This was my fifth SCANDAL gig. That’s a pretty decent number of times considering, compared to my two other fav bands that I have listened to for much longer (Pearl Jam – six times, and Metallica – five). I didn’t think twice of buying the tix once it was announced some time late last year. At that time, my plans to watch the two Japan shows in January of this year weren’t definite yet.
In the weeks prior to the show, I created a Facebook group for fans with tickets to the London gig facilitating any discussion regarding pre- or post-gig do’s after someone made a suggestion on Scandal Heaven. The FB group page had a slow start but as I expected the number of SCANDAL fans snowballed in the last minute. It was fantastic to see fans (the ones that were turning up) from mainland Europe and the ‘States joining the page, which was filled with random band tweet updates, YouTube vids and a myriad of suggestions for pub grub.
The best thing out of this for me was actually recognising some of these guys at the queue for the gig. I arrived to check out the queue en route to the Hilton and saw a pitiful short queue (the venue warned against early queuing). After touching base with some of the US and French SH people, I headed to the hotel as I was told that I could check in early. After a shower and a quick lunch at Prêt, I joined the queue at half three, only to meet three guys who happened to be from SH and the FB group. It was nice to have like-minded people to talk to since three hours weren’t exactly short. And during the wait, I got to meet more people from the group, some local and some coming from as far as Spain. There was even one lad in the queue from Manchester who brought along a Bluetooth speaker and blasted random SCANDAL songs from his smartphone adding some cheer.
The VIP tix holders were let into the venue at about quarter past six. The first port of call was a short queue near the merch stall. As I didn’t want to lose my position in my queue I decided against visiting the merch stall until after the show. There was also an opportunity to leave a personal message to SCANDAL on a Union Jack flag, where members of SCANDAL’s crew were handing us out pens to use.
Like my first high touch sesh in Singapore, I was held back by security until the ten fans in front of me had gone into the hall. Once in the hall, there was another short queue and I could see HARU, TIMO, MAMI and RINA all lined up behind the barrier at the front of the stage waiting. I have to say at this point that the B7Klan guys did a bloody good job in organising this. Out of courtesy to other fans, we couldn’t spend that much time with each of the lasses but it wasn’t a one second per band member affair. I actually managed to actually verbally interact with TIMO and MAMI, with laughs and all, and it wasn’t just an arigatō. The VIP tix holders didn’t fill half the hall like in Singapore either, which allowed this more relaxed experience with the band. Props to the European promoters are all in order.
Following the high touch sesh, I had to join yet another queue in the mezzanine floor above, and the people I passed in the queue were going “Funassyyyyiiiiii!!!” at my, err… hand puppet. We didn’t have to wait long as after about 20 minutes of waiting , we were allowed to return to the hall. And I managed second row right in front of MAMI. Result!
Duke Ellington’s Take The A-Train came on when the house lights came down, and the lasses walked out onstage to resounding applause and cheers from the punters. Like the shows for the Japan leg of the tour, they kicked off the set with the rhythmically-driven love in action. I have to say being only a few yards from MAMI just made me more starstruck, so much so that I failed to notice if TIMO actually played her other bass and not just Bluetus. Listening to love in action live once again gave me the goosebumps, and fond memories of my four-day trip to Tōkyō came flooding back. But I digress.
Unlike the HELLO WORLD shows I’ve been to, they brought サティスファクション a little bit more forward in the set, and it was time for all to do the whoa-oh whoa-oh sing-along bits. RINA’s drumming appeared almost frenetic in parts, and did she play hard. It was so unlike her otherwise prim demeanour, not that I am complaining. RINA then played that familiar drum pattern which led all of us who had a towel to get ready as it was time for DOLL. Everyone had their arms in the air, clapping in time to RINA’s drum beat followed by the ever familiar twirling of towels at the chorus! Next up was Shunkan – no rest for the wicked, with us going oi! oi! oi! during the chorus. And no bum notes in MAMI’s solo, thankfully. I should show more faith in her by now, this is no longer 2011! At this stage, it began to feel like the set I experienced in Japan back in January.
SCANDAL BABY is a favourite song of mine live just because of the TIMO-MAMI shenanigans. Rightly so, this one involved MAMI leaning real close to HARU’s shoulder at the second verse. MAMI began to play a pitch-shifted riff and I got to see her play the opening notes to Kagen real close. Well, it was exactly as her instructional DVD, how else would she play it? The best bit of the night for me was them doing Onegai Nabigēshon right after this. This was my third time seeing them play this rocker live but to see the riffs up close was just mind-blowing. The opening notes on the bottom E was exactly as how I played it but I like the way MAMI played the chords with the octave note on the 2nd B string. Will try that out at home. I am sure you’d notice by now how I have not written much about HARU or TIMO. TIMO was on the other side of the stage and whilst I could see her being in the front and all, it was not possible to see how she played the songs note-for-note.
