Backstage with Japanese Pop Trio Perfume at REFRAME 2019

The techno polymaths gave their dedicated fans a performance to remember.

It’s 11 AM and I’m sipping on an industrial-sized thermos of jasmine tea; one of several anti-exhaustion remedies I’m employing after jetting directly from New York City to the bustling capital of Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been whisked to the heart of the city’s Shibuya district for REFRAME 2019; the latest live offering from treasured techno-pop trio Perfume, who are fresh off a world tour which included a much-celebrated first outing at Coachella this past spring. 

When they first formed together as a band during their high school years in Hiroshima prefecture, who can say if Perfume musicians NOCCHi, KASHIYUKA, and a-chan knew that their project would one day sell millions of records and create legions of admirers around the world. Whether they were prescient to their level of success or not, it can’t be denied that Perfume is the current standard of excellence in the world of J-POP.  

While their North American audience continues to grow (their latest album Future Pop is an excellent starting point), Perfume are bonafide superstars in their home country where they regularly perform sold-out shows in stadium-sized venues and have cultivated a loyal fanbase who will go the extra mile for their faves. As my cab pulled up in front of the newly-redesigned Line Cube Shibuya venue, the power of Perfume’s allure was on full display as dozens of fans lined the block surrounding the building’s entrance despite the fact that the doors would not open for a number of hours. 

Let me be clear; Perfume stans are on another level. Custom fan club apparel as well as officially-licensed tote bags, hats, windbreakers, and t-shirts from previous tours adorned almost all attendees whose ages ranged from teens to those well into the greys of adulthood. Most notable were items from ‘Perfume Closet’, the band’s official clothing line which echoed the trio’s performance costumes we would see on stage later that day. 

After photographing a number of bighearted fans outside the venue and concert hall, I enjoyed a few minutes with Perfume’s styling, wellness, and creative teams backstage, including the inimitable MIKIKO who has been the band’s longtime choreographer. 

After photographing the girls during their pre-show huddle, I rushed to my seat in the at-capacity concert hall and was treated to one of the most technologically-sophisticated live shows I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. The show was a psychedelic aurora borealis of sound and color that saw the band move stylistically through each stage of their decades-long career. High points must be awarded to the show’s set designers as the stage became like a fourth member of the group without upstaging its human counterparts. 

Not a single phone was in the air during the show; a testament to both Japan’s culture of respect and to the wholly captivating nature of Perfume’s performance. REFRAME 2019 is Perfume’s love letter to their fans, tracking their achievements and remixing them into a fresh visual thrill. Couldn’t snag tickets for REFRAME? Perfume kicks off their ‘P Cubed’ tour in February 2020. 

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