A Los Angeles fan shares his experience of BABYMETAL‘s American debut concert.
With patchy rainclouds hanging low in the sky, occasionally thundering and briefly pouring rain all over my home in Los Angeles during the mid-afternoon of July 27, 2014, this historic day of BABYMETAL‘s live-on-stage American debut began with more than a little bit of darkness after the previous day’s bright sunshine and 90-degree (32º C) temperatures, and I was left wondering, has Kitsune-sama chosen to conjure up a dark air for his chosen ones, even going so far as to alter the weather, as they get ready to take the stage in yet another foreign land, or more magnanimously to bless this city that so eagerly bought up all available tickets in the space of just a few minutes by providing this parched desert region with some much-needed rain?
Well, it wasn’t really enough rain to make any difference, truth be told, but it sure sparked my imagination. Would it continue later on as I stood in line at the Fonda Theatre waiting for the doors to open, thus making all the sweating I was bound to do, headbanging alongside everyone else, superfluous, leaving me no choice but to head inside soaked from the get-go?
As it turned out, it didn’t rain in Hollywood, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it had, because as expected, by the time it was over I was indeed absolutely drenched with sweat, not necessarily all of it my own.
When I got to the Fonda Theatre a long line around the block had already started to form, and it got longer by the minute. I was pleased to see such a wide variety of people there, from idol fans to rockers to metalheads, young and old, even children! What I particularly noticed was the relatively high percentage of girls in the line; it had to be at least 25%, maybe more. But this is America, where the girls headbang hard right along with the guys, if not even more intensely, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised.
Everyone was in a great anticipatory mood, laughing and talking about what was soon to become an indelible part of their lifetime’s experience. Those who I approached for a chat as we waited were immediately friendly and welcoming. I knew right away that once we got inside the atmosphere would be highly charged with amazing positive energy.
And there was plenty of energy to go around. When the 8:00 curtain hour came and went, while anxiously waiting for the show to start, the audience twice started a bout of repeatedly clapping and chanting:
CLAP! CLAP! CLAP-CLAP-CLAP! BA-BY-ME-TAL!
I had floor tickets, figuring I would brave the crowd and experience this concert as it should be: from the mosh pit. There was an enormous sheet across the stage to project the introductory video, which was customized for the American audience, the same as had been done at the European concerts.
After the video played you could see BABYMETAL already starting their routine as shadows against the back of the sheet as the music escalated, and the instant the sheet dropped, everyone surged forward, and I found myself being smashed in from all sides by adoring fans putting their Kitsune up as far as they could reach, as I did, too, right along with them.
My friend, who wasn’t brave enough to tackle the mosh pit, took this video of the opener from the back of the venue:
I lasted longer than I thought I would, staying up front for 10 songs and the Kami band’s two interludes. But when it came time for “Gimme Chocolate!”, the action in the mosh pit just behind me became too intense, pressing very hard again those of us in the front, causing us to sway around so violently I was losing my footing, and I had to retreat. I still don’t know how I made it past all the moshers to the far side of the pit, where I stood at its edge, shoving people back in whenever they came too close to those of us who aren’t quite so crazy.
My voice was also getting very hoarse from screaming out as many of the lyrics as I knew, which is quite a bit considering it’s all in Japanese, but I didn’t give it any rest just because I had to move toward the back. Neither did I regret my decision to back off, because the stage was still clearly visible from there, and I continued to scream along for the rest of the show. The Fonda Theatre isn’t a large venue, so it was quite an intimate experienced for all of the 1200 people in attendance regardless of where they were standing, even from the balcony.
The order of the songs on the set list was the same as the European shows, as I had expected:
Uki Uki ★ Midnight
Kami Band interlude
Akumu no Rondo
Onedari Dai Sakusen
Kami Band interlude 2
Catch me if you can
Yon no Uta
Kami Band extended intro to…
Doki Doki ☆ Morning
Ijime, Dame, Zettai
SU-METAL was in absolutely top form, and sang everything live and on key; no playbacks for this talented young lady, and I do mean lady, cool and confident, gorgeous and professional through and through, so much so that I was a bit taken aback by the intensity of her stage presence, especially for someone still so young. I’ve watched plenty of videos of live performances, of course, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, prepared me for, let alone compares to, actually being there and seeing her perform live.
YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL were cute as all get-out, and supported SU-METAL with everything they had. They were all smiles for the entire show as they ran and jumped all over the stage and bounced on the booster platforms at its edge, waving their Kitsune and encouraging the crowd, all the while working up one helluva sweat. They must have been quite out of breath from all of the physical strains of their performance.
There were more interludes with the live Kami band than I expected, based on what I’d read about previous shows, but that was awesome! During the first one guitarist Leda was up on the platform on the left, bassist BOH in the middle and guitarist Ohmura on the right, making faces and sticking his tongue out as is typical for him. Leda was the first to do his solo, stepping off the booster when he passed it over to Ohmura, who was at the top of his game on his signature pink guitar, belting out the riffs with amazing speed and accuracy, and finally BOH with his six-string bass and impressive finger tapping routine that shook the whole house. There was a second interlude, but honestly by then I was too high on the ambient energy in the theatre to remember the details.
The third interlude was really just the extended lead-in for “Megitsune”. But if you look at the set list and see where the interludes were placed between the songs, as well as the wait before the encore, it’s clear they are meant to give the girls a break every two to three songs, and with the intensity and energy they put into their performances, they no doubt needed them.
From a technical standpoint the show appeared to go off without a hitch. The light show was fast and fiery, the monitors and speakers were loud as hell (almost too loud for my taste), and the girls danced without missing a beat or a mark. It was almost miraculous to see and hear.
During the call-and-response portions of “Ii ne!” and “Gimme Chocolate!” the masses roared back loudly, and when MOAMETAL complained, “I can’t hear you!” anyway, we cranked it up a couple of notches.
The crowd was an amazing bunch of people. Even all fired up and smashed together, we all just gave each other a smile or a wink if we thought we may have caused our neighbor any discomfort, and all was good again. Not that it was all milk and cookies. I did get a pretty good kick in the shin at one point that swelled up nice and big.
Throughout the concert a mosh pit was going in the center of the floor that varied in size, often causing those of us near the front to alternately be pressed forward, fall back, or be shoved left or right, but we really weren’t in much danger of falling over, with everyone holding everyone else up pretty much by default. It was awesome!
And finally, during the encore as the music was leading in to “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”, a few people hastily organized a massive mosh pit for the Wall of Death that was about to come, making me retreat even further back into the theatre. They managed to keep everyone at bay until SU-METAL let go of her “AAAAhhhh…”, signaling MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL to start their running on stage, and for the two walls of people to collide together in front of me. Spectacular!
During the instrumental sections the theatre vibrated so much I swear you would not have noticed had a small earthquake gone off somewhere in L.A. at that moment. Such an unbelievable amount of energy was pouring from the audience and the stage, I was momentarily worried enough to actually step out from underneath the balcony.
It was all over far too soon, but nevertheless this concert went way beyond my greatest expectations on every level. The band was absolutely superb, the singing was entrancing, the dancing was mesmerizing, and the crowd had an amazing energy that I’ve rarely experienced. People have said that about previous BABYMETAL concerts, but you can’t know what they really mean without being there. You have GOT to GO to one of their concerts! You will not regret it for an instant!