AKB48 at their first meet-the-fan session in Singapore19 December, 2010 by Chad
12 members from AKB48 visited Singapore last Saturday for a special meet-the-fans session. The girls performed a dozen songs consisting of their latest singles and popular stage songs. For the first time in South East Asia, fans were also given the chance to meet the girls up close.
After a long wait, here’s the full review of the actual event. It reads like a followup to our previous days coverage of the events, so it’s best that you read those first. I apologize in advance, because to the average human being the rest of this post in going to read like a long essay in gibberish. You have been warned.
After their “Live” concert at AFA, this meet-the-fan session would be AKB48’s second time performing in Singapore in a month. This time, their appearance was scheduled around the Singapore Toy, Games & Comic Convention (STGCC) and the $30 concert tickets included same day entry to the convention (worth $15).
From the start, we weren’t expecting any of the group’s high profile members to come. Their concert in Singapore clashed with the second Beginner handshake event back in Japan, so the most popular members were obviously unavailable.
While it was announced that AKB48 would be here to perform their newest song, Chance no Junban. The single would hit the market just two days before their scheduled appearance in Singapore.
The concert’s proximity to its release seemed to suggest that we weren’t getting any of the girls featured in the new single either, as it didn’t make much sense for this single’s members to fly in when they were better off promoting it back in Japan.
You can imagine the surprise when it turned out that the Chance no Junban senbatsu were indeed coming, less the girls who had to take part in the Beginner handshakes of course.
This time at least, the announcement was made a couple of weeks in advance. Yan cursed his luck as that meant that none of his favorites were coming, they weren’t part of either single so the chances of them being free to visit Singapore seemed good. Well, my reaction on the other hand could be summarized in one picture.
Just like their daily theater shows, this event was free sitting. STGCC announced that the official queue would begin at 3 PM, but as expected many decided to show up earlier. The problem came when they had to transfer from their own unofficial queue downstairs to the main queue outside of the hall. Some took this opportunity to sneak pass the prearrangement.
Yan and I turned up on the dot as the rest of the media were given seats near the back of the hall. Just for the record, just like everyone else the media had to purchase tickets too. The two seats behind me were marked “reserved”, see why later.
Even before entering the hall, I was already regretting bringing my crappy camera. MJ’s 70-200mm would had done the job but he has recently disappeared off the face of this earth and is residing somewhere on cloud nine.
The session was being held on the second floor lecture theater at Suntec Convention Hall. In terms of visibility, I think it was a pretty swell venue. Everyone, even those at the back had a direct view of the performance. But there was definitely at least one disadvantages to the elevated seats. No eye contact.
Elevated seats are fine if you’re watching a regular stage play or classical performance as everybody is a spectator. However in the case of a concert like AKB48, fan participation is key. Part of the fun is feeding off each others energy to make it as rowdy an experience as possible. With the elevated seats, the girls had a hard time addressing anyone beyond the first couple of rows.
Still, the atmosphere was great and the crowd enthusiastically chanted the “MIX”. What they refer to as the mix is actually what they call the the crowd cheering during idol concerts. It’s just like normal cheering, except a lot more organized, with complex rules and timings. Because the Japanese are just like that.
The mix is not just for wotas (wota do wotagei which is like a whole different level) and despite the complexity, almost everyone does the mix at concerts, heck, I’ve even seen a 6 year old kid do it. It’s kind of irritating when you first hear it but it slowly grows on you. The idols seem to like it too. It gives fans the chance to shout out their support increasing the level of excitement, without rudely interrupting the singing.
Well, it definitely beats drowning out the singing with endless high pitched fan girl shrieks. This phenomenon is such that the Koreans have adopted their own version too.
So a few moments into the Overture and I was suddenly grabbed violently from the side. I turned around and came face to face with Mr Paul Lee, the Vice President of Reed (the people behind STGCC). Holy, that guy is strong.
After yesterday’s nonsense, the guy was here to bring the smack down on people ignoring their repeated requests not to take photos or videos during the two AKB48 events. Apart from the neon lights being waved wildly around it was pitch dark in the rest of the hall. Realizing the misunderstanding, he apologized repeatedly. No hard feelings. Instead, I’ll applaud him for coming down personally to stop the renegade shutters.
And wait, was my eyes deceiving me? He was wearing one of the pink “SGP48” t-shirts that the local fan community had created. So that was who the reserved seats were for.
Yan commented, that all Paul had to do was declare something like “I like AKB48 and that’s why they’re here” and all the bitter people leaving ill remarks on STGCC’s Facebook page along the lines of “What is AKB48 doing here? Why didn’t you bring Korean artists instead?” would have to shut up. Dude, there has been like what 5 K-pop concerts this year?
Truthfully, I like my K-pop as much as anyone else but first you’d have to find a K-pop artist that has more to do with toys, games or comics than AKB48.
Back to the concert. The girls took the stage in the Beginner theater outfits but instead opened with RIVER. Uchida Mayumi took Takahashi Minami’s place to shout the opening signal and they got all stomp-like as usual. Chikano Rina was center.
I never did quite take to RIVER, only thinking favorably of the song after having witnessing it live at Yokohama. There’s something about fire being shot 8 feet in the air that makes you take notice. Still RIVER probably has one of the the most complex dance sets for any AKB song and is certainly impressive to watch.
They performed Ponytail to Shushu next. A little strange seeing such a sugar pop song being sung in their hip hop costumes. Chikano continued at the forefront joined by Maeda Ami.
Maeda would continue on to perform Takahashi Minami’s Beginner opening.
After Beginner, it was time for the member introductions. They split up into two lines with the first five heading backstage as soon as they were done to quickly prepare for their next songs.
