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Anime Expo 2009
Morning Musume Concert

by Carlo Santos,
Idol pop arrived in full force at this year's Anime Expo as Japan's most famous girl group, Morning Musume, performed to American audiences for the first time ever. Their energetic singing and dancing was easily matched by that of the crowd, who stood and waved glowsticks rhythmically for over an hour as the group performed recent hits as well as familiar old standbys.

The set opened with 2007 single "Mikan," a driving number that quickly put things in the right mood. That was followed by AX 2009's bouncy theme song "3, 2, 1, Breakin' Out," which was also the B-side to the third song on the setlist, "Shouganai Yume Oibito." Another couple of recent-period songs followed: stadium-rocker "How Do You Like Japan?" from the group's 7th album and the 2008 single "Resonant Blue."

The highlight of the concert, though, was the medley of hits from Morning Musume's "golden period"—a string of infectious dance-pop numbers that are required listening for any idol fan. "I WISH," "Happy Summer Wedding," "Koi no Dance Site," "Souda! We're ALIVE," "The Peace," and "Renai Revolution 21" followed in quick succession, only to be topped by the greatest hit of them all: "LOVE Machine," which left the crowd cheering with great enthusiasm.

After such excitement, anything else would have been anticlimactic—and the couple of songs that followed (another B-side, and One Off the latest album) seemed more like space-fillers than anything else. At the end of the concert, a couple of special guests made their appearance: former Morning Musume member Hitomi Yoshizawa (also known as Hangry from rock duo Hangry & Angry), as well as the group's producer Tsunku. Together they presented the winners of the "3, 2, 1, Breakin' Out" OPV (original promotion video) contest, where fans were invited to create their own music videos for the song.

The finale was a reprise performance of "3, 2, 1, Breakin' Out," and while the girls did not return to the stage despite calls for an encore, one might hope that Morning Musume will someday return to America for another rousing performance.

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