SCANDAL at The House of Blues 2015-05-22 & 23 [live]

My summer concert series kicked off last weekend with a pair of concerts from the highly regarded SCANDAL. The band once touted themselves as the “most powerful Japanese girlie rock” band. You may know that I saw SCANDAL previously in 2011 at the AM2 convention in Anaheim (you can read great coverage by Greg at Selective Hearing here). That was an awkward time for me since I didn’t know ANYONE from any sort of idol scene at the time … who am I kidding, I don’t really know many people now, four years later!

From my experience in 2011, I regretted the choice of venue at AM2. A proper rock club would have suited SCANDAL much more than a room and a stage configured for a fashion show rather than a concert. A few weird moments during the Q&A sessions and the strange venue did little to contain my excitement at the time. I really loved the group in 2011 and would have licked the sweat off Tomomi’s P-Bass if she let me.

Forwarding to present day 2015, SCANDAL played a pair of shows both House of Blues (HoB) clubs in the Southern California area. I am decently acquainted with both clubs from attending shows at both the Downtown Disney and Hollywood HoBs and playing at the Hollywood HoB a couple of times. Both venues decorate themselves with a reverence to swampland blues that is partly inspiring in its detail and partly insulting for its Disneyland sanitation of otherwise unsanitary conditions. None of that really matters since I only wanted to see SCANDAL. With my history of adoration for the band, attending both concerts was a must for me. The concerts also afforded me the opportunity to see the group at a proper club, with a proper stage, lights, and sound.


Remember the foursome from my Perfume adventures last year? This group also came with me to see SCANDAL. Some nice dinner was had … you probably saw the pictures if you follow me on instagram (we are Asian after all, right? It’s our duty to photograph our food!) Those of you who don’t know the Los Angeles area probably don’t realize how painfully annoying the drive from Culver City to West Hollywood can be, but after a dinner that included poutine with strange gastro created cheese I set my phone on my dashboard and let Google find the best route to the Sunset Strip.

Füd

I’m a guy. I cannot stand valet parking. We arrived at the HoB in good time, so I felt I should circle around the club a couple of times to find a decent lot within walking distance. I did not find one, so I settled for a lot that I thought would let me park my own car. I found a lie- the parking attendant refused to let me park. The price for such a service? $20. This prompted a bet on the relative cost of valet service at the House of Blues lot. The wager – one pint of the winner’s choosing. For those interested- I won the bet and chose a pint of Blue Moon.

We arrived at the House of Blues very close to set time, and there was no time to actually do much more than sign the American Flag on display at a centrally located table. The stage glowed blue with anticipation of the upcoming rock. We got ourselves a bit of real estate near the right side of the stage and the music began.

Haruna (vocals and guitar), Tomomi (vocals and bass), Mami (guitar and vocals), and Rina (drums and vocals) rocketed past their previous school-girl image. Now, the girls style themselves in a way that looks funky, bit retro, and a bit frayed on the edges. SCANDAL look as though they selected the best pieces from a Melrose thrift shop and threw them on with little regard to matching. In other words, they were meticulously and strategically mismatched. It seems the world of 80’s glam gave way to 90’s Salvation Army yet again.

Scandal began their set with “Love in Action”, which set the energy very high. The punchy rhythm that begins the song perfectly suited the jumping and cheering of the crowd. Some people here had been waiting years to see Scandal, and they showed excitement by jumping rhythmically, screaming along with the lyrics, and pumping their light pens with the music. “Love in Action” showcases the balance of vocals between Haruna and Tomomi, which, by some accounts, drives much of the appeal of the band.

Compared to the last time I saw them, the group’s skill grew considerably. Tomomi’s bass playing still holds the band together. Having personally played the bass now for the last few months, I appreciate Tomomi’s finger playing more than ever (she is better than me). Now, Mami’s guitar playing advanced enough to provide some great melodic work and interesting layers to their pop sound. Even more, Mami provides a great deal of the harmony vocals underneath Haruna and Tomomi. During the intervening four years, Mami became an excellent guitar player. I’d jam with her.

Tomomi

Mami

The set list (below) wound through to favorites “DOLL” and “Shunkan Sentimental” and the early song “SCANDAL BABY”. The first part of the set finished off with 2013’s Kagen no Tsuki” with its memorable chorus and the rocker “Onegai Navigation”.

