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AKB48 @ AFA Singapore Live Impressions

A complete look at AKB48’s first concert in Singapore

13 November, 2010 by

AKB48 has just finished their first ever concert in Singapore. For those who were unable to make it (or who wish to savor the memories), here’s a full run through of AKB48’s concert, as well as the events that led up to it.

Left Guessing

First up, I’m going to say that I was extremely disappointed by how the AFA staff have handled the organization of this event. For now, I’m betting my hopes on the upcoming STGCC which is being organized by a sister company of the NY Comic-con.

5 months ago, on July 11th AKB48’s theater manager Togasaki-san announced that AKB48 would be holding its first concert in Singapore. However, additional details were withheld from the public (probably at the request of the event organizers).

Most believed that AKB48 would come as part of the Anime Fair Asia 2010 (AFA X), South East Asia’s most hyped anime convention, which would coincidentally take place in November. However no news was heard from AFA while they continued to release information about the other unpopular anime singers for months.

Only explanation is that these tickets took 4 months to print.

4 months later, AFA released a video, teasing an AKB48 Live” event in Singapore. Notice the quotation marks. Fans weren’t too convinced. It wasn’t until October 9th, just one month before the concert that AFA made public that AKB48 would indeed be coming to their event. As with their updates, this information was announced on Facebook, of all places. Those wishing for a more professional confirmation from their official site had to wait much later.

Once again, fans waited while AFA toyed with them. Releasing small teasers after long periods of time. No news was given on the details of the concert, much less a list of girls arriving. Finally, on October 21st, just three weeks before the concert, the concert was finally confirmed as an actual live concert and it was announced that ticket sales would commence in 2 days time.

Fans actually organized this queue outside 313 Orchard themselves.

The ridiculous short frame and last minute release of information, meant that those with busy schedules had to give the event a miss. It was also now impossible for many fans from neighboring countries who had intended to fly in for the event to organize flights at such a last minute. Everyone else simply had to cater to AFA’s whims.

The news of course came on Facebook (again), late from its initial promised time and lacking much important information. The announcement was also stricken with grammatical and factual mistakes, with the first draft being posted stating that the cheaper CAT B seats were in fact the closest to the stage. Only after I sent in an inquiry to the AFA staff was this information changed.

The vague description stated nothing on how to get the tickets, beyond purchasing them from HMV on a Saturday morning. The remaining tickets would be distributed by Gatecrash. Everyone feared for the worst. Locals would remember the fiasco with the recent local K-Pop concert, where tickets were given out randomly after many fans queued there overnight. And AFA’s own blunder with Gatecrash, where those purchasing their seats for SCANDAL’s concert had their seat numbers randomly shuffled by the AFA management. Spent good money getting your tickets on the resale market? Well AFA doesn’t care.

I once again contacted the staff to ask about how ticket sales would exactly be handled. There was no limited on ticket sales for any one person. Only after I pointed out how this could easily mean that one person could buy out the tickets to resell, did they decide to add a cap.

Tickets were sold by the regular counter at HMV.

On the day itself, only one AFA staff member was there. He stood at the exit of HMV doing nothing, except occasionally chat up some of the young Japanese girls after they had purchased their tickets.

Again no news on which AKB48 girls would actually be coming. I have a hard time believing that this was due to AKB48’s own management being unable to confirm a list of girls due to their schedules, as their own theater shows and concerts are able to provide an accurate roster at least a month in advance. Instead, it was probably AFA’s decisions to withhold the list, so as not to avoid disappointment and inflate sales.

Fans were also expected to purchase tickets without knowing who would actually come, or risk not being able to get tickets later. Some many think that this is not nearly as bad a thing. But again, I refer to those flying from overseas hoping to support their favorite idols. To explain it from another perspective, imagine if 2 members of Arashi were coming but you don’t know who. Arashi tickets easily go for up to $2000 dollars but in this case lets say you purchase one for a fraction of that price. Matsumoto Jun, Ohno Satoshi and Ninomiya Kazunari do not come.

