Isiliel – November 7, 2023 – PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, 25th November 2023

Releasing her solo debut album as Isiliel earlier this year, Himari Tsukishiro has all but grown up in the Japanese alt-idol scene as part of Necronomidol and Bakuon Dolls Syndrome. She has been zipping across the globe in support of it throughout the last six months, hitting Europe, Thailand, and a few shows in her homeland of Japan. As the last leg of her 2023 world tour for Moonbow Genesis, she stuck around in the States following a performance at Northwest Idol Festival in October (she also played Anime Expo in July) and added a few one-off dates. This included her first trip to the east coast for one night in Philadelphia. Given how enthralled I’ve been by Moonbow Genesis since hearing it, the trek to Philly was a must-see despite it being a Tuesday night and three-hour trip. It’s not every day you can see a Japanese idol perform after all.

Arriving early in order to have a chat with Himari herself before the show, I entered PhilaMOCA to the noise of some soundcheck, and some absolutely beautiful singing happening upstairs. It didn’t take long to realize that I was hearing Himari getting ready for the performance, and hearing her voice unaccompanied by any music was a riveting experience. It may seem a trivial detail, but hearing her warm-up all but sent shivers down my spine. Really, as fantastic as she sounds on the album, hearing her essentially serenade the venue was is something I’m still hearing in my head and it’s breathtaking. This 10-minutes or so set the mood for the remainder of the evening.

Isiliel was the only performance of the evening, and Himari entered the stage promptly at 8pm to start things off. Adorned in the same metallic attire that adorns the cover art of Moonbow Genesis, she elicits a commanding stage presence but one that’s equally full of elegance. As a one-woman idol act, all eyes are on her for the entirety of the performance. To this end, she was absolutely astonishing to behold. As an idol act, all of the metallic fury came through the sound system as a backing track, leaving Himari front and center to sing and dance. With a backdrop of images from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, which was a masterful fit, she jumped into Moonbow‘s first cut, “Koumyou Kishi.” As one of the more reflective and atmospheric songs, it offers a great showcase of her poignant vocals and an almost ethereal atmosphere.

To echo the remarks made earlier about her pre-show warm-up, hearing the album is one thing, but to hear her vocals paired with the choreography escalates Isiliel to a whole new level. On an intimate song like “Koumyou Kishi,” there’s a definite grace as to how she moves across the stage while elegantly singing along. Potent as that track was, it only escalated from there. Moving along with the album itself, “Genshoku Senka” brought a rise in the energy after warming up the crowd, with a fist-raiser of a chorus that primed everyone for the more frenetic “Jodo Dokushou,” the first song that starts to bring in more shred and fury. This was also seen in Himari’s movements on stage, with quicker dance steps that come across as more powerful, yet still with an sense of grace.

Keep in mind, these aren’t cutesy idol moves that she is performing, but ones that have an almost mystical presentation, fully suited to the atmospheric and occasionally more aggressive sounding tones that Isiliel navigates through. Throughout all this, Himari does occasionally find time to instigate some crowd interactions, particularly on the heavier cuts (like “Jodo Dokushou”) with some fist pumps. Unlike some of the other Japanese acts I’ve seen live recently, Himari did take a few well-deserved breaks to talk with the crowd. She was very appreciative and grateful for the turn out in Philly, and the crowd was very much into her performance. To the point where everytime she stopped to take a drink of water, people would chant “H-2-O.” That excitement led into the music itself of course, and looking across the room you could see everything from people swinging lightsticks to the music to others headbanging along. It was hard not to be pulled into Himari’s intimate performance. The heaviest moment came with the thrilling “Keisei Densetsu,” which borders on a melodic death metal rampage at points, and seeing Himari’s choreography to match that furious intensity was just as much of a highlight live as it was on disc.

In terms of pure poignancy and grace, Himari took out a fan to add to the choreography for “Kikoku Enbu,” which gave it an even more exotic flair. Watching her move the fan was absolutely beautiful to behold, there’s a certain elegance to those slower movements with the way she moved across the stage. Continuing to provide a different feeling while keeping the audience in a trance, a highlight towards the end of the show was that of “Genesis.” One of the more upbeat cuts from Moonbow, there’s an almost-industrial groove to it that makes it danceable, and it was fun to see the dynamic switch as the crowd danced along with Himari in one of the least somber musical moments – seeing plenty of smiles as the song progressed.

Playing for almost an hour, Isiliel was a sight to behold. The atmosphere Himari presented on stage was one that was stylish, formidable, and moving. You couldn’t help but feel the music come to life as she commanded the stage. There’s such a uniqueness to the music and her voice, that it’s an even greater treat to see in person. No doubt the rest of the crowd felt similarly by the time things wrapped up. As Himari shoots for even larger targets in the future, an intimate, passionate performance like this one is bound to earn her some more praise and you’d be wise to not to miss out on seeing her in the live setting, even if it is a bit of a trek. It’s more than worth it.

All photos courtesy of Jonathan Lane
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