Before you read on, I should clear something up. I’m not the kind of person you’d expect to find at a Hatsune Miku concert. I don’t own any kind of games console, and I spent most of the journey to Zepp Tokyo reading the recent Keith Richards autobiography. I stepped onto the platform at Tokyo Teleport wearing rolled up blue jeans, desert boots, a parka and a Fred Perry bag. I’m the kind of person you’d expect to find on a London street corner circa 1964; the kind of person who would dismiss the idea of a hologram concert as futuristic witchcraft.
That said, my idea of a typical Hatsune Miku fan was a long way from reality. This being Cool Japan, I was fully expecting to be the only person without blue, synthetic hair. In fact, I only saw one person wearing full-on Hatsune Miku cosplay gear, knee-length hair and thigh-length boots included, and he was a middle-aged man of about 50 who really ought to have known better. Everyone else was thoroughly normal in appearance. Their behaviour, on the other hand, was more perplexing than the performance itself.
The truth is, I found the entertainment a bit dull. The spectacle of a live band backing an animated character has been done before, and better, notably by Gorillaz. Hatsune Miku ‘performs’ from inside a large black box – effectively a small, portable cinema screen – and, while the animation is undoubtedly impressive, she just doesn’t do very much. You might level the same accusation at the likes of Liam Gallagher, but at least there’s emotional interplay between a living singer and his audience, regardless of how little he moves. It seems odd that I should have to point this out, but a good gig is a constant flow of communication: the audience feeding the performer, and vice versa. A Hatsune Miku concert is, in many ways, like watching a concert movie at the cinema – if the person sitting next to you started yelling support at The Last Waltz, you’d probably think them a bit tapped. You might even call the authorities.
And yet, there I was, watching a computer character sing her songs from the big screen while a packed Zepp Tokyo yelled ‘kawaii!’ and ‘ganbare!’ The trouble is, when you’re the only person behaving ‘normally’ in such extreme circumstances, you start questioning whether you might be the one with the faulty head. One fan standing next to me kept one eye on the screen and the other on the Hatsune Miku game he was playing on a handheld device. I began to wonder if he was operating the figure on the big screen in some way. I began to experience an existential dilemma.
Out in the foyer, I bumped into an American journalist. ‘She’s amazing!’ he enthused. ‘This really is the future’. That made me a little sad. As a diehard music fan, I hope my kids don’t have to find their musical feet in a world where gigs are so sterile and harmless, where the roadies roll on the hologram box and then put the kettle on; not a wolf whistle to be heard; nary a bum crack to be laughed at.
I’m aware that I sound like my dad did when I tricked him into playing Music for the Jilted Generation on the car stereo, and I guess Hatsune Miku actually left me feeling prematurely middle-aged in more ways than one (should a girl of that age really be wearing those kind of clothes in public?). I’m aware, too, that the future has plenty of room for both live music and hologram characters, but it seems a shame that a youngster might forego the spit and sawdust of a live gig in favour of waving neon glow sticks at an oversized TV screen. But, as I said to begin with, I’m not the kind of person you’d expect to find at a Hatsune Miku concert. Call me odd, but I find an MIDI pulse is simply not enough.