It wasn’t until 5 days before the concert. That the list of members was released. Sure enough, most of the popular girls weren’t present. An interesting note, to this day, there’s an obvious mistake around Ota Aika’s name in member announcement on the AFA site. I got tired of pointing out their mistakes.

Preparing For The Event

Where AFA failed, the local fan community stood up. Kudos to Joshua Mark (who runs one of the most passionate sources of AKB48 information in Singapore) and the rest of the AKB48 Overseas Fan Community as well as SGP48. Information was divulged not from AFA, but from the hardworking fans sourcing for news from each of the AKB48 girl’s individual blogs.

A gathering of local fans.

The fans made sure that the information got around quickly to those outside of Facebook and probably proofread it for whoever it is on AFA side that is releasing the information.

Jam Subs and SGP48 ensured that the local fan community was organized and prepared for the event. They even coordinated wearing these DIY T-shirts.

A fan designed t-shirt.

Before The Concert

Many fans arrived early, hoping to catch glimpses of their idols or at least the routine sale of merchandise. Nope none of that. Instead, the only sales was an obnoxious AFA employee (the same one at HMV) trying to sell overpriced glow sticks outside the hall. We were informed in the morning that the girls would be performing Iiwake Maybe, so Yan and I brought our own Red and White glow sticks.

After his conference was done, Akimoto came out for a while and was promptly ambushed by fans. Some took the opportunity to ask for AKB48 stuff signed. One fan showed him his collection of AKB48 BLTs photographs. It would be kind of strange if he wanted Akimoto to sign those.

Akimoto Yasushi in person.

Waiting outside.

Deserves a most loyal fan award.

The SGP48 gang surely stood out with their pink T-shirts. As expected, at least half of the attending were expat families and Nikkeijin hommies. The rest of the audience who weren’t part of SGP48 and it’s Indonesian equivalent or ethnically Japanese were unenthusiastic about the concert. Overheard lots of trash talking from these people while waiting outside up until we were seated and the show was about to start.

The concert was initially supposed to start at 6.30 PM, with entry to the hall at 6.00 PM. Turns out the concert was to be performed at the same location of the Cool Japan Forum, which only ended at 6.

The staff spent the next hour clearing the hall, while everyone waited disorderly outside. It wasn’t until 7 PM that the doors were finally opened and people began making their way inside. The concert would start about 15 minutes later.

Exhibition hall.

The Concert

The stage was smaller than expected (which is a good thing). In terms of size, it was roughly about twice their theater’s. While I was previously fearing a repeat of the AKB48 Spring Yokohama concert with our corner seats, it turned out to be much better than expected.

Yan and I were seated on the 2nd row at the right hand corner (again). The small size of the stage meant that were were barely 5 meters away. Two seats away was a Japanese family and their son of around kindergarten age. Future wota in the making? Well it turned out that he was already one. He cheered enthusiastically in his cute little voice. Behind, a couple of young Japanese girls practiced the lyrics to Heavy Rotation, while the other two in front were completely silent throughout the concert.

In Japan, we have a bunch of hardcore wota guys starting the cheers. But in Singapore, the cheers were initiated by these pre-teen Japanese girls and everyone else followed. It was really amusing.

Just before the concert started, Akimoto Yasushi joined in at the back of the middle row to everyone’s surprise. When the concert started I came to the realization that the two seats next to me were empty, so now we had 4 seats to ourselves, allowing us to move closer in.

00. Overture
01. RIVER
02. Oogoe Diamond
03. Aitakatta
MC

Everyone cheered loudly as the overture music played in the background. Perhaps the most organized cheers so far before everyone started getting lost in the concert. The girls walk in and get in position for RIVER. A single, this early on hinted that we would be getting a volley of singles today. More than any other non-Set List Best 100 concert in fact. Next up Oogoe Diamond (unexpected) and Aitakatta (expected) before MC.

