As any seasoned Hello!Project fan will tell you, the H!P concerts held twice annually follow roughly the same pattern. They start off with all of the H!P acts presenting their latest release followed by a middle section where various members from different units are shuffled together to perform various songs and they end with all the units giving a best-of performance of crowdpleasers. While this order changes from time to time with audition, graduation and other announcements, the general structure usually remains the same. As any H!P fan will once again tell you, the real meat of these concerts lies in that crucial middle part. So it is for Hello! Project 2008 Summer Wonderful Hearts Kouen ~Hishochi de Date Itashima SHOW~ as well.
A first highlight is an impressive rendition of Hajimete Kuchibiru wo Kasaneta Yoru by Linlin, Suzuki Airi and Ogawa Saki. Here you have three great idol vocalists put together: Airi being flawless as usual, Linlin having another one of her “I should have rightly been given more things to do during my time in H!P” moments and Ogawa Saki proving why she was chosen to join S/mileage the next year. As I’ve stated in the past, I’m not into idols for the slow songs but this performance was just so extremely well done that I enjoyed it regardless of that fact.
Another pairing of note would be Michishige Sayumi and Sugaya Risako performing an almost impossibly cute version of Chu! Natsu Party. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pair Sayumi up with a superior vocalist (like her duet with Fukumura Mizuki on the 12, Smart album) and the sound you end up with is very enjoyable. Kawaii and skill make a powerful combination.
Of course one can not talk about putting together members from different groups without mentioning High-King which, much like DEF.DIVA before it, is one of those idol supergroups that really should have released more material. They perform both C\C (Cinderella\Complex) and Kioku no Meiro in this concert and once again it’s a future S/mileage member that shines. Heralded as a H!P Egg ace at the time, Maeda Yuuka certainly lived up to that reputation in this concert.
This concert also features one of the earliest performances of a very fresh-faced Mano Erina who at the time was only starting out her idol career with her first indie single Manopiano. The most enjoyable part of following idols is seeing them grow and Mano sure has grown on every level that counts.
The closing performance of Ame no Furanai Hoshi de wa Aisenai Darou? is also quite remarkable and has one of my favorite personal concert surprise moments ever. It already starts off different than usual with all the H!P members aligned in a row like a chorus singing all the lines together. I had completely forgotten this song had Chinese lyrics and when Junjun and Linlin suddenly delivered the only solo-lines of this performance I just started smiling. What a wonderful pair these two were. I know UP-FRONT gets a lot of flak for largely ignoring them but props to them for at least having the balls to add two Chinese members to a Japanese idol group in a nation that isn’t exactly welcoming to foreigners on all fronts.
This concert is the first H!P concert I’ve watched that was performed in the large Yoyogi National Gymnasium. It’s quite an impressive arena featuring dual runways. A nice cross between Nippon Budokan and Yokohama Arena when it comes to stage layout. An enjoyable arena for an enjoyable concert. It’s the typical “something for everyone” idol fest I’ve come to enjoy from H!P and as usual it’s available on CDJapan. Do consider picking it up.