I was intrigued by the headliner of last night’s show. I had never heard their music but their reputation and band name speaks volumes. Babymetal– I mean, if that band name doesn’t intrigue you at least a little bit then there’s something truly wrong with you. They are a phenomenon from Japan that has the entire metal world a buzz lately and when a band like that comes to the Twin Cities you know I just can’t pass it up.
Although I was mainly at the show to check out Babymetal, it was opening act Avatar that stole my heart and quite possibly the show. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, Avatar had a show that was so much bigger than the already large Myth Nightclub in Maplewood (a suburb of the Twin Cities). I’m not just saying that their stage set-up was bigger than the venue (although the giant light up letters that spelled out Avatar hanging from the ceiling were huge and added a stunning effect to the concert alongside the whizzing lights), I’m more talking about their sound and just all around energy. As soon as the band took the stage it was a true show– not just a concert. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström took the stage wearing an out fit that made him out to look more like a circus ringleader than a metal band front man. He politely greeted the audience before the band kicked into what may be one of my favorite sets so far this year.
I’m going to try and explain their sound to you but I want to make it clear– I’m not crazy. Think Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper raising a child from the Gogol Bordello clan that has Weird Al tendencies and likes listening to radio rock in his free time. Yeah, see? I sound crazy but honestly those are the thoughts that were going through my head while listening to them and trying to figure out to explain them to people. Avatar’s sound is heavy and intense but it also has this almost gypsy vibe to it which is only emphasized by their theatrical stage show and Johannes’ uncanny way of captivating the audience. To say it’s all over the place would be an understatement and although that may not be acceptable to some metal fans, it made me an instant fan of this group.
When I listen to them now on their recordings, I still get that vibe of a demented circus with a ringleader that is the thing of nightmares but there was something just absolutely amazing about their live show that I’m not getting from their recordings. From the way even Avatar’s tech was dressed up in an old-school styled outfit to the way Johannes pranced around the stage with his trombone for one song, everything about Avatar’s set was clearly thought out and perfectly executed while still having a very fun energy about it. Digging into this band a bit this morning it’s clear that there are plenty of haters out there but, let’s be honest, there’s nobody else doing something like this with the level of perfection that this band has. Love them or hate them– Avatar just took a spot in my top sets of the year and it’s going to take a lot to bump them from that.
I thought about just leaving after Avatar. They stole my heart and there was no way that any other band could top what they had just done but the anticipation and excitement in the air as the stage was turned over for Babymetal had me stuck. All I knew about Babymetal was that are a kawaii metal band (meaning they mix J-pop and metal together to make… well whatever they were playing). I knew they were cute girls (although they are in their early 20’s now) that have a hoard of beer gutted metal heads to back them which is a little creepy when you think about it but I digress. I knew nothing about their music but had a bit of an idea stuck in my head of what I was going to get. I was wrong.
The music of Babymetal was more J-pop than metal but I attribute that to the synchronized dance moves that the three women were doing as their backing band played some incredible metal riffs behind them. Honestly, that backing band, the gothic Lolita outfits and the occasional scream were the most metal things about this band but I didn’t mind. There wasn’t a moment during Babymetal’s set that I wasn’t captivated by the women and even when the women disappeared and left just the band members on stage, I was stuck just watching the amazing musicianship unfold in front of me on the stage.
Their set was short and sweet with only twelve songs but it definitely packed a punch and, after seeing how hard they dance and perform, I wouldn’t expect much more than twelve songs. Some people may have left the show wanting so much more but the fact of the matter is that Babymetal gave the audience more than enough. From the dancing to the stunning visuals all the way to the amazing instrumentation– Babymetal’s set was jam packed of everything you could ever ask for.
Whether you want to consider Babymetal a creative group that’s truly innovative and doing something amazing or if you want to call them a novelty doing a shtick, the fact of the matter is that this band had the entire crowd at The Myth in the palm of their hand last night and that trumps whatever opinion you may have.
I went to the show last night because there was a band from Japan that may never make it back to the Twin Cities again. I left with a favorite performance of the year from an opener I knew nothing about and an appreciation for everyone involved in the Babymetal movement. Don’t judge a band based on what the scene says– judge it based on what you see and the only way to do that is by going to see it. What I’m saying is– go to the show of that one band that has the scene buzzing. Just go.