REVIEW: LADYBABY, HYPER JAPAN, LONDON, 29/11/2015
LADYBABY are the latest in a long line of up and coming pop acts from Japan that are combining the catchy melodies, choreographed dance moves and outlandish outfits of mainstream idol pop with metal shouts and breakdowns, to make their way onto the international stage, and at HYPER JAPAN’s winter event the group made their international debut to a packed room of 500+ attendees.
Formed of Miss ID 2015 winners Rei Kuromiya, Rie Kaneko, the group gained recognition online with their debut video ‘Nippon Manju’, pretty much a tourist board advertisement that has amassed over 10 million views since its release back in July. It’s easy to compare LADYBABY’s online success to that of recent worldwide phenomenon BABYMETAL, but this three piece puts their own twist on the sub-genre with an out of the ordinary inclusion to the typical line-up of girls barely out of high-school- Ladybeard. A cross-dressing wrestler turned idol taking on the persona of a 5-year-old girl stuck in the body of a burly Australian man, and he is magnificent.
Due to personal reasons Rie wasn’t able to join the tour, yet despite being down 1/3 of the team, Rei and Ladybeard made the most of the opportunity and delivered a short yet full throttle performance of brutally sweet tracks. Ladybeard showed true showmanship as he drove the crowd with his frantic yet somewhat graceful moves, like an obscure combination of Bruce Lee and Wednesday 13. While Rei filled the cute quota of the set, and from time to time came off as an aspiring rockstar as she interacted with the crowd and gave the show a subtle injection of teen angst. Wrapping up with a touching happy birthday message for Rei, the two ended with a second wind encore of Nippon Manju, jumping into the crowd and leaving fans with a day to remember and everyone else to come to grips with what they just saw.
Today these two performers showed an enormous amount of promise, but the idea of LADYBABY going to bigger and better places from here, in my mind, seems unlikely. Though their fun, light hearted, yet powerful personas are truly something to behold, the fact they spawned from the idea of being a PR group for costume company CLEARSTONE, gives off the impression they’re more a gimmick for a very successful advertising campaign rather than a serious group with many years ahead of them. But that’s not to say these guys don’t have a bright future ahead of them. Rei is the lead of her own dark rock pop group BRATS, and Ladybeard has his finger in all the pies from acting to wrestling to modelling. Though the future of LADYBABY may be hard to imagine, after tonight it’s easy to see this lot are set to do great things in the years ahead.
Words and photos by Charles Shepherd