It’s wet in London tonight – very wet. And whilst a number of the fans queuing outside Brixton Academy tonight have brought umbrellas it’s still cold and miserable, especially for this reviewer who managed to take a wrong turn on the way to the venue and ended up running through the driving rain with no idea where he was and nothing more than a sleeveless t-shirt to protect his torso. Once I was finally there I was pleased to see that rumours of poor sales were completely untrue; the gig is a complete sell out and 5,000 people are waiting to come in and witness the most controversial metal band of the year on their final European date of 2014 – and to get somewhere dry and warm…
It’s a rather curious atmosphere inside as well. There’s no support band, so we’re all left waiting for over two hours from opening time to show time. People have come from all over Europe to the show as well, such is the pull of our headliners, and the audience is a cosmopolitan of different nationalities and one bloke in a Care Bear onesie demanding everyone hugs him. Even weirder is when, despite the abundance of Iron Maiden on the PA, the biggest sing-a-long is for Dragonforce’s ‘Through the Fire and Flames’. Make no mistake, this isn’t your average metal concert, and the main reason for that arrived at 8.40.
By now, if you’re not aware of Babymetal (8) then you’ve some serious catching up to do or need applause for firmly avoiding the social media storm they’ve created since their self-title debut album arrived in February. They’ve split opinion so great it’s amazing the physical earth hasn’t actually opened up, but they’ve converted a lot of people, particularly at Sonisphere this year when they played to a near-headline size crowd and were one of the festival’s highlights. And despite the differences in opinion on style and ethics, the fact that three teenage girls can put on a show this impressive and professional deserves a lot of credit. After an opening video explaining the ‘birth’ of Babymetal, the trio rise up from below the stage and go straight into ‘Babymetal Death’, causing bedlam in the pit from that moment on. The choreography and dancing of Su-metal, Moa-metal and Yui-metal is sharp and on point; their energy and stamina is excellent and there isn’t a single move out of beat or synch. Behind them, their backing Kami Band is technically brilliant and they each get a turn in the spotlight. Dressed identically in white kimonos, they take turns to blast out complex solos and gear up the crowd to fever pitch, especially the bassist who gives everything as if he’ll never perform live again. Each of the girls takes a rest at points, with Su-metal signing alone for ‘Akumu no Rondo’ and then Moa and Yui combining for ‘4no Uta’, with the pattern repeated for ‘Akatsuki’ and ‘Onedari Dai Sakusen’. Biggest singles ‘Megitsune’ and smash Youtube hit ‘Give Me Choco!!’ naturally garner a huge response from an audience who, whilst not knowing how to pronounce all of the Japanese vocals, still sing along as best as they can and keep their ‘fox horns’ raised (essentially the classic metal \m/ but with the thumb, middle and ring fingers extended – more about that later).
Given that there is only one album’s worth of material however, the performance does start to slip into an expectation of which song from the record they’ll play next and that causes a drop in momentum at times along with some of the extended intros whilst the girls prepare for the next song offstage, but it’s nice to see a change in the setlist from their show in New York earlier in the week. ‘Ijime, Dame, Zettai’ is the main set closer this time accompanied with pyros, sparks and a huge Wall of Death that is asked for by another accompanying video and ‘Headbanger!!’ makes up what everyone assumed would be the one-song encore. But there’s more…
To explain briefly, the ‘legend’ storyline created to run alongside Babymetal speaks of the Metal Master who commanded the ‘Fox God’ to unite the world with heavy metal. Thus, the Fox God chose three girls from Japan to lead the ‘Metal Resistance’ and in turn created Babymetal (hence the sign of the fox instead of devil horns). In a wonderful parody of Star Wars, tonight was the end of ‘Episode II: The Metal Resistance’ and this was explained in a video prior to ‘Headbanger!!’. Then a final video introduced us to ‘Episode III: The Apocalypse of the Fox God’. This led to the world premiere of a brand new song, seemingly titled ‘The One’ which eventually could turn out to be a power metal anthem. With enough harmonics and ‘Wooooooaaaaahhhhs’ to give the aforementioned Dragonforce a run for their money, it’s an exciting indication that for all of their gimmicks, Babymetal are here for the long run and will head back to the studio to record a new album. With a final promise to be back next year and a loud ‘See You!’, the girls and the Kami band leave the stage to rapturous applause from the crowd, by now thoroughly warm and dry. Thankfully, there’s no rain upon leaving either.
Episode II Intro
Uki Uki ★ Midnight
Kami Band Performance
Akumu no Rondo
Catch me if you can
Onedari Dai Sakusen
Give Me Choco!!
Ijime, Dame, Zettai
End of Episode II
Episode III Intro