Katayama Haruka has certainly has become one of the local fan favorites as her cheers during her “You, You, You” intro were among the loudest. Sakiko ended her intro with some Singlish, which probably won her some brownie points with the crowd. There was of course the usual “I like Merlion” statement from someone but I don’t remember who.
Most of them had stuff written on the the back of their palms. Kobayashi Kana (who had great difficulty during her previous MC here) read directly from the notes she wrote on her hand.
It was evident from her intro that Harugon had lots of fans present too. It took a while to recognize Nakatsuka with her pigtails.
Kuramochi managed to stir up the crowd by getting them to shout “Mocchi” after her a few times. Rest of the cheers for her during the rest of the evening were lukewarm though.
I remember concluding to myself that they are all so slim in person. But you see, everyone looks bigger when they’ve got to stand beside Yuki.
The first stage song today was Heart Gata Virus. It’s a popular stage song that keeps popping up at concerts. Originally by Kojima Haruna, Oshima Mai and Kawasaki Noizomi, Heart Gata Virus has been sung by lots of different members in shuffles since. But it just doesn’t feel quite the same without Haruna.
It’s was still a nice performance though. Maeda Ami is always pleasant. Sato Sumire has grown a lot since everyone saw her in the Morning Musume finals. She’s really energetic on stage and really talented but she makes really funny expressions whenever she sings, which is why I had a hard time sorting out any non-embarrassing shots with her in it. She’s like another Gaki-san. Sumire spent quite a bit of time among front for this concert, which was good. Sakiko was a full head taller than everyone else.
Next up was Wagamama na Nagareboshi, with Katayama taking Ono Erena’s parts. For some reason, Kana was really distant and disinterested throughout the concert. Katayama had to carry the performance.
After Wagamama, Chikano, Nakagawa, Tanabe and Kuramochi came out in the country costumes for Himawari. Not everyday you get to see such old songs being performed. Kuramochi was no stranger to Himawari, having subbed for Oshima Mai since her research student days. Yan was quite startled at how deep Harugon’s singing voice was. Her childlike demeanor can be distracting.
Sadly, due to some camera trouble, I was actually distracted from the second MC.
The girls reappeared on stage in their alternate Oogoe Diamond costumes. Yan was grinning widely as it was his favorite AKB costume. They started with the necessary Aitakatta which lead up to (much to everyone’s surprise) English versions of BINGO! and Oogoe Diamond like they performed in America.
No real centers for the first two songs, since everyone was evenly spaced. But Kuramochi lead Oogoe Diamond.
When that was done, they stopped to announce that it was their last song next. They started bringing out mic stands. So everyone knew what that meant.
Heavy Rotation is kind of special. Regardless of who is performing Hebirote, the crowd always seem to go wild. As the underdog who had beaten all odds to become Janken queen, it was only natural that Uchida take center for today’s shuffle.
Heavy Rotation’s got some mad choreography so even some of the front girls have trouble with it. Uchida was definitely an improvement over Komori for this song but you’ll have a hard time finding a replacement to break dance like Yuko (well maybe Miichan).
The lights went out after Heavy Rotation. The crowd learned fast after the last concert, so everyone stopped to take a breather first before they started the encore calls.
Before long, the girls returned on stage in their Chance no Junban outfits to thank the crowd for the encore and truly perform the last song of the night.
After that it was time for the promised Jankenpon game where fans could win some prizes. Not going to describe it in great detail since I’ve already wrote about it in the previous post.
A summary, Uchida threw scissors. Rock won. Between the two of us we had…
The event ended with a “hi-touch” opportunity with the girls. Hi-touch is just Made In Japan English for a high five. Back in Japan, fans get to high five the girls after each theater show too. It’s part of the whole “skinship” thing to bring fans closer to their idols.
The initial plan was a handshake session where you’d get to spend more time but some of the girls had a flight for Hong Kong. For $30, I’d treasure any chance I could get. It’s a really rare event for AKB48 to be in Singapore and even if you did fly over to Japan, theater tickets are a pain to get. The tickets cost more and due to the high demand, fans actually have to ballot for them.
During the hi-touch session, some of the first few fans went for handshake anyways so the manager had to step in to pressure them forward. From what I’ve heard, if you procrastinate long enough, sometimes they’ll push you past the remaining members.
All in all lots of happy fans. Tony somehow recognized me earlier in the concert (during Heart Gata Virus) and introduced himself. I spotted him literally skipping for joy on stage during the hi-touch event.
The members were lined up in order of their Chance no Junban rank, Uchida and Ishida were first in line. When it came to my turn they kind of looked at me confusingly for a moment, since I think they recognized me from yesterday. But they smiled when I greeted them.
Wasn’t prepared for this, so I didn’t have much to say to most of the members. Even if you’re not a big fan, being right next to someone you’d usually see on TV has this effect of leaving you quite speechless. When it came to Kuramochi, told her I’d be supporting her and she replied “Arigatou” with her gleaming eyes and Kero-chan smile. That was enough to make the rest of the night a blur.
Managed to pass along some of the stuff I brought for Kuramochi. Seeing this, Yan decided that the Courtesy Lion toy he bought yesterday would be best left in her hands too.
Back outside, those who won the mass Janken game collected their prize. Chance no Junban posters, with a random autograph from one of the members. Lots of the people I knew got lucky.
No merchandise sales again this time, as it probably wasn’t cost effective to ship the stuff over (and the leftovers back) and it’s not that difficult for fans to get it themselves online anyways.
The fans chatted outside the hall for a while, recollecting some of their favorite moments, before eventually dispersing. Everyone departed with memories of the night fresh in our minds. Some of the more determined fans later headed over to the airport to send the girls off.
Well, here’s to hoping we get to see them in Singapore again soon. Who knows, if they did manage to accomplish what Akimoto-san sent them to Singapore for, we might be seeing them again sooner than expected.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.