Saying goodbye at concerts is never easy, least of all when the audience knows it’s the artist’s last gig ever. Such was the vibe at Japanese mannequin duo FEMM’s ‘Last FEMM-Isation’ farewell show at London’s The Lower Third on December 16th, which marked the end of the duo’s decade-long activities as FEMM.
A celebratory day split into an afternoon and evening performance*, FEMM’s packed setlist took fans through a decade of their electro-pop gems one last time, with the mannequeens opting for their iconic latex maid costumes.
From the moment the two were carried onto the stage by venue staff to be ‘assembled’ (a signature component of FEMM’s stage shows), it was clear that FEMM’s ‘Last FEMM-Isation’ would be the ultimate masterclass in their performance art, exemplifying RiRi and LuLa’s commendable commitment to their highly polished act of two mannequins brought to life through the power of music to spread messages of empowerment and resilience.
Entirely dedicating themselves to their craft, FEMM’s fluidly performed robotic mannerisms during numbers like “We Flood the Night” are one of those rare stage performances where you can only advise that audiences simply must see it to believe it – and with deadpan expressions expertly matched with remarkably controlled body movements creating the illusion of advanced dancing humanoids, you could easily be fooled into thinking FEMM just might actually be the non-human characters they say they are.
Fully immersing audiences into their concept, the first act of the show blitzed through classic FEMM tracks like “Astroboy”, “Kill The DJ”, “Dead Wrong” and “Wannabe” from their first album FEMM-Isation, as well as “Plastic” from Tokyo Girls Anthem.
In between the excellency of their carefully choreographed mannequin moments, there were lots of real, human tears from LuLa when she took to the stage to deliver a heartfelt performance of her solo track “Butterfly to the Moon”. Described as a song truly close to her heart as the audience listened on, it was crushing to see how devastating the reality of performing this final gig was for LuLa, but the crowd of FEMM’s loyal supporters picked her up each time by enthusiastically cheering for her to power through.
RiRi brought the mood back up with her feisty electro bop “Living in the Spotlight”, complete with a breakdown of complex vogue choreography which had the audience screaming. Rounding out the set with moments like their breakout, hall of fame classic “Fxxk Boyz Get Money” and fan-favorite “PoW!” as well as “CHERRY on TOP” from their final project Cherry, the moment to say farewell forever quickly crept up with the announcement of ‘last song’ “We Got Each Other”.
Making an emotional return for an encore, the intro for “Whiplash” sent waves of excitement through the crowd, who energetically jumped around to the track’s chaotic EDM production. Emotions were sky-high as the duo gracefully powered through their final two songs of the night, the electro-ballads “Kiss the Rain” and “Falling for a Lullaby”.
With the emotionally overwhelming ending now becoming a real moment, it was difficult to say goodbye to the duo, who graciously bowed at the end and meaningfully examined the audience to express their gratitude to each person, before leaving their beloved mannequin characters behind forever.
At every interval of ‘Last FEMM-Isation’, the poignant reality that this was truly the final time international fans would witness a FEMM performance lingered over every powerful beat of their club-friendly music. Even moreso, the looming loss of this wonderfully intricate performance-art from two of J-pop’s most distinctively gifted performers is still a bitter pill to swallow.
Although audiences have always been left craving more at the end of FEMM’s shows, ‘Last FEMM-Isation’ was sadly the end of the ride – but both fans and FEMM will cherish the memories made that night in the intimate London venue for a lifetime.
All photography by Toyah Ann.
*This review is of the evening performance.