Italy is one of those countries where Japanese culture can claim a huge amount of lovers: from videogames, manga, anime, to food, traditional culture and many other aspects of the fascinating land of the rising sun, thousands and thousands of people are in love and very passionate about countless aspects of the Japanese culture, regularly shown through many expositions and conventions that take place in the “Bel Paese” every year. Still, there is one particular branch of this fascinating culture that always had a hard time to gain attention in Italy, and that’s music; It’s no secret indeed that only few artists from the Japanese music industry include this country in their tour schedules, mainly cause of the complete absence of coverage by media on this particular scene, and while there is people that love several Japanese artists (especially from the visual kei/j-rock scene) it is undeniable that the local number of aficionados is way smaller if compared to other european countries such as France and U.K. But after the successful show ONE OK ROCK held in front of a crazy crowd in Milan last December, there was a sensation floating around that, despite not being visible on the surface, the presence of a contained but very strong fanbase growing underground was starting to take shape. This is maybe what convinced the well known Amuse management agency to bring another group from their rich roster of artists in the boot-shaped country, the one that conquered the entire world in just one year and a half and shaked the entire metal scene: BABYMETAL.
When the italian date at the Estragon Club in Bologna was announced for the BABYMETAL WORLD TOUR 2015, all the local fans couldn’t believe it: We really felt like it was a miracle to see such a huge Japanese band in our country. But we were also scared… What if people will ignore this unmissable event? What if Suzuka, Moa, Yui and the Kami band will be disappointed? We felt like Italy, a country sometimes too stubborn in terms of new music, wasn’t ready for such a particular yet amazing group. Many thoughts were forming in our minds, in a midst made of happiness and concern, worrying that this show couldn’t have been successful. We couldn’t realize how wrong we were.
So here I am, three months later, walking in this endless road in the middle of nowhere with a fellow BABYMETAL fan and a VIP ticket in the backpack, with the sun burning our necks and the humidity taking our breath away. After fifteen minutes of walking, we can finally see the Estragon Club, basically a warehouse in a not-so-good state: Not really a nice sight, but we try to stay positive. We reach the entrance and there’s already about forty people queueing up for the show, coming from all parts of the world: Japan, Sweden, France, Italy (of course) and many other countries. The weather is impossibly hot, so I spend half the time drinking water and chatting with other nice fans waiting outside, when all of a sudden we can hear the band playing their instruments for the sound check: Mikio and Takayoshi’s guitars cutting the air, BOH’s killer bass and Hideki’s solid drums immediately rise the already stellar hype around the venue, later followed by Suzuka’s powerful and angelic voice that ultimately melted everyone outside: She’s just incredible, and I can already feel the goosebumps on my skin. After an hour or so of sound check where various parts of songs have been played (followed by the fans’ cheerful reactions) I exchange my printed email with the VIP ticket and package, including only a BABYMETAL VIP badge and a small pamphlet, nice gadgets to collect even though the real reason in buying such a pricey ticket is obviously the early access and the first row position, fundamental from my point of view to enjoy this kind of show in the best way.
Around 6PM the venue’s staff comes out to reform the lines (yeah, it was all useless) and I gather with other fifty people at the secondary entrance of the venue where the owners of VIP tickets will get early access: The clock strikes 6:35, the staff opens the door, and I run immediately at the front row barrier where I get a very nice spot at the front, left side, where I can see everything clearly. Everyone notices immediately the absence of the curtain in front of the stage, as there is way too much light coming from the many windows inside the venue for the opening projection to be seen; Plus, despite looking nicer inside than outside, the venue is crazy hot, even more than the temperature outside. I ask to the kind japanese fan beside me to hold the spot for me, I grab a T-shirt at the merchandise booth and head to the toilet to freshen up a bit… but even the water coming out from the tap was hot. Craziness! I get back to my position with two bottles of waters bought at the bar, and wait for the show to start. The place begins to fill up with fans, and I’m surprised to see the most various crowd I’ve ever seen in a concert: From hardcore metal fans sporting brutal black metal t-shirts, to casual people, Idol fans from various parts of the world, people in their 60s, lots of young girls, and even kids with their parents, the immense variety of people BABYMETAL gathered here today is unbelievable: they transcend every concept, and with mastery and catchiness they unite all kinds of people. The venue is almost full now, only five minutes are left before the beginning of the show, and the temperature gets way too hot… but even that won’t stop BABYMETAL to deliver the most explosive and funniest show everyone in here have ever seen.
