One of the relatively few Japanese groups to make real headway outside of Asia is Perfume, the electro/EDM trio from Hiroshima. Thanks to the inclusion of their song “Polyrhythm” in Pixar’s Cars 2, audiences in America and Europe are familiar with Perfume’s sound even if they don’t realize it. But more and more, they are realizing it, as evidenced by the packed houses in New York, L.A., and London during the group’s third world tour in November 2014.
This momentum built toward the event captured in January’s Blu-ray release Perfume Anniversary 10days 2015 PPPPPPPPPP LIVE 3:5:6:9. 2015 marked 15 years since the group’s formation and 10 years since their major national debut. To honor the occasion, A-chan, Kashiyuka, and Nocchi appeared in a series of events between September 21 and October 7, spanning from Tsutaya O-West to Budokan to Hiroshima Green Arena.
As always, they made it more about the fans than themselves. Whereas the set list is normally crafted to flow seamlessly as a captivating presentation of sound and visuals, for LIVE 3:5:6:9 the set was chosen randomly by the roll of a giant 10-sided die, sometimes set into motion by the audience.
LIVE 3:5:6:9 was held on days five to 10, the first four being in Tokyo and the final two back home in Hiroshima. It was a grueling schedule that could explain one of the few blemishes to be found in this release: at times the girls look tired. Kashiyuka, in particular, lacks the energy she normally brings to the stage. It made me wonder if the frantic schedule was taking its toll. Watching the second disc, which is a complete digest of all 10 days, showing highlights of each, this does appear to be the case.
But this small blemish is no reason to skip what is an otherwise fun walk down memory lane with these three women—now 27 years old—who came together at the age of 11. The evolution of the group unfolds before your eyes as more recent tracks like “Pick Me Up” mingle with classics like “Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow.” The simpler routines from their teenage years look stiffer in their late 20s, while the current ones are an amazing feat of coordinated intricacy. To that end, the highlight of the set comes midway through in the form of “Story,” an as-yet-unreleased single that Perfume performed to an astonished audience last summer at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It’s pure artistry of both sight and sound.
The concert concludes with “Star Train,” a moving retrospective on where they’ve been and where they’re going. The crowd reaction moves A-chan to tears—as always—but that’s what’s so charming about Perfume. In an age where mega-agencies stick kids together to form groups of questionable talent propelled by the marketing machine, here are three 11-year-old girls who simply joined together, worked hard for a decade and a half, and are now reaping the rewards as adults.
LIVE 3:5:6:9 out now.