The middle of the set featured all the girls who were not named Haruna. No, these songs are not singles and are not ready for radio. Songs like these reinforce the idea that SCANDAL is a band before and above anything else. This is teamwork, and everyone gets their piece of cake. Firstly, Mami sang her solo song “Hon wo Yomu” with its march-like rhythms and note-hopping melody. Next, Tomomi sang the interestingly named “Can Beer” which is probably the least interesting solo song simply because it does not stray too far from the norm. Finally, Rina provided a showstopper with “Oyasumi”. Rina joined the girls in the front line and picked up a guitar and a microphone. Sure, the girls rocked along to a drum machine, but that is a small price to give the drummer her moment under the front/center spot.

Mami and “Hon wo Yomu”

Rina rocking “Oyasumi”

SCANDAL continued to rip through their singles with the emotionally charged “Departure“. But, the highlight of the set for me came with the “Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku Story“. I remember first hearing the song and watching the PV and thinking “Japan doesn’t play fair”. The energetic song I am sure provided a highlight for many of the crowd. The group finished their main set strong with the singles “ Yoake No Ryuuseigun“, “Your Song”, and “Image“. “Your Song” gave the audience an opportunity to sing along with its catchy “whoahs” and instantly hummable melodies. “Image” provided solid up-tempo rocking moments and capped off the set perfectly.

I had the opportunity to see slightly differing encores. Both encore sets finished off with crowd favorite “EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!” (and, we ALL said “YEAH!”). Hollywood’s encore started with “Awanai Tsumori no, Genki dene” while SCANDAL changed things up for Anaheim with “HARUKAZE“. Between the two songs, “Awanai Tsumori…” rocked a bit more with its faster tempo while “HARUKAZE” provided a more emotional ending to the night with its half-time intros featuring Mami’s lead guitar work.

Encores have been had

Aside from being a fan of idols (I’m not calling SCANDAL idols, BTW), I walked away from both nights impressed with the group as a solid rock unit. They really are a fantastic group with a great look, excellent singles, and great live performances. I hate to think of them in terms of “these HOT Japanese babes can play music!” Yes, they are good-looking girls, but a music producer did not assemble the girls for their looks and talent. By all indications, SCANDAL grew organically the way (I think) great rock acts should grow. Do not forget that SCANDAL have Osaka roots, weekend street lives, and indie records under their belt. I think the best way to celebrate SCANDAL is to treat them like the great rock act they have become.

The line at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney

Waiting, Anaheim style

I could probably write a bit more about Anaheim at this point, but I think I should just summarize. You know I am an awkward one, right? Well, after writing the “Hello! Project Power Rankings” for about a year, I finally met face-to-face with some of people behind New School Kaidan. I know I have had many opportunities to meet these guys before, but I am just not one to say, “Hello, my name is 244 and you should know me because XYZ.” Truthfully, I do not particularly care if people know who I am- I do all of my blogging for myself, just to collect my thoughts, and not a desire to become internet famous. As a social cripple, I had a few opportunities after the SCANDAL concert to introduce myself to these people I should have met a while ago, but ended up not doing so until I found myself in a Karaoke room with them. Honestly, it was great meeting and karaoke-ing with the New School Kaidan, BaSuGaSuBaKuHaTsu, and everyone else (I do not want to out anyone) who came and sang after the Anaheim show. You were all very nice, and I probably should have introduced myself with my screen name and not my actual name. But that feels weird to me. I hope to talk to you all more in the future.

And now, the time honored pic spam (the two nights are mixed together. Too bad.)

Haruna




Tomomi



Mami



Rina (I’m sorry there’s not a lot. It’s damn difficult to get decent pictures of the drummer!)

Set list for West Hollywood House of Blues, May 22, 2015
1. love in action
2. Satisfaction
3. DOLL
4. Shunkan Sentimental
5. SCANDAL BABY
6. Kagen no Tsuki
7. Onegai Navigation
8. Hon wo Yomu
9. Canned Beer
10. Oyasumi
11. Departure
12. Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku STORY
13. Yoake no Ryuseigun
14. Your song
15. Image
Encore:
16. Awanai Tsumori no, Genki dene
17. EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!

Set list for Anaheim House of Blues, May 23, 2015
1. love in action
2. Satisfaction
3. DOLL
4. Shunkan Sentimental
5. SCANDAL BABY
6. Kagen no Tsuki
7. Onegai Navigation
8. Hon wo Yomu
9. Canned Beer
10. Oyasumi
11. Departure
12. Taiyou to Kimi ga Egaku STORY
13. Yoake no Ryuseigun
14. Your song
15. Image
Encore:
16. HARUKAZE
17. EVERYBODY SAY YEAH!

Were you there, too? Tell me your stories in the comments!

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Recommended Jpop♀ Reading: June 2, 2015 | Idolminded

  2. Pingback: Hello! Project Power Rankings June 2015 | New School Kaidan

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