Perfume’s Plasma Tour. See you at the better stage.

A shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: Nocchi, a-chan, Kashiyuka] from behind, addressing the audience.

You would think that an album tour would be the easiest to put together. You have a clear setlist focus, which is the album. And if your creative team is as on it as Perfume’s are, that album probably has a visual theme or a motif which can be carried through into the tour. And yet, Perfume album tours always fall short. And it’s unfortunate to say that Plasma is no exception. But what hurts all the more this time around, is that unlike Cosmic Explorer and Future Pop, Plasma was a really good album - but the tour also had some big shoes to fill, following two non album tours which were both something special.

The Plasma tour had to follow not one, but two non album tour, which are always Perfume’s strongest tours. The last of which was branded after “Polygon Wave”. The branding of which was so good that it ended up sticking like glue, and was far from being in the rear view by the time Plasma came around, because a third of the album was the Polygon Wave EP. I actually think that there shouldn’t have been an EP, that Polygon Wave shoulda been an album title and that the branding of said album shoulda been all grids and wireframes. But that’s a whole other post.

And Perfume Live: Polygon Wave also had one of Perfume’s best staging setups, which was so different from anything they had done before.

A black and white shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: a-chan, Nocchi, Kashiyuka] performing “Star Train”.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

Plasma came along at a bit of an awkward time, but even so there was so much there for Perfume to deliver something great for a tour. And yet, it wound up falling short. Because of a reluctance to break tradition, which I fear may be standing in the way of Perfume’s live shows actually evolving now. The same can be said for the music, but that’s also a whole other post.

The Plasma Tour was the first Perfume show where I flat out thought ‘This just isn’t working for me at all’ and every issue I’ve had with Perfume was compounded into one show.

A shot of Perfume performing, whilst on a raised platform, surrounded by polygonal structures.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The Plasma Tour was a very scaled down affair. COVID’s 2020 World Tour more than likely fucked up the budgets for Amuse and Perfume Records that even Perfume Closet and A Smart merch sales couldn’t recoup. Although luckily for Perfume, they managed to get through most of their tour before COVID kicked off its tour.

The P Cubed tour in BC (Before Coronavirus) was a behemoth in terms of production that we hadn’t seen for a Perfume tour since perhaps the LEVEL3 tour. Then Perfume Live: Polygon Wave came along with a very simple setup by comparison. And now we have Plasma, which is one of the most basic tour setups we’ve gotten from Perfume in over a decade. And whilst I do like the spectacle that a Perfume tour can bring, I like the shift of going back to basics, and that Perfume very frequently do. Sometimes Perfume have gotta remind everybody that for how amazingly creative some of their staging and performance visuals can be, that their shows aren’t just art installations. Their tours are showcases of them and their showpersonship, and the Plasma tour certainly put that front and centre. The Plasma tour managing to feel so intimate despite the size of the venues was a really nice touch, and a bit of a zag when everybody else zigs into big scale and spectacle. But the pieces for this tour just didn’t fall where I felt they should have, and the staging is only but one piece.

A black and white shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: a-chan, Kashiyuka Nocchi] performing “Flow”.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The setlist for Plasma was bad. The setlist for Perfume’s album tours are usually pretty bad, so I knew what I was in for. But even so, I didn’t think Perfume would fumble immediately by opening the show with “Flow”. It’s kind of ironic that Perfume would open with “Flow”, because flow is what the setlist lacked. And unlike Perfume Live: Polygon Wave, there were no fancy visuals on display to detract from how bad the sequencing of the setlist was. There was a complete disconnect between the setlist, the Plasma album and the general experience that I feel Perfume’s team were trying to create with the staging. Nothing really worked together. But we’ll get into this more later.

Perfume’s bad setlist habits aside, generally the Plasma album didn’t feel like it was enough of a clear focus for a few reasons.

