The following concert report was sent in to us by Osaka-based Macross fan Howard Browning.
I was lucky enough to see JUNNA in Osaka on her first solo tour last year, so when it was announced she’d be back this April, I jumped at the chance. My luck held out in the ticket lottery and so on the 22nd I was lined up in front of Namba Hatch waiting to get in.
Namba Hatch is a much bigger venue than Osaka Big Cat where she played her first shows. She played two shows at Big Cat compared to one show at the Hatch, but it’s a step up. While Big Cat was hidden away in a mall, the Hatch is an Osaka landmark with it’s octagonal hall perched on top of a 3 story building.
They were late to start letting people in, but I was able to find a spot dead center about half way between the stage and the sound booth. Off to my left was the Women’s and Children’s section. I’d never seen something like this at a concert before. JUNNA told the story last time about how during her first Osaka show she saw a valley halfway back in the audience. She asked if the women in the audience could see her and the answer “No we can’t” came out of that valley. So she asked for a section where younger and female fans could enjoy the show.
It didn’t take too long after I got in for the curtain to come up. Intro music started as the band members took the stage in darkness and sparks appeared in the air in front of the stage. The sparks resolved into a silhouette of JUNNA that gestured to the band members as the spotlight illuminated them. When everyone was in place they started to play. The transparent screen in front of the stage came down and JUNNA was right there starting the show off with Steppin’ Out. I mentally kicked myself for forgetting my light stick as I joined in with the crowd. JUNNA’s beginning with Walkure brings the idol fan culture with it. The light sticks, the synchronized pointing and calling were all there. After Steppin’ Out she went right into Ikenai Borderline. All the lights sticks changed to purple and we all sang along.
When she finished Ikenai she took a moment to greet the audience and thank everyone for coming. She said how much she loves coming to Osaka. With a laugh she said that she was going to tell the same story she told last time she played Osaka because it happened again. Going home from Tokyo on the bullet train after filming the video for Here, she fell asleep and missed her stop in Nagoya. She didn’t wake up until the train arrived in Kyoto. After a call to her manager she was told there were staff in Osaka for an event and she should get off there and they would take her home.
Next up she sang Otona wa Wakattekurenai. After that was a personal favorite LOVE! THUNDER GLOW. The power she brings to that song is incredible. She followed that up with Bokura no Senjo.
She told us she feels a change go through the audience when she does a Walkure song, like “yay, Walkure’s here!”. But she said it with a smile, because she always thinks about how grateful she is to Walkure for giving her the chance to sing for so many people.
Next up was another Walkure song- Giraffe Blues. But fewer light sticks went up for this song, and they all disappeared by about halfway through. It’s like the audience decided to stop participating so hard and just listen. (What? I’m not crying, you’re crying. Shut up!)
Giraffe Blues lead into Hiasobi and then Sora no Sumika. All 3 of her quiet songs packaged together to be enjoyed in the silence. Except for applause between the songs, the audience quietly listened. JUNNA left the stage after Sora no Sumika and the lights went down. She soon reappeared standing centerstage in a black dress framed by a triangular pyramid of light beams to sing Here. The audience started to ramp back up from quiet time. As she sang the final line of the song she turned and retreated toward the back of the stage where a staff member was waiting to help her take off the long black skirt. Underneath was a silver miniskirt to go with her black top. The band started up JINXXX, another live favorite of mine. JUNNA stepped up and started to sing. It looks like she spends a lot more energy dancing to this song than the others, and she was clearly having fun.
Then it’s time for the band to take a break and JUNNA asks where everyone is from. A few people called out locations from around Japan but one guy said “Tokushima!”, one of the prefectures on the Japanese island of Shikoku. This got a smile from her as she bent down and picked up a map of Japan that she started to unfold. She asked if there was anyone from the other prefectures in Shikoku, and was really happy when somebody spoke up for each one. This was a call-back to her last concert in Osaka where she told us she was writing an essay for school about a historical figure from Shikoku, Sakamoto Ryoma. During a break in rehearsal for that show, somebody from staff went out to a local book store and picked up a copy of a brand new book about Sakamoto to help JUNNA with her assignment.
Then she asked if there was anyone from a foreign country in the audience. There were a couple guys from Taiwain and another guy from India. My friend and I put our hands up and said “America”. For some reason that got more attention then Taiwan or India; the line of heads between us and JUNNA all turned back to see who it was. JUNNA looked straight at us and confirmed “America?”. I replied “Yeah, Chicago” raising my hand again and my friend added “Hawaii”. She beamed and then bowed saying “Thank you very much”. So, I guess maybe we had her thinking we had travelled from the US just for her show. Oops. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t nice to have had that tiny interaction with her though.
