Live Review: Babymetal - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
29th November 2023
Words & Photos: Scott Clarke
Walking to the venue tonight was a surreal experience with thoughts running through my mind that quickly detracted from the single figure temperatures. Tonight was the evening of BABYMETAL.
I’ve been a fan of the Japanese group for many years and they have gained a cult like following over the series of four album releases. The latest, The Other One being released this year. This year also saw them become 3 again, after the departure of Yui-Metal a few years ago, Su-Metal and Moa-Metal have continued on as the main members of the band joined by backup dancers, however as of April 2023, Momo-Metal became an official member, so I feel very lucky that tonight, along with the fantastic Kami Band I was to experience kawaii metal for the first time.
It was a sold out show and the anticipation build up was immense. Fans adorned in shirts, hoodies and all kinds of paraphernalia chanted and bubbled with excitement. The packed out venue was buzzing before the evenings main act took to the stage.
As the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted and as we kicked things off, a video package played out harking back to the themes of Metal Galaxy, the third album by the group and including always welcome Star Wars references, “A Long Time Ago in a Heavy Metal Galaxy far, far away...”. We continue into an unfolding of the themes and stories interwoven into the BABYMETAL lore as the story of the Fox God choosing the metal spirits and summoning them is told. I have to say from a personal point of view, I love when bands go the extra mile and create their own themes/ stories and have it tied into the music, it’s a wonderful, creative process that makes the band so much more than the sum of its music. It adds intrigue and crafts characters which can be anything, do anything and that anyone can relate to, it opens the doors for diversity and accessibility and creates a fan base consisting of such a broad range of people all bought together for the common good.
“Are you ready to headbang?” The crowd’s excitement is at it’s peak and is unleashed in a roar that reverberates around the room. They are more than ready.
The already present Kami Band kick things off with deafening rendition of BABYMETAL DEATH. The sheer power and force behind every beat, every note can be felt as the crowd, with Fox gestures held high, chant “Hey!” in time to every break. Doing so is like enacting a chant that summons the 3 front ladies to the forefront as they make their way in a march across the stage, immaculately dressed in their elaborate and immediately identifiable costumes. Their timing, which sets a precedent for the rest of the evening, is immaculate. The superlatives that could be used to describe the choreography alone are abundant as the 3 of them lead the crowd, conducting the masses who all have their hands held aloft. It has begun.
From the outset, the energy that this band possesses is amazing to behold. They move elegantly, gracefully across the stage commanding every single part of it with ease and power and never stop all night long. The entire set is a high tempo barrage, even without the singing, their dancing is captivating. Again I come back to the choreography and timing, it must take such a lot of hard work and dedication to pull something like this off night after night with military precision, regardless of your own tastes in their style of music, the quality of the show and their hard work to put on a real showcase for the fans is undeniable.
Gimme Chocolate! The words blaze across the screen and echo through the PA and the crowd gives another pop as the band begin the song while continuing their high energy on stage antics. Su-Metal’s voice is such an angelic juxtaposition against the hard hitting riffs but man, it is so good! The crowd sing along as best they can but she really does shine and makes everything look so easy, juggling the dancing and singing to perfection as not to distort the vocals.
Pa Pa Ya!! from Metal Resistance is next on the list and through it all the adoring public provide ample backing vocals that elevate the energy in the room. Pa Pa, Pa Pa Ya! They shout, towels, flags, shirts waving wildly in the air. The room is literally jumping along with the 3 ladies on stage. It’s like a melding, the band and the crowd are as one and it’s a sight to behold.
Heavy red lights and strobes cover the stage for Distortion, its a track that feels a little “darker” than others if I can use that term. It’s a more mature, high speed, metalcore focused track that still has the unique catchy chorus associated with BABYMETAL but it blends much more into the rest of the song than some others that can sometimes feel like 2 totally different songs between the verse and chorus.
BxMxC is next on the agenda. Expressing more variations in their styles the driving rhythm chugs along at a consistent pace while the lyrics fly fast, I wouldn’t say hip hop style per say, but more like a read poem with more dark, serious undertones.
