Sunday, September 8, 2019

Babymetal - Legend C in Orlando and Atlanta

Legend C night 1 - Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, 9/4/19

So it was my birthday this past week, and I celebrated it by attending my first Babymetal show, taking place on September 4th and emanating from my home state of Florida, just a few hours down the road. Certainly all the perfect storm for a perfect occasion, though an actual storm in the form of Hurricane Dorian tried its best to ruin things. And while it brought on plenty of stress and anxiety as it concerned the fate of this opening show on their biggest US tour yet, thankfully the hurricane wound up moving away, and the show was able to go on. And man, what a show it was!

In what would become dubbed as Legend C by twitter upon learning that this was in fact my birthday show, I couldn't have asked for a better gift from the Metal Galaxy. I had seats for this particular evening, front and center upper balcony, and so I decided to show up a little after 6pm to take advantage of the park's free parking after that time. There was a pretty big line already formed by the time I got there, yet even so, once I stepped foot in the Hard Rock Cafe, I could see there were still plenty of good spots left in the pit, and the line for the merch stand was relatively short and quick to get through as well. I picked up the Metal Odyssey shirt, as well as a towel in preparation for the evening to come.

My view in Orlando.

The seating arrangement was admittedly a bit weird for me. My friend who was supposed to join me flaked out at the last minute, so the seat beside me was empty. But then, the next four seats on the other side of me were also empty, so it almost felt as if I essentially had a row all to myself. And I noticed this a bit throughout the venue. I guess the storm had caused some people to cancel their plans to attend, but it wasn't entirely empty or anything. And certainly by the time Babymetal took to the stage, it had filled up quite a bit.

Before Babymetal went on though, we got their supporting act for this tour, Avatar. And I gotta say, they honestly impressed the hell out of me. I wasn't too familiar with them going in, I had only sampled a couple of their songs online beforehand. And I guess I must've sampled the wrong songs, because I really wasn't too thrilled with what I had heard at the time. But on this night, man, they totally kicked ass on that stage. Feeling almost like a heavy metal Panic! at the Disco, the band has a very eccentric and theatrical flair to themselves that certainly feels appropriate on a stage shared with Babymetal. They played a number of songs that have since been stuck in my head, and I was left quite impressed, and looking forward to seeing them again in the next couple of days.

But then it was finally time for the main attraction, as Babymetal took to the stage with Megitsune. And man did they tear the house down right off the bat. Like, just seeing them stepping out on stage gave me chills, and seeing their performance live just felt so surreal to actually be witnessing before my eyes. They followed this up with the live debut of the Elevator Girl English version and Shanti Shanti Shanti, which were loads of fun as is usual, but then I proceeded to have my mind just completely and utterly blown away by what was to come next.

So the Kami Band (who on this tour, it would appear is actually Galactic Empire, which honestly feels pretty fitting on multiple levels to me) started playing up the next song. But before it really kicked in, a spotlight shined down on one of the guitarists, and he started playing a solo. And it actually took me a second for it to register what was happening, because I honestly couldn't believe it, but the Kami solos were indeed finally back! This alone was exciting enough, but after those solos ended, the song kicked in proper, as we saw a return of last year's Su-solo, Kagerou. Only, after Su took to the stage, she was then joined by Moa and Riho on either side. And as the three of them performed the song together, my jaw just fell to the floor, and it remained there the entire time.

The precise moment I absolutely lost my mind. Clip taken from Atlanta show.

Like, Kagerou isn't even one of my favorite songs of theirs, and may in fact be my least favorite of their new batch they introduced to us last year. But man, I'd be lying if I told you that this new reworked three person version wasn't the highlight of the whole night for me. I seriously couldn't believe what I was seeing, from the Kami solos to the new choreography, this performance absolutely blew me away, and it definitely felt like a special moment being there in person on its debut night seeing it all go down live. And after this performance, it would go on to become the song I was most looking forward to seeing again in Atlanta at that.

Starlight came on next (which if I'm being honest, even in person the live version of this song still doesn't really do much for me), which was then followed by Future Metal, which mostly acts as a nice little interlude to give the girls a break, as the song is played while a neat little video is shown to us, as opposed to being performed live. We then came back with Gimme Chocolate, and this is when our crowd finally really came alive. And yeah, seeing this song live is definitely a blast. But man, the real party for me came next, when Pa Pa Ya hit, and I grabbed my newly purchased towel in hand and twirled that sucker through the air like I was showing Dorian how it's done.

