CK in Japan Spring 2012…The Concert That Made EVERYONE Cry

Warning, this is going to be long. Oh, and another warning. I might be slightly mixing up the order of events. It was a long show, and a lot of emotional stuff happened…

SDN48 Final Concert at NHK Hall 3/31/2012

So yeah, I am in Japan again. You surprised? I said that I would be aiming for this concert since the day they announced SDN’s graduation. But I almost didn’t make it to the main event I came here for…

After months of worrying about being able to score tickets for SDN’s graduation, they finally announced the ticket lottery. I had a lot of friends applying, so I was reasonably confident about getting a ticket. However, they did announce a “random id check”, which all but ruled out obtaining one from a reseller. Anyway, we didn’t have any luck with the ticket lottery, so I had resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to miss the show. It wasn’t until the wee hours of Saturday morning that my friend found someone with extra tickets. They weren’t the greatest seats, and they were quite pricey, but we went for it anyway.

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I spent the entire morning and afternoon with Tenkun and friends at the Wasamin mini-live, then headed over to Harajuku to meet my friend and the girl wth the tickets. BTW, it was raining, windy as hell, and freakin’ freezing in Tokyo. The doors were supposed to open at 5pm, so we queued up around 15 minutes before. Doors opened almost 25 minutes late. By then I was totally numb. So I skipped the goods line and went to my seat in order to thaw out. Basically missed out on trading pics. The t-shirt had already sold out. But enough of my yappin…let’s boogie!

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I am guessing many of you have alrady seen the setlist…and the stage setup since tgsk posted it during the show.  If not, then here ya go.  I didn’t get the jungle theme, along with the door to “Club SDN”. The vines actually blocked the monitor from my view. Show started with the standard SDN overture into Sado e Wataru, which was a curious opener. But they did a very cool rain effect over the stage. That was neat. So the opening set ended, and I figured “Okay, they will do most of their songs, then a tearful goodbye, and that will be it” But then, something strange happened…and I swear I am choking back tears as I write this…

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – J.S. Bach?

It was at this moment that I felt this concert was going to be special. It was like, wow, this is REALLY going to be graduation! The pipe organ played for a long time. I was waiting for something to happen Then suddenly two men appeared on stage guarding the door to Club SDN. And these guys were not Japanese. Three members, I don’t remember who was there other than CinDy tried to enter the club, but were blocked by the guards. Then Sayanee came out and asked the guards, in English, how they could get through the door. He responded that you had to knock three times. So the girls all knocked and went in. Next Konan showed up and asked the same question, but this time the guards yelled at her in the Kansai dialect.

The stage setup then changed to inside the club, with a bar, lounge, pool table and dancer poles. Then we got the standard show open with Saturday Night Party, Never, and Black Boy. Both gen’s teams were onstage for this. Then after the first verse of Black Boy, just as the crowd started the 2nd mix, the music changed. They began to intro the members in small groups, each doing a mini-performance while a VTR played above. There was hip-hop, ballet, bubble gum pop, you name it! To me the ballet one was the best. I don’t remember what everyone did, except that Meetan was in a group that did pole dancing ala Dump Show, and Chaki was in the hip-hop group. It was the greatest version of Black Boy ever! Too funny! Onto the next skit, and the first guest star of the night…

Cut to the bar, and some of the girls were hanging out, drinking with the bartender who was curiously “tounguing” a highball glass…Ijiri-san! If you don’t know who I mean, he is the comedian with the “Moe Howard” haircut. Masamin sort of led the skit, but Miray and Serina were also there. At one point Ijiri-san started making fun of Serina’s voice. That led into the next set of songs…

Now the way they did the units, both team’s units were onstage simultanously. In the case of I’m Sure they were on each side of the stage. As for Yuuwaku no Garter (which was later in the show) the girls shared the same chairs, but on the final verse half of them performed on the stripper poles. At one point Mamitan did an insane split on the pole!!! Full crotch shot for everyone!

There was also a skit before all in, with the girls playing pool. At one point Nonti decided to try a “trick shot”, but failed miserably…TWICE! Didn’t even hit the ball. Then she just threw the cue ball across the table.

FYI, they did the PG-rated version of Futsuu no Anata, and it was about this point in the show that it became apparent the entire catalog was going to be performed.

