Shock for the sake of shock wears thin fast: if you’re wondering why more and more critics are rolling their eyes at Antichrist it’s the promise of jolting incredulity gone flaccid through hype and expectation. By the time the pivotal scenes arrive, you’re already comparing it to things you’ve seen worse, to things done worse better, and wondering if anything has the power to make you recoil anymore. The headlining tours of divas are the same. No, you won’t find any genital mutilation in the choreography, but you’ll find the usual mimed sexual theatrics; even though Koda Kumi’s TRICK Live Tour 2009 makes Basic Instinct look like a Sesame Street segment, it’s all pretty yawn inducing.
Freak shows, circuses, fun houses…in 2009, divas around the world recycled mythologized forms of entertainment for their shows over and over and over again. But while Koda Kumi may have intercepted a few memos for her own greatest show on Earth, there remains something distinctly Avex J-pop about the whole experience. And I’m not just talking about the audience, who could be found weeping hysterically at the sight of her when they weren’t thrusting their TRICK baubles in the standard form of adulation: if you’ve seen a recent Ayumi Hamasaki concert, you’ve seen TRICK.
There’s the standard ridiculous costumes, complete with plumage, glitter, and ruffles, like a spoiled princess’s closet burst at the seams, computer graphics-heavy movie interludes, the uncomplicated synchronized dance moves, the obligatory drive through the crowd on a giant platform, the moment where pop diva turns rock star in leather, the magnificent mile of lights trailing down a ridiculous dress for the slow number, wigs, wigs, wigs, and the laid-back jeans/sweatpants encore, all clocking in at over two hours, which I’m sure makes the high price of a ticket seem fair, but makes for a very long-winded home viewing experience. Koda Kumi doesn’t leave much to your imagination, disposing of the myriad uses for the term trick, instead handing you a decent enough present but without any wrapping paper (this is an arena, after all, not a parlor). A few things will seem interesting, nothing will surprise you, and someone gets abducted.
The following are five moments that stood out for me. Not necessarily good moments, not necessarily bad moments, just moments, worthy of mention and some rumination.
Koda Kumi fans are crybabies. And actual babies.
Kumi holds back. My favorite Kumi songs are “TABOO” and “Driving” and neither of the performances were exciting when they should have been; the latter is a high energy song desperate for a dynamic dance routine, the former allows you to be as dirty as you want while smirking at all the conservative naysayers. Yet we get restrained nonchalance and a lot of hand waves. What really irks me about these (cliched) romps through the audience on giant moving platforms is that they’re moments of faux audience interaction. Kumi circles one large group of the audience, but she’s still never close enough to even graze a hand: she can move you, but she can’t touch you.
This hysterical fan. At some point during “SHAKE IT,” when all the dancers have finished having sex, “random” audience members are selected to receive lap dances. I’m putting random in quotes because I’m pretty sure that at least one of them was a member of the crew. Hint: it was not one of the people who looked confused and/or mortified. Really, this fan (in a wig?) was in tears the entire time. I’m surprised she didn’t pass out in her chair and demand medical attention (but that would have been over doing it, I guess?). I’ve never seen anyone so unhappy to be getting a lap dance. It’s Koda Kumi for goodness sake, not Sanjaya! The fact that she then disappears underneath the stage and we never see her again still worries me from the pointless crotch grabbing of “That Ain’t Cool” to “you”‘s evening wear competition.
The general existence of Maiko. It’s hard not to keep your eyes on this woman the entire concert. My suspicion that she is actually an exotic dancer just kept on manifesting; someone get Maiko her own show in Vegas already! I imagine whenever any outrageous idea came up during roundtable, she was the first to raise her hand and volunteer. Simulated strap-on sex with Koda Kumi? I’ll do it! Gratuitous boob grabbing? I’m in! Lap dances for random members of the audience? C’mon guys, it’ll be fun!
Maiko gets upstaged. I think this woman adjusting her costume was more noteworthy than that performance towards the end when all the girls sat around and shaved their legs while Kumi sang “Venus.” Wedgies happen guys, and sometimes they are immortalized on concert DVDs.