Last night I watched the most anticipated gig of the year, BabyMetal playing their largest UK show to date at Wembley Arena. Ever since I heard the band’s debut album Babymetal a little over a year ago I have been hooked. I love the songs, the idea, the image and I also love the fact that they are so controversial within the metal community. They have been the talking point for the past few years whether or not they are even metal. To some degree, I felt that the band’s first album did have moments that were questionable however their new album Metal Resistance has smashed that theory out the water (we reviewed it recently). They are not a gimmick after the quality of songs that have been produced on this new album. But was the live show any good?
Daniel P. Carter
A few days prior to the gig I received an email informing me that the one and only Daniel P. Carter would be performing a DJ set before the headline act. As an active listener to the Sunday BBC 1 Rock Show I was fairly excited and couldn’t really think of a better support for BabyMetal. I mean who else could really support this band? When entering the venue, DPC was already on the stage performing his DJ set. We found a decent spot close enough to the stage and began to watch.
This was hands down one of the worst sets I have ever witnessed. Picture the scene, DPC with a single spotlight on his desk playing the obvious “crowd favourites” to get us excited for the headline act. On paper it sounds like your average night at a rock club except the music wasn’t that loud and the transitions were terrible. He would play songs like “Up Town Funk” and occasionally add in the first guitar line from Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”. Once the song finally finished, surprisingly “Break Stuff” began to play on the PA. Now I don’t know much about what goes into mixing songs for DJ sets but what was being provided seemed like the equivalent of learning “Smoke on the Water” on the guitar for the first time. To be honest I don’t even think it was entirely his fault. There was no light show whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting a Calvin Harris light show spectacle, I did however expect the person controlling the house lights to have a basic program running so that the songs were slightly more intense. Instead we had 10,000 people stare at DPC with a single spotlight which accomplished nothing but a dead crowd. (3/10)
So after Daniel P Carter’s set, the crowd waited another 45 minutes before the band came on. At this point I didn’t really care. I was incredibly excited, I spent the past day listening to the new album as much as I could so the new songs were fresh in my mind. There was no line check so there was no real indication when exactly the band would be on, and then venue faded to black.
On the two massive jumbo screens at either end of the stage began a story about BabyMetal being the saviours of heavy music. Playing in the background were the acapella vocals from the first track from their debut album “Babymetal Death”. The voices gradually began to build before exploding into what should have been an earth shattering One by Metallica rip off however, when this did kick in it was really quiet. Three silhouettes appeared at the back of the venue which looked like the three vocalists however this was just a decoy. The girls were actually raised from underneath a platform that was at the centre of venue. This was a nice touch and was the beginning of what I expected to be one of the best gigs of the year… My god, was I wrong.
It really pains me to say this but I think that this gig was incredibly disappointing. Coming off of an album as strong as Metal Resistance led me to believe that this band could do no wrong. The people who hated the band prior to this album now had no excuses to why they would dislike the band since the metal within it is fantastic. It now came to the easy part, a banging live show, how could it have gone wrong? Well to start the sound was dire from the start and throughout, whether it be the vocals being too loud, little to no bass, levels consistently changing, and the guitars being thin, washy and indistinguishable. I wanted the impact of these songs to smash the crowd into pieces, however it just never seemed to get there until nearer the end of the set (“Karate” onwards).
This was really frustrating as the band were exceptional, but it was lost in translation due to the sound quality. Another problem that had an impact on the overall sound was having the electronics as backing tracks. This band needs to bring a DJ into the mix with the amount of electronics that are present within their music. It would bring a better dynamic live and the electronics would be recreated with the intention of sounding massive at packed out venues like Wembley. When they began to play “Megitsune” (which might be my favourite BabyMetal track), I pictured that initial electronic line to come in with such power and fulfilment. It’s the hook, it’s the main melody, and it should have been the most prominent instrument coming through the PA. The weight of the electronics wasn’t there when performed at Wembley, it was badly equalised and too quiet in the mix.
The girls themselves performed rather well. Su-Metal smashed the majority of her vocal lines out of the park whilst Yui and Moa showed consistent levels of energy that never diminished. The main problem with the girls is that some of the dance routines are just dreadful. For a lot of the performance the dancing added nothing to the show and frankly some of it seems quite lazy. I understand that this is only meant to be fun and it really doesn’t take itself too seriously however if there is going to be choreographed dancing I would like it to play off the music and entice the viewer. If I was KobaMetal (BabyMetal’s producer), I would be telling these girls to take up acrobatics. Just picture it, the three of them doing multiple backflips whilst the band are stomping away to a massive breakdown.
I would like to say at this point that even though it sounds like I’ve given the band a kicking, I still really enjoyed myself at the gig. I had been looking forward to it all year round and even though it didn’t meet my expectations I still sang along to every line. The sound was the biggest issue for me however the music speaks for itself. The more notable performances of the night were “Awadama Fever”, “Karate”, “Gimme Chocolate”, “The One” and “Road of Resistance”. The stage production was great throughout the night and the pyro was a nice touch. The crowd was fantastic, a lot of manic fans packed together only meant harder moshing throughout the bands set. Before performing “The One”, the screens cut to a live video in Japan were hundreds of fans gathered to watch the band perform. This made the night a little more special as it signified a huge milestone in the band’s career.
Overall I did enjoy the gig, the crowd seemed satisfied after the gig ended however it didn’t live up to my expectations. I went in expecting a 9/10 performance and left sour thinking it was more of a 6/10. I still think BabyMetal have a lot to give and wouldn’t rule them out as a potentially great live band. They are still evolving and hopefully they can provide the live experience that I was hoping for in the years to come. Do go check out their new album Metal Resistance as it will definitely surprise you if you’re still unsure about the band but, yeah, shame the live experience wasn’t as good. (6/10)