The band made their way back on stage and JUNNA started up again with another Walkure song, Walkure wa uragiranai, from the movie Passionate Walkure. It was great to hear the new song, and the crowd definitely loved getting another Walkure song. But she didn’t stop there, following it up with more power on Hamestu no junjo. After stunning us with that she went on to Vai Ya Vai not slowing down a beat. Her energy was impressive and infectious and the crowd was really moving. During the bridge she put her mic back in the stand and dashed to left side of the stage where there was a tshirt bazooka waiting for her. She fired it into the crowd and then raced off toward the other side of the stage. There wasn’t much time and in her rush, the shot from the second tshirt bazooka went wild and ended up in the sound booth. She made it back to the mic just in time to pick up the song again.
Keeping the energy high, Catch Me was next. Now let me tell you, you don’t want to get caught at a JUNNA concert without a towel. If you’re not familiar with this particular bit of concert merchandise let me explain. Concerts are hot sweaty affairs, much like Japanese summers, so long narrow towels are a common item for sale at the merch booth. The length and width varies but they are usually made to be draped around your neck. Except during Catch Me. When she played Catch Me on her her first tour, JUNNA came out waving the concert towel as she sang and we all followed along. Well trained fans that we are, we had our towels in the air at the first notes of the song.
As the song was ending she thanked us all for coming out and streamer cannons on the ceiling went off with a bang. Gold and silver steamers filled the air and fluttered down on us as the band left the stage. I raised my hand and snatched a handful out of the air. Most of the thin strips of shiny mylar ended up on the floor but many were scooped up as a momento of the show. I looked at them and was surprised to see writing. I have streamers from a Fire Bomber show and the very first Walkure concert, but there was no writing on them. These has the tour logo and a (printed) handwritten message saying “Thanks for coming out to my concert! Love you guys! -JUNNA”. I saved 2 each of the silver and gold. Some people tied them around their wrists or draped them around their shoulders.
Then the chant of “encore” started up. There was only one of her original songs left to play, and I wondered what else we might get when she came back out. I joined in the chant and soon enough the shadows of the band returned to take their places.
The lights came up and JUNNA broke into Namidame Bakuhatsuon. It took me a heartbeat to process what I was hearing and I was floored. We got Diamond Crevasse as a Macross cover in her first concert, but that was a no-brainer with it having been released as part of an album previously. This was a complete surprise and the crowd showed their love. When she was finished she quipped “I never got to sing that one” with a tired smile.
Next was the obligatory merchandise showcase. JUNNA and the band had all changed into the 2 different designs of concert shirts during the break. She showed off the tote bag, towel, rubber bracelets, buttons, wrist band, and smart phone ring that were available at the merchandise booth. She joked that they got mad when she fired the t-shirt into the sound booth, so she tossed a towel and another shirt into the crowd by hand.
The band left the stage again and somebody brought her a stool and an acoustic guitar. She announced that the next song would be Superfly’s Slow Ballad. She sang and played the song on her own. She had played guitar on one song last time but she clearly gained a lot of confidence since then. I’d never heard the song before but enjoyed it.
She explained that she sang that song 3 years ago during her audition for Walkure. It was a new experience being the first time she had auditioned in a recording booth. After she sang Ikenai Borderline she was asked to pick one more song to sing, anything she wanted. She picked Slow Ballad because she had always wanted to sing that song. She continued, saying that three years ago she couldn’t imagine being 17 and even now she can’t imagine being an adult. But she wanted to share that moment from her past with that song.
The band came back out and she announced the final song for the night, Shooting Star which she played guitar on along with the rest of the band. My daughter, who danced to Walkure when she was just a year old, has those same stars on her ceiling and some day she’ll strike out on her own so I really felt this one.
But all good things must end and JUNNA introduced the band members after they finished Shooting Star. They all took a bow to cheers and applause then left the stage. The lights came on and it was time to go home. As we shuffled out with the crowd I thought about how much JUNNA has grown as a performer since the last time I saw her. Her first concert was great, but this time around there wasn’t a hint of nerves, not a second where she didn’t project 100% confidence. I’m already looking forward to the next time she graces Osaka. If you find yourself able to make it to see her perform live, I can’t recommend it highly enough.