Loud rock idol group PassCode enchants fans at New York’s Gramercy Theatre during the mid-point of “PassCode US TOUR 2023 -GROUNDSWELL-“—its first US Tour, which also includes stops in Dallas and Los Angeles. The veteran group, with roots in Osaka, follows in the footsteps of other popular Japanese groups who have chosen the Gramercy for their New York debuts, including BAND-MAID and Nemophila.
PassCode comprises vocalists and dancers Nao, Kaede, Hinako, and Emily. Instrumentalists are KAI and Gen on guitar, Ata on bass, and Yohei on drums—these four rockers amplify and enhance the urgency and impact of PassCode’s delivery.
Showtime—an exciting kick-off
Fans pack the standing-room floor of this popular music emporium, having queued up around Gramercy’s bustling New York City block, some for hours. The house pulsates with anticipation. Fans at the rail chat with each other, brimming with excitement over seeing PassCode, whether it’s their first time or second, third, or even fifth time!
Showtime comes and a heroic, new age melody overtakes the room. This is the cue for PassCode’s four-man backup band to gallop onstage, grab instruments, and unleash an exciting rock groove. PassCode then glides confidently onstage and takes position. The crowd roars—yours truly included.
Group members wear harmonizing outfits, in grays, blacks, and whites: Kaede and Hinako sport sharp, futuristic outfits suggesting what 22nd-century business suits could look like. Nao is styling white, over-the-knee tights, her hair in twin pigtails–a playful look. Emily is ready for action in parachute pants. All four members are ready to dance and bounce with abandon in chunky white sneakers.
PassCode mixes the right ingredients to grab and captivate the crowd’s undivided attention. These ingredients include the original kaleidoscope of choreography, and skillfully timed handoffs of vocal work. That tight choreography evolves continuously–you don’t want to look away for a second!
The loud rock backup enriches the pop, rock, and metal vocals by the four PassCode members. PassCode seals the deal with charisma that radiates nonstop.
In this show, there are a few short breaks between songs, allowing for some friendly banter and sincere expressions of the group’s happiness about being with their overseas fans. Across the Gramercy Theatre, the feeling was clearly mutual.
The relentless performance opens with GROUNDSWELL, from the 2023 EP by the same name. The band jumps in with both feet, setting a solid, hard rock pace. The slick choreography aligns straight-up with the rock beat. The crowd chants encouragement. The seamless blend of genres—rock, pop, metal, and electronic dance music—inspires fans to jump in with dancing, jumping, and fists pumping.
Emily pounces with her take-no-prisoners metalcore growling:
Wow! Sink deep, what the hell is that?
…The truth is that one encounter changes our whole life
Kaede takes over and asks, in a gentler tone:
Can it be God’s fault that we can’t fly for our dreams?
…Let our thoughts reach far to the other side
Hinako jumps in, seamlessly:
It’s in our time now to fly
Emily rhymes and roars in agreement:
The world is changing as groundswell
Somewhere fateful? That’s sounds well
I don’t mind if that’s bombshell
Don’t get swallowed, run!
Nao brings the message home:
We pour our hearts out through this song
…I’ve only had eyes for you from the day we met
Just like a miracle, everything will work out
This ultimately optimistic modern love song ends with “We dwell one groundswell”. The house roars its approval, before Nao cries out, “What’s up, New York?” and the party kicks off.
An exhilarating and totally satisfying set
PassCode energetically continues the 15-song set (including encore) with tracks spanning 2016 through 2023. This sampling remains fresh from beginning to end, as PassCode members maintain great crowd interaction all night, even though they are in almost constant motion.
Following GROUNDSWELL, the group pivots to Ray, a playful, upbeat pop-infused tune about being true to your dreams, and blazing your own path forward. In Ray, featured in the anime To Be Heroine, resident harsh vocalist Emily provides a reminder that she can deliver melodic clean vocals, too. Fans clap out the beat.
