Morning Musume。’14 Holds Solo Concert in New York City
On October 5th, popular Japanese idol group Morning Musume。’14 held a concert in New York City at Times Square’s Best Buy Theater. While the most diehard fans had started lining up soon after midnight, by the afternoon the line had grown to wrap around the entire block. Read on for the full details!
Held over five years after their last performance in the United States, this concert was unprecedented in Morning Musume。’s 17-year history. The ten-member group, who this year changed their name to Morning Musume。’14, had only performed in the U.S. as part of Anime Expo 2009 in Los Angeles. But in contrast to Anime Expo 2009, when the audience consisted of a mixture of fans and random convention attendees, the entire audience in the Best Buy Theater was there solely to see Morning Musume。’14. In addition, with their ever-changing lineup, only their leader Sayumi Michishige (25) had been a member of the group at that time.
Fans from around the world flocked to New York City just for Morning Musume。’14. These fans came not just from all over North and South America, but even from as far away as Europe and Asia to witness the historic event. In front of 2000 of these dedicated fans, the ten girls of Morning Musume。’14 performed a full-length concert with a setlist of some of their biggest hits.
With the stage darkened, the members of Morning Musume。’14 appeared on stage one by one in the costumes from their most recent single, “TIKI BUN” (2014). Their costumes’ red and black scarves were replaced by USA and New York-themed ones. Each member’s entrance was met with enthusiastic cheers and applause, with the loudest cheers for Sayumi Michishige, who made sure to show off her unique American flag-patterned scarf to the audience. As many in the audience knew, Michishige would be leaving the group at the end of November, “graduating” from the group as the longest-serving member with nearly 12 years of experience.
The setlist started off with one of the group’s most popular songs, “One・Two・Three” (2012), followed by their #1 hits “Help me!!” and “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” (2013). Seeing Morning Musume。’14 sing and dance with their precision formation dancing dazzled the audience, many of whom had only seen them perform on their small screens at home. The audience was bursting with energy, cheering and chanting to the call-and-response of these high-energy songs.
After this first set of songs, the members gave their self-introductions in English. Going one by one from the most junior member to the most senior, each girl gave the audience a taste of their personalities.
First up was the newest member, Sakura Oda (15) of the 11th generation, who showcased her vocal talent as one of the best singers of the group by belting out the chorus of “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen”.
Next was the youngest member, 10th generation member Haruka Kudou (14), who drew attention to her signature short hairstyle. Following the fellow 10th generation members Masaki Satou (15) and Ayumi Ishida (17), subleaderHaruna Iikubo (19) introduced herself as a “huge anime geek”, to cheers from many in the audience that had been introduced to Japanese culture through Japanese animation.
Perhaps most surprising was the audience’s reaction to Kanon Suzuki (16), the youngest of the 9th generation, who proclaimed she was full of energy after eating a big breakfast. Before she could even speak, Suzuki received cheers so loud that her microphone-amplified voice could barely be heard over them.
Next up was 9th generation member Riho Sayashi (16), widely recognized as the “ace” of the group.
After flubbing some of her English to joking jeers of “ehhhh?” from the audience, Erina Ikuta (17) demonstrated her appreciation of New York’s very own Spider-Man by throwing web-like streamers into the audience.
Last in the 9th generation was Mizuki Fukumura (17), the group’s other subleader.
As it became Michishige’s turn, the audience started up a chant of “Sayu! Sayu!” for the graduating leader, who quickly wrapped up the group’s self-introductions.
As the concert proceeded, Morning Musume。’14 changed into striking red and blue costumes. These would later quick-change into red, white, and blue costumes modified to resemble the U.S. flag. During Michishige’s solo song “Lalala no Pipipi” (2012), the audience turned to pink, as a group of dedicated Michishige fans had distributed pink glowsticks to everyone in attendance beforehand for just this purpose.
Other highlights of the setlist were Michishige’s debut song “Shabondama” (2003), songs from what fans call the “Platinum era, and several updated versions of Morning Musume。’s hits from the early 2000s. Finally in a nod to the international fans, the girls performed “What is LOVE?” (2014), which has lyrics inspired by international fans’ answers to that very question.
After the lights went down, audience chants of “Encore!” and “Sayu!” went on for several minutes while Morning Musume。’14 prepared for their encore. The girls returned to the stage in blue costumes to perform the somber and moving “Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe” (2014), before finishing the concert with the upbeat, feel-good ending song, “Happy Daisakusen” (2013).
After the show was over, several hundred of the fans sat down to wait their turn to shake hands with the members of Morning Musume。’14. These fans included the 200 VIP ticket holders as well as the several hundred fans who had bought a copy of their special New York-limited album. on sale in the theater lobby. The rest of the audience filtered out into the chilly New York night with their minds still wrapped up in the concert they had just witnessed.
For many fans of Morning Musume。 in 2009, Anime Expo was an almost life-changing event. At that event firsthand experience of the members’ beauty, charm, and talent was enough to make casual passers-by into fans, and existing fans into diehard fans. I have no doubt that years from now, when we look back at this weekend, we will be able to say the same about the Morning Musume。’14 concert in New York.
Don’t forget to check out JPHiP’s interview with Morning Musume。’14!