To celebrate ten years of BABYMETAL, the band played ten shows at the iconic Nippon Budokan in Tokyo at the beginning of 2021. As footage of one of the performances received its world premiere this past weekend (June 26), we delve into how the show celebrates the world that the band have built as much as their musical output.
Photos: Taichi Nishimaki
The rise and rise of BABYMETAL is one of the most fascinating and fantastically joyous stories to take place in the world of heavy music this century. A decade into their journey and the band continue to cement their phenomenon status more and more, providing headbang-worthy happiness to thousands in each corner of the world and diving deeper into how much they can make art that is both visceral and colourful.
To mark ten years of Fox God worship, ten shows were pencilled in for the first quarter of 2021 to take place at the iconic Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, seven years after the band became the youngest female artists to headline there. But with a global pandemic still in full swing and Japan issuing a national emergency just two weeks before the first show would take place, there was a danger of this significant milestone not being as special as it deserved to be.
But it is within these roadblocks that the true essence of what BABYMETAL is was able to flourish.
Community. Camaraderie. Celebration.
The Nippon Budokan is a stunning venue with a capacity of just under 15,000. Initially designed as a judo arena for the 1964 Olympic games, it now possesses a unique feature as a concert venue with the stage being slap bang in the middle. It is then up to the artist in question to utilise this 360-degree space and make every single attendee feel like they are part of the show. For obvious reasons, they could not fill the arena to the rafters for BABYMETAL’s residency. Patrons were spaced out and provided with special Saviour Masks to wear on top of their own. But even within this simple gesture, everybody lucky enough to attend was instantly connected. A socially distanced army united as one, all sporting the band’s logo tied around their face, would be a unique sight at the best of times but set against a backdrop of intense lasers and savage pyro, it is all the more striking.
As BABYMETAL take to the stage, with Su-metal, Moametal and their array of backup dancers in the middle and their mask-wearing bandmates stationed in the various corners, the feeling is one of euphoria and admiration. Pulling songs from all three of their albums, from the still delightful ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’ to the punishing ‘KARATE’ and delirious ‘PA PA YA!!’, it is a showcase of just how far the group have travelled over the years sonically. Pushing the limits of what BABYMETAL can and could be and doing it all with huge smiles plastered across their faces, it is lovely to see them enjoying this journey through the years as much as the roaring crowd.
And, more than anything, it is the crowd that makes this a unique display. At the very beginning of the show, they were instructed to clap their hands, stamp their feet and wave their arms to make up for the lack of the ‘metal voice’ that this ‘dystopia’ has taken from them. And nobody in the arena needs to be asked twice, as the atmosphere from the first crushing note of ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’ through the last rallying cry of ‘Road Of Resistance’ is palpable. Any moments of silence are quickly drowned out by spine-tingling chants of the band’s name, and during the likes of ‘GJ’, the trio encourages the assembled to shout louder and louder, building the intensity up to a melting point. Even from the comfort of your own home, it’s hard not to get caught up in the sheer magnitude of the noise.
It is within this that the true beauty of BABYMETAL comes to light. They are a band that have brought people together in a way that no other band can. Their ferociously fun sound has no border or boundary, and beyond the Fox God, the Metal Resistance and the Metal Galaxy, they have created a community unlike any other. A safe space, a sanctuary and solace for all those who wish to fall under its riff-laden spell, and the echoes of those making their voices heard in the Budokan can be heard all over the world by everyone who feels that same connection. And despite the restricted circumstances, despite the uncertainty existing outside of these four walls and despite not knowing when the next time they get to see the band will be, everybody in attendance for this monumental performance knows that they have somewhere to call home right here.
Over the last decade, BABYMETAL has helped bring people together, and it will continue to do it for the next decade as well. As long as the Fox God is watching over us, that will never change.
A new encore version of 10 BABYMETAL BUDOKAN will premiere on July 24.
The performance will also be released digitally and on CD on October 01. Tickets and pre-orders are available right now from HERE