Live at Budokan was the first Babymetal DVD that I purchased, and after my initial viewing, I originally wrote a review for it on some of the forums I visit. And at first I was planning to just post that same review on here with some minor revisions, but then after going back and watching the first handful of big shows, I thought it might be interesting to rewatch these Budokan shows with the context of those prior shows newly in mind, and see how that might effect my feelings any. And by the end of it, I was glad I decided to do that, because my opinions on these shows definitely improved on a revisit.
Broken up into two nights, we started with Red Night, and kicked things off with a rare appearance by the band's producer, Kobametal. He announces how this show will feature all of the songs from the first album, and that unlike their past shows, there will be no storyline videos and no encore to break things up. And also, this show was their first big show to feature the Kami Band performing the whole way through, which also meant this was the first time hearing a number of their songs being performed with a live band backing them, as well as the first show to feature the Kami Band's solo performances to open a number of key songs, such as Catch Me If You Can. So this was really cool to see the Kamis finally being fully integrated as one with the band.
I also really dug the unique stage setup, as they performed on a circular stage in the center of the venue, which would spin on occasion, and had a platform in the center which would elevate at times, making for a number of really neat ways to modify a lot of their choreography throughout the shows, which I'll touch upon more as I discuss the different songs this setup was used on. And I got a real kick out of how many times the Kami Band switched up guitars throughout the night. Their bassist, Boh, and one of their guitarists, Takayoshi Ohmura, swapped out twice, and their other guitarist, Leda Cygnus, swapped instruments at least three times that I counted. I don't know if that's a common thing for bands to do at live shows, to swap out instruments between songs, but I just found that real interesting as I was noticing it here.
But now, as to the show itself, Red Night opened with Megitsune, which is a really awesome choice to open up strong on. And already the girls have made some adjustments with this song as compared to their performances in the previous shows, where later on in the song Moa and Yui trade off singing some of the lyrics, which makes for a really cool effect. This song's not even old by this point in their timeline, yet they're already looking for ways to keep things fresh!
I did find Gimme Chocolate's placement on both shows to be a bit odd and a bit random, like it was being treated as just any other song, and not the big hit that it was. Though then again, I suppose this show likely takes place before it really launched as the international hit that it would become, but I'm just so used to them usually placing the song somewhere that feels a little more important, so that stood out to me as a bit curious.
Then we got to Iine and Catch Me If You Can, and man, do you ever have that feeling where something just leaves you feeling so full of bliss that it damn near brings you to tears? Because watching these two songs on this show just happened to do that for me. I don't even know if it was anything in particular about these specific performances, but by the time we got to these songs, I was just in a state of pure joy.
Uki Uki Midnight was up next, and I'll tell you what, this performance made me so damn nervous. The three girls were all on that small platform as it was raised in the air, and the whole time they were up there I was just a wreck, and so grateful nobody slipped up or anything. It made for a cool effect seeing them up there, but man, whew, I was sweating, haha!
Seeing as these shows were going to be incorporating all of the songs from their first album, that meant that there were a number of songs being added to the set on these shows, and they made their debuts in grand fashion on this night. Starting with Rondo of Nightmare, which saw the Kami Band performing their own solo song Mischiefs of Metal Gods as a lead-in (which, Jesus Christ, Boh's bass solos are just about the sickest damn thing I've ever heard!), until Su is raised above them all like an empress on that center platform, and the Kamis stand beneath her, spinning around the stage as she's given the spotlight to do what she does best and just tear the whole house down.
After Su's solo, it was time for Black Babymetal to do their thing, and they debuted their new song titled Song 4. The only song actually written by the girls themselves so far, this track may not be my favorite while listening to the album, but god damn is it one of my favorites to see them perform live. Those girls work their asses off performing this song, playing to the crowd and putting on an absolute clinic of a performance. Those two are just having so much damn fun on the stage, and they'll be damned if any single person watching them isn't going to have just as much fun as they're having. I really can't emphasize enough just how much of a blast this song is to see live.
As we near the end of the show, I initially thought that the placement of Babymetal Death was a bit of an awkward choice on this occasion, playing third to last on the set list. I mentioned in my previous review how I love the different ways they find to use this song elsewhere as opposed to just being an opener, despite the fact that it's quite literally an introductory track! And for the most part, they've managed to make it work, such as when they used it to re-introduce the girls after their "rebirth" on Legend Z, or how they closed off the show with it on Legend 1997 (and to get ahead of myself here, how they used it as a super dark lead-in on Legend S to that show's closing number, The One).
