MTV Iggy: BABYMETAL Slays Japan with Death Metal Cuteness

MTV Iggy wrote a very detailed report about the lastest show of the BABYMETAL World Tour 2015 in Japan at the Makuhari Messe Exhibition Hall Nº1 - Nº3 in front of 25.000 fans. The report reviews the success overseas, the great audience, the performance of Su-Metal, Yuimetal and Moametal and the awesome Kami Band. Read the full report below. 

The Kawaii Metal trio delivers a victorious, occult homecoming performance at Chiba's Makuhari Messe

Fire shot up as three teenage girls danced on a triangular stage giving off serious occult vibes. In front of them, 25,000 fans jumped in time with the song, arms crossed to look like an “x.” This was the climactic moment at Japanese trio BABYMETAL’s June 21 show at the Makuhari Messe convention center thirty minutes outside Tokyo. The crowd was geeked all evening, especially in the designated mosh-pit zone, where a particularly large circle pit kicked up for about the fifth time.

This event—broadcast live in some Japanese movie theaters and featured on morning TV  reports the next day—served as a homecoming for Su-Metal, Yuimetal, and Moametal. BABYMETAL had just completed their latest world tour, which featured gigs in North America and Europe, along with a surprise appearance at the UK’s Download Festival, against the apparent wishes of the event’s booker. A large number of metal fans abroad, though, have embraced the metal-meets-perky-pop outfit since the video for their “Gimme Chocolate!!” went viral in early 2014. They aren’t done traveling in 2015 either, with August dates in Germany and a stop at England’s Reading and Leeds fest.

For all the international attention BABYMETAL receives, the trio also managed to become huge in their homeland, an equally impressive accomplishment. The massive Makuhari Messe show spotlighted just how popular they’ve gotten in Japan, while also highlighting everything about BABYMETAL that has struck a nerve with Japanese fans who normally don’t gravitate towards Japanese idol acts.

The show didn’t start until 5 p.m., but fans queued up hours earlier to get in—into the merchandise corner. As the actual gig drew near, the walk over to the convention center became crowded with punters wearing black and red clothes. The inside of the actual performance area was packed, with a special spot in the middle reserved for the fans who wanted to mosh (which has become a big draw of the trio’s live experience). Everybody else could headbang without fear of someone crashing into them.

The concept behind BABYMETAL—a mix of cutesy Japanese pop music sung by young women within the aggressive world of heavy metal—has prompted plenty of “what is metal?” reflections in comment sections across the Internet. Yet the group and its team have done their research, and BABYMETAL’s live show has the over-the-top side of the genre down, beyond just the Illuminati-ish stage. Videos played on the Makuhari Messe screens between songs—well, more like mini-mythologies—projected the group with an excessively epic air, complete with various animated cameos from rock stars they’ve actually met (highlighted recently by Fred Durst). Add on to that glitter explosions, flames blasting upwards and lasers. It made for a visual rush, and reminded that BABYMETAL isn’t any weirder than, say, Slipknot, another outfit who knows how to put on a memorable live experience.

The spectacle was great, but what really seemed to win over fans of all sorts was attention to musical detail. Besides recruiting several writers boasting rock cred to create their music, BABYMETAL also boasts a live band made up of metal session players. At the homecoming show, the backing band was at times cheered as loudly as the teens themselves and added an extra punch to songs such as “Catch Me If You Can” and “Megitsune.” Fittingly, time was also carved out for these musicians to show off their chops, every member ripping into solos as the crowd screamed.

Getting the metal vibe right has been part of the BABYMETAL’s blueprint since the trio formed in 2010, but genre accuracy doesn’t sell out a space as big as an aircraft hangar. Besides, the unit started as a spin-off from a school-themed idol group meant to zero in on the niche demographic of heavy metal fans also open to idol-pop. Yet the crowd in Makuhari Messe was anything but niche—middle-aged metal fans shared space with young families. College-aged couples appeared to be on dates, and looked normal enough save for the presence of fox masks. A special children’s stage in the back featured girls cosplaying as BABYMETAL watching on intently.

What stood out was how un-idol-like they acted during the show. Idol-pop groups tend to focus on an image of closeness with fans, often at the expense of the music and performance itself. Not all shows play out this way—but a fair share feature lengthy between-song talks from the idols, many times finding them breaking into tears as they thank the audience for their support. The songs and dances, meanwhile, are afterthoughts.

Despite starting life as typical idols, BABYMETAL looked anything but at Makuhari Messe. They were focused, moving in time on early crowd pleasers “Gimme Chocolate!!” and “Doki Doki Morning.” Cuteness popped up throughout the evening—as heavy as the music gets, these are still songs about wanting sweets or sleeping in late—provided by younger members Yuimetal and Moametal (highlighted by a reggae-break in the middle of “4 No Uta”). Yet, leader and oldest member Su-metal rarely looked anything but steely, and even delivered a solo ballad number while wearing a cape, the ultimate sign of confidence. There was very little banter from the group, just metal laced with kawaii.

It was this focus at delivering a great performance that stood out from the packed show, and separated them from other idol-ish acts in Japan. It also probably explained why folks who didn’t look like heavy metal or idol heads were throwing up rock hands as BABYMETAL plowed through two new songs. Or why a whole mess of people from a bunch of different backgrounds made space in the middle of the mosh pit during set closer “Road Of Resistance” for the “wall of death.” BABYMETAL’s big homecoming show wasn’t just a victory lap after a second world tour, but also confirmation they’ve made it domestically as well. When you can command a blog of strangers to run into one another, you are doing something right.