Friday 28 May 2010

hAngry+Angry at Camden Underworld 27 May 2010

We’re on Japanese time.

Having seen the queues outside the Underworld and with firsthand experience of the way that J-Pop shows work, I’m glad I’m in position at eight o’clock sharp.

Not that I’m alone. The venue is semi-jammed. Everyone is as close to the stage as they can possibly get and everyone is waving a glo-stick. There is lots of chanting and excitement.

We’re here to see J-Pop superstars hAngry&Angry, aka Hitomi Yoshizawa and Rika Ishikawa. And there’s plenty to see, as the duo are leading lights in the musical style known as ‘Visual’, which as might be guessed from the title, emphasises elaborate dressing up, and extreme hair and make-up.

Hitomi (hAngry) is dressed in a succession of leather straps and sports a startling orange Mohawk. She looks stunning. Angry (Rika) is attired more in the Gothic Lolita style, in a powder blue frock coat and her hair in black ringlets. She is as cute as a button.

The crowd is fit to be tied as soon as the two hit the stage. Once the set starts the whole venue just becomes a seething mass of smiling faces and waved glo-sticks.

hAngry&Angry’s music is a thunderous combination of metal guitars and rave-y synths. Motorhead meets Tiesto with what to Western ears sounds like impossibly high pitched and squeaky vocals over the top. It’s quite unlike anything else.

Not that the two bother with anything so mundane as instruments. All the music tonight is on backing tape, controlled by a third member of the band, equally as eye catching as the main attractions.

We start off with the title track from the new album ‘Sadistic Dance’. Everyone knows all the words and joins in. hAngry&Angry work the stage consummately, ensuring that the crowd remain at fever pitch.

In breaks between songs, the two read from prepared pieces of paper and describe what they have done in London today. “I saw Big Ben, London Bridge and beautiful shipping!”

All the favourites are blasted out – ‘Angelina’ , ‘Romantic Ni Violence’, ‘Lady Madonna’ (emphatically NOT the Beatles track, but rather an epic track that involves a complicated routine of choreographed waving of hand fans).

They finish with the quite astonishing ‘Kill Me, Kiss Me’, their first single and how I discovered the band on my last trip to Japan. It’s pretty much the perfect pop song, catchy as hell and with enough spikiness to cut the sugar. And the video was somewhat arresting too, particularly when it's four storeys high on the side of a building...

For an encore they come back to perform ‘The Peace!’ , their most straightforwardly heavy metal track. As they leave, we are promised that there is more to come.

What follows is something that says everything about Japanese pop bands. Hitomi and Rika come back on stage and hold a question and answer session with the audience. The questions are very mild, but the answers are even blander – there is no danger of offence on either side. Even so, some of the questioners are so overcome to be in the presence of their heroines that they can barely speak. Various competition winners get to have their photos taken with the band and we are then dismissed and hussled towards the merchandising stands.

hAngry&Angry are not just a band, but are also a fashion label. So as well as the music, there is a rather naked emphasis on selling.

Minds comprehensively blown , we adjourn to a nearby pub. It is dark and mostly empty. One of the customers is riding round the bar on his bike, flashing his lights. After hAngry&Angry this seems entirely normal behaviour.

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