1. So many songs from Plasma were performed for Perfume Live: Polygon Wave.

2. The hero song of Plasma “Spinning World” had been performed on TV so many times prior to the tour, and each performance was great. Just for the Plasma Tour performance to come along and...not be great. Their NHK Songs performance blew the Plasma Tour’s out of the water.

3. Perfume didn’t lean into the sound of Plasma to make it a clear focus. The most obvious thing would have been to have included a few songs from Triangle, and some of the more 80s electro songs from JPN (“Laser Beam” or “Spice”) or a couple from LEVEL3 (“1mm”). And the Plasma setlist is pretty lean for a big concert tour, at just 18 songs. 12 of which are from Plasma. So for Plasma to still get lost in this!? Crazy.

Plasma was one of Perfume’s first albums in a while where it felt like a considered body of work. So to not replicate this with the setlist, when they have songs in their discography which would have made this so easy to do, was really strange. The lack of songs from Triangle really was extremely glaring, given that Plasma feels like the sister album to Triangle. And to include “Puppy Love” of all songs from Game and not “Take Me Take Me”, when they already had chairs out for “Drive’n the Rain”!?

Fushizen na Gurl.

A shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: Kashiyuka, a-chan, Nocchi] descending in their little Plasma spaceship at the start of the show.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

I don’t think Perfume or anybody in their team really sits and looks at their discography as a whole, and picks songs which compliment each other and flow. This confuses me. Because Team Perfume have a very clear awareness of which songs to put in setlists for festivals, and they ALWAYS get this right. Yet for album tours, they never do. LEVEL3, Cosmic Explorer, Future Pop and now Plasma. All of their tours had terrible setlists which did the albums no favours. But the sequencing of each of these albums was also a mess, so sequencing just isn’t a strong suit for anybody at Camp Perfume.

The music has become somewhat of a functional thing for the group. The songs are just songs. “Polyrhythm” is the quintessential song. “Chocolate Disco” is the fun crowd pleaser. “My Color” is the overseas encore song. “Party Maker” is the long club song with the Nocchi solo everybody lives for. But when it comes to setlists as a whole, there is never no sense of trying to create any sort of vibe or theme. Perfume don’t regard the entirety of their discography, and this has been a problem for a while. There are album cuts that Perfume just straight up ignore, even when they would work for certain tours. And despite Plasma sounding like a sister album to Triangle, it still pulls in sounds from ALL of their albums. So for them to pick “Star Train” from Cosmic Explorer instead of something like the album title track, to pick “Party Maker” from LEVEL3 and not “1mm” or “Clockwork”, to pick “Electro World” from Game and not “Baby Cruising Love”, and then not include anything from Triangle whatsoever - it makes zero sense to me.

There is also something to be said about how none of the older songs get re-arranged or remixed, and that somebody is still just pressing play on the CDs back stage, but this is a whole other post.

A black and white shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: a-chan, Nocchi, Kashiyuka] performing “Drive’n the Rain” whilst sat on clear chairs.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The staging for the Plasma tour was boring.

I like that we got a bit of a colosseum style experience, with Perfume in the centre. This setup shows not only great bravery on Perfume’s part to be so exposed, but a real consideration for the audience experience. Everybody has a far better view of the show, than if it were just a standard ‘stage front, audience back’ affair. This stage-in-the-middle setup also creates all sorts of creative logistical choices in order to change elements of the stage and get Perfume on and off it, which fascinates me. But they’ve done this type of setup enough times that they are able to just take it in their strides each time. It ain’t shit to them.

Some may feel the Plasma stage setup is a downgrade from Perfume Live: Polygon Wave. But I like how stripped back everything was. Perfume can’t just keep going bigger for the sake of it, and I like that their team didn’t even entertain it. Despite Plasma’s song themes of the future, technology and what Perfume themselves represent, Plasma has a very analogue vibe about it. So the set not featuring the insane digital wizardry and scale of Perfume Live: Polygon Wave, contextually made sense, even if this wasn’t the reason behind the direction.


The stage setup was still too boring.

