Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Babymetal - Dark Night Carnival

I briefly discussed this show in my rundown of 2018 for the band, but said then that I wanted to hold off on divulging too much of my thoughts until I had gotten a chance to see the show proper, as opposed to solely through poor quality fan recorded footage. And now that I've finally done just that, it's time to dive in deep and discuss one of the most unfairly controversial shows the band has put on to date.

The show opens up with a brief video discussing The Chosen Seven storyline from Episode VII of Metal Resistance, and I have to point out some things that especially stood out to me about this video. There are a lot of fans speculating that the new songs that were introduced during this "dark side" storyline in 2018 won't be included on the new upcoming album, Metal Galaxy. However, in this opening video, there's two lines spoken that suggest quite the opposite.

"Sometimes however, the moment light and darkness intersect, it reveals an unknown dimension called the Metal Galaxy."


"The weaving of light and darkness, the Metal Galaxy, creates the space in which The Chosen Seven can reveal itself."

I mean, I feel as if those lines pretty much speak for themselves, and certainly suggest that the new songs from the band's brief "dark side" period will surely find their way onto the new album. Though I suppose we'll still have to wait and see for sure on that, but this is yet another piece of evidence in favor of the argument that they'll indeed be included, which is what I've been arguing for a while now.

But anyways, onto the show, as that opening video wraps, we instantly jump into In The Name Of, as we see seven girls standing on the stage with their big staffs in hand, concealed in body length veils and wearing crowns of giant black feathers atop their heads. I'm not as big a fan of this look as I am of the big fox mask look from earlier in the year, but it still looks pretty damn sick and menacing, and still sets the stage for the spectacle that's to come. (And on an unrelated note, I seriously hope this song doesn't get shelved now that this "dark side" period for the band has concluded. As overtly theatrical as this song is, I just have to see it live and in person for myself at some point!)

We then see their new outfits for this show during Distortion, as they've changed over from their warrior attire from earlier in the year into something more akin to military uniforms (but Babymetalized, of course!). And like the crowns of feathers from In The Name Of, they're all wearing their hair pulled back, and with ceremonial feathers in their hair for the evening. A very unique look for a very unique night, in which we see a number of different formations, from four dancers at a time, to five, and upwards of seven, depending on the song.

The night mostly saw a return to the traditional triangle formation for their choreography, just with backup dancers in the background oftentimes. And this first seemed to be truly showcased during Distortion, where Moa is back in her normal spot, a backup dancer is in Yui's old spot, and Su is centered as usual, with two backup dancers in the distance on one side, and two on the other. This mostly works, and leads to a lot of interesting routines throughout the evening. and certainly gives the show a unique form of spectacle compared to shows past. But despite having a dancing partner at her side, Moa was still singing both hers and Yui's parts for the most part, and in the case of Gimme Chocolate, the dancer to her side stood still during the "atatatatas" as Moa performed those sequences on her own.

Next up in the show was Elevator Girl, and if there's any song that truly benefits from this multiple dancer format, it's this one. Featuring five dancers this time out, this performance is truly damn impressive. In fact, I had been toying with the idea of working up a new list of 10 more of my favorite performances following my previous Top 10 Favorite Performances list, but after seeing footage from this performance leak out last year, I had to hold off and see what I thought of this first before moving forward with such a thing. And yeah, it's just about as awesome as I had expected. In their current tour, this song is perhaps the most hurt from returning fully to their three person formation, as the fewer dancers on stage really takes away from the choreography, so it's possible this performance on this night may stand as this song's crowning achievement, topped off with Su and Moa staring straight into each others eyes just at the end, which really closes it out on the warmest note possible.

Up next, we see Su performing the only solo of the evening, Akatsuki. Their other shows in Japan featured Moa performing GJ solo, but this night swapped in a different song for the special occasion, which we'll get to momentarily. But for this performance, it was cool seeing the Muscle Metal fight sequence go down on the big stage, with spotlights also shining down on Ohmura and Isao during their subsequent dueling guitars section. And it was also pretty delightful to see Ohmura in the back singing along with Su during the song as well.

Then we get to the new song being performed on this evening, Starlight. Its first performance was in a five person formation, and I've gotta admit, I'm thus far underwhelmed with this song live. Fan cams were never able to really capture this song, and I think I can see why. It kind of feels like there's either too much going on up there, or perhaps not enough. I'm having a hard time deciding which it is just yet, but nothing about the choreography for this song really stands out. I've since seen footage of the new three person version of the song, which is certainly a much cleaner improvement, but I still can't help but feel it's still missing something to really latch hold to, which is a shame, because the song itself is still really damn stellar.

