Expectations are a funny thing. Last year, almost to the day, I had the privilege of seeing BABYMETAL take the stage at Chicago’s House of Blues. This was May 14th, 2015.
More than anything, I was filled with judgment and indignance. The crowd was essentially filled with what I would consider “otaku”—terrible superfans that, in my opinion, deserved my ire for, well, being superfans. Though the term has been appropriated to positive effect in North America and other places around the world, being an otaku in Japan is a label that is rarely self-imposed and nearly always met with disdain.
I digress and return to my original thought, however—expectations are a funny thing.
Knowingly going to yet another BABYMETAL show a year later, two albums deep with the recent release of Metal Resistance, I did my best to forgo my feelings from the previous year’s experience and have a good time. Admittedly, a packed House of Blues is kind of a difficult place to enjoy one’s self. A thousand people in a larger-than-average venue? It’s hot as Hell in there no matter where you stand, and there are always a few bodies a bit too close to your person. All of that seems to fade away with a good show, however, and this year’s BABYMETAL performance was nothing short of that.
This show and last year’s were structured much the same—a long narrated introduction that echoed the beloved Star Wars opening followed by a vicious performance of “BABYMETAL Death,” but there was a keen difference in all parties involved—the crowd, the band, and largely myself. It’s kind of funny how problems have a way of sorting themselves out. I strongly believe that there were a great deal of returning parties from last year’s BABYMETAL performance, but new and perhaps “truer” fans found their way in. Those that genuinely enjoy the music instead of worshiping this musical outfit as a trio of minuscule deities. Largely, that is my position—I love BABYMETAL’s music and unironically enjoy it pretty much daily. It’s the reason I was there and the same reason I will continue to attend their performances.
I readily believe that there were many more people here that feel the same way I do, as there was a good focus on simply enjoying the show instead of unbelievably fawning. You still found the errant individual who was a little too excited to be there, a few dressed in relevant cosplay, and more, but they seemed in (thankfully) short supply this time around.
More than anything, however, the parties involved with BABYMETAL themselves, especially Sumetal, Moametal, and Yuimetal, may have done the most growing. There’s a distinct notion with acts from Japan that there is an unbelievable level of control at the production and management metal. From all the stories i’ve heard, I’m bound to form an understanding that overseas performances are handled on a very short leash. However, there was a noticeable level of organic growth that emanated from the performance.
Though the choreography was on-point, as expected, the girls smiled and waved, and took the time to interact with the crowd through their words, expressing a love of Chicago, encouraging sing-alongs, and having crowd members move their bodies to the music at appropriate times. This deeply contrasted the previous year’s performance that was straight choreography with one instance of reaching out to the crowd near the end of the show. The girls weren’t strictly performing for us this time—they were playing a show.
This was my biggest gripe from last year’s performance at the House of Blues. Every time the girls were on stage, the show felt like a pre-recorded performance. The only instances of true showmanship were when the Kami Band took the reins during their instrumental breaks. I’m deeply grateful that wasn’t the case this time around. And it was incredibly important that it not be a repeat of last year’s show, or this may have been my last time seeing BABYMETAL live.
Still more, there were incredible instances of showmanship involved. Whether they were choreographed or not wasn’t the point—they felt organic. During “Megitsune,” Sumetal casually but triumphantly throws out the kitsune mask she held during the show. More importantly, during “Gimme Chocolate!!,” Moametal and Yuimetal held oversized representations of popular candy bars. During this period, Sumetal repeated the well-known chorus to the song and encouraged the crowd to sing along. Yes, this is kind of “stock” for bands to do during certain song sections, but none of it felt forced. It was all very real and very engaging, both features that BABYMETAL’s live performances so deeply needed. And here they were in spades.
As I said at the beginning, expectations are a funny thing. A large part of me was expecting a reprise of last year’s performance, which was the reason I attended—I wanted to be disappointed again to make sure I never again went out of my way to see BABYMETAL live. But a small glimmer of hope was inside of me and, thankfully, that glimmer won out.
Long live the Metal Resistance. Long live BABYMETAL.
All photos in this article were provided by Amuse, Inc.