I am all for a simple stage setup. Sure, I like me some spectacle. But I also like when somebody can take something really simple and create something really special out of it. With Perfume Live: Polygon Wave, the solution to this was ‘Let’s make the entire stage a display’. Simple, but special. But there was no real story or creative narrative I could pull out of the staging for Plasma, other than it matched the tour logo. And that’s fine. But the execution of it could have been better. And the thing is, there were moments when the staging looked really good. “Flow”, “Drive’n the Rain” and “Star Train” looked amazing, because there was a very clear focus with how these songs should be staged to visualise them with the choreography, and yet this didn’t carry through to the other songs. But the biggest crime the staging committed, was that it occasionally restricted Perfume from being able to perform as they normally would.

Perfume performing “Spinning World” within a projection curtain.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The Plasma tour stage consists of three circular platforms, with one small platform in the middle. The middle platform can be elevated, as well as lowered to take Perfume under / off the stage. The problem with the middle platform is that it’s tiny. And yet, Perfume had to perform several songs on it, which is fine...when the platform isn’t elevated. However, when Perfume had to perform “Spinning World” on the platform whilst it was elevated, it fucked up the performance, because you could tell Perfume were dancing tentatively, as not to spin out too far out and fall off. I do not understand who came up with the bright idea of having Perfume perform the song where the charm of the routine is Perfume performing big spins whilst changing formations, all whilst being on a small elevated platform. Perfume could have just performed the song with the platform down. The platform being raised added nothing. It didn’t make Perfume more visible, because you could barely see them through the projection curtain anyway, between the projections and the lighting.

A better stage setup would’ve been a circular stage dead in the centre, but with an LED floor to display visuals, surrounded by three smaller circular stages that Perfume can break out to, to tie in with the Plasma logo. And the three circular stages should have been turntables which spin slowly. There also shouldn’t have been those ugly snaking walkways. And again, I don’t get why a stage element was created with such space restrictions, knowing Perfume would have to perform on it. I was on the edge of my seat watching them perform “Natural ni Koishite” on the walkway, because it is so damn narrow and not straight. Not even a guard rail on that bitch.

A black and white shot of Perfume performing “Spinning World” within a projection curtain.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

One thing Perfume needs to start doing with their album tours is conceptualising them a little better, and giving them stronger themes. We’re at a point now, where due to the frequency at which Perfume tours and holds gigs, there’s a lot of overlap of themes and concepts - which makes sense, given how wasteful it would be for Perfume to not carry certain things across tours which are happening within such a small window. Also, some of the shit Perfume’s creative team comes up with is some damn good, that it should be re-used. But the problem I have with the Plasma tour in particular, is that the album concept from a visual or sonic standpoint wasn’t really centred in the show. And whilst the branding for the tour had a very clear colour scheme (resulting in some of their best merch), this also wasn’t very evident throughout the entire show. Perfume only had one look which was Plasma green. And this colour was only used for lighting and visuals once from what I can recall, during “Android&”. The theme of the tour just wasn’t clear enough to me, and I don’t know how the hell this happened, when the music on Plasma has a clear enough vibe and theme, the album cover has a clear visual theme, and the branding for the tour itself also has a visual theme - which was strangely also part of the album theme, which I thought was ugly as hell because it didn’t go with the album cover or the inlay shoot AT ALL. Like, c’mon. Red…and neon green?


A shot of a-chan and Kashiyuka performing in the ugly Plasma green dresses.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The pieces were all there and pointing to a clear creative direction for the tour, and yet we got nothing really.

Perfume coming down in their little spaceship thing was cute. But it would have been more on theme if they came down in the red dresses they wore on the album Plasma cover (or a Plasma green variation of them) and descended through laser lights similar to those on the album cover.