It's sorta funny, I recorded the whole show on my phone, just sorta holding my phone up beside me but not actually watching through it, just sorta letting it record while I watched the show with my own eyes. And for the most part, the footage I shot is relatively stable. But as soon as we get to Pa Pa Ya, you can tell whenever I'm swinging my towel around, because suddenly the footage is full blown shakey cam. Normally this would annoy me, but the context honestly adds a little charm to it for me when I go back and revisit it. But man, I tell you what, Pa Pa Ya was like a whirlwind to witness live. Like, that song was almost a blur, after getting so into it to that degree. In fact, I was perhaps maybe a bit too into it at first, as I'm pretty sure I was whipping the people behind me with my towel for a brief minute, before I realized that I should perhaps fold it in half before I swing it around. But man, I can't stress enough how much of an absolute blast that song is to take part in live.

Distortion was next, and they've introduced a new element that's actually pretty cool. On a number of songs, they've been utilizing a large LED screen behind them to provide backing graphics and such, such as the elevator effect during Elevator Girl, or the trippy patterns during Shanti Shanti Shanti. But now, for Distortion, they're playing the music video behind the girls during their performance, and I gotta say, it actually works a lot better than you would expect it to.

Like, it just looks really cool seeing them up there doing their choreography while this live action anime video plays behind them, with cities being destroyed and the Chosen Seven being summoned and showing off their powers. It almost makes them feel as if they're a part of that video now, like so many had wished they were to begin with. But it really looked cool, and made for an awesome effect to see live.

And these cool effects continued with Karate, where they showed the girls lighting on fire behind them as they performed their dance. We've seen this effect for this song on shows long past, but it's cool to see it return now, and like Distortion, made for an awesome visual to see in person.

I mentioned how this show was landing on my birthday, and the band apparently caught wind of this, as up next, we were treated to a much unexpected performance of Headbanger. At least, it was unexpected prior to the beginning of the show. After twitter had dubbed the show Legend C, I had joked back if that was a sign that we were gonna get Headbanger on this night. But just as they were setting up the stage for Babymetal after Avatar finished their set, we noticed that the Headbanger mic stand was in fact lying on the ground in the back. And yeah, you better believe that I got ridiculously excited by that. It was no joke, Babymetal really did remember my birthday! And Legend C could truly commence in appropriate fashion. And man, I tell you, this song is just absolutely sick to see performed live, and such a treat at that!

Next up, we got this cool little lore video, which I guess was supposed to be showing us the forming of the Metal Galaxy. But it lead directly into The One, starting first with the unfinished version performed by Su. And oh boy did this one hit me pretty hard. This is a song that's gotten me emotional on a handful of occasions, though I feel like most of the time when I listen to it, I can sorta tend to tune it out. But man, something about being there live and seeing it performed in person really just hit me especially hard, and I was on the verge of tears throughout this entire performance. What's funny is that, like Kagerou, The One is another song that I also wouldn't necessarily rank highly amongst my favorites of theirs. Yet I would honestly probably place it directly under Kagerou in terms of show highlights for me personally on this night. Yes, even higher than Headbanger. That's how hard this performance hit me.

On a funny note though, this performance also stood out to me because, when the three of them were all out there and standing on their separate platforms, that's when I honestly first noticed just how short they all actually are, haha!

The show closed out with an energetic performance of Road of Resistance, then the crowd was left chanting for one more song as they cleared the stage. And yeah, that was my first live Babymetal experience, and it completely exceeded my expectations. We got a number of surprises in the form of the updated Kagerou and Headbanger, the full set list was just absolutely killer from top to bottom, and really, just being there and seeing it all go down live was just so surreal. And by the end of it, my face was literally in pain from how hard I had been smiling for the past hour.

That said, once the show ended, I couldn't help but sorta feel almost immediately lonely. Like I said, my friend who was supposed to go with me had flaked out, and there really wasn't the brewing comradery among the fans at this show that I had heard so much about. I mean, I met a handful of cool people there, and I had a brief conversation with a couple of people behind me immediately after the show. But for the most part, everyone just sorta filed out and went their separate ways almost immediately. So not really having anyone there to really share this wonderful and exciting experience with did sorta strike me just a little on that drive back home afterwards. Perhaps it was a little bit of that "post-show depression" effecting me that I've heard so much about?

