Perfume at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 5th July 2013


The upper levels of the old Shepherd’s Bush Empire, bedecked in gold and white, a reminder of the venue’s original purpose as a variety theatre, erupt in excitement, the word echoing with a roar back towards the small stage.

There is the swooping gesture of an arm to indicate the ground level.


Likewise, the crowded lower level of the venue cries out in response. Hands are raised in the air, people jump up and down, and on stage Perfume‘s A-chan smiles gleefully and giddily.

The atmosphere is amazing, a genuinely broad mix of people representative of the quality of music that Perfume‘s back catalogue attests to. There is none of the weirdness, none of the awkwardness often present at concerts with such an overlapping audience – especially an audience raised on a limited diet of poorly handled imports and inconsistencies – there is only a love, a genuine love for the three women standing on stage and the music they perform.

Opening with recent single, Spending all my time, the concert set the tone from the very beginning as being exemplary of the group’s distinct co-ordination of sound and vision. Lights flicker and dim, the audience cries out, an excited fan rushes from the merchandise area having spent more than a £100 on towels featuring the group’s logo, and what follows as the three members of PerfumeA-chan, Nochi, and Kashiyuka – take the stage is a light show projected across their garments and the sizable screen behind them.

Here in Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a theatre founded in 1903, a theatre that miraculously survived bombing during the Blitz, here three women from Hiroshima point the way to the details of a future at once nostalgic and engaging.

The details evolve, the pattern fractures, and there is that feeling in my awe alike nothing save for childhood memories of the evolving pattern of costumes in the original Tron film; a feeling that tells us this is the future, this is the dream that we expected to inherit from films that we watched as children. In fact, if you are looking for a group that take full advantage of modern multimedia in their performance, then surely there can be no better example than the way Perfume appear on stage.

2013-07-05 21.16.44Everything in the venue is structured and reflective of the group’s image and presence away from the stage; everything is complimentary.

Between songs, the three members are lively and talkative in a way in which surprises given the manner in which Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s own concert in Angel earlier this year was staged.

Conversation is mostly in Japanese with patches of English, a call to the audience going out at one point and a bilingual member of the crowd being given a microphone to help translate.

The MC segments cover ground distinctly different from the educational nature of Kyary‘s performance and there is the hopeful notion that record companies have learnt lessons from this.

This concert, originally also planned for the O2 Academy in Angel sold out in three minutes. 

The audience present here are not a niche market.

We are informed during these MC segments of how the tour is going, of the group’s thoughts and feelings in playing abroad, of their recent experience eating fish and chips for the first time and this banter becomes an anchor between sets of songs; an experience that is not a delay but an enhancement of the music that surrounds it.

Fish!” the upper levels cry out again.

A-chan waves her hand.

Chips!” cry the lower levels once more.

The experience fosters a sense of community between the audience and the performers, an experience distinctly unique amongst J-pop acts performing in London.

When Perfume ask us to lift our hands, offer a thumbs up and call out「いいね!」(ii ne!) with the sweetest Facebook analogy, there is no artifice, no sense of playing the audience, only the idea that the group are enjoying themselves as much as the crowd before them.

The set performed covers a wide selection of Perfume‘s history, from the obligatory performance of classics such as Chocolate Disco – a song for which the audience literally lifts up as one from the floor – through to personal favourite Electro World and later songs from the JPN album.

Whilst many singles were absent from the set list, there is never the sense that it is at the audience’s expense, and when the group surprisingly launch into the opening of Queen‘s We Will Rock You, it is as an awareness of their global audience not as a contradiction of it.

2013-07-05 21.03.17It is difficult not to recall the O2 in Angel and the cold of February even as I shout, even as my hand rises into the air, and both the differences and the similarities between what Perfume have achieved here and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu managed to both convey and not convey have never been clearer.

There is no need to educate, no need to explain; everyone here knows who these three women are, everyone knows their famed producer, everyone knows their music.

Light flickers, a burst of illumination and imagery across the aged interior of the Empire, the audience lifts up once more and as one song flows into the other, an unusual sense of achievement textures the atmosphere.

When at last the group depart the stage they return almost instantly for the encore, offering three potential songs and in turn seeming surprised when the audience opts for GLITTER and the difference in choices between the Japanese and British audiences. 

The song plays out, the audience reach out one last time, and Perfume prepare to leave the stage, a moment of genuine honesty happening seconds before their departure.

There is an apology for how much Japanese has spoken and then the words:

I feel the same music, I feel the same passion.”

My heart swells.

The group leave the stage, waving and smiling and crying, and then at the very last, A-chan pauses and shouts:


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