I was a casual fan of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu before seeing her recent stop on the Nanda Collection 2014 world tour at Toronto’s Sound Academy on March 7. That all changed after seeing her live. I lined up for the show 3 hours early in a crowd that seemed to be made up of cosplayers in looks from KPP’s various videos as well as more casual fans. I was dressed for the weather in tie, jacket and hoodie and my patience saw me packed in 2nd row pressed along the rail. Next to me was an array of children and parents, giving the experience a true all-ages feel.
Following an hour’s wait through a looping overture with a cartoony tone, Kyary took to the stage in a short multicoloured furry dress, with a bow that evoked animal ears. On closer inspection I came to realize that the dress was comprised of 2 (or more?) muppet-style monsters, flayed and grafted into this outfit. I like to imagine KPP cheering these grouch-monsters into submission before she skinned them out of their puppety lives, but I digress. She performed well, amping the crowd with the dubstep-tinged ‘Invader Invader’ accompanied by four mischevious and frenetic masked dancers.
Kyary spoke to the crowd in a little English and more Japanese as we were taught the hand-action accompaniment for ‘Ninja Bang Bang’, getting the crowd involved. The stage wasn’t as packed with setpieces and props as I’d seen in photographs of other lives on the tour, but Kyary kept the crowd going with a strong start. The numbers were accompanied by ever-present video imagery on a large screen, usually from the PV for the song. Following a few songs that delighted the crowd, an intermission for costume change saw an anthropomorphic blue rabbit wander the stage taunted by an on-screen rabbit as the crowd cheered on.
Kyary returned to the stage in a pink dress and matching bow like she was holding a surreal tea party, decorated with 3-D eyeballs along the flanged edge of a pink skirt. There was the vibe of this darling of decora holding court, attended by her quartet of brightly dressed and highly expressive kawaii-jesters. This cycle of songs included ‘Cherry Bon Bon’ and ‘Tsukematsukeru’, and a dance with feather dusters. The audience often matched the motions of KPP in unison. I’m not much into participation, but was charmed into joining in as Kyary seemed to glance in my direction and mesmerize me into joining in the hand gestures and clapping.
A second time-out saw Pamyurin, a fuzzy rabbit with giant ears, pink nipples and KPP across its bum wander the stage playfully as the crowd’s anticipation for more grew steadily. Kyary came back to the stage in a black dress, with neon coloured shoelaces forming a day-glo maze all over it, and a lace-like bow on her head. Kyary kept the crowd moving with favourites like ‘PonPonPon’ and ‘Fashion Monster’, to the crowd’s great delight. All the while, I was compelled to move by the music and the charisma of the queen of kawaisa, even managing to clap to the midpoint of ‘PonPonPon’ in sync with her and the crowd. The enthusiasm of the crowd was phenomenal over the evening, giving the Sound Academy an air of youthful celebration the whole time.
A filmed clip showed Kyary addressing a crowd of plush toys, then dressed like a bike gang member, then playing poker with an American resembling Alan Moore, a suave Frenchman and a sultry Spanish woman (KPP seemed to win but my kanji is not good enough to know for sure). Chants of “Kyary! Kyary! Kyary!” brought her out in a fourth outfit, a furry Pamyurin bunny-eared headpiece and tour T-shirt with a short flowing skirt that had marshmallow-like poofs dotting it. She performed ‘Candy Candy’, took a picture with the whole crowd and set the show off with something of a closing theme song. The 90-minute show was followed by a meet and greet with fans that I wish I could have been part of, having been made a strong believer in KPP’s positive music and attitude.
The energy was non-stop despite the change-breaks, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu delivered her unique brand of hyper-cute j-pop to the capacity crowd in Toronto. The whole show had the feel of seeing an artist from some not-so distant future, the kind of act that you might find referenced in a work of science fiction. I only hope for another chance to see her here in Canada or elsewhere for the elemental joy and sense of fun that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu performs with. If you have the chance to experience it for yourself, I highly recommend seeing KPP live. If you were there or have seen KPP yourself, or even just hope to, sound off below!