“Kawaii Metal” superstar BABYMETAL hits Philadelphia on the BABYKLOK leg of its current world tour. BABYKLOK refers to tour companion, Dethklok, of Cartoon Network’s animated show Metalocalypse: Dethklok. It has been four years, almost to the day, since BABYMETAL last rocked Philadelphia.
A beautiful day gives way to early evening in Philadelphia. Metal fans bounce in to the capacious Mann Center for the Performing Arts, itself surrounded by the city’s biggest green space Fairmount Park. The venue’s capacity tonight is nearly twice that of 2019’s venue, an indicator of BABYMETAL’s growing popularity in the US. One other major difference from that 2019 gig is that member MOMOMETAL, who then performed as a backup dancer, was named the third member of BABYMETAL earlier this year.
A drama-filled performance
A solemn narrator recounts BABYMETAL’s mythic backstory:
A long time ago in a heavy metal galaxy far, far away…
Are you ready to headbang?
A mammoth, blazing red BABYMETAL banner dominates the screen. The backing Kami Band fires up a metal, military march. BABYMETAL, comprising SU-METAL, MOAMETAL, and MOMOMETAL, solemnly paces on stage to the beat. Fans howl with delight. It is hard not to get caught up in the drama of this momentous opening.
The official set kicks off with a song from their oldest repertoire, BABYMETAL DEATH. Kami Band thrashes out a prolonged metal run as BABYMETAL dances up a storm.
As the band speeds up, the three members lead thousands in chanting, spelling out “BABYMETAL” again and again. The members dance, jump, gyrate as the crowd continues cheering to the end of this first song.
BABYMETAL segues directly into the next number, likely the best-known Gimme Chocolate!!
A faraway voice teases, “Give me… Give me… Give me… chocolate”. The house lights turn up brightly for the first time, revealing BABYMETAL’s new outfits. The members retain the look of warrior goddesses from a faraway corner of the universe, but it’s a flashier look. The uniforms feature layers of shimmering plates that explode into gold and iridescent colors as the light changes. The members dazzle with manic windmill arms, dancing and running in place, improbable body angles that are all BABYMETAL’s trademark. The energy and enthusiasm sparkle. SU-METAL cries out, “Hi, Philly!” as if to an old friend and sings the familiar, fun-filled lyrics. She sings with a voice that sounds richer and more polished while retaining its unique timbre.
The show heats up
Synth notes and drumbeats seemingly light the stage afire. The song is 2019’s megahit PA PA YA!!. Hopping on one foot, MOAMETAL and MOMOMETAL cheerlead the crowd. By mid-song, they have surely burned off those chocolate calories! Fans fill in the blanks that SU-METAL strategically leaves throughout each line of the chorus. The giant image of rapper F.HERO fills the screen as he virtually machine guns his key part in this song. BABYMETAL and F.HERO bring back the delights of summer for one more moment, as the controlled frenzy onstage carries the song to its conclusion.
Kami Band then lays down a hard beat in Distortion, and BABYMETAL glides center stage, and bathed in fiery red light. SU-METAL proclaims, “Can’t stop the power…” as she and the other dazzle with frenetic, synchronized dancing.
With BxMxC, SU-METAL raps the lyrics, sounding like she’s possessed and speaking in tongues. This is arguably the darkest sounding tune of the night. Dazzling geometric designs flash on the screen in rapid succession. SU-METAL and the others barely have a second to catch their breath. Deep blue light bathes the crowd, and the music intensifies as MAYA, a call to come mosh and embrace the essence of metal, begins. SU-METAL belts out, “You’ve got the power!” in this ultra-heavy yet melodic number. MAYA ends heavy as fans enjoy a silhouetted BABYMETAL frenetically dancing, and the venue goes dark.
The lights and Kami Band seemingly pick up where things left off. However, SU-METAL’s voice quickly changes the mood as 2023’s Monochrome envelopes The Mann. SU-METAL asks fans to take out their phones. As fans comply and SU-METAL cries, “That’s amazing!” she hums and delicately sings the words as hundreds and hundreds of lights sway in the venue. This is an anthemic song, full of emotion, and a perfect complement to the livelier and more metal songs flanking it.
Up next is 2023’s viral single, METALI!!. Kami Band provides some progressive shredding and jazzy drumming. SU-METAL commands the crowd to wave their arms and dance. “Hey, Philly! Are you ready to make some noise?” Traditional Japanese motifs swirl on the screen. In a nod to the action in the official music video, SU-METAL’s voice and a traditional Japanese stringed shamisen instrument serve up a funky, Bollywood rhythm. On cue, Rage Against the Machine Guitarist Tom Morello explodes onto the screen and lends his contribution to the song.
As METALI!! ends and the stage fades to black, BABYMETAL takes about 15 seconds to find yet another reserve of energy. SU-METAL shines, singing the verses of Megitsune. As one of the trio’s most popular favorites, it seeks to explain just who these disciples of the Fox God are. The Fox God, according to BABYMETAL lore, selected BABYMETAL to pump new life into of heavy metal music, and now provides guidance for them in their mission.
With a “Hey, Philly!” tireless SU-METAL and the others encourage the crowd back up on its toes to dance out Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!! The dulcet backing track of this very early BABYMETAL banger rings out, and the crowd roars in recognition and appreciation. The band breaks in with a fast-paced metal run and SU-METAL, MOAMETAL, and MOMOMETAL explode with some of the most lively dancing of the night. A unified crowd sings the verses with SU-METAL.
A memorable farewell
The amphitheater is as dark as a starless night. Fans stab the silence with howls. A giant, flame-red BABYMETAL banner undulates on the screen. Everything up to now has led to what has become the anthem of BABYMETAL and its huge worldwide fan base: Road of Resistance. The lights go up and BABYMETAL stuns with yet another fresh reserve of energy as SU-METAL belts out the first verse of Road of Resistance. MOAMETAL and MOMOMETAL dance up a storm. MOAMETAL locks eyes with fans up front, counts down, “three, two, one” with her fingers, and fans join the call and response. “Resistance… Resistance…”
SU-METAL and nearly every fan in the house take turns chanting in harmony. A sea of hands synchronize with the performers’ waving fists and devil horns. Kami Band powers through some fancy shredding–and the song comes to a climactic end.
Finally, everyone responds to SU-METAL’s repeated calls.
Resistance to this heraldic call is futile!
SU-METAL, MOAMETAL, and MOMOMETAL bid everyone a signature “See you!” and exit stage left. Several thousand music fans are left with memories that will be hard to forget and easy to cherish. The BABYMETAL show is an expertly crafted spectacle—the trio broadcasts charm, energy, and skill, while SU-METAL’s voice has only gotten stronger and more emotive. Kami Band shakes the house with its hard-hitting brand of progressive metal. The multimedia show perfectly supports and amplifies the BABYMETAL mythology and the message of every song. A BABYMETAL show is a complete package, leaving us yearning already for the next visit to our shores.
BABYMETAL at Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, Tuesday, September 12, 2023
- BABYMETAL DEATH
- Gimme Chocolate
- PA PA YA!!
(preceded by Kami Band solos)
- Road of Resistance