I finally watched a Country Girls concert DVD and it was just great! This concert was the final day of their 2016 Live Tour, June 30, 2016 at Zepp DiverCity. I was disappointed that Manaka Inaba wasn’t in it, due to illness, but this disappointment quickly subsided as the two new members, Musubu Funaki and Nanami Yanagawa, proved what accomplished performers and surprisingly strong singers they are, despite this being their first full CG concert. (They’d already appeared with CG at the Hello! Project 2016 Winter Concert and the HinaFes concert in March, where I saw them live.) They’re already as integral to the group as the 3rd Gen members were to Angerme after they joined in 2014, hitting the ground running and never slowing down since.
In addition, longtime CG members Risa Yamaki and Chisaki Morito have stepped up their game to keep up and, joined by group leader Momoko Tsugunaga, arguably the most dynamic performer today in H!P, the six-member Country Girls lineup continues to impress. Mai Ozeki tends to get a tad overshadowed in all of this. She gets by on her cuteness, but she needs to put more into her performing if she wants to keep up with the others, which won’t be easy. She’s giving 90-95% while the others are giving 110-120%. Momoko’s in fine voice, as always, cementing her status, in my estimation, as the single greatest singer in the current H!P lineup. I only wish they’d given her a solo or two.
Country Girls is the only act here (not one single H!P Kenshuusei member as backup) and they keep the show lively for the full 92 minutes. They don’t have as extensive a back catalog as Juice=Juice, so they have to rely on a lot of covers during the course of the 20-song concert. (Just as Kobushi Factory did in their 2016 concert.) They do four Country Musume songs, one V-u-den song, one Maki Goto song, one S/mileage song, one Morning Musume song, and one Tanpopo# song. I especially liked the way three of them--Risa, Mai and Nanami--covered the V-u-den song, “Aisu Cream to My Purin.” As I watched it, I shouted at the screen, “This is BETTER than V-u-den!” Granted, that may be a tad unfair to the magnificent original, especially given the strength of Erika Miyoshi’s vocals on it and the abundant charm of Rika Ishikawa, and the fact that I listened to the original again after watching this concert, so let me just revise that to say that it’s equally enjoyable. Risa is the center and does Rika’s lines and I’m pretty sure Nanami took on Erika’s lines—quite admirably—while Mai took Yui Okada’s part. However, Risa reminded me more of Yui while Mai reminded me more of Rika.
Risa, Chisaki and Musubu do Maki Goto’s “Glass no Pumps” and Musubu is on fire here. Okay, so no one can hold a candle to Maki’s vocals, but the song benefits from the more youthful and upbeat interpretation it gets here.
The whole group does Morning Musume’s “Guruguru Jump,” which used to be an over-performed song at H!P concerts (four in 2009 alone), but it’s a useful song for high-energy groups like CG and always welcome at a concert.
I look forward to more Country Girls concerts, although I’m sorry Manaka Inaba, who left the group August 2016, won't be in them. However, once I order the group's 2015 concert, "Country Girls Live Tour 2015 Aki Fuyu," I will be able to see one with Manaka.
Hello! Project now has, by my count, six full-time acts doing full-fledged concerts of their own: Morning Musume, C-ute, Angerme, Juice=Juice, Country Girls, and Kobushi Factory. That’s the most since at least 2007 when seven acts did concerts of their own that year: Morning Musume, Berryz Kobo, C-ute, Melon Kinenbi, V-u-den, and solo artists Maki Goto and Aya Matsuura. Soon C-ute will be gone, but hopefully Tsubaki Factory will get a concert of their own. I’m leaving out Fan Club events by individual members and concerts by the Eggs and Kenshuusei because those shows are never made available to fans like me.