A disclaimer: There’s no way I come out of this without sounding like I’m a million years old. So with cards on the table, I present my haggard, curmudgeon experience of Hatsune Miku at the Sony Centre for the performing arts.
First off, Hatsune Mike is a pop star that doesn’t exist. Well, not in any tangible form anyway. She’s a series of ones and zeroes split between vocaloid synthesizers and hologram projections. The technology in its simplest form is a system whereby lyrics and melodies are input into a synthesizer, which then produces the vocals. It’s kind of rad. She’s then projected onto a screen under the avatar of a cutesy blue haired anime 16 year old who’s oh so kawaii. The result is some form of otaku 2Pac that “The Kids” love.
The Sony Centre was awash with adoring fans thrusting glow sticks energetically into the air like fists at a political rally. Spotlights roamed the crowd and stage, flashing in time to the music. The stage was set up like a mad scientist’s lair, replete with inflatable white orbs and hanging coils. A keyboardist, drummer, guitarist and bassist flanked the centrepiece: A transparent screen bearing our JPOP styled anime heroine.
While I was far from the target audience, it was hard to deny how much the fans loved it. They knew their shit. Every time a new track started, it took all of one note for the crowd to roar in excitement. This glow stick waving was no amateur enthusiasm either. In an almost synchronised fashion the room swelled with green light in time to the music. There was a real sense of community. Fans cheered and grabbed each other, jumping up and down with glee. The sense of shared experience was palpable. Every time the avatar shifted to another character, the Sony Centre shook with renewed vigour. Some people took the Comic-Con approach and cosplayed up in preparation. The animation was impressive, with an adherence to physics that was remarkable. The band themselves were giving it their all, rocking out with everything they had. If this was your kind of experience, I get it. Without doubt, it was an experience.
Here’s where I show my age. One of the defining features of live gigs is the excitement of seeing something organic unfold before you. Anything could happen. Gear malfunctions and unexpected surprises are all part of the event. The environment affects the performance which circles around to affect the environment in turn. Hatsune Miku is anything but organic. It’s live in the sense that a throng of people watching a music video together would be. There’s a crowd, but the show would be identical with or without their attendance. There’s no interaction, no banter, nothing to encourage a unique experience. There’s a live band playing, yes, but they’re shrouded in darkness for 90% of the gig while focus is drawn to the holograms. There’s a humanity lacking that makes it less of a concert and more of a public screening. I won’t even get into the slightly creepy Lolita/uncanny valley/borderline fanservice elements, ‘cause that’s a whole different thing.
What can I say? Kids, enjoy your fancy doohickey. Don’t let my antiquated values cast a pall over your fun. Just don’t come crying to me when the singularity happens and Hatsune Miku demands fealty, because my hearing aid will be turned right down.