Anyways though, as I mentioned before, I filmed the whole show on my phone, and my vantage point made it so you could really see the whole stage quite clearly. Yet even so, I couldn't help but think the whole time how much I wish I was down in that pit and much closer to them than I was. And so that brings us to night two of Legend C, which would be emanating this time from the Coca-Cola Roxy in Atlanta on September 6th, where my tickets this time around would be placing me somewhere in the pit area.

Legend C night 2 - Coca-Cola Roxy in Atlanta, 9/6/19

I arrived early in the day, and found myself placed 2nd in line in the Fast Lane, which would be entering the venue immediately following the VIP ticket holders. And where I mentioned that I was a little let down by the lack of real comradery amongst the fans at the Orlando show, that couldn't be further from the case in Atlanta, as everyone more or less was more than willing to really come together and mingle and just get more and more hyped throughout the course of the day leading up to the show. And I met a number of people who I had communicated with online since discovering the band, be it through reddit or social media, so that was pretty cool, too.

The line waiting to get in the venue.

Also during the wait, Avatar's tour bus was parked right out front, and the band was just casually walking around for quite a bit. So that was kinda cool, and while no one really bothered them, they certainly appeared to be pretty chill dudes from what I could gather.

But after waiting outside pretty much all day, they finally opened the doors, and we filed into the venue. And I was seriously shocked with how good a spot I wound up landing. I was expecting to get maybe four rows back or something, but I was literally in the second row, directly center stage, with a clear and perfect view of where Su would be directly standing later on in the evening. Like, you'd think I paid premium prices for such a spot, it was pretty insane, and I couldn't believe how lucky I had gotten.

My view in Atlanta.

While I had recorded the whole show for Orlando, I decided I didn't want to do that for this show. It's cool to have the footage to revisit, and especially to listen to such an awesome set on the long drives making it to and from these shows. But this time out, I didn't want any such distractions, so I decided not to record this time, aside from a couple of clips. I really wanted to fully immerse myself in the show, and really live in the moment this time around.

So Avatar came on first again, and they performed mostly the same set as Orlando, though I noticed they left out at least one song. And there was a point in their set in Orlando where they did a wardrobe change, which never happened in Atlanta, so it would appear they'll be modifying their set some as the tour goes along. But they were great to see live once again, especially up so close, and the crowd appeared to be pretty into them.

Though I was a bit surprised at how much room I had to move around where I was standing during this set, after all I had heard about how much of a crush there can be so close to the barrier. It wasn't long after Babymetal took to the stage on this evening when I discovered first hand about that crush though. Holy crap, the crowd just rushed towards the front, and everyone was pushing their way ahead all at once as soon as those three girls stepped out. It was so crazy, people were literally climbing over each other, and over the course of the set, I realized that I had somehow been pushed back a couple rows, never really noticing it was even happening until it had already happened (though I still never got pushed too far back!)

But seeing the girls so close was just unreal, like I seriously couldn't believe they were really right there, so close before my eyes. Moa in particular has developed just a striking presence to herself, which really just commanded my attention as they filed out onto the stage for Megitsune. Not to mention, being this close this time, I could really see all of the details that I missed sitting in the stands in Orlando, such as Moa making a silly face at Su during Megitstune, or all the other funny faces she makes during Shanti Shanti Shanti, or how the black strands on the back of the bassist's mask would blow in the air behind him, which looked really awesome, or Su's wild smiles during her dance in the rap portion of Pa Pa Ya.

And being in that pit was like nothing I've ever experienced. I mean, I have been in my fair share of mosh pits in my time, but the energy in this crowd was just on a whole different level. The sheer intensity was just nonstop. The crowd was totally into it, jumping around and pumping their kitsunes in the air, singing and screaming along with the songs. And I was right there with them the whole time. I mentioned how Pa Pa Ya in Orlando was like a blur after I had gotten so into it, and honestly, that sorta describes this whole show from the pit. You just get so completely sucked into it, you barely have a moment to even properly register what all's happening.

But one thing that did totally register came during Elevator Girl, when during the single file dance sequence, Moa made direct eye contact with me, and her eyes remained locked there until the sequence had ended. I mean, dude, I'm still pretty much speechless just thinking about that moment even now.

When I initially purchased my tickets, I purposefully chose to get seats for one show, and a pit ticket for the other, just to ensure that I would get a different experience from them. And man was it ever. The energy in this crowd was just off the charts, and being down in that pit, it felt like we were truly just as much a part of the show as the band on the stage. And I'll tell you this, my ass got completely wore out by the time we hit Pa Pa Ya this time around.