I dunno, but I think of one of the new songs that's been leaked from their more recent shows, which currently has the working title "Arkadia". And I think of the choreography from that song, how you can feel the girls just reaching straight into your heart as they're on that stage reaching out to you. And the emotion of their actions and their words just transcends off the stage and into the audience. And I can't help but feel like that's what should be going on with this song, that it should be hitting me a lot harder than it is. Yet every time I've seen it live, I've honestly felt nothing.

Meanwhile, I've since grown a fonder appreciation for its music video (which I'll perhaps discuss more in-depth in the future), and after watching the videos for both Distortion and Starlight back to back, seeing the stories that were being told in those videos being played out and translating them within the context of both the band's stage show as well as the real life events that were happening with the band at the time, I couldn't help but get choked up about halfway into the Starlight video. And that's the same emotion that I wish I could feel while watching it live, as most of their songs don't appear to have such an issue. But this is a rare example of a weaker choreography that just really doesn't do this song justice I'm afraid. But who knows, maybe it'll eventually grow on me?

Anyways, I feel like I've vented enough about that, so moving on to brighter things, next up is this show's real shining moment, Meta Taro. We start off with a Star Wars style video showing three ships heading into battle, representing Babymetal and the two bands who acted as support for them on this show, Galactic Empire and Sabaton. The song then starts, and we have a four person formation, only with Su and Moa standing side by side in the front, and a backup dancer flanking them on either side. Su sings Yui's part during this song, and it really does just feel like the spotlight is shining down on the two of them as they stand up there like a team, while the backup dancers provide their support in the back.

And then about halfway into the song, the girls are then joined on stage by members from the two support bands, in one of the most unique moments in this band's history. I'd like to think that after years of referencing Star Wars in their lore, Darth Vader's appearance on this show would officially make Star Wars canon within the Metal Resistance (and Dark Night Carnival is now the best Star Wars story to come out since the Disney purchase by far at that!). Moa was certainly excited by his appearance, hopping up to him and hugging him during their dance.

And as for Joakim of Sabaton, he seemed to be really enjoying the experience, though I personally would've liked to have heard him sing for a just a little bit longer before he pointed his mic out to the crowd. For a brief moment, we had a pretty neat little sound there for this song with his voice added to it, but I couldn't help but feel like he was probably nervous being in such a position. This whole section was just so much damn fun though, and I really felt those sweeping emotions here that I had mentioned before.

Megitsune and Karate came next, each with seven person formations, and yeah, it can be pretty damn awesome seeing their classic choreographies being performed by so many people on stage at once. And then came Road of Resistance, where Su and Moa once more took center stage side by side, with the other five hanging in the background as they waved their battle flags.

There's a moment during this performance where Moa appears to look out to the fans with this big smile on her face and silently count down to the first chorus, and then later on, we see highlights showing all of the Kami Band with just the biggest grins on their faces as well. But the biggest smile of all belonged to Su, who just at the end of the song looked right into the camera with the most accomplished look on her face. The emotions then hit especially hard as she shouted "we are!", as these Japan shows were the first time they had said this in almost a year, and you could just feel how much this meant not only to the girls on stage, but to the whole audience during this moment of triumph.

The show then closed out with The One, which saw Su performing yet another beautiful rendition of the unfinished version solo in a foggy backdrop, before the music kicked in and she was joined on the stage by Moa and the other five dancers to finish the night out.

So yeah, I really dug this show. It's controversial because a lot of people didn't like the multiple dancers aspect, and they didn't feel as if Moa stood out from the pack enough. But after finally watching the show proper for myself, I stand by what I said back then, that being that I really dig their approach for this show. They've done so many different other spectacles on so many other shows, and adding in a number of dancers for a special occasion is just another on that list of spectacles, which made for a real cool event to see for a special occasion. It didn't always work out well (Starlight), but when it does work, it really works (Elevator Girl, Karate).

And besides, throughout the night, they often took active measures to ensure that Moa indeed stood out, such as her moments in Gimme Chocolate and how she would stand side by side with Su during Meta Taro, Road of Resistance, and The One. By the end, you could definitely feel that this was a show where both Su and Moa truly came together as a team after conquering the past year despite some unfortunate hardships, and as far as I could see, by no means did Moa's role feel diminished by the support of The Chosen Seven throughout.

And all in all, I've said this before, but I just really appreciate any band that's willing to try new things and experiment so as to keep from growing stale, and that's totally what a show like this represents. So I quite enjoyed it, and I quite enjoyed finally getting a chance to write another one of these show reviews. And with plenty of new big shows happening in the present year, I can't wait to watch them all and share my thoughts on them as well. Heck, I'm going to even be at one of those big shows, when Babymetal performs at The Forum in LA this October, so I absolutely can not wait for that! But until next time, see you!