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There were more than a few kids embracing metal at the BABYMETAL show.EXPAND
There were more than a few kids embracing metal at the BABYMETAL show.
Photo by Cory Garcia.

Heavy Metal Could Use a Few More Acts Like BABYMETAL

BABYMETAL, Skyharbor
Revention Music Center
May 13, 2K18

This show started with what I think was an invocation of a dark power. The keyword in that sentence is “think” because I’m not well versed enough in the greater lore BABYMETAL—whom I’ll be referring to as BabyMetal moving forward in this review, thank you very much—which is to say I’m not sure if the Fox God is good or bad or indifferent and I have no clue who or what The Chosen Seven are. But it felt like an invocation of a dark power, with the masks and the staffs and choreographed movement, which is something I think is missing from a lot of metal shows put on by dudes with giant beards and tattoo sleeves.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t understand why many were quick to write off BabyMetal as a gimmick when they arrived on the scene. “What is this j-pop group doing in my scene? Why are they wearing tutus? That’s not metal!” But are tutus and pigtails really that much more absurd than monk robes or corpse paint? Metal is easily the most theatrical of all genres of rock music, and arguably the most performative, and the distance between it and pop music is much shorter than some on the metal side might like to acknowledge.

But between the guitar solos, incredible vocals, dark shirts, and complicated mythology, BabyMetal is definitively a metal band. Yes, they have their share of songs, like “Gimme Chocolate,” that are pop songs with some heavy metal riffs bolted to them, but they’ve also got their songs that work as straight ahead thrashers with pop elements. I think the latter, particularly live, work better than the former, but I also understand why you need songs like “Gimme Chocolate” to get people in the door so you can ease them into some of the heavier tracks.

The evolution of BabyMetal is an interesting one. Gone are the tutus and pigtails, replaced at the moment with suits that make them look like dark universe warriors from Themyscira. The use of backup dancers was interesting; I had been on the fence for about half the show, then they did a choreographed fight sequence during one of the guitar solos and I was on board because all guitar solos would be better with a fight scene going on. Without jumping too far down the rabbit hole, I will acknowledge that the group was down a member, but the mystery of just why Yuimetal isn’t on this tour needs more words than I have in this post; someone should do a Serial-style podcast on that story.

While I love the concept of a metal j-pop group with a crazy mythology, I’ll confess that new track “Tattoo” has me kind of wishing they’d just let Su-metal spread her wings as a solo artist because her performance of that particular song was stunning. She really has everything you want in a metal singer, from an impressive voice to a natural charisma that transcends language. If the studio version of “Tattoo” holds up at all, we’ve got a track of the year contender.

In BabyMetal, you have the perfect gateway act to the wider world of metal, and I’m glad they’re getting booked on some of the bigger American rock festivals. Judging by the crowd, their fans are more than just people who think they’re hot. To me, it seems like the obvious thing is less gatekeeping and more embracing. Besides, when was the last time your favorite burly dude band played Revention and tried to summon a dark god? Exactly.

So, How Was The Opener?: I’ve seen bigger bands get swallowed up by the stage in Revention, so kudos to Skyharbor for putting on one of the better opening sets I’ve seen in that particular building. Eric Emery has a great voice and impressive breath control, and by the end of their set, I think they won over most of the crowd. Well done, Skyharbor.

Personal Bias: Given my love of both metal and pop, BabyMetal is definitely a band that should be in my wheelhouse. Looking forward to exploring their catalog a bit more.

The Crowd: Plenty of people in black who are probably looking forward to the final Slayer tour. More than a few people dressed up in their best BabyMetal cosplay. Diehards who camped out for hours in hopes of getting a good spot on the railing.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I’ll be responsible and stay in line!” a woman screamed as her friend left her behind to do that run/hug thing people do when they spot someone they like a lot in the distance.

Random Notebook Dump: I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a more laidback show at Revention in terms of the crowd. Normally when an opener finishes there’s a stampede of folks to get beer, buy merch, and use the restroom, but there was none of that tonight. There weren’t even a ton of people trying to push their way to the front. I wish more crowds were like that, to be honest.

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