As the Kami Band rip into the thunderous eclectic, heavy opening to Mirror Mirror, Su-Metal’s voice has a chance to really shine on its own merits soaring above the instrumental and proving just how great her voice is before the band continue with the impactful onslaught. The flashing strobes and lighting almost silhouetting the ladies as they dance in sync.
Brand New Day follows which is such a change of pace its almost jarring. This is very much a J-pop influenced piece and again allows Su-Metal’s vocal to shine, from quieter notes to the high ranges she can reach. This is like the eye of the storm, so far everything has been incredibly high energy and incessant but this is a break from what has gone so far with a fantastic, melodic number that, although impactful, drops a lot of the speed of the earlier tracks.
Superb choreography on display once again as thematic lighting hits the stage for Monochrome, a track from their 2023 release, The Other One and their last album as a duo before confirming Momo-Metal as a permanent band member. The song, like Brand New Day is a change of pace and focuses much more on the melodic more so than the speed metal instrumentals of past. Honestly it’s one of my favourite tracks of the album and the crowd seem to agree as they join in on the chorus with Su-Metal belting out those high notes. Calling for the crowd to take their phones and turn on their lights creates an incredible atmosphere in the venue. Like stars in the darkness, shining in honour of the stars on the stage while Su-Metal and the audience enjoy a hummed sing and repeat. This has been a standout for me so far, utterly loved it.
It’s time for the hard working and incredibly talented mask clad Kami Band to take their spotlight now as the ladies take a much deserved breather, the rest of the band entertains the crowd with their own solos. Their musicianship is amazing and has been tight as a drum skin all night long.
As the 3 rejoin the stage we go into METALI! Another 2023 release and a return to the deep, floor shaking, pounding vibes with definitely more eastern influence in the tone and sound, its a wonderful blend of influences and even includes Momo-metal taking up vocal duties for a time that goes down a storm.
Darkness engulfs the venue as the familiar soundings of one of my favourite tracks echoes through the Halls. One of the first tracks I ever heard by BABYMETAL and I’m so glad to be present to hear it live, Megitsune. The crowd build up with rhythmic chants of Hey, Hey Hey, before the drums, lights guitar and dancing commence on cue to the joy of the audience.
I know I haven’t mentioned much about Moa-Metal and Momo-Metal during this review but I wanted to dedicate a section just to them. Their unfaltering precision, timing and smiling faces on stage throughout every song was a joy to behold and although the spotlight generally is on Su-Metal’s vocals, Moa-Metal and Momo-Metal are an integral part of the act and give a storytelling narrative with their rhythmic, passionate dances and backing vocals. They were flawless all night long.
A real high energy treat next as the band give the crowd chance to headbang with Headbanger! From their debut album. Its amazing to see the crowd jumping with their heads going side to side to match the ladies on stage. The charisma levels emanating from that stage tonight are off the chart. I’ve never seen the kind of symbiosis between a band and it’s fans quite like this before and while they are clearly having a great time on stage, the audience are loving every moment in unison. Just goes to show music is a universal language and transcends, language barriers, cultures and any other elements that usually segregate humanity. Tonight in this room there were no differences, just love.
Flags at the ready for Road of Resistance, what would turn out to be the final track of the evening, an evening that has passed far too quickly. The track with more than a little Dragon Force about it having featured Herman Li in the recording goes down to rapturous applause full of emotion and adoration for the Japanese group that have captivated hearts across the world with their unique styles.
The Fox God shone on us tonight as the show was utterly spectacular. It’s a testament not only to the 3 ladies who are the main focus but also to the Kami Band and the entire production crew, the work that has gone into formulating and executing this show to perfection is incredible and the only word I can think of to describe it is mesmerising. This was a bucket list gig for me, one I really didn’t think I’d get chance to get to, let alone in the capacity that I have to photograph and write about it. Its a very humbling experience and one that I can safely say delivered on everything I’d hoped for and then some. A big thank you to the band, everyone involved in the production as well as the fellow fans in the crowd for making the atmosphere what it was and of course to The Razor’s Edge for allowing me to cover this fantastic experience. Domo Arigato BABYMETAL!