It’s a Saturday night, I’m at Myth Live and I’m surrounded by metal fanatics of all ages, all excited to see Japanese kawaii metal group BABYMETAL. The group rarely comes to America on tour, and when they do it’s usually in California. So the fact that they’ve made it to the Midwest feels too good to be true.
I’ve known that I wanted to see BABYMETAL live since 2016. This was when I first saw them appear on the Alternative Press Music Awards (APMAs).
Never before had I seen an artist combine so many creative elements into one fantastic gimmick. I couldn’t believe how well the brashness of metal music and the sweetness of little kawaii Japanese girls mixed together.
To no one’s surprise, I was immediately invested. (As further emphasized in my tweet below.)
Now, three years later, I’m finally getting my chance to see them.
I look around, observing the other lucky concertgoers who will be joining me on this ride and notice that quite a few kids are attending the show as well, including several boys in heavy ear protection and the cutest little girl wearing a skeleton dress.
Soon I find myself envying their childhood and wondering why my parents didn’t take me to more (or any) metal shows when I was growing up. I’m not left with much time to simmer in jealousy, however, as the lights are cut quickly and I see Swedish opener, Avatar taking the stage.
A Fantastic Freakshow
Their drummer comes on first, followed shortly by the rest of the instrumentalists. They begin playing the introduction under a light-up sign with their name on it, all dressed in very theatrical old-timey clothing. Their aesthetic makes them feel more fabulous than heavy, but I am here for it.
Moments before frontman Johannes Eckerström comes on stage, the rest of the band freezes in silence while posing as if they are still playing their instruments. This is done under bright white house lighting for about 30 seconds — a music photographer’s literal dream — I am in Heaven.
Eckerström comes out decked out in clown makeup and a white victorian ruffled shirt, looking kinda like The Joker, but if he were thrown back in time several decades. I notice their creepy carnival clown vibe immediately — like they’ve been pulled straight out of Kiss’s late 90s Psycho Circus album.
Avatar holds the crowd’s attention by synchronizing impressive lengthy headspins and playing songs that have fans pumping their fists and chanting, “HEY!” 75% of the time. Though seemingly simple, it proves to be a great tactic, and I find myself deeply engaged in their performance.
It is no secret that those around me are enjoying Avatar as well. People at the barricade are headbanging directly into my face, hair whipping my camera, but I am not upset or distracted, I am living.
The set, in general, doesn’t have any low points, but my favorite part of their performance is the song “Puppet Show” which features Eckerström on the trombone.
The song is as creepy as it gets, perfectly matching the nightmare circus feeling in which nobody really wants to get caught up. On top of that, a trombone in a metal song is something entirely unexpected.
Honestly, this metal show in its entirety is something unexpected. Metalheads get this bad reputation of being careless, rough-and-tough rapscallions who haven’t quite grasped the concept of wearing deodorant.
But here, people are smiling brightly, ducking down so those behind them can see, and apologizing profusely if they accidentally nudge someone else. It is a beautiful little misunderstood community.
This misrepresentation is mirrored perfectly as Avatar ends their set. The lights dim and Eckerström stands under a lone light center stage, telling tales of an old German town where everyone is insane in a bellowing grunty voice.
In that same jarring tone, he tells fans that Avatar will be back soon, and to take good care of each other — with the juxtaposition between terrifying tones and kind words acting as a metaphor for the unexpected side of metal shows.
Oh hunny, you can do whatever you want as long as you bang your head.
-Smells Like a Freakshow
After (way too long of) a monologue, (sorry, it is my one complaint) they close out their set with “Smells Like a Freakshow.” I’m left feeling satisfied, as they truly were the perfect opener.
BABYMETAL Play One Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!!! After Another
It is no secret that BABYMETAL has had a tough run since 2016, facing tragedies like the sudden death of guitarist Mikio Fujioka in 2018, and the exiting of original member, Yui Mizuno, in that same year.
I was interested in seeing if they would be able to provide the same zest I had fallen in love with now after facing such large obstacles in such a short amount of time.
As it turns out, keeping that same spunk is not an issue in the least.
The room goes dark as a giant screen center stage lights up and a galaxy appears with a rotating chrome fox mask in the middle of it. The words on the screen introduce fans to the metal galaxy as masked instrumentalists take the stage.
This acts not only as an opener to their set but also an advertisement for their upcoming album, Metal Galaxy. This is extremely well done, and I feel the excitement in the room grow.
Soon, I see three silhouettes at the back of the stage, marching in silently under glowing red lights, my heart flips as I come to terms with knowing that BABYMETAL has arrived.
BABYMETAL poses, momentarily, slightly to stage-left, then the first chord strikes and the three women leap up and begin dancing intensely. They are dressed in incredible black space outfits that cannot possibly be easy to move in or comfortable to dance in.
If there is one thing to learn from BABYMETAL, it is that choreography literally makes anything cooler. You’re a band who wants to know how to become cool? Add choreography. That is all you need.
After their first song, frontwoman Suzuka Nakamoto, also known as SU-METAL, brings out the chrome fox mask that was projected earlier on the screen.
She poses with it at center stage, then throws it down into the photo pit. The crew guy almost knocks me over as he runs to pick it up, but this is the least of my concerns as the fans fire up even more.
Soon, crowd surfers are being tossed over the barricade (which I’m pretty sure is not allowed at Myth, but I digress) and I’m watching the security guards sprinting to catch each one. I’m definitely going to get hit by one of them, but I’m too busy thriving to pay it much notice.
They play my favorite song, “KARATE,” toward the end of their set, complete with kung-fu dance moves and a whole lot of fun.
As they near the closer, the pace changes. SU-METAL stands alone center stage and sings “THE ONE.” People begin pulling out phones and lighters and doing the flashlight thing, which is yet another thing one wouldn’t expect to see at a metal show.
All too soon, they close out the night with “Road of Resistance,” which starts out with the members of the band holding giant flags and ends with the crowd feeling exhausted by the fast-paced choreography they witnessed during the over-five-minute-long song.
BABYMETAL give a smile, wave goodbye then disappear from the stage.
I’ve never been to a concert with end credits before, but this one had them appear on the screen once the show had ended, reminding the crowd that their new album is dropping next month and scrolling through the remaining tour dates.
Honestly, it was a really good way to end a show and I’m surprised it isn’t more common.
If you haven’t heard of BABYMETAL before today, do yourself a favor and give them a listen. And of course, be sure to pick up Metal Galaxy on October 11th!
- Elevator Girl
- Shanti Shanti Shanti
- Gimme Chocolate!!
- PA PA YA!!
- THE ONE
- Road of Resistance