Queue our next special guest, Mino Monta, who got an amazing reception from the crowd. He had some nice things to say about SDN, then he sat on the couch with the girls from the single. Meetan was totally perving out on Monta-san. They poured him a stiff drink as well. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of alcohol onstage throughout the show. I would like to think it was all real! But before they could perform the song, Rachel came out for her solo while Monta and the girls watched.  Oh, and when they sang Monta-san’s single, the fans’ call for him was louder than the girls!

In the next segment we got Kazue and Cha-min’s new songs. I was so excited to hear Chaki’s new song! I love Kazue, but I thought her song was just okay. Some great moments from the next segment…

Meetan chasing Ijiri around the stage with her whip during Jaujama Lady, the champagne pouring going on behind Onedari Champagne. And of course seeing everyone doing Tamanegi!! Next was the Nachu MC, where she did her impressions. We got to hear a little Daruma, Natsuko/Akiko, Chaki, a few others I can’t remember. The Natsuko/Akiko one was classic, with Natsuko sounding like an airhead and Akiko sounding dopey! And of course her big finale, Takamina.

I think it was at this pont when the speeches started between songs. Various members, featuring the former AKB girls talking about what the graduation meant to them. But then things would lighten up and they would go into the next song. They did both of their AKB covers, whh pretty much sealed that all of their songs would be performed. Oh, and I absolutely loved “1 Gallon no Ase“. Very cute song! When they performed Aisureru Tame ni, each gen’s members shared their respective lines. And since they had so many members on stage, the spelled out SDN simultanously instead of the letters one at a time. With that, the regular set had finished.

It had been predetermined, and communicated by a note on a white glowstick that the graduation committee would lead the encore, and it would be done as SDN…FORTY-EIGHT! It was deafening! At points it was so loud that you couldn’t hear the words anymore.

The first encore finished up all the songs remaining, with tearful goodbye’s from select members. The cameras would often cut to the girls that were crying the hardest. My poor little Chaki! At one point I thought she was going to fall over she looked so distressed! Also, one of Nonti’s MCs was a rundown of chart positions for all of the singles and the album, and a big thank you to the fans for supporting them. But when Kodoku finished and the girls left the stage it was obvious the show wasn’t over since they hadn’t done their official graduation song yet! Cut to the longest and loudest ever “Encoree” I have ever experienced. And then…

Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. The Bach music returns?  OMG, it is really graduation time!

I forget the order that everything happened. But at one point Nonti was beside herself crying. Pretty much everyone was crying onstage. I think it was this point that the girls went silent and all you could here was pretty much the entire audience sobbing. It was freaking amazing! I wondered what tgsk thought when this happened. Perhaps he was crying too?  Oh, I forget. He was busy Google Plussing.   Anyway, the girls came out all dressed in white. First they performed their new single. Then came the “final call” Nonti asked that all of the girls say their name one last time onstage, and the crowd call it back. It was so hard, I was so choked up that I was even having trouble speaking. But I muscled it up when my favorite members’ turns came.

Finally, they performed Owaranai Encore, and we all lit our last white glowstick. Although the effect from where I was sitting was slightly dimmed because the stage was fully lit at the time. Then, for the fans, a second dose of Kodoku na Runner. After a tearful double-bow with a huge SDN chant in the middle, they left the stage. Meetan being the last one to go. They did a closeup on her face…she was crying her eyes out.

As you left NHK there was a beautiful collage with messages from all the members. It was really hard to get close to it, but I did get a side shot to give you an idea…

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Final thoughts…

At first I was thinking that management really “phoned in” the planning for this concert. It seemed kinda hokey in the beginning. But as the show progressed I started to see how perfect it really was. Pretty much all of the MCs and skits were unscripted. Tons of goofy things were happening as the show worked up to it’s emotional finale. At the end I think everyone in the audience had to be satisfied. It was a fitting goodbye. Perfect in it’s imperfection. The girls being completely authentic. It was everything SDN is all about, as far as I am concerned. And when you make an entire audience cry, you are doing something right.

And I think about the select few that called SDN a “failure”, and that their concept was “off the mark”, “too sexy”, and whatever else. I don’t think those people truly saw what SDN48 was really about. Sure, they had a sexy side. But in truth that was just a small piece of SDN. they were about fun, they were about authenticity. And more than any other spoke in the AKB wheel, they were about a true comeraderie with their fanbase. Perhaps it was because they are more mature, but the bond they had with their fans was very strong. The manifestation of that was this unbelievable concert that I will remember forever.

And suffice it to say, I will never again be able to listen to that Bach piece without thinking of SDN.

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I did a couple of other neat things this weekend, I will post about them later.

CK in Tokyo

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