Tonight, must have been a bit of a strange gig for the Man With A Mission wolves. For a band used to selling out arena shows in their Japanese homeland, the tiny Manchester Academy 3 is alien territory. Although for band dipping their toe into the UK touring scene it was the correct choice of venue as it must have been a close to sell out show.
Making the evening a truly international affair, Norway’s Biru Baby were up first with their unusual but entertaining style of electronic rock. The band definitely don’t make it easy to write a review about them as they had no setlist on the stage to know which tracks they performed, and their website offers little in the way of info about them other than the fact that “The main members of Biru Baby are the sami girls Iki and Hánná”. It also describes them as “Baby Metal on acid”, a quote with which I would definitely agree.
The set was energetic from start to finish and featured a conga from the three band members on stage, well synchronised headbanging and a chorus to one of the tracks even containing yodelling. By the end of their set the cheers from the crowd were the loudest I’d heard for any support band for a while. They were crazy, a bit odd but in their own unique way, it kind of worked.
It was then time for the wolf collective to take to the stage for what I believe was one of their first ever headline shows in the UK. Leader of the pack Tokyo Tanaka entered the stage waving one of the band’s Man With A Mission banners and with a quick “Hello” dived straight into “Database”, which really got the audience moving. After a couple of tracks Tanaka stated that it has been a year since they were in Manchester when they supported Don Broco, and then went on to ask “Who hasn’t seen us before? Well we are the furries from the Far East!”, which got a few laughs.
Despite a back catalogue that was never originally released in the UK and some songs on the set seemed to be more well known than others, the crowd loved every track. “Raise Your Flag” and “Emotions” were definite crowd pleasers. In the middle of the set it was time for Spear Rib’s drum solo which had the audience clapping along, and a huge applause when Spear Rib came to the front of the stage to take a bow. Seeming to be taking turns to have the stage to themselves, Jean-Ken Johnny took to the stage, first thanking the crowd for coming to tonight’s show and saying that it was a much bigger crowd than they expected. He then treated them to an acoustic rendition of the title track off the band’s latest album Chasing The Horizon.
When the rest of the band returned the two screens at either side of the stage showed footage of some of their shows back in Asia, where it seems they can sell out stadium sized venues. While tonight’s venue was slightly smaller and some of the pyrotechnics shown in the footage were missing, the band themselves were so far putting on a show worthy of a stadium. “Hey Now” got the crowd bouncing again after the slower track with its party beat, and there was an impressive sight when they got all the audience member to sit on the floor and jump back up when the beat kicked in. This party atmosphere continued throughout “Get Out Of My Way” and “Dead End In Tokyo”.
With a quick thanks to the support band there was time for a joke about the unseasonably warm spell Manchester is experiencing and it not being too good for furry animals. A cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” went down very well with the crowd. Saving the best till last, the band played one of their bigger tracks “My Hero” at the end of the main set. Before they had even left the stage there were chants of “We want more!”.
Returning to the stage we were told “We have time for two more songs” and when there was a small boo Jean-Ken Johnny quickly responded with “but if you want more you will have to come see us at Download Festival”. Ended the night with “Take Me Under” and the band’s biggest hit “Seven Deadly Sins” the furries from the Far East proved that they categorically have what it takes to make it in the UK rock scene. Hopefully next time they return to the UK for some more headline shows it will be on a slightly bigger stage so they can really expose the wolf within.
Photos by Jack Barker Photography