For real, this show was like a workout, and showed me just how out of shape I actually am. But not only that, it also showed me just how much those girls on stage are putting into these shows night in and night out, and yet people still want to complain about their shows being so short because they're only an hour. I tell you what though, that was the most intense damn hour I've ever experienced, and those girls give us more show in one hour than most bands will give you in twice that allotted time. And besides, I'd like to see those same people making these complaints go up there and try to pull off what those girls do for even half that time, because by around that point, I was honestly spent!

Before going to this show though, there was a part of me that found it curious why people would want to attend a Babymetal concert just to wind up in one of the circle pits or something where you can't even really see the show, despite how much of it is so visual-based with all of the dancing and the lighting and video effects and such. But after experiencing this show first hand, yeah, I get it now why you'd want to do that. It's because being there live isn't the same as watching one of their shows in the comfort of your own home.

When I watch a show on my computer, I can really digest the music and the choreography and take everything in as it comes. But being there live, you really do just get so immersed in the midst of everything that the dance moves and such don't even fully register in the same way. It's suddenly not so much about watching the show, but rather, being a part of the show, and singing along and pulling your own weight, following Su's commands to jump and scream and clap and pump your fists in the air.

They say that Babymetal doesn't come out to perform, they come out to battle. And that's what each show of theirs is, is a new battle being waged in their ongoing Metal Resistance. And being in that crowd, that definitely feels like an apt description, because it's definitely a battle taking place in that pit, but one where we're all fighting towards the common goal. And before you know it, an hour's already passed, yet it feels like barely any time has passed, despite being drenched in sweat and ready to collapse from the show we've been actively participating along with.

Just like watching their shows is unlike watching any other band I've ever seen, being there live is very much the same. There's just something intensely euphoric about it, if that even makes any sense. Something that just transcends you to another plane. It's... honestly hard to even explain really, you almost have to just go to one of their shows and see for yourself, it's just such a heavy hitting and all around surreal experience.

But yeah, to rein my gushing in a bit, like I said, the show was kind of a workout, and so songs such as Future Metal act not only as a nice break for the girls, but for the audience as well at that point, just to give us a chance to catch our breath a little. But still, there's nothing quite like being in that crowd as we're all bowing down to Su-metal during Headbanger, or relentlessly twirling our towels through the air during Pa Pa Ya, or pumping our fists in the air in unison as we sing along to Road of Resistance.

The one song I didn't really participate too much in on this show though was The One. But that's because I just had to take the moment to sorta step back and just really take this performance in, and be swept away by the emotion of it. I mentioned the details you get to see being so up close, and there were a lot of them during this song. For instance, there was a brief moment where as Su's eyes were scanning the crowd, she happened to glimpse down at me as I was just looking up at her in awe. Su just looked simply majestic up there on her own, but then once the song really kicked in and she was joined by Moa and Riho, standing on her platform, she was making a lot of her classic Su faces as she turned to the crowd to sing along. And after it ended and the three girls headed to the back with the lights out, it was funny seeing Moa just straight up fling her cape off her shoulders just as she was stepping backstage.

So yeah, despite playing the exact same set as the previous show in Orlando, my experience with this show in Atlanta couldn't have been more different. The crowd showed an intensity that was honestly missing in Orlando, and as I've said, being in that pit is almost like entering a whole other world. And really being a part of the show on this level truly brings on a whole new perspective once we reach the finish line, as Su screams "We are!" and we all scream back, "Babymetal!" 'Cause in that moment, that statement brings on a whole new meaning, like we've really earned our place in The One.

All in all, I'd say that Legend C was an overall glowing success. These shows far exceeded everything I had ever expected of them, and gave me an experience unlike anything I honestly could've predicted. Really, no amount of footage will truly prepare you for what it's like to actually be there seeing them in person. And after the Atlanta show, I definitely had plenty of people to share the excitement of such a phenomenal experience with, which was a great feeling.

And now I can't wait to do it all over again next month, when I'll be traveling to Los Angeles to see Babymetal in their first US arena headline show at The Forum, which I'm sure will offer just as much a unique experience as these two shows were from each other. But for now, this was truly the perfect birthday celebration. And what's even more fitting is that as I share this post, today is literally the one year anniversary of when I first discovered the band at that, which in a way makes this a whole different kind of birthday celebration as well I suppose, as I reflect on such a wonderful experience. So with that in mind, here's to all the future experiences that are yet to come. And as we approach our future milestones, may we all remember to protect our neck. See you!