The well known choir introducing the opening song starts playing while the narrating voice tells the story of the second world tour of the band, covered by the screams of the excited crowd that waited for the entire day for this magical moment. The Kami Band appears on stage, and people start to lose it as Mikio, Takayoshi, BOH and Hideki walk around the stage with their kitsune signs up and take their instruments ready to raise hell on stage, and in no time the intro BABYMETAL DEATH sets the venue on fire. Here’s when SU-METAL, MOA-METAL and YUI-METAL finally appear on stage, and the feeling of finally seeing them right in front of me is indescribable: I have the biggest of smiles on my face, and I feel happier than ever as they look and perform flawlessly with a professionalism that reaches unbelievable levels considering their young age, also enhanced by their powerful charisma, a fundamental part of BABYMETAL; Each one of the girls has indeed a clear personality that reaches the peak in live shows, with SU looking extremely focused on her singing and fitting the role of “big sister” perfectly, YUI constantly cheering the crowd with her lovely smile, and MOA, the most interactive of the three, looking in the eyes of each fan in the first row with a smile for everyone: This is how you make everyone genuinely love you, and these three girls captured the heart of all the fans that completely invaded the Estragon club, screaming, jumping and going insane in front of such a powerful opening and presence on stage. The first song ends in the midst of screams of joy, and in no time that masterpiece of song that is Megitsune kicks in, and it’s complete madness as everyone jumps and screams to the catchy “Sore! Sore! Sore! Sore!”, and it’s here that I notice the thing that makes BABYMETAL really unique: Their charismatic and perfectly synchronized dancing, the powerful voice of SU coupled by the cute timbre of MOA and YUI, and the killer performance by the monstrously talented members of the Kami Band makes their shows some kind of theatrical experience backed by an impressive wall of sound, a mix of melodies, raw sounds, catchiness and visual excellence: It’s a unique kind of show, and it’s magical.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t be possible without the amazing Kami Band, engine of BABYMETAL and outstanding musicians that immediately show the crowd what are they made of as they play a brief but intense instrumental section with each member performing a solo that leads to the brutal and funny Catch me if you can, where the crowd loses control for the millionth time. But it’s not even the beginning, as the interlude dedicated to these amazing musicians, the Mischief of Metal Gods, brings brutal riffs, hammering double bass pedals and melodies where every member shows his top-notch skills, with Mikio and Takayoshi performing solos showcasing various techniques, Hideki bringing down the roof with his drums, and BOH performing his amazing bass solo that leaves me simply speechless. As if their mastery and powerful execution isn’t enough, their presence on stage is amazing too: They constantly joke between themselves and the crowd, and I literally spent half the time “conversing” with them by sticking out the tongue and pointing at them, with them “replying” in the same way, pointing their fingers and thumb ups at me: I was so out of my mind from joy that Takayoshi, that was from the opposite side, somehow noticed me being totally out of my mind and started pointing at me, sticking out his tongue as he always does. They were genuinely having fun on stage, and their reactions made everyone extremely happy, forming the funniest and most joyful atmosphere I’ve ever seen in a concert: Not only outstanding musicians, but amazing guys and entertainers who genuinely have fun in doing what they do. The concert goes on, and the crowd gets crazier the more we get into the show, with memorable moments including a mass “fainting” imitating the girls in the well known Doki☆Doki Morning bridge, one of the most beloved songs in the BABYMETAL setlist that took place between the two sections described above.
The show reaches the central part, the excitement and the smile on my face keeps me alive from the insane temperature that doesn’t stop me from constantly jumping and singing. The lights are slowly fading now, and it is time for the individual performances by SU and the lovely YUI and MOA (Black Babymetal!) with tracks that split the various moods and vibes of this group between thoughtful compositions and funny jams; That’s when SU comes back on stage alone, between a round of applause and cheers from the excited crowd, to perform the beautifully haunting Akumu no Rondo, a song that exposes her amazing vocal skills and impressive presence on stage greatly, with solid and brutal riffs and hammering drums characterizing the song. Still, despite being an excellent track, it doesn’t reach the level of emotionality and excellence of her second solo performance of the beautiful Akatsuki: With her versatile skills spacing from powerful high notes and delicate singing, backed by an outstanding interpretation, this masterpiece of track is the best showcase of Suzuka’s abilities and a song that literally brings to tears the fans, something reachable only by songs written by amazing musicians and performed by singers who put all their heart in it to convey all the feelings to the heart of the listeners: Absolutely brilliant.
Of course, MOA and YUI aren’t any less amazing: the funny, almost comical 4 no Uta totally conquers the crowd, with every fan waving their hands, singing “Yon Yon!” and hitting the first row barrier with their fists following the rhythm of the track: It’s pure fun, and the adorable and professionally performed choreography gives the perfect touch to the general craziness that hit the crowd like a wave as the two girls walked on stage. Same can be said for the always cool Onedari Daisakusen, where in the middle of the song I noticed on my right two kids (ten years old maybe?) dancing and screaming of joy: It was amazing to see such young kids enjoying this show exactly as fans way older than them, and convinced me once and for all that BABYMETAL are really a unique group with a various yet equally passionated fanbase. How could it be different when you see two fifteen years old girls performing with such a great professionalism, and a seventeen years old singer being one of the best female voices of the metal scene?
