Girls' Generation: Japan First Tour (Japan 2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/5/12
Cast: Yoona, Taeyeon, Jessica, Sooyoung, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Seohyun, Tiffany

After two hit albums in Korea, Girls' Generation decided to debut in Japan with a third album and a tour that was considerably more dance and electronica oriented. Their Japanese stage presence is very different than their Korean tour, being more dramatic and a lot edgier. The various personalities are also different, possibly reflecting how comfortable each member is with their Japanese skills. Curiously, the team performs more as a cohesive unit, rather than highlighting the individual members like their Korean show. They also seem to interact with each other more, but that might just be part of their evolution as performers. To my surprise, the real standouts in this concert are Seohyun and Tiffany. Seohyun is more confident and animated than I've ever seen, and is clearly the best Japanese speaker of the bunch. As the youngest member, she's grown up quite a bit in the last couple of years, and is quite capable of stealing the spotlight from her teammates. Tiffany definitely gets the "best hair" award and is just exploding with infectiously playful energy. She looks fabulous and seems to be having the time of her life on stage. Another big surprise comes from Jessica, who really pours her soul into her singing. I've always viewed her as rather cold and stand-offish, but here she seems much more friendly and doesn't exhibit any perceptible rivalry with the other members. She also seems to add a lot more to the group's sound than I initially gave her credit for. Group leader Taeyeon seems content to take more of a supporting role and suffers from a rather unflattering haircut, but still manages to be adorable and make a strong impression. She's the only one in the group that gets a solo performance, and she releases her inner rock demon in a shockingly powerful and aggressive intro to "Run Devil Run."

The play list is a nice combination of Japanese songs ("Mr. Taxi", "The Great Escape", "You-aholic"), Korean songs ("Oh!", "Into The New World", "Kissing You"), and a handful of Korean hits translated into Japanese ("Genie", "Gee", "Run Devil Run"). The costumes vary from attractive, to eclectic, to downright ugly. They save their sexiest outfits for "Run Devil Run", which is preceded by an impressive video clip that incorporates "Swan Lake." The first half of the show concludes with "Hoot", which breaks into an surprisingly heavy hard rock crescendo at the very end. Much like their Korean tour, the stage features a large video screen in the back, but the imagery that they show is very bizarre and completely random. It's annoying and a bit distracting. The cinematography and editing are decent, but the show incorporates a lot of wide shots that don't allow you to see who's singing, which can be a bit frustrating. The audio mix is consistent and definitely sounds like a live show, and nothing suggests that the girls are lip-syncing. While the end result doesn't have the shine and polish of the Korean concert footage, the Japanese footage seems more genuine and real from a production standpoint. Overall, it's a fun and energetic performance that shows a much different side of the group than their Korean show does. The Korean concert seems much more intimate and personal, whereas the Japanese show is more about performance and presentation. It's an interesting study in contrast, and another window into the talents of these evolving pop artists.