I want to keep the focus on what has made BABYMETAL the worldwide phenomenon they are today: The genre-crushing music, and the joyous insanity of their live shows, all of which was on display at Wembley Arena on April 2.
So let’s skip most of the pre-show craziness: The continent-spanning polyglot family of fans that enthusiastically descend on these sporadic reunions around the world, the new world record set for earliest gig queue (31 hours before doors open), or the merch vendors who weren’t prepared for an unending line of customers, many speaking little-to-no English, each individually intent on buying their entire inventory.
— Daemon ☠ 4/2 Wembley (@DaeMetal) April 1, 2016
The good stuff all happened after the queues closed and the doors opened.
Shortly after the lights dropped, heralding the band’s first arena show outside of Japan, the opening kamishibai let us in a on a little secret. All this while, we’ve been told that the new album and the new tour are all about the band and the audience becoming THE ONE through the power of music which transcends borders and language. As it turns out, THE ONE is just a subplot. Metal Resistance Episode IV is really all about REINCARNATION.
— Daemon ☠ 4/2 Wembley (@DaeMetal) April 2, 2016
The theme of this latest world tour is how BABYMETAL can’t move forward without overcoming the past. The kamishibai frame the process as a struggle to be reborn which is, quite frankly, a much more exciting plot than the kumbaya proposition of The One. Once the lights come up (to good ‘ol BABYMETAL DEATH) some immediate changes become noticeable. Gone are the red crinoline skirts, replaced with all black. Gone are the ever-present miniature risers from which a flanking Yui and Moa have performed their supporting dance moves since the earliest live shows.
These cosmetic changes mesh perfectly with the transition in BABYMETAL’s sound. It has been noted extensively that the new album, Metal Resistance, is much heavier on the metal at the expense of the kawaii. If you are wondering about the implications of this on the live show, don’t be too concerned: The Su-Yui-Moa dance unit still exude a metric ton of kawaii, although some of the smiles may be a bit more knowing and wry this time around.
The audience expectations for this show were HUGE, with a common assumption being that the new album would be performed live in its entirety. This did not occur. In terms of world premieres, we saw three never-seen-before song performances that each reinforced the theme that this is a BABYMETAL trying for something slightly different:
“GJ!” is the new-nu metal BLACK BABYMETAL number that proves to be a very worthy successor (replacement?) to the childish-themed “Onedari Daisukusen,” which Yui and Moa may well have outgrown. Honestly, between this song’s choreography and the audience interaction, this one may quickly turn OD into a distant memory.
“Meta Taro” showcases a new BABYMETAL trinity, where Yui and Moa are less the supporting angels, and more equal partners as each sing full, alternating stanzas and take turns as the center in the choreography. This Viking themed march about a hero robot with a metal heart is a showcase and destined to be a crowd favorite. MIKIKO-METAL’s signature marionette choreography alternates with moves that can be easily mimicked from a mosh pit. Expect the entire Tokyo Dome to be dancing in sync to this one. [Ed.: !!!!]
— ChaΦMETA☆TARO (@ChaiMETAL) April 3, 2016
“Amore” is the newest Su-Metal solo piece and, unfortunately, I didn’t get to form an impression of this performance as this was the moment an usher came over to me and gave me a talking-to as I apparently needed to sit down. At every rock concert I have ever been to in the U.S. or Japan, from Sinead O’Connor to Ministry, when the lights go down, the crowd stands up and the audience stays on their feet until the show is over (even in the case of X Japan where that can take 4-and-a-half hours). I was just throwing kitsunes and doing the choreographed crowd responses, but this is apparently totally inappropriate behavior at a U.K. BABYMETAL concert. And I wasn’t being singled out. Ushers were circulating through the stands asking anyone standing, singing, dancing, or otherwise having a good time to sit down and behave. I was expecting something quite a bit different from the land of Iron Maiden, Queen and the Sex Pistols. U.K. : home of the seated Dame Jump.
Aside from that, it was a great show to be a part of and the first full-on, Japanese-style concert performed in the West with extended kamishibai and lots more interactions between the girls and the crowd. I was personally looking forward to a premiere of “Sis. Anger” and my first live experience of “No Rain, No Rainbow” but, alas, this was not to be. All-in-all, they played eight songs from the new album and nine from the old, so they definitely seem to be in a transition period, traveling this road to reincarnation and, I suppose, rebirth at Tokyo Dome.
One last surprise was that the show didn’t close with “THE ONE,” but rather the usual encore of “Road of Resistance.” I guess you can’t change everything all at once.