Negicco: how would you you describe them? (rhetorical question).
How do you describe these three girls that stayed in their native city of Niigata for something like 10 years, performing always the same songs written by the same lyricist/composer, performed at the same venues in front of the same audience, and still full of energy and dreaming for a bigger future? dreamers? How do you describe this trio made up to publicize some leek and so proud of this to take it as a symbol to print on fashion t-shirts and trendy designer tote bag? naïve? And then, how do you describe somebody who took more time than everyone else in Japan to rise to a national tour and probably gained more popularity overseas than in motherland? stubborn? Well, the fact is, these three dreamers, naïve, stubborn girls, are Negicco, and they are a take or leave, a unique case in the lavish idol scenery, and this is one of the biggest reasons to love them.
After a test national tour that you even can’t properly call “tour” (they performed in some minuscule live houses, and if you wanted to buy a ticket you had to send a mail to the manager asking him the possibility to join the concert and explaining the reason why you want to go…) Negicco leaved Niigata for the proudly called Negicco First Tour Never Give Up Girls!!! & Rice & Snow, merging together in this long title their humbleness, their motto and their second album title. Seventeen dates that started at Chiba and will finish at, guess where? Niigata, the navel of the world. During their national stroll, Negicco came to the lovely city of Okayama in Southern Japan for the second time (the first was during the infamous zero tour) and thank goodness this time you could buy the ticket at a normal store: so I bought it with reasonable advance and happily went to the concert.
Okayama Crazymama Kingdom is not so nationally famous, but a necessary step for all the little-medium artists coming to this area: it hosts every kind of artist from the most innocent teenpop singer to the dirtier metal band and it’s the most famous live house in the prefecture, rivaling only with Okayama Image which is the home of Visual Kei. Both venues are small like car boxes and the stages are not bigger than a bathtub, but this is quite good because the distance between you and the performing artist is incredibly short and you can enjoy in a unique and intimate way. Negicco are not so scrooge, and you could get the ticket for less than 4’000 yen, definitely cheap for the japanese standards, and the show was at afternoon: so it’s obvious that a well known place, cheap tickets and a early show attracted a large audience. I expected to find a lot of wota, and I found them, but different from what I thought: out of about 300 persons, 95% were men, but more than half of them was older than 35 or 40 years old and at least 20 people were over 65 and could be Negicco’s grandpas. The strong fans were in the first row, but the real deep hard-core wotas were at the end of the room, grouping together and leaving some space around them: when the concert started it was easy to understand the dimensions because of the dance and choreography going on with the songs, of course. The wotas are a kind of élite, a closed club: when I entered the club everybody saw me like an alien, because I’m a foreign man, or probably because for the first time a foreigner fan joined an idol concert in Okayama, or maybe because everyone knows everyone both on Internet and in real life, so I was definitely a three-times alien.
The concert started at 17:01 with what is probably the best song out from Negicco’s second album Rice&Snow: BLUE, GREEN, RED AND GONE, composed by a member of the electro-rap unit Kuchiroro, talking about a car trip on Yokohama’s free way, brilliant in its circular rhythm and flamboyant drums arrangement directly reminding that extraordinary remix for Pizzicato Five’s It’s a Beautiful Day, composed of a stunning and hypnotic song-long drums virtuoso performance. Enlightened only by headlights of the colours of the title of the songs, the performance was watched in complete silence by an enchanted audience, who woke up only from the second song, the funny Party ni tsuite, warmed up on the instant classic Sayonara music, and got completely on fire with Festival de aimashou. All the songs were literally fierce jumping routines and after 20 minutes the back of Nao☆ was completely sweat-soaked, but she continued to smile. From that moment on, the concert was simply no more a concert: it was a gathering whose participants were just part of the same united family. The wota élite broke up and everybody felt the same feeling: happiness. Negicco restlessly sang, jumped and sweated on the stage for a grand total of two hours and more, and so did the audience.
After the first four songs, the girls took a short break to greet the audience, introduced themselves and talked about silly things like the cheap coffee at vending machines, the taxis of Okayama or how much Megu wanted to eat curry that very night. All of these things are just exactly what idols are: close yet untouchable dream girls. They speak the same simple language of the audience, interact with people asking lots of questions (during the second break there was a conversation about where to buy some stuff they need, asking the public the addresses of the shops and other minute details, and I was shocked) and act like little sisters or so. They are next-door stars which hearts are open to the ones who want to join them. It’s a beautiful sensation, it’s not like a concert, it’s just like seeing long-time friends.
The rest of the concert was a mix of a good half of Rice&Snow, some songs from Melody Palette and only one of their early songs,Attouteki na style, that featured a detailed and complex wota dance performed by the entire crowd in a collective hug, and yes, it’s been beautiful and touching. The songs from the Melody Palette era got some choreography with arms movements and most of all the typical wota screams calling the nicknames of the idols during their singing turn. The live experience of these tracks is definitely the best way to enjoy Negicco: while this could be said for live shows in general, here this is particularly emphasized because all of their songs are just thought to be performed rather than listened. So even the most boring songs from Rice&Snow, performed live, finally get a sense: Pajama Party Night is definitely going to be a strong suit, Futari no yuugi has that 80s vibe perfect to revitalize the setlist,Hadashi no Rainbow is perfect as connection song (and showcases a cute dance) and most of all, that unintelligible mess that is Jiyuu ni, that becomes an asbolute must of all their concerts from now on with all its styles and singing and rapping and speaking and hand clapping and lalala and so on, involving the audience in the choreography, representing what is definitely the best performance of the entire concert. It’s surprising to see how a not-so-well identified idol unit like Negicco get a perfect identity in the live performance, giving a shameless sense of fulfilling happiness to the audience with all of their choruses and letter spelling, and if in the albums you can’t stand them, well, at the concerts you want more more and more.
During the encore, the girls played with the audience (the oldest guy was the happiest) and performed the last two songs, the anthems Negative Girls! and that perfect song that is Tokimeki no headliner. Unfortunately they didn’t perform the masterpiece Idol bakari kikanaide, but you can’t say you’re unsatisfied after such a long setlist and the demonstration that Negicco are the best heir Shibuya kei successors survived until today with their unique and oblique mix of styles, genres, instruments and moods mixed together and glued by their smiles. Maybe this is their long-searched identity: the smiles. Kaepo’s naïve smile, Nao-chan’s dreamer smile and Poncha’s stubborn smile are the best common denominator of their long career, that I hope will last for a long time, full of amazing concerts like this one.
Negicco First Tour Never Give Up Girls!!! & Rice&Snow live @ Okayama Crazymama Kingdom
01 BLUE, GREEN, RED AND GONE
02 Party ni tsuite.
03 Sayonara music
04 Festival de aimashou
05 Anata to Pop With You!
06 Hadashi no Rainbow
07 Cream Soda Love
08 Jiyuu ni
09 Attouteki na style
10 Life Is Candy Travel
11 Futari no yuugi
12 Pajama Party Night
13 Triple! WONDERLAND
14 Hikari no spur
– Encore –
15 Negative Girls!
16 Tokimeki no headliner