CHAI: “We Are Fun” – Concertgoers Agree!

CHAI - MANA and KANA sing out their message of NEO Kawaii

On October 11, Tokyo-based pop band, CHAI, bounced into Philadelphia toward the end of a 12-city North American tour. This is their fourth time overseas, including Europe and Asia.

CHAI-member-all
[Clockwise from top-left] MANA (Lead Vocals and Keys), YUNA (Drums and Chorus), YUUKI (Bass, Keys, and chorus), KANA (Guitar and Backup Vocals)

At Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, the four members of CHAI march onto the stage in outrageous, shiny pink outfits that have to be seen to be believed. The happy quartet greets the crowd with a bubbly introduction and eases into the soothing, jazzy song MATCHA from the 2023 self-titled album, CHAI

Moreover, their music has elements of disco-punk, city pop, alternative, indie, R&B, soul, and experimental pop. On stage, the quartet delivers each tune of this eclectic mix completely sincere, yet with a wink and nod to the audience. They do their best to ensure the audience is in on the fun and the message.

CHAI envelopes the crowd in their purposeful fun with a generous helping of songs from 2017 through 2023. The set list is heavy on tracks from 2023’s CHAI and 2021’s WINK albums.

Song Highlights

GAME

Uh, wow, oh my gosh
Nobody knows we are fun
This is a big issue…
Nobody knows we are smart…

 

Says MANA about the message in GAME

Winning isn’t the goal, it’s the strategizing and challenge that matters.  So it doesn’t matter if you lose. Take that loss and turn it into an even better strategy! Life’s a game!

CHAI-MANA
MANA: “Life’s a game!”

NEO KAWAII, K?

KANA asks the crowd (to enthusiastic agreement):

Everybody is little strange, right? Everybody’s not normal, right? We all living our own life! We all living NEO KAWAII, K?

Interestingly, this could be seen as a 2023 update to CHAI’s manifesto on beauty standards, and the beauty of being who you are and looking just as you do. Next, CHAI plays the song N.E.O. as the encore that closes out this delightful and inspirational performance.

KANA and MANA are astonishing on vocals – the style, cadence, and pitch are not what one might expect from a “Pop” group. Likewise, their moves are not conventional. All of this is intentional so much so with CHAI that the medium is the message. These sounds and moves make sense, feel right, and quickly draw you in to keep your attention.

All four are solid on their instruments, and they easily transition between the multiple musical genres at rock-star levels.

Cute and clever moves underscore CHAI’s message.

NEO KAWAII, in the band’s words:

Not everyone needs to follow the stereotypical image of KAWAII (cute/cuteness). There should be many more types of KAWAII, and everyone is KAWAII in her own way. You should be who you are. We all have our own worries, but that’s fine. Our insecurities make us who we are. The insecurities become art. KAWAII is a never-ending journey!

Everyone is NEO KAWAII! This is CHAI’s answer, this is a fact in this world! We can finally say what it really means to us. Everyone’s a bit weird. Everyone’s different. Everyone’s awkward, almost to a point that it’s hard to relate. But that’s what’s interesting! That’s what makes it beautiful. To everyone who’s pushed around by these notions, we want to tell you this! We, and all of our lives, are NEO KAWAII! NEO KAWAII is not just plain KAWAII (cute)- it’s cool, it’s strong, it’s kind, it’s warm! Don’t get it mixed up Hey! NEO KAWAII people! NEO KAWAII needs no preparation. We just want to say that you’re NEO KAWAII too, K?

Setlist

  1. MATCHA
  2. IN PINK
  3. PARA PARA
  4. From 1992
  5. PING PONG!
  6. ACTION
  7. Nobody Knows We Are Fun
  8. GAME
  9. Plastic Love
  10. Driving22
  11. NEO KAWAII, K?
  12. We The Female!
  13. Cool Cool Vision
  14. Hi Hi Baby
  15. END
  16. Donuts Mind If I Do

    Encore:
  17. N.E.O.
  18. KARAOKE

See a detailed history of CHAI’s music and commentary from their US Label, Subpop Records, here

More Photos From the Show


Check out CHAI’s 2023 Album, CHAI.
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