So the first time I watched this show, this song felt misplaced to me here. However, on rewatch, I noticed that the song comes into play only after we've just completed seeing the girls go on their series of solos, and this was their moment of reuniting before jumping into their big finales. So in that sense, I suppose it worked well enough, though it's still not quite as effective as their other non-opening uses of the song that I've seen thus far. That said, this time around, I did notice some things that I didn't quite catch the first time. While Su and Yui remain stone-faced as they're spelling the band's name out, Moa's over there smiling and mouthing along with the death voice, which I got a huge kick out of.
But now as we get closer to the end, here is where things start to fall apart a bit. Red Night is pretty notable for a number of reasons, those being the two big accidents that happened on their last two songs. Halfway through Headbanger, Yui fell off the stage. You don't actually see it happen, but you can hear her scream when she falls off, which is just haunting when it happens. The other two had to finish the rest of the song without her, but you could see as they kept glancing over to where she was, and you could tell the look of concern on their faces.
Between songs, the crowd was chanting for Yui, and as the lights came back up, they were delighted to see that she was okay, and had rejoined the band for their final song, Ijime, Dame, Zettai. But then on this song, Moa sprained her ankle almost immediately, and you can see it on her face throughout the entire rest of the show that she's seriously in total agony. And yet even so, she still powered through, running around and jumping and dancing like nothing had happened, even if you could see her sweating and tearing up in her eyes from the pain she was clearly enduring.
And keep in mind, at the time of this show, these girls were both only 14 years old, and yet they still soldiered on and gave it their all despite these mishaps. The sheer work ethic and professionalism displayed by this group is simply astounding, and truly inspiring. Like, I know so many full grown adults who don't even have a quarter of the amount of drive and work ethic as these girls do. And hell, I've seen so many countless other bands live that would've cut their set short for far, far less. But not this group. The show must go on, no matter what, and I gained so much more respect for these girls after their performance on this night.
But all told, Red Night certainly improved for me on this revisit. The last two songs are still pretty uncomfortable to watch, as it's pretty hard to really get into the music when you're sitting there just concerned for the band's well being. But I can't help but feel if those last two songs may have stained the rest of the show for me on initial viewing, because this time out, I was thoroughly enjoying myself throughout. It ends on an uncharacteristically off note for the band, but accidents happen, and that shouldn't reflect badly on an otherwise stellar show.
Up next was Black Night, and for this show, the storyline videos and the encore were back. They also changed up the set list quite a bit from the previous night, though the performances of each song don't have too many differences from the night prior, so a lot of what I've already covered applies to this show as well, and there's not much reason to discuss each individual song all over again here. They indeed opened up with Babymetal Death this time out, and while most of the set consisted of their songs from their first album again, they actually busted out a couple of surprises on this occasion.
Kimi to Anime Ga Mitai may not have made the cut for the album, despite being a staple of their set up to this point, but it made a return on this evening, in what's gotta be the best version of the song I've heard yet (which makes sense, as this is also the only version I've heard so far with a live band accompanying it). And I really dug the changeup to their choreography here, how they seamlessly flipped it to face the various sides of the crowd surrounding them throughout.
No Rain, No Rainbow was also performed on this night, and this was a performance where I was really able to tell just how much Su's voice really has matured in the time since. I know you can tell on other songs too, but it especially stood out to me on this occasion, likely because I've watched her Legend S performance of the song so many times that that's become the definitive version of the song for me. So to go back and see her perform it here, you can really hear just how much higher pitched her voice used to be compared to now, even just a few years earlier.
Then after No Rain, No Rainbow, Su jumped straight into Akatsuki with an awesome transition, as the lights changed from a blue scheme to red accordingly. This was pretty cool to see here, as I can't recall too often when Su did two solo songs in a row. Her solos usually get split up it seems.
As we neared the end of the show, they first closed out with Ijime, Dame, Zettai, performed to perfection this time out, and ran all around the stage seeing the fans off. But of course we weren't done yet, as we came back for our encore, and as soon as Doki Doki Morning started up, I just had the biggest god damn smile on my face. And then the show closed properly with an epic rendition of Headbanger, again performed without any such misfortunes as the night prior, and Su rang the gong at the end that sounded the culmination of the band's time as a local act in Japan, and signaled their motion to branch out onto international lands.
So yeah, all in all, Black Night was another awesome show, and I'd still say it was the better of the two nights, even if Red Night did improve for me on a rewatch. And I think it definitely benefited from revisiting these shows in general before sharing my thoughts, as when I first watched this, most of their shows and performances I had seen were actually from the band's later years, so I was comparing it a lot to those, such as how during these older days, there weren't as many call-and-response moments with the audience, and how nowadays I haven't noticed them doing encores anymore. But back then, encores were the norm, and outside of Iine, the call-and-response aspect hadn't quite been implemented just yet to the degree that they do it now. But that just leaves me hungering for more, and to continue to see the evolution of this band play out. So join me next time, as we'll be taking a trip along with the girls on some of their shows from their World Tour 2014. See you!