As he did after the epic show at Wembley Arena back in April, friend to us all and convener of the most epic con panel ever convened, @DaeMetal, gives us an eye into the monstrous festivities of a Babymetal “going for it” live.
I can probably skip my adventures in Japanese queue management and missed opportunities in cross-cultural communication that kept me in the rain for two hours trying to get to my assigned gate and seating assignment. None of that matters anyway because, as we’ve been promised for untold months: In the end … DOOMSDAY is coming.
Red Night began with the mumbo jumbo from KOBAMETAL in a BABYBONES outfit telling us the rules (no pictures, video, streaming) and how this little DOOMSDAY death match is gonna go down. The girls are going to regale us with the “metal melodies” of the two albums over the course of Red Night and Black Night without MC or encore. Only the Fox God knows what order the songs will be played in and (conspiracy theorists can shine up their tinfoil hats here [Maniac: TEE-HEE!]) once played, the song will never be played again. If we’re all good, at the end of the festivities he promises to share with us the biggest announcement in the history of time.
We have also all received what he calls a “crystal neck brace” as we entered The Dome (they are, in fact, clear rubber Embedded with an LED that can be illuminated remotely). This, he tells us, will store up power as we headbang. If we headbang well enough, it will transmit that energy to the girls in a beam of light and assist them in their battle.
Maniac: There is absolutely no way you could get me to put that thing on. This happened near where I grew up.
The battleground itself (i.e. stage) resembled the Budokan set on steroids. The big difference is three coffin-shaped catwalks that extended all the way across the floor to about 20 feet (wait; I’m in Japan so it’s, like, 7 meters?) short of the stands. Above the circular stage were 6 gigantic digital screens that were used to tremendous effect. Whoever was hired for cinematography deserves a medal. There were a couple other features we learned about later.
The decor was iconography in red and black that we are all well and familiar with. I’m starting to believe that on the wall of Koba’s office is a poster that displays the Japanese version of, “Keep it simple, stupid”.
The music of Red Night begins with this tours perennial closing number, “Road of Resistance.” This works out well as, since the audience is all “seated” (I mean, the sell-out crowd was standing throughout, but physical seats ruled out any possible moshing or Walls of Death) so, instead of the climax of a WOD, we can all experience our hearts drop through the floor as our three young heroines appear at the apex of the Tokyo Dome. Above the main stage and the jumbotrons* is a second circular stage that was easy to miss in pre-show scouting. So our girls begin the biggest concert of the young careers singing over 100 feet in the air.
They stayed up there until Su had the audience started in on the “WOWOWs” and they vanished from their doki doki-inducing perches. In a nice touch, the guitar Kamis kept the “WOWOWs” going instrumentally until the girls appeared on the ground to finish things out.
Many of the interludes were new, which added to the mystery of which song would come next, which is how the first surprise of the night snuck up on us:
Red Night saw “Syncopation,” BABYMETAL’s most radio-friendly song to date and the only one that has yet to see an official release in the U.S. market. Coincidence? Who knows. The choreography for this song is just … Well, with a title called “Syncopation”, I think MIKIKO took it upon herself to really do something special. All in all, it’s a winner and will hopefully stick around in the set list. Maybe we will see this released as a MV and single in the West just in time for the Grammy voters to start paying attention.
Su performed “Amore” at the top of the Dome with the video screens superimposing the glowing Yoshiki angel wings that have become signature for her during this song. It was during this piece that I realized what I was missing: The gut-pounding bass. Even in arena shows, there is a physical sensation when the bass kicks in that was just wasn’t there tonight. Perhaps it is a feature of a venue of this size. I don’t know (I’ve been to several hundred gigs in everything from backyards and dive bars to arenas and opera halls, but this is only the second stadium show I’ve ever been to), but I missed it.
“Akumu no Rondo” totally channeled Budokan with Su and the Kami rotating around the stage. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that she nailed this song more firmly than any version I’ve seen since Budokan’s second night.
For all of you who loved the kawaii little nu-metal monsters of BLACK BABYMETAL, I have unfortunate news. “4 no Uta”’s Kamishibai proclaimed the death of “Onedari Daisakusen”: Moa and Yui have been reborn as equal parts darkness and light (with very dangerous looking light sabers shaped like a 4) and they are done with begging for anything from their fathers.
“CMIYC” was done with an interesting twist: It started with “Mischief of the Metal Gods” as lead-in like always, but the girls appeared from beneath the stage at the far ends of each of the coffin-shaped catwalks. While they moved to the center platform, the choreography was still performed solo with each girl a third of the stage removed from each other instead of the typical, interactive and intertwining dance. They did come together after “Miitsuketa!” and finished the song as a trio.
Red Night appears to be the “greatest hits” night with “Gimme Chocolate” and “Karate” both making it into the set list. There was a wonderful moment during “Karate” during the “Let me hear your voice” audience sing-along where the audience was lit up entirely and the giant screens displayed close up shots of Yui and then Moa. Their faces were filled with a kind of disbelief and joy as if they were realizing the night’s achievement for the first time. It was wonderful to see.
If one of you had approached me yesterday and bet me $10 that BABYMETAL would attempt “Tales of the Destinies live, you would be ¥1,019 richer today. In the biggest surprise of the night, the girls and Kami pulled off a FLAWLESS rendition of this highly technical piece of music that I was of a fairly reasoned opinion could only be performed in the studio. The Kami are true gods of their craft, Su’s vocals were spot on, and the choreography had some very playful touches. I am so glad that this performance has been captured for posterity. It will provide undeniable proof that this band is comprised of pure talent.
“Tales of the Destinies” was followed by its companion piece “The One: English version.” This could leave the door open for the unplugged or Japanese version in Black Night. It’s hard to top Yokohama, where this song was performed flying through the air in a pyramid-shaped UFO, but they did add a couple of touches. At the end of the song they all stood on platforms that floated to the end of the three coffin-shaped runways while their oil-black THE ONE robes turned to a shimmering gold.
Oh, and our neck pieces all lit up at this point. If anyone has seen what those synchronized, personal glow objects are capable of doing at an X-Japan or Lady Gaga show, you have to be a bit underwhelmed. X-Japan uses a wrist version that puts out a colored light show that will make you weep. Maybe we have that to look forward to tomorrow.
So, Red Night at the Tokyo Dome has happened. It still a bit hard for me to believe. I will try to do a similar synopsis of Black Night if I am still among the conscious. I’ve been on a two-week sprint through the underground idol acts of Tokyo (and the drenching rain and choking humidity) and may be close to my limit. After the concert, I checked my phone and found a reminder that I have a Narita Express ticket waiting to take me the airport on Wednesday for my flight home. But KOBAMETAL has promised me DOOMSDAY, so maybe I won’t have to make that flight.
Pray a lot to the Fox God to send Daemon to be our eyes and ears at the literal end of the world!
*Daemon wrote “megatrons” here. It broke my heart to change that.