LADYBABY Bring a Burst of Kawaii Chaos to London – Changing the Rules and Smashing the Boundaries of Idol J-Pop in Europe!
HYPER JAPAN’s Christmas Markets are invariably more intimate than their summer festivals. Nonetheless, their 2015 events featured a variety of entertainment: performances from TOKYO GIRLS’ STYLE, Honey Spice, Tomoca, ONE NOT’E, Eir Aoi, X Japan, Kuroishi Hitomi and Dempagumi.inc drew large crowds in the summer. Continuing the trend, the 2015 Christmas Market featured performances from Lacroix Despheres, Bentenya, WING WORKS, Rakugo master Katsura Sunshine…
…But nobody was quite ready for the hugely exciting, genre-mashing, boundary-smashing LADYBABY.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Kaneko Rie was unable to attend their European tour. However, this in no way diminished the quality and excitement of their performances. LADYBABY was undoubtedly the most popular act of the weekend – borne out by the overwhelming demand from journalists and fans.
Even in Rie’s absence, Rei and Ladybeard were still a formidable “Singing, Dancing, DESTROYING!” presence. Friday’s performance was the most intimate due to overall attendance figures, but LADYBABY were easily the biggest attraction of the day. The set comprised the group’s debut singles and some brand new tracks, along with group introductions, the brief introduction of the stand-in “Stunt Rie” and some hilarious interaction between Ladybeard and the crowd. The pair’s stage antics and enthusiastic choreography rounded off the performance, leaving the audience eagerly awaiting the weekend’s shows.
While Ladybeard is a pro wrestler, entertainer and self-declared manchild (who insists when asked that he is only five years old), it’s easy to forget that Rei only turned fifteen on the Sunday of Hyper Japan. However, it soon becomes clear that Rei’s work in other idol and musical projects has helped her become a confident performer with an infectious stage presence.
Together, the girls and Ladybeard are a hugely entertaining group. London proved to be no exception in their recent run of excellent live performances.
For those lucky enough to see their Friday set, LADYBABY captivated the early audience with a whirlwind set and soon had everyone dancing to the choreography. Nippon Manju, their breakthrough hit, was once again very popular, Rei providing her trademark vocal accompaniment – and doing a superb job filling in for the sorely-missed Rie – as Ladybeard unleashed a selection of his most kawaii death growls.
After an introduction, the audience was treated to ‘Ultra Lucky’ and two new tracks: the pretty heavy ‘Age Age Money‘ and the catchy, hilariously-choreographed ‘Beard-chan Roboto’ (“this song’s about the time I turned into a robot”, explains Ladybeard). All were met by enthusiastic crowd response, particularly during call-and-response sections.
Saturday’s performance was a fully-fledged affair. LADYBABY appeared at the end of the cosplay parade, first posing for the crowd of fans before launching into their live show. Sunday’s final performance was even more energetic still! Ladybeard and Rei showed no signs of letting up as they unleashed the full force of their live show to a completely packed venue.
At the end of Sunday’s set, it was announced that Rei had turned fifteen, prompting the whole audience to unite and sing Happy Birthday. What Rei did not know was that members of the LADYBABY Fan Club had planned ahead with the group’s management! The Fan Club burst on to stage and surprised her with gifts, a cake and a beautiful, hand-made book containing messages and birthday greetings from fans around the world.
For a moment, the normally imperturbable Rei was overwhelmed – leading to a touching scene of Ladybeard engulfing her in a massive bearhug on stage. The birthday celebrations were a wonderful few moments, perfectly encapsulating the unique, direct connection between great idol performers and their fans.
The audience reaction giving them new strength, Rei and Ladybeard jumped straight into an enthusiastic encore of their signature song Nippon Manju, before exiting to huge applause, screams of delight and calls of “encore!” from the crowd. While their daily performances may have been less than 40 minutes, LADYBABY’s sets were the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Their new singles bode well for the group’s future and this author cannot wait for their next live UK performance.
I was fortunate to be able to interview Kuromiya Rei and Beard-chan before their Saturday performance. In a chilly interview room at London’s Tobacco Dock, Beard-chan and Rei offered candid insight into their recent experiences, the beginnings of the group, what the members think of each other and their hopes for the future.
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