappeared one-by-one, leaving Yui on stage alone. She then went back to the microphone which was on it’s stand and spoke “E-O-E”. The crowd returned the refrain and then didn’t stop chanting “E-O-E”. Realising what she’d done, Yui tried to end it by saying “Eee-ooo, Eee-ooo” and waving her hand from side-to-side – it was quite a cute moment. Then, she too made her way to the side of the stage and disappeared behind the curtain with a side-ways peace-sign being the last visible part of her.

Soon after this, the lights came up and soft music began play, signalling the concert was at an end. People started taking some photos of the room and we all slowly filed out the single entrance, down four flights of stairs and into the cool Tokyo night.

Additional notes – good things, bad things, unexpected things
Mafumafu’s Christmas toy, which he carefully placed on top of his amp, did make an appearance. I don’t remember when exactly, but between songs in the main set. It was held up to the microphone for the crowd to hear it “singing” a traditional Christmas song. Despite Yui building is up as a “great” and “cool” toy, I have to say it was pretty average.

The most disappointing part of the night was the shortness of the set. FLOWER FLOWER were on stage for around 70 minutes. If you take out 5 minutes of waiting due to the fan melt-down and the 5 minute encore break, this was only a 60-minute concert set. At the time of writing (February 2018), FLOWER FLOWER have officially released 21 songs (13 on ?, 4 on ?, 2 on ?? and 2 on ????). Of these 21 songs, they only played 8 tonight, along with 2 new songs (no complaints there) and one cover/collaboration. With their back-catalogue, it would have been easily possible for them to play for 70, 80 or 90 minutes.

For their upcoming “one-man live” shows (ie. no support band), they will hopefully play a little longer. They also won’t be obliged to do a collaboration track as they did on this night and on past tours. I’m quite selfish in that I want maximum FLOWER FLOWER. While Christmas Eve performed with ???? (Friends) was a lot of fun, if I had to choose between it and 1-2 more FLOWER FLOWER songs, I’d chose the latter every time.

I was surprised that neither of their two most recent singles (?? (Treasure) and ???? (Mannequin)) were played, although they did play ? (Honou), the b-side to ?? (Treasure). I was actually hoping they would come back and play ???? (Mannequin) as a single-song second encore. After all, it is their latest single. ???? (Mannequin) also has quite a nice beat and a droning build-up which I think would go down well live. Still, it wasn’t to be.

I was really surprised when I read the bonus DVD for their new album ??????? (Spotlight) will feature footage from this concert. My cause for surprise is that I didn’t see any cameras at the venue at all! I remember reading one tweet after the concert noting that the person saw someone filming with a 4k camera and “hoping it would be released one day” but I quickly forgot about that. For a professional concert DVD (which I’m sure this will be), you would need a multi-camera shoot. I didn’t see a camera at the back or sides of the stage (remember I started the night at the very back of the venue), which would be necessary for crowd shots. I also didn’t see any camera at the side of the stage (I could see the left side of the stage where the band entered and exited very clearly from my vantage point) nor did I see any camera at the front of the stage or in the front row. There was definitely no camera on a boom arm as has been reported at previous FLOWER FLOWER concerts which have been filmed. Either I was too focussed on the on-stage performance (a good thing) or the cameras stayed hidden and out of the way.

I’m overjoyed that this fantastic concert will be able to be enjoyed but a wider audience than just the lucky 800 or so people there on the night. Still, I’ll always carry the special enjoyment of being there in person. I’m quite happy I’ve written down my thoughts and memories before the concert footage has been released. I’m genuinely looking forward to not just revisiting the concert (multiple times) but also seeing if my memory matches the filmed reality of the night.

Despite a few minor quibbles, in case anyone reading couldn’t tell, I enjoyed this concert immensely. I’ve never written 7,000+ words about a concert before, so that should give you some indication of how much I enjoyed it and wanted everyone to know about every little aspect of the night. Not once did I regret dropping a pile of cash on a ticket. The chances of me seeing FLOWER FLOWER ever again are remote and I strongly urge anyone who ever gets a chance to take it.

yuifaninperth