There is True Metal, There is False Metal, and There is Babymetal: A Review of Babymetal’s First Ever U.S. Performance in Los Angeles
Seeing Babymetal live reveals one major truth: the detractors are right. Babymetal isn’t metal. It’s theater, the Japanese pop industry deconstructing post-millennial metal and modern pop tropes and reconstituting them into a fully realized, 360-degree entertainment experience. The music is really only part of the package — sure, the Japanese entertainment engineers have crafted perfect song modules here — but it’s just a delivery vehicle for the personalities of the girls (or idols, as they’re known in their home country), the band mythology, and the visual components of the videos, live performances, and merchandise. This is part of a scene that stands outside of the average metalhead’s black-and-white, kvltists-against-posers worldview. Hell, it doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of that conflict. There is true metal, there is false metal, and there is Babymetal.
That transcendent state, weirdly enough, is what makes their appeal so universal. Their sold-out American live debut at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles on July 27 attracted fans from all walks of life. You had diehard metalheads in Cannibal Corpse T-shirts with spikes through their cheeks, anime fans, LA scenesters, and excited girls in flip-flops, all equally enthused to watch three adolescent girls in frilly dresses dance into their hearts. And it was some pretty impressive dancing – the choreographed moves that the three singers executed put any synchronized headbanging by Hammerfall or Exodus to shame. With a set list that comprised the bulk of their self-titled debut album, they hit all the fan favorites. There were fox masks, there were costume changes, there were solo showcases, there were pre-rehearsed English lines for Sumetal, Moametal, and Yuimetal. The backing band even got their moment to shine, ripping into some solos you don’t normally hear at pop concerts.
Of course, that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s something different for both the pop and metal crowds, but not different enough that it alienates either group. The metal guys had plenty of heavy parts to mosh to (leading to the craziest pit I’ve ever seen to a song about chocolate), and the pop fans had adorable dance routines and loads of hooks to sing along to. It’s a gimmick, sure. For right now, though, it works. Babymetal is the great uniting factor. Who knew all it would take to bring together such disparate musical worlds would be three adolescent girls, four skilled hired hand musicians, and the muscle of the Japanese pop music machine? They’re going to be huge, and I’m okay with that.