Newswire photo by Soondos Mulla-Ossman | Even though Tokyo Dome is much smaller than the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, the venue still provides an enjoyable experience, implementing theatrical stage effects and highly enthusiastic audience participation.
The head-banging rock of Panic! At the Disco in the U.S. Bank Arena is kind of super different from the feel-good J-pop of Konomi Suzuki in Tokyo Dome.
I wasn’t technically a concert virgin, but my single previous concert experience may have actually made me worse than one. This is because my first wasn’t in the United States at all—it was in Tokyo, Japan. The concert date and time was right after a baseball game in Tokyo Dome that my class had been taken to by the study-abroad program I had gone on during the summer of 2017.
The game was interesting—but the Konomi Suzuki concert set butterflies aflutter in my stomach. The biggest reason was not because it would be my first ever concert, but because the level of Japanese I was taking as part of the program was only intermediate—and there was not a single English song in the singer’s setlist (some accented English lyrics sparsely sprinkled in for the coolness factor, but that’s it). Not to mention that the singer spoke with the audience in between songs, and I hardly understood her words alone (one of my friends knew more advanced Japanese and helped translate). It didn’t help that aside from myself and the three classmate friends who’d gone with me, there were no non-Japanese people at the concert. The audience also appeared to be dominated by dudes. I suspected that there was a correlation between this high male count and the fact that the singer is a woman, but even now I’m not sure if this kind of trend is a norm in other countries.
I remember not feeling underwhelmed by the size of the auditorium, but not feeling blown away, either. It was not my first time in an auditorium, but I had nothing with which to compare concert auditoriums. This had to be big, right? After all, the Tokyo Dome was the largest of its kind in Japan.
Almost two years later, I would set foot in the U.S. Bank Arena for Panic! At the Disco and come to the realization that Tokyo Dome was only about a quarter in size compared to the venue in Cincinnati.
Now, I’m not a diehard Panic! At the Disco fan, per se. I was fortunate enough to have a friend with extra tickets who invited me to go. I knew a meager handful of their songs, and actually knew the full lyrics to just one song: “Emperor’s New Clothes.” I definitely sang along to that one. This was neat because I couldn’t really do that in the Konomi Suzuki concert.
I think something that took me off guard was the volume of the noise and the amount of the theatrical stage effects in Cincinnati in comparison to Tokyo. There was fire, a lot of powerful lights, huge screens and crazy strobe lights in Cincinnati. And though there were multiple songs in the Tokyo concert that had intense energy, I don’t remember seeing as much of that stuff. Meanwhile in Cincinnati, because everyone in the arena erupted in applause the instant a song was concluded, I had to prepare to clap my hands over my ears for that moment because they would ring from the obscenely high decibels. I recall one point where I made the mistake of neglecting to do that and temporarily felt a reduction of hearing, which wasn’t the coolest thing. Whenever a song concluded in the Konomi Suzuki concert, however, the audience would clap—but would refrain from screaming. I think this speaks to the notion of politeness deeply embedded in Japanese culture.
The final significant difference I noticed was that, when a slower song played in the Cincinnati concert, some people would break out their smartphones, turn on the flashlight feature and wave it back and forth slowly over their heads. I did it myself, and it was pretty to see, but it barely held a candle to the form of audience participation I saw in Tokyo. For just about every song, almost every single audience member waved $20 color-changing, battery-operated glowsticks—and all purchased with their own money. It was pretty insane to see and a little embarrassing that none of us had thought to get any. Then again, our seats were toward the back of the auditorium anyways, so it wasn’t as obvious.
I ended up buying Konomi Suzuki merch, and didn’t buy Panic! At the Disco merch, but I really enjoyed both concerts equally. Both have their pros and cons, but ultimately I feel that they were invaluable experiences. For my next Japanese concert, I’ll make sure I’ve got that language on point, and for my next English concert, I’ll dedicate more of the lyrics to memory.
By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman | Features Editor