HARU introduced the band in the first MC. I couldn’t help but noticed that she and the rest had picked up the pointers given on a Japanese TV programme back in November where they were taught English phrases that were more apt onstage, like “On guitar… MAMI!” However, HARU still pronounced drums as duramus… hehe. HARU then announced that they’d be playing some songs from HELLO WORLD next. This more relaxed segment started of with MAMI doing Hon o Yomu, followed by TIMO and her fun Kan Bīru. The bit that I was actually waiting was when RINA stepped away from her kit and was handed her cream Tele for おやすみ, this time with a black pickguard. This time she looked more confident and wasn’t slowly drifting back to her drum kit like she did last time. One little complaint was the programmed back beat was way too loud from where I stood. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love this shoegazer of a song, monotonous or otherwise. Keeping with the more sedate theme, SCANDAL performed the poignant Departure penned by MAMI with the punters waving their arms in the air in unison during the chorus.
Things picked up again with Tai Kimi. Now, the last time I heard this live was at *SCAPE in 2013 when they actually played this as the final song of their main set. Nevertheless, at least this time we could start twirling our towels again. We only had the one chance during their entire set in the Japan leg of this tour! The next three songs were also from HELLO WORLD, which marked the end of their main set. Firstly, it was the American Idiot-esque Your song. HARU did the usual call-and-response whoooah to which the crowd responded with much aplomb. Yoake had us waving our tired arms again and the set ended with the uplifting Image, the fastest song in their HELLO WORLD album, running at 185 bpm. Heh. Sorry, I had to bring that up.
They were only away for about ten minutes or so with the crowd doing a mixture of an-ko-ru! (by those in the know) and chants of SCANDAL!. They came back onstage and HARU announced that they were gonna play something that we’d like, and kicked off the encore with Awanai. They played 少女S in Paris the night before, and as much I’d like to see them do that leg-flick dance again, it was nice to see we had a slightly different set list. The PA system then pumped a right techno tune and the lasses played their last song of the set, ESY! complete with the synchronised jumps by the audience during the chorus. Again, probably by those in the know. Was too busy in the MAMI zone of the crowd to look around and see what everyone else was doing. They did a final roll call and brought out the Union Jack which we left messages on. The lasses gave one final bow and left the stage, with us cheering on.
Gear-wise, HARU had her Squier Skullsilver and the Fender Thinline Deluxe, plugged into a Fender combo (looked like a blackface Twin Reverb). MAMI had her eponymous black Fender American HSS “Mamicaster” and the Classic Player Jazzmaster (she used this on Hon as well), through a Marshall JCM2000 TSL half stack. TIMO had both Bluetus and navy blue Fender Precision Special, just as she did in the Japan leg of the tour. No Ashdown for TIMO but she played through an Ampeg head with an 8×10 cab. RINA had a rented Pearl kit although I’m sure she played on her own Pearl snare, as well as her Sabians and dw twin pedals. Drums aside, I wonder if it is right difficult to obtain an Ashdown for TIMO. As HARU uses a Japanese boutique amp, I’d understand the choice for a Fender (I’ve seen her use a VOX combo before), likely listed in the band’s tech rider.
The pluses for this show – the superb high touch sesh, being real close to MAMIchan, getting my face in a TwitPic re-tweeted by RINA and having to meet with so many like-minded SCANDAL fans from pretty much all over the world. The minuses, on the other hand, were pretty minor – the lack of older stuff (I have heard ALL these songs live before, as in live live, not DVD/YouTube live) and the issue of the sold out merch. Yup, when I got to the merch stall there wasn’t much left. I resigned to buying another black HELLO WORLD tee, the only consolation was that the dates at the back included all the other countries. The poster was all right and the photo set was just, well… photos! Outside the venue, we managed to do a group photo, most of whom were from S-H. I found out later that another group of people went around the N1 to catch the lasses getting on their tour bus an hour after the show ended. By that time, I was already with some other fans at the local drinking hole!
Verdict? I’d say this was the best SCANDAL experience thus far, probably neck to neck with the shows I saw in Japan.
By the way, I’ve booked the second week of January off for next year already.
All photos (except for the Union Jack by PLASTIK DOLLS, RINA on おやすみ and S-H group photos) © 2015 Electric Bloom Webzine.
O2 Academy Islington, London 26.4.15 set: love in action / サティスファクション / DOLL / 瞬間センチメンタル / SCANDAL BABY / 下弦の月 / お願いナビゲーション / 本を読む / 缶ビール / おやすみ / Departure / 太陽と君が描くSTORY / Your song / 夜明けの流星群 /Image // [Encore] 会わないつもりの、元気でね / EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!
A good thing that they didn’t play KL for this world tour, as if they did this, they’d be on the front page of Utusan.
Feel free to pretend not knowing me for the foreseeable future. Heh.
TIMO also played her navy blue Precision bass.
It was white when I saw her play it in January.
Truth to be told, I would’ve preferred 少女S. I’ve seen Awanai twice!