REVIEW: Babymetal @ The Forum

Babymetal

Babymetal

Babymetal. Internet sensation and the cutest heavy metal sensation to sweep the globe.  Comprised of Su-Metal (Vocals and Scream), Moa-Metal (Dance and Scream) and Yui-Metal (Dance and Scream), Babymetal have created a brand new sub-genre combining the dance feel of J-Pop and and the raw power of heavy metal. It is a strange yet beautiful mix. If you didn’t catch it when they went viral, you can check out their famous track “Gimme Chocolate!” here:

I admit, when I first heard this song I sat staring at the screen for about five minutes only to come to the conclusion that I really did not know whether I hated it or loved it. I then spent a month on and off coming back to it so I could make up my mind and finally, finally I realised….

 

I love Babymetal!

 

I’m not ashamed. They’re really good fun and really unique. So when I heard they were playing in the UK I knew I really wanted to go. I missed the first sale of tickets for the electric ballroom which sold out but the heavy metal fox must have been watching and blessed me with a move to Londons 2100 capacity venue The Forum. I bagged up the tickets, spent months watching the world tour trailer and bouncing around my bedroom in a ball of squeaky yet terribly heavy metal excitement and the day came.  We made our way to the venue just under an hour before the show was due to start, the venue itself is a little out of the way up in Kentish Town but that was fine for a quick drink and catch up in the Devonshire Arms in Camden. We collected our tickets and proceeded to join the queue… and what a queue it was. I’ve seen queues winding their way around the 02 in Brixton (and got whisked in back stage) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a queue for a gig this long. I’m not sure if this was due to a large amount of people arriving at once as there were no support acts or whether they are just that popular but either way my mind was blown.

Luckily the queue moved pretty quickly… I don’t think we waited more than 20 minutes and soon we were whisked into the standing area of the Forum. The Forum is a lovely venue, another converted cinema, not quite as grand as some of its similar counterparts but gorgeous nonetheless.

I made my way down the Stage Left side near the fire exit and found a spot about 6 people back. Considering the venue was already quite packed, I was pretty pleased with the spot we’d found for ourselves. The atmosphere was buzzing. We noted at one point that you could tell we were surrounded by the Guitar Hero generation as “Through the Fire and the Flames” came on and the crowd sung the one line they knew (the opening line) and it died out as everyone seemed to rely on everyone else to know the words. Certainly, the crowd was young, I would guess the average age to be 18-21. The excitement built and built with chants of “BA BY METAL! BA BY METAL!” Then finally they descended.  Their intro was every bit as theatrical and entertaining as I was expecting it to be and it was no surprise that they chose Babymetal Death as their opening song. You can check out their introduction here:

The moment the curtain dropped however, I discovered the problem. One that I guess should have been obvious. The girls are tiny. They had podiums at the front of the stage that they climbed on to every once in a while but for a large part of the gig it was impossible to see them.

I’m not tall, I can accept this, but generally from where I was stood, at most gigs I could have seen what was happening. Fortunately for the last 3 songs and encores I managed to position myself so I could see their fantastic choreography but sadly a lot of the theatrical elements were lost on me. I would thoroughly recommend that if you’re planning on seeing them you go seated/balconies or get there early enough that you can be on the barrier. I’m kind of suprised they didn’t do anything with the stage like adding rostrum to boost their height a bit but hey ho.

The choreography I did see was beautiful. The girls looked incredible in their trademark red/black costumes and vocally they were cute and efficient. I’d read somewhere that they don’t perform live and heard people saying that considering how much they danced they didn’t think it could be live. I would doubt that seriously considering one of the mics (either Moa-Metal or Yui-Metal I’m not sure which) didn’t appear to be working brilliantly and the vocals intermittently came out quiet. This was a pretty poor show from the venue but didn’t detract too much. The atmosphere throughout was fantastic… It was incredible to be at a metal gig and to dance. As in not just headbanging or moshing but dancing. The crowd was particularly lively for Iine and Doki Doki Morning and joined in with the heavy metal feel for heavier songs Megitsune and Onedairi Daisakusen.

For the encore, the crowd were treated to an anti-bullying video and a command to unite against bullying and proving your dedication to metal by doing a Wall of Death. I’ll be honest this was a weak point for me for a number of reasons.

1. I’m not sure how peace is encouraged by battering each other in a mosh pit. But hey, if encourages a good thing why not?

2. It was laughable. I’m sorry but Babymetal fans are generally not heavy metal fans in the moshing sense. There’s nothing wrong with this but as someone who saw Trivium’s 10 circle pits at Download I have to say it was a laughable attempt.

3. Laughable that is until you remember that this isn’t a moshing crowd. Which means that people are going to get hurt.

I could do a whole other piece on “ethical moshing” but I really think there is a responsibility that needs to be undertaken by artists before they encourage moshing in a crowd they don’t understand. For example, Lamb of God will encourage it. They repeatedly say “If someone falls down, pick them the fuck back up!”  and people leave with more than a few bruises and a smile on their face. Tinie Tempah, on the other hand, encourages people to mosh who don’t understand this. I still remember working at V Fest and escorting a guy to First Aid whose arm was hanging out of joint after being stomped on when he was dragged into a pit he didn’t want to be in.
Not cool.

I only saw one ashen face: a girl who’d been hurt in the pit but I didn’t notice any injuries on her. I mean it’s common sense that if you don’t want to mosh, don’t go to the middle of the crowd at a metal gig but I do think the show designers need to understand that there are a lot of fans that weren’t raised on metal and find these things intimidating.

The show was finished by about 9:30 which meant I was heading back towards Camden a sweaty but happy mess in the sunshine. It was a surreal experience. I think they put on a great show. Yes, they are very much the product of a corporation, but hey they are great fun and really enjoyable so why not join in? The metal resistance is calling!

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