For the first MC, each of the girls split into a row and took turns to introduce themselves before running off backstage. They also took the time to name all 3 previously sung songs during each MC. Most of them tried speaking in English, usual pleasantries like how they like/love Singapore etc. Some of them gave up halfway and reverted to speaking in Japanese, slowly. Still probably most of the people understood them. Surprisingly, Natsuki spoke almost perfect English (and the best among them all). Waseda for the win.

04. Pajama Drive (Mayu, Harugon and Katayama)
05. Candy (Komori, Kasai and Amina)
06. Kimi wa Pegasus (Akimoto, Miyazawa, Nacchi, Iwasa)
MC

Pajama Drive was performed instead of an expected Watarirouka Hashiritai song. Surprisingly, this was the only time Mayu took center stage. Komori would take center positions for most of the singles performed today. Next up Candy, where Komori took Masuda Yuka’s parts (much to Yan’s torment). Most would have guessed that Kimi wa Pegasus was performed too. Iwasa took over Noro Kayo’s parts. During this MC, the girls talked about what foods they liked in Singapore. After much fumbling with trying to find the English word for crab, they settled for “Seafood”.

07. 10nen Zakura
08. Hikoukigumo
09. Iiwake Maybe
MC

The girls walked out in their Iiwake Maybe uniform, unanimously their best. Was extremely fortunate that they performed 10nen Zakura. Next was Hikouki Gumo and I could feel that the concert was nearing its end. Finally they performed Iiwake Maybe before heading to another short MC. Great song list so far and lots of singles today. During the MC, they announced that it would be their last song next.

Based on cheers, seemed like the majority of the audience were Mayu, Kasai and Twin Tower fans. I spent most of the time cheering for Nacchi of course (who spent a good deal of time at our side of the stage). Lovetan was stuck behind in a corner looking bored during the MC. Managed to draw her attention and she waved back before making a heart shape with her hands and motioning forward.

Some of the girls started bringing in mics, which could only mean…

10. Heavy Rotation

Or Sakura no Shiori (but I wouldn’t think they’d pull that on us). Heavy Rotation drew the loudest cheers among all songs for the night. The girls that were part of the single, or who already had a staple post took their original positions. Following the Team B version, Komori took center for this song too.

ENCORE
11. Beginner
12. Ponytail to Shushu

The girl’s returned for the encore in A6 uniforms and thanked everyone for the encore. They took up positions are was soon apparent that it was time for the most recent singles, Beginner and Ponytail no Shushu. With those covered, the girls of AKB48 thanked the crowd and the concert was done.

The concert only lasted about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Shorter than the expected 90 minutes, and no where near a full length concert or even theater performance in Japan. Not all the songs performed were full length either. I wouldn’t be surprised if the delay was responsible.

After The Concert

The crowd dispersed slowly, though some loitered around outside. Thanks to the delayed concert, the girls had to make a mad rush to the airport as their full strength is required in an event back in Japan tomorrow afternoon. Sadly, while a norm for every concert in Japan, AFA did not provide a gift box outside so all the fain prepared gifts were in vain.

With the exception of the poor event management, the concert was great. All the mishaps building up toward the concert had left me skeptical, so it actually turned out to be better than expected.

Aftermath.

Yan noticed that many of the girls looked really tired during the concert. The high proportion of singles to stage songs, meant that they weren’t getting any break at all during songs. Jet lag and having to rush down in their busy schedules being some of the other factors, not to mention the press events earlier in the day.

Hopefully, AKB48’s own management would not be put off by the way things have been handled and recognize some value in continuing to hold such events in Singapore. Akimoto-san didn’t look too happy himself (though he rarely wears anything but a straight face). But at least the girls were quite surprised by the fan turnout. More so than one time finance boost (AKB48 is doing well enough for now), there are definitely other motivations surrounding AKB48’s recent visits outside of Japan. Singapore will get its final chance to prove itself in 3 weeks time during the STGCC events.

Leaving.

Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.


Supermerlion

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.