In an era when concert audiences tend to be fairly homogenous, Babymetal drew what may be one of the most diverse crowds the Warfield has ever seen.
Not just racially diverse, though that was certainly true, but diverse in its diversity. There were a husband and wife in their 60s and there was a 10-year-old girl with her dad. There were teens in anime T-shirts and punk rockers in tattered Misfits hoodies. A teen boy in a soccer jersey headbanged while his middle-aged mother sang along with every word behind him. Even among the metal-heads there was diversity; men in pristine Ghost and Gojira shirts stood alongside those in well-worn denim vests with Pantera and Motorhead patches.
For the uninitiated: Babymetal is comprised of SU-METAL and MOAMETAL, idols who sing and perform tightly choreographed dances in the typical J-pop style, backed by the Kami Band, a group of masked heavy metal musicians. But the saccharine pop vocals and the heavy metal instrumentation work together perfectly because everyone involved is so profoundly good at what he and she does.
That’s not to say the parts were completely separate. Lead singer SU-METAL carried herself with the authority one would expect from the frontwoman of a metal band, and beneath the heavy power metal grooves and blazing metal riffs Kami Band maintained hints of an underlying J-pop sensibility.
The show itself opened with a narrator’s booming voice bellowing, “In the name of the fox god, the sensation of Babymetal continues to spread worldwide. Are you ready to headbang? Now is the time for the metal resistance.” This likely thoroughly confused members of the audience who came with their friends were unaware of what they were in for. Any trepidation immediately evaporated, however, when opening song “Megitsune” began. The band jumped right into a tightly produced, visually spectacular show that managed to keep a stratospheric energy level beginning to end.
Potentially due to aesthetics or the language barrier, there was no stage banter between songs. After each one the room went dark while everyone reset for the next number. But it works, especially when the next song begins with a driving power metal riff like “Elevator Girl” or a series of blazing guitar solos like “Shanti Shanti Shanti.”
It’s almost a shame the Kami Band musicians are nameless and masked; they deserve credit for their contributions. But, like Ghost’s Nameless Ghouls, the anonymity is part of the band’s mystique.
A sort of techno-psychedelic video interlude gave the band members a chance to catch their breath before they launched into arguably their biggest hit, “Gimme Chocolate!!”
As the song’s viral fame launched Babymetal’s American success, it’s no surprise that it got the biggest reaction of the show. What is surprising is how many fans had the choreography memorized.
The explosive popularity of BABYMETAL took the genre’s world by surprise, as kawaii metal suddenly became the newest genre on heavy music’s extensive family tree. Even the girls don’t entirely understand their popularity.
“I want to know myself,” Moametal replied after we asked about why BABYMETAL fans are so dedicated. “But I love everyone and I hope we can continue to get love and support.”
As for what the duo would tell their younger selves, Su-metal responded, “Trust your instincts. In the beginning of BABYMETAL, I think metal music is really scary. Now so many people know about BABYMETAL and our music is interesting.”
Moametal would offer some wisdom about BABYMETAL’s vigorous dance routine, telling herself, “Warm up before every performance.”
Watch our interview with BABYMETAL above and be sure to grab a copy of Metal Galaxy here.
One of the three original members, Yuimetal, the stage name of Yui Mizuno, left the band a year ago for health reasons. But Su-metal, or Suzuku Nakamota, now 21, and Moametal, also known as Moa Kikuchi, now 20, answered a few questions by email before they arrived in Southern California for the show.
Q: What about performing metal music do you enjoy the most?
A: Su-Metal: It’s always fun to see fans getting into the rhythm, enjoying our performance, and seeing them sing along with us!
Q: You were quite young when Babymetal started — what was it like to be so young in a band like this?
A: Moametal: When I first became involved in Babymetal, I honestly hadn’t known what metal music was about so everything was new to me. But after 9 years, I’ve come to know a lot more about metal music and how incredible it is. I’m very honored to be a part of all of this since I was young.
Q: What was the reaction at first when people saw three young women like Su-Metal, Moametal and Yuimetal on stage going crazy with this kind of music?
A: Su-Metal: It seemed like the audience’s reaction was like, ‘What in the world?!’ Because they looked very surprised.
Q: How are fans in the United States the same or different than fans at home?
A: Moametal: No matter what country, the love our fans have is absolutely amazing and we are so lucky to have so much support from them. To be able to tour different countries and see our fans is always a valuable moment and we try our best to return the love!
Q: Who are metal bands or solo performers who you admire or inspired by?
A: Su-Metal: Metallica!
Q: If you could collaborate with any other group or musician who might it be?
Moametal: When we saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers recently in Japan during a festival, we discussed that we hope to do something together again so I hope that we can do another collaboration with them. Also, we’ve always wanted to collaborate with Bring Me the Horizon so to be able to have them for our November performance in Japan is something we’re looking forward to!
Q: How challenging or difficult in any way (physically, mentally, etc.) it is to sing and dance and perform in such a high-energy environment as a metal show.
A: Su-Metal: It is sometimes challenging to sync the rhythm to the singing, dancing, and breathing.
Of course, the stars of the show were the core members of vocalist Su-Metal and backup singer Moametal, along with a third dancer to nicely balance out the group, who certainly gave it their all.
The vocals hovered above the thunderous music, and the energy that they brought to every song was electric, with synchronized dance moves and the trio dressed in matching shiny ornamented black dresses.
The big highlight of the show, of which every song felt like a highlight due to the varied stage production and performance, was “PA PA YA!!” off the new album, Metal Galaxy, with the stage and trio blasting off into space and the crowd fist-pumping and chanting along to the vocals during the entire song.
If you want to merely watch what this was like, the band’s new video for “PA PA YA!!” captures it perfectly. However, if you want to experience an incredible night of ripping music, charming charisma, and non-stop adrenaline, then you must see the band live. BABYMETAL is built for arena shows.