Babymetal (photo: Ian Young)
Review and Photos by Ian Young
It’s an hour before doors open and the line has wrapped around the The Regency Ballroom, down Fern Street, past Polk, almost reaching Larkin. An impressively goateed guy in a black hoodie and black jeans brag-complains about spending $140 for a ticket. To any onlookers, it probably looks like the thousand or so metal-as-F dudes are in line to see a band that has the words “corpse,” “blood,” or “Satan” in its name.
Nope. They’re here to see three kawaii Japanese pop idols dressed in skirts sing about chocolate, karate and bullying. They’re here for Babymetal.
Babymetal is fronted by 17-year-olds Yuimetal and Moametal and 18-year-old lead singer Su-metal. They sing, dance, smile, and jump while a four-piece band of virtuoso musicians melts your face off with crushing riffs and double kick drums. If you could put the show on mute, it’s like watching a (strange) Saturday morning Japanese live-action anime. And if you close your eyes, the instrumentals sound like they’re by a Slayer or Metallica cover band.
It’s strange. It’s theatrical. It’s over-the-top and one-of-a-kind on a level that only J-pop or K-pop can attain. (Remember “Gangnam Style”?) And yet it somehow all works. As soon as Babymetal walks on the stage, the sold-out crowd goes crazy. There’s fist pumping, moshing, screaming and singing along. The three girls are pros beyond their young years. They dance in unison, sing live, and address the crowd as best they can in English. There isn’t a hint of irony in the room. Just metal.
It’s easy to dismiss an act like Babymetal, which was created by a talent agency similar to how other J-pop idol groups are formed, as gimmicky, saccharine-sweet entertainment. But considering that Babymetal has sold out every show on its U.S. tour, amassed over 200,000,000 views on its YouTube channel, and appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, there are a lot of people all over the world with a sweet tooth. So whether you’re a metal head, otaku nerd, salaryman, or just a curious bystander, put your hands in the air and get ready to headbang. Babymetal is here.