A black and white shot of Kashiyuka performing “Star Train”.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

I know from what I’ve written, the Plasma tour comes off like some type of disaster. It really isn’t. Far from it. My criticism of the tour is aimed at the lack of connecting the dots. This tour more, than any other of Perfume’s tours, felt like a case where there was no sense of consideration for how different elements should tie together, when it was so obvious how and where they should. Why were there no lasers during the intro to replicate the lasers on the Plasma album cover? Why were more of the outfits not green? Why include no songs from Triangle, when sonically they would have complimented the songs on Plasma? Why make Perfume perform on a Takeshi’s Castle course?

A shot of a-chan reaching out with heart fingers to a fan in the audience.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

Perfume still managed to shine whilst performing through all of these badly made choices. But they’ve been in the game too long and have a team too damn creative and intentional to be doing a tour where there’s no real intent behind any of it.

A good Perfume tour for me, is one where I can show it to somebody with very little intro or setup, because I know that they are going to be wowed by the performance, the endurance and the creativity on display. The Plasma tour is not this tour.

A black and white shot of Nocchi laughing.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

The Plasma tour wasn’t used as an opportunity to switch Perfume into a different gear, when it was such an ideal time and tour at which to do it. Plasma has a far more grown, sophisticated and occasionally sexier vibe to it than we’ve heard from Perfume in a while. We got it throughout Triangle. We got it a fair amount on LEVEL3. But then it all went sideways with Cosmic Explorer and Future Pop. So this was a chance for Perfume to soft reintroduce themselves in a way. With more fashionable outfits. With a setlist which had a clear tone and vibe. A stage setup which was sleek. The Plasma tour was a chance to show that Perfume are actually moving in a direction, and aren’t completely stuck in this box which I felt they were in around the time of Cosmic Explorer. And whilst Perfume stans like to put their head in the sand and act like every single thing Perfume does is perfect and requires no change, I think even they would welcome a visible shift and evolution for the group. It wouldn’t mean that anything they do fundamentally changes. Perfume will always be Perfume. They’ve built that foundation. But they could build some different shit on that foundation to takes things further out into the straopshere.

A shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: a-chan, Kashiyuka, Nocchi] performing “Polygon Wave”.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

Perfume are at a stage, level and point as performers where they need to be demanding a little more and having everything around them evolve.

Perfume’s team is relying on the one thing they know is Perfume’s strength; which is them being able to perform any and everywhere and make it work ENOUGH. So it meant that Plasma wound up with this really uninspired stage setup, which at times didn’t work. But it’s fine, because Perfume will make it work. It meant that we ended up with a wonky setlist which didn’t really feel Plasma-centric enough. But it’s fine, because Perfume will make it work.

Perfume can make it work all day long. But if nothing around them is working as well as it should, then why should Perfume waste their time and energy? Fans are just happy to have Perfume perform, and that’s fine. But I’d like to see Perfume’s shows continue to evolve, and for the experience to feel new, fresh and exciting for a-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi too. Introduce remixes, mashups, tour exclusive versions of songs and transitions - all in service to the album. Hone in on a tour concept and convey it through the staging. Switch up the tour outfits. Put a-chan out of her misery and let a bitch sing a song live in her natural singing voice. Despite Perfume seemingly having done so much after an almost 20 year career, there is still a lot they’ve yet to scratch the surface of, because so much around them just stays the same.

A black and white shot of Perfume [From Left to Right: Kashiyuka, Nocchi and a-chan] laughing and doing heart fingers to one another.
Perfume 9th Tour: Plasma | Amuse

When all else fails, Perfume will get up on that stage in the ugliest outfits and turn shit out, which is what they did for the Plasma tour. Their energy was great as it always is. Their sense of spatial awareness and how in tune they are with one another continues to astound me. And they really are able to hold an audience in the palm of their hands through their performances and personalities. But creatively, the Plasma tour didn’t step up to where Perfume were, and I think there may need to be some discussions had internally, because Perfume deserved better than this. Everybody in their creative circle is capable of delivering better than this.

Maybe. Perhaps MAYBE Plasma didn’t need a tour so soon at all. Maybe Perfume coulda pulled a Beyoncé and said ‘We gon’ tour this album in a year’s time’ to make it the experience it should have been.