I hope someday this screaming voice
Lights a spark of ignition
I believe that
So I’m going to run
PassCode turns the corner in a heavier direction with Dive into the Light, followed by Ichika Bachika. Emily delights with her blood-curdling growls. These two songs mesh, although the messages vary. Dive into the Light exhorts the listener to not let anything stand in the way of pursuing their best life; Ichika Bachika means “one or eight” or “all or nothing” and the context this time is romance—let’s go all in with this relationship, or not at all. Musically, this song is all heaviness.
The members take a brief moment to introduce themselves, to raucous cheers, and then Kaede reports that the next offering will be a “very happy tune”. It’s Melody from the Bumbling Clash,which delivers on this promise—even Emily’s demonic growling seems to come from a cheerier demon. The crowd lends support to insistent rock drumbeats, clapping rhythmically. The song is fast-paced and heavy and would make great road music. We arrive gradually at the happiness part, as the singers explore climbing out of despair and confusion and into a state closer to enlightenment. The exhilarating key change in the last verse brings the promised happiness home.
As Kohei smashes that drum kit extra hard, he makes the next song, FLAVOR OF BLUE, even more memorable. Also notable, though not unusual in this set: PassCode members switch singing duties roughly two dozen times all within the 3.75 minutes of the song.
Energetic, non-stop action
The rocking out continues with MYTH, as the subject changes from punching through life’s obstacles to elusive love. Clouds Across The Moon pleases sonically and spiritually, and feels like the third movement of a mini-symphony, with its ebullient vocals. The members triumphantly skip and dance about the stage, waving to fans, and taking turns uplifting us with words about punching through challenges and about shining brightly.
Seize Approaching Brand New Era mesmerizes with a hypnotic and catchy pop melody that still rocks hard. This could well be my favorite tune of the evening.
Far above what you’ve imagined, I’ll be standing
We’ll shake up all foundations, sample that taste
I own the skills
The party continues, hot and heavy
As PassCode passes the halfway mark of the performance, the group seems to have even more energy. More hits from the catalog come next, including MISS UNLIMITED, with a message about keeping the faith no matter what happens, and going for it! With NINJA BOMBER, PassCode implores us to drop on the scene like a Ninja and dance defiantly despite opposition. The members demonstrate what they mean as they hop, jump, and gyrate with energy that would make a Zumba instructor envious. Taking you out decries our crazy world with its overload of information and bad news. Emily, Kaede, Nao, and Hinako propose to take you out of all this and into a place of love. In Tonight, the singers’ love interest still needs more encouragement to be “taken out”.
Emily commands, “Sing!” to kick off the last song, Anything New, and fans abide. This cheerful tune about striving to do one’s best against all odds is a perfect outro for this mesmerizing roller coaster ride of a concert.
PassCode proves you can improve on perfection with an encore: the emotionally charged ONE STEP BEYOND. The music and vocals in Anything New and ONE STEP BEYOND electrify—and seem to fortify the bond between fans and the artist. If the end of the show is bittersweet, PassCode eases the pain, pledging to come back soon.
PassCode, it is certain fans will welcome your next visit with open arms!
Can’t wait till then? See the upcoming dates and details for the Japan leg of the tour.
PassCode at Gramercy Theatre, New York, Tuesday, September 5, 2023
- DIVE INTO THE LIGHT
- Ichika Bachika
- Melody from the Bumbling Clash
- FLAVOR OF BLUE
- Clouds Across The Moon
- Seize Approaching BRAND NEW ERA
- MISS UNLIMITED
- NINJA BOMBER
- Taking you out
- Anything New
- ONE STEP BEYOND
|🗓 Date||📍 Location||🌎 Country||🎶 Venue||🔗 Info|
|Dallas||🇺🇸 United States||The Cambridge Room at House of Blues||Ticket & details|
|New York||🇺🇸 United States||Gramercy Theatre||Ticket & details|
|Los Angeles||🇺🇸 United States||The Echo||Ticket & details|