kanon x kanon - Islington Academy O2
The Visual-Kei scene is undoubtedly the Japanese music industry’s most prolific export of recent years, amassing a significant fan base across Europe and the U.S. For the uninitiated, the term derives from “visual style”, one which has ultimately branched out into many sub-genres of the J-rock scene, making the whole bloody thing quite complex; between this and the idol group scene, trying to keep up is a challenge even for the initiated.
Although many artists try to establish their own individual style, there remains an intrinsic appeal through their eccentric, often androgynous appearances. It’s perhaps the unusual dress code that’s made it as popular as it is amongst a predominantly young generation of J-culture aficionados: colourful fantasy-like wardrobes that wouldn’t look out of place in your typical anime tale.
Pretty much falling into this category is kanon x kanon, made up of An Café’s Kanon and neoclassical Dark Wave cellist Kanon Wakeshima, both of whom are self-confessed Otaku. They are one of the few young Visual-Kei bands to brave our shores, despite not attracting anywhere near the kinds of numbers they would ordinarily get back home; a factor which tends to prevent some of Japan’s bigger hitters from attempting similar ventures. kanon x kanon’s European visit is a curious one: the side project has few songs to its name, and there is no firm news on what they plan to do next. Both artists, however, have enjoyed good fortune over the years, so it’s no real surprise to see that they’ve decided to format their shows in a way that should please the hardcore fans who paid a pretty penny for tickets.
By the time I arrived to check in on my pass there were already several exclusive ticket holders waiting in line to attend the kanon x kanon tea party, which would take place from 18:00-19:00 after a long day of interviewing. By the time I actually shuffled in the front of stage was inaccessible. Securing myself a spot off to the left I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out, after all this is about documenting an occasion, and doing it well. With little else room for movement at a fairly busy, albeit small venue, I simply had to make do with what I had. In hindsight though it was probably for the better; with no pit to speak of my slight frame most likely would have been crushed beneath a wall of screaming maids, emos and Goth Lolitas. Though I’m sure that would have made for some interesting Kodak moments.
This evening was to be kanon x kanon’s final date - and their debut UK appearance - on a tour that had taken them across seven countries. There was no support tonight, but a 90 minute show divided into three distinct sets, which had a little bit of Christmas-y love thrown in for good measure. The air was restless as the audience chanted for their kanons to arrive; Wakeshima’s crimson cello drew attention to itself during a slight delay, which probably had something to do with elaborate costumes. But it wasn’t long before Kanon Wakeshima rolled out in her fancy white custom number to crank out some solo hits. I had already assumed that she would prove to be the show’s highlight, which would be perfectly understandable given her unique style. What I didn’t expect to see was just how astonishing her effect on some of the fans would be. Most up front were female supporters who seemed overwhelmed by her mere presence, clearly becoming emotionally affected as Wakeshima reciprocated their loyalty with hand-holding and hugs; some nice gestures from the singer, who was undoubtedly surprised herself that these people knew her as well as they did. There was some concern though that she might be suffering from a bit of a sore throat as she discreetly tried to hide a wee cough between songs, which never failed to raise an “aww” from some of the female fans. Ultimately there was little to worry about as she put on a very pleasing set, flitting back and forth between her cello and bouncier stage antics, while really belting out some impressive vocals.
With her departure came the arrival of the other Kanon, and the girls all screamed for him as well. Like Wakeshima he showed a decent understanding of English, engaging the crowd in a friendly manner as he explained that he’d be providing a DJ set dedicated to some of his favourite anime theme songs. I think it’s safe to say that it did feel like padding; nothing particularly memorable, with the fellow being his least animated. Still, that could’ve just been me, it drew lots of applause elsewhere, but I’d have liked to have seen Kanon engage in a bit of bass soloing or something.
Another gap between sets saw us being introduced to super-deformed kawaii versions of Kanon and Kanon on the projector screen. Their goal was to teach everybody a new dance, with the help of an alien. Of course, they wanted to be sure that the fans would nail it by going over it several times. It did drag on a little, but it gave people something to enjoy while the pair changed costumes. And then they finally arrived as kanon x kanon. There was a bit more conversation this time ’round, with Kanon Wakeshima asking about the UK, its famous food and popular tourist spots gaining plenty of response. The set primarily covered their previous single releases. The quirky ‘Dollhouse’ might have been the highlight had they not chucked in a couple of surprises. Performing a cover of a Sailor Moon song, Kanon immediately donned his Tuxedo Mask get-up and proceeded to parade around the stage, flailing his cape all over the place and nearly falling into the audience. Can’t fault his enthusiasm really. Then Wakeshima swung a leek around for a bit, which I think was in reference to the anime Bleach, before everybody could finally do the crazy new dance they had just learned. Lots of jumping and glow-stick waving ensued. The pair finished up with an encore - clearly unplanned as they performed Koi no Doutei again - shook everybody’s hands and evidently left behind some happy customers.
Admittedly I was a little apprehensive tonight as the music of kanon x kanon hadn’t exactly blown me away up to this point. And while there was most certainly a little padding here and there I can honestly say it was an enjoyable performance, elevated by the enthusiasm of these bright young stars.
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