1. MCZ are a slick, polished machine of performance veterans. They have the same industry-heavyweight self-confidence that SNSD does.
2. Even though some sets and songs were very paced, it's like the situation here
: to the unsuspecting, they seem fine. It's only to the discerning eye that the performance wasn't as batshit high-energy as some previous concerts. I don't fault them for it, this was the middle of an international tour, with performances every other day. Jetlag and travel fatigue must have been hitting hard by this point.
3. Setlist here
The main part of the concert was split into four sets, each representing one season. Between each set, instead of MCs, they had interludes explaining some traditional Japanese arts associated with each season. There were two Japanese ladies doing the traditional dancing, there was a taiko specialist, and they also grabbed local taiko talent for one interlude.
The spring set (00-03) was very paced, with only the Mahoro Vacation really busting out the choreo I was expecting from the group. It makes sense, of course, to help them save their energy for later.
The summer set (04-07) was one of my favorite sets of the concert. Super high energy (how can you not with Coco Natsu AND Wani to Shampoo), and the girls played taiko during the Momoiro Daiko Dodonga Bushi interlude!
The autumn set (08-10) was pretty much all anisongs. Meh.
The winter set was my other favorite, with beautiful outfits and the girls just radiant in their dancing. It felt like I was watching SweetS! For Santa-san, Reni's trick was to pop up in the back of the ground floor (standing room), draw something/autograph, and give it to a fan! I had previous considered watching the concert from that area, before deciding to go with the better view from the loge, so when I saw Reni there I swore emphatically for pretty much the rest of the song. XD
Yep, two encores. This contained the only MC of the night from the girls, and they were lovable idiots as always. The encore performances were also a highlight of the night, very high energy.
4. Some of the lower energy than usual probably came from the fact that the theater was in no way filled. At all. The mezzanine was all but empty, the loge was patchy at best, and ground floor wasn't packed either. Plus, the majority of the crowd was the Japanese group who were on the tour package where they would attend all three concerts, so it made it look like they weren't popular in America at all.
I hope the NYC concert does better, for being on the weekend.
5. That said, I'm not too surprised. H!P international fandom is wrapped up in the history of the internet itself, so it has so much more inertia and emotional investment driving the numbers. 48G international fandom had a lot of roots from said H!P fandom, and caught the tail end of when J-variety and stuff was more freely distributed on the internet, easily discovered.
But Momoclo? I know very few people for whom Momoclo was their first idol love. Music critics for whom MCZ might be their first respected idol group aren't going to be the type to go out of their way to attend concerts, either, so they don't have the same draw as Babymetal, either. From the setlist, MCZ were clearly banking on the anisong fans (what with going to AX the year before), but they're also not as singularly anisong as the anisong darlings, so that audience also fell flat. Speaking of which, the concentration of anisongs was irritating, as it crowded out a bunch of classics I was hoping to see (no Z Densetsu, Roudou Sanka, Otome Sensou, Saraba Itoshiki, Mirai Bowl/Chai Maxx, Stargate, Gounn, much less long shots like Kuroi Shuumatsu, Lost Child, Believe, Words of the Mind, We are UFI). They didn't even do Mouretsu!
So the American fan presence was mostly DDs with money to spare, some LA DD locals, and some unicorns for whom MCZ was their only Jpop fandom.
6. The majority Japanese presence was a mixed benefit. Compared to the mostly international fandom at Morning Musume concerts, the energy was lower. There was less dancing, more structured chanting. The MCZ fanchants don't follow standard wotagei, either, so there was minimal jumping. It rendered the concert a little sterile, to be honest.
But that same better organization did mean that fanchants were properly done, especially the name-based ones, and the encore calls were impeccable instead the of the mess that Americans always make of them. Most importantly, during the encore MC, the girls did their traditional introductions, full of call-and-response that would really fall flat without a strong Japanese audience presence.
7. I, uh, did not contribute with all my might to audience synergy, and I don't regret it, because it was a joy to watch the girls perform. I wanted to soak in sights, catch every detail I could, gather as much analysis fodder as possible.
I still mostly lack the words to express just why I find Kanako and Dawa to be so perfect as frontgirls and dancers, but thanks to my loge-location viewing angle, I do have one aspect figured out for Kanako: her footwork goes above and beyond the others'. They all have good footwork when the dance calls for it (and I love that their choreo is footwork-happy), but even when there's just normal dancing and posing, Kanako's feet are in perfect balletic angles and posture. I don't know if she has formal training in ballet or martial arts or what, but she had the best stances and movement in the dance for Z no Chikai.
Momoka's dancing is so precisely contained and smooth, you can really see her formal training stand out, as she has that kind of hip-hop centering that Riho had. She also does the most effective head-movements to complement her moves. Also, I was fascinated to realize that even when still, she taps her right toes to the beat!
Mind-bogglingly, that night A-rin was more flaily than Reni. Reni still went 150% snap into her poses, but she kept her head stable, and that lent a sense of precision/crispness like Momoka's type of dancing. It's not like A-rin danced badly. She was by every definition executing the moves and poses perfectly. But I dunno, that X-factor that the other four had wasn't there in A-rin, for me.
8. What is it with me and the yellow ones these days!? Shiori, Shiori, Shiori, ahhhhhh she stood out the most to me that night, with Kanako in second. Shiori has become a real lady, no trace of not-maknae-ness in her at all. She's gotta have guys beating down the door for a chance at dating her.
And her dance style was subtly separate from the others', similar to how sometimes Yuri seems to do her own take on transitions vs. the rest of Dance Line. Shiori went for extensions and transitions that wasn't so much crisp, as always about best highlighting her striking....shape? profile? body type? (And in some ways I feel that A-rin not optimizing her moves to herself also hurt her. She was the middle ground between Momoka and Reni's dancing styles, and master of none.)
Also, Shiori's bang-less hairstyle was FANTASTIC.
9. I say this with full irony: idol fans camping out are why we can't have nice things. Some Japanese fans camped starting from 7PM the day before the concert, with sleeping bags and all.
I took the earliest flight out, and during my taxi ride to the theater, the driver just could not wrap his head around the concept of me arriving so early for an evening concert. "But you could go to the beach first!" And I had to keep my damn mouth shut, because explaining that I was afraid that the line would already be around the corner would indeed sound fucking ridiculous. Nonetheless, when we pulled up around 7:30AM, there were already at least 30 people in line, halfway down the side of the block.
10. Merch prices were...Japanese prices, unfortunately. Towels were $20, member shirts were $40, 5-color Kingblades were $40, bracelets were $20. There were 3 albums available, and they were $45, $45, and $30. Yeah, dropping 90 bucks for the latest albums was too much for even me, so I got a towel and the 5th Dimension album.
11. All that said about the fans' behavior during the concert, and the camping thing, the fans were great to interact with. I got soooooo much fan-made merch (pins, cell phone straps, fanart, even a wooden carved coaster!) from Japanese and LA local fans alike while in line. I signed the big banner, and a couple of special booklets with messages for the girls. And fans had run a successful GoFundMe to get 5 flower wreaths in the theater. Plus, the conversation was great. I got to word-vomit about industry and popularity politics and Kpop vs. Jpop and music production and all sorts of stuff, and that was with more than a few indie-idol connoisseurs! I do miss getting to discuss that stuff online these days.
12. tl;dr loved the concert hope they come back would watch again great experience