Musical storyteller YOASOBI and the anime streaming service Crunchyroll invited Jpop lovers across the California Bay Area for a pandemonium of electropop on April 21. YOASOBI has embarked on a dizzying race in 2024, hitting several stops on its ASIA TOUR, Coachella music fest, a separate headlining gig in Los Angeles, and even the White House.

No doubt, YOASOBI vocalist Ikura and composer-producer Ayase would host one of the most anticipated shows in San Francisco this spring. With ticket availability drying up the second general sales opened and a queue of concertgoers in cosplay wrapped around the historic Warfield Theater—twice—the American appetite for the dynamite duo proved that there’s never been a better time to trot the globe as a Japanese chart topper.


The wall-to-wall crowd shrieks as frenetic dance beats welcome Ayase and Ikura, each entering from opposing sides of the stage. The all-star touring musicians follow: Hikaru Yamamoto on bass, AssH on guitar, Zacro Misohagi on keys, and Tatsuya from the metalcore band Crossfaith on drums.

“Welcome to YOASOBI’s show! Get ready to have a blast tonight!”

With Ikura’s proclamation over the megaphone, the defiant intro to Seventeen from the 2023 album The Book 3 fires off shots. A glance across the stage reveals just what it means to have a Crunchyroll-powered production. Ikura lays down blistering verses from a scissor lift high above Ayase, while Zacro bops on the center riser to everyone’s fanfare. Hikaru and AssH face off during the breakdown for an epic duel, all to a digital backdrop of stardust and unicorns. And the snap of Tatsuya’s electronic snare seamlessly transitions to the next tune Shukufuku, 2023 single and theme song to Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.

“Honestly, we’ve been looking forward to finally meeting all of you guys tonight. Last summer, we had our very first performance in the US at a festival. To be back so soon for a solo concert feels like a dream come true!” Ikura expresses heartfelt gratitude after descending from the lift to step toward the sea of mesmerized faces.

The set takes a brief acoustic twist with the wistful Halzyon and the sing-along Suki Da, for which Hikaru sets aside her axe to lay down some funky synth bass. The front of the house, a bunch who had been in line since sunrise, swoons as Ikura pipes the acapella intro to Ano Yume wo Nazotte in her signature birdsong soprano. She effortlessly keeps up with AssH’s smoldering leads on his Epiphone Wildkat, a guitar that he admittedly procured the day before the California shows. The first section winds down with the whole hall waiving their smartphone lights to the crestfallen retrospective Tabun.

Then, the long-awaited prompt to take out the “pop-out” glasses that were handed when entering the venue appears on the screen. YOASOBI and Crunchyroll had prepared a special 3D segment, designed to encase the whole band in mesmerizing particle effects throughout a string of hits, including Pokémon tie-up Biri-Biri, Mister, Moshimo Inochi ga Egaketara, and Yasashii Suisei.

“Every YOASOBI song is inspired by a novel. Just like you’d take a deep dive into a story, I want you to feel the music with your body and soul.” Ikura implores.

Soundscapes are reimagined as low-fi scenery, as if on a journey across a Minecraft universe. For Tsubame, the titular swallow takes listeners on its flight, leaving behind a rainbow palette of streaks and polygons as it soars from the video to an arm’s length from each fan.

Upon the end of the pop-out, Ayase reads his humble letter to San Francisco, admitting he didn’t feel as confident bantering ad lib in English. “This is our very first solo concert here, so I was worried that we could even sell tickets. But I’m very happy to be here with you all. And we sold out! Thank you! This is different from performing at a festival such as Coachella, so please enjoy our show till the very end!”

And what bangers he’d saved for the final act! A familiar choir begins to incant the gospel of the unattainable diva. Ayase pounds the drum pads mounted beside his keyboards, delivering a blast of synth which each strike. And Ikura’s sassy rap kicks off the night’s most anticipated song Idol, from the hit anime Oshi no Ko. Entranced followers jump, chant, and twirl their penlights in sync in a fabulous display of spur-of-the-moment unity. Tatsuya tosses a drum stick up high as the temperature in the theater reaches a boil.

Yuusha, the mystical intro to Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End plays next, along with brief cuts of the series’ bygone vagabonds flashing before everyone’s eyes. Kaibutsu, which had opened the first season of the addictively sinister BEASTARS completes the anime medley.

“Thank you so much for being here tonight. Being able to hold this solo concert in San Francisco 5,000 miles from Japan is really amazing! It’s a true honor!” Ikura then reads her own letter. “I believe that every single day we spent pursuing our goals has brought us to this moment: So we could finally meet you!”

Ikura expresses that all the hard work led to this moment of meeting her US fans in personNori (JROCK NEWS)

Gunjou, a depiction of hopes and struggles of people pursuing their dreams (as Ikura describes), serves as half of the climactic finale that closes out the main set. The anthemic celebration of life is only followed only by HEART BEAT, cooling things back down with a cinematic ending-credits departure.

YOASOBI returns to the stage to re-introduce each of the talented band members. The encore consists of only one song, arguably Ayase’s most important composition. As Ikura breaths into the first lines of Yoru ni Kakeru, her melancholy weaves together with Zacro’s piano passages with laser precision. AssH’s pristine chord work cuts through the air, as Hikaru and Tatsuya lock into a brisk groove. Fans contain their excitement just enough to waive their hands to the beat, marking an incredible milestone in YOASOBI history.


Despite crafting songs from themes of loss, confinement, abandonment, and remorse, YOASOBI was exactly the Jpop act that the world needs today. It reminded us that the hardships and heartbreak were just as much a part of what made life worth celebrating. The evening’s audience, comprised mostly of youth in their teens and twenties, took a gamble on some serious topics. But by doing so, we all came out appreciating how we ought to take in the scenery from our day-to-day growth, for better or for worse, and having fun living through them as well.


YOASOBI at Warfield Theater, San Francisco, Sunday, April 21, 2024

Setlist:

1. Seventeen
2. Shukufuku
3. Halzyon
4. Suki Da
5. Ano Yume wo Nazotte
6. Tabun
7. Biri-Biri
8. Mister
9. Moshimo Inochi ga Egaketara
10. Yasashii Suisei
11. Tsubame
12. Idol
13. Yuusha
14. Kaibutsu
15. Gunjou
16. HEART BEAT

Encore:

1. Yoru ni Kakeru


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