After this great individual showcase of the girls’ skills, the lights fade once again, and a video starts playing on a screen on the right side of the venue: Everyone immediately understands it’s that time and start calling for the Wall of Death, because Road of Resistance is about to bring the down the roof of the Estragon club: The girls come back on stage with their flags and get ready to unleash hell, SU makes a gesture with her hands, but the crowd in the back is already divided: Everything is ready, the song kicks in, and it’s pure madness, as I take a look behind me and see lots of people moshing and running in circle like crazy. The track sounds powerful and even better live, and the interaction with the crowd during the bridge chorus is simply amazing, with everyone participating in a huge wall of sound composed by the voices of the entire venue, while the girls scream “Come on Italy!”: It’s a memorable moment and one of best memories all the fans will bring back home from this amazing night, which is sadly coming closer to the end, but with an atmosphere that just won’t stop getting better and better, reaching stellar levels with the following Gimme Choko!!, the viral hit that made BABYMETAL the huge global act it is today that makes the Estragon go completely nuts as most of the fans in the venue can consider this the track that made them discover the group. The song ends, the crowd can’t stop screaming, and everyone is cheering the girls as they look at them heading to the backstage after the lovely and already classic “See you!”.
There’s a brief and well deserved break now, but i don’t even get the time to take my breathe back that everyone starts chanting “BABYMETAL!” and clapping their hands, asking for the encore: After a few minutes, the Kami Band followed by the girls finally comes back on stage to perform the last two songs of the show: First, the iconic track Headbanger!, an amazing piece that’s a real punch in the face when seen it performed right in front of you (in a good way of course) followed by a classic, probably the most acclaimed track and anthem of the group, that masterpiece of song that is Ijime, Dame, Zettai, a composition that’s already incredible when listened in its studio version that ultimately reaches stellar levels when performed live: The execution of the Kami Band is perfect and enhanced by the touch of musicians who can perform a song flawlessly and give it a refreshing feeling at the same time, SU’s vocal performance is powerful and on point as usual, while MOA and YUI deliver one of most amazing choreographies of their setlist with lots of energy, dancing with impressive synchronization: Every moment in this last track is gold, from the melodies, to Suzuka’s vocal extension, the iconic fight between YUI and MOA and the amazing guitar solo that’s pure joy for the ears. No one wants this concert to end, yet the song reaches its last note and in the midst of the Kami Band taking the best out of their instruments, we scream to the final “We are, BABYMETAL!” several times: we try to express all our love and thankfulness with these last words, because we still can’t completely realize what we have just experienced as we are overwhelmed by joy. The girls give their last adorable salute in italian to the crowd and leave the stage with a smile on their face and the expression of someone who gave 100% of its energies, the same expression on the faces of the Kami Band members that get closer to the stage to give their picks and drum sticks to the fans before going to the backstage: The show is over, but the excitement for what happened this night just won’t disappear.
A unique experience for a unique band
The full packed Estragon Club slowly starts to get empty, I take a couple of pictures with some fans that were near me in the first row, and take a look at the merchandise booth as I walk outside the venue: There was nothing left, the fans bought all the T-shirts and left the table completely empty, as everyone wanted a souvenir from this unforgettable night. And who wasn’t a fan, but just curious to see what BABYMETAL were all about, well, now it’s definitely a lover of these three girls and their amazing band.
I walk outside the club, gather up with some fellow italian fans and frantically start to recount all the most amazing moments of the concert (it seems like the venue had the best sound of the European leg) we get interviewed by one of the BABYMETAL staff members where we show all of our excitement and laugh at our uncontainable excitement. It’s a feeling of joy that will live inside us for a long time, because in all honestly, this was one of the best, and definitely the most entertaining concert I’ve ever attended. When you see three girls and their band giving 100% of their energy to deliver a killer performance despite the impossible temperature and the rush due to their next show that will start in barely 16 hours in Austria, the great interaction with their fans, all the fun they had, and the genuine smile on their faces from the beginning to the end of the show, you can only feel good, because their joy of performing became our joy to see them: It’s a stream of emotions delivered from the band to the fans, and only the best and most genuine artists in the world of music can achieve this.
I hug all the wonderful friends I had the pleasure to meet during the day and promise to ourselves to meet again. As I walk away from the venue, I feel like BABYMETAL left a special and precious feeling inside me that I will never forget… something that only a special band can give you. Simply unique.
A big, huge thank you to all the amazing BABYMETAL fans I had the pleasure to know at this show: You guys rock!
BABYMETAL WORLD TOUR 2015 live @ Estragon Club, Bologna (Italy)
01. BABYMETAL DEATH
03. Catch Me If You Can (w/ Kami Band instrumental intro)
04. Doki Doki☆Morning
05. Mischief of Metal Gods (Kami Band Performance)
06. Akumu no Rondo
07. 4 no Uta
10. Onedari Daisakusen
11. Road of Resistance
12. Gimme Choco!!
14. Ijime, Dame, Zettai