Babymetal - Live Legend 1999 1997 Apocalypse (video)

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2015

Babymetal has only one full-length album to their credit, but they now have two (soon to be three) live videos out there. The thing about Babymetal is that each concert video that they release is considerably different. Even though they only have one LP, part of the draw that these DVD/BD releases have is that there are non-LP songs on them. I don’t know enough about Sakura Gakuin (the parent idol group that spawned Babymetal as a sub-unit) to know if they’re covering songs from their main group or if they’re doing covers of other groups. I do know that one song that they regularly play, “Kimi To Anime Ga Mitai” (which translates to “I want to watch Anime with you”), is a cover of a song by Kiba of Akiba. As with the I-D-Z Apocalypse video, this is a lot of Babymetal to sit through. Legend 1999, the first show on this BD (it’s the first DVD if you get that particular version, but you need an all-region player to view it - the BD has both shows on one disc), is essentially a “birthday show” for Moa Kikuchi and Yui Mizuno (aka Moa-Metal and Yui-Metal), who are the two younger members of the group. They were both born in 1999, which is why the show is called “Legend 1999,” and since their birthdays came first, it appears before Legend 1997, which is the birthday show for Suzuka Nakamoto (aka Su-Metal). Both of them are prominently showcased, with each one getting a solo song before the duo joins forces for “Onedari Daisakusen”, the only LP track to not feature Su-Metal on lead vocals. Su-Metal returns later, getting a solo song of her own (“No Rain, No Rainbow”, another non-LP track) before the three reunite for “Catch Me If You Can.” One thing I noticed was the lack of crowd interaction between the group and the audience. There’s no real connection between them in the traditional sense. In a very real way, the stage show is more like a play than a concert. Instead of between-song banter or crowd interaction, we get prerecorded narration performed by an unnamed female that we never see. The narration is a bit hokey side (with accompanying graphics that are just this side of stupid) and the whole thing comes off like a strange children’s story written by a deranged Satanic whacko and starring the three members of Babymetal. If you understand Japanese, it’s okay for a few laughs and it does keep things moving. It’s a good show, but by far the better of the two is Legend 1997, the birthday show for lead vocalist Su-Metal. Though there are fewer non-LP songs, the show is more elaborate, the crowd is larger and they’re definitely more into it. The production values are also noticeably higher, with a lot more theatrics than with Legend 1999. The show begins with a strange ritual that involves Moa and Yui offering up neck braces to a giant statue of the Virgin Mary that dominates the background of their set. The neck braces seem to be symbolic of the amount of damage your neck is about to receive because it always shows up when they play the song “Headbanger!!” (sometimes spelled phonetically as “Hedobangyaa!!). After the ritual concludes with Moa and Yui disappearing, Su-Metal rises up from below the stage and the show begins with a remixed version of “Headbanger!!” that features more Dubstep elements as well as robotized vocals. Once things get rolling, the show takes on a more streamlined appearance, focusing more on the on-stage action as opposed to having long interludes where you have to sit through some hokey narration and a slideshow of weird children’s book Satanic imagery. This show also cuts to the crowd more often, giving you a good idea how many people are there and even showing glimpses of the “Mosh’sh” area (a section of the floor officially set aside for the pit, something you don’t normally see at a Japanese arena show). This led to an unintentional bit of distraction from the music because there’s a guy in the crowd dressed in a Pikachu outfit that stands out like you wouldn’t believe. It’s essentially a spot of bright yellow in a sea of people wearing darker colors (mostly black). I found myself looking for the guy every time the cameras cut to the crowd, and it became something of a game akin to looking for Waldo in those stupid “Where’s Waldo” books. The show ends with another ritual, this one involving Su-Metal being crucified and the giant statue of the Virgin Mary falling apart behind her as flames shoot up from the stage. It’s one part J-Pop, one part Death Metal, one part Kiss concert and 100% enthralling spectacle. Both shows were elaborately choreographed, with Moa and Yui engaging in a lot of complicated dance moves, allowing Su-Metal to focus on delivering the lead vocals. As powerful as Su-Metal’s voice is, her lack of stage presence is fairly obvious. Moa and Yui aren’t much of a vocal presence most of the time but their dancing and on-stage dynamics help to minimize the fact that Su-Metal isn’t a great front-person. The theatrical nature of the shows makes crowd interaction minimal, but I’d like to see Su-Metal develop as a front-person more. She has the potential to be a strong presence, but at this point, she lacks that charisma. Another thing I noticed was that the backing “band” was a bit odd. There are two groups of people that comprise the Babymetal backing band. The first is composed of a bunch of guys dressed like skeletons and they’re just there for show. The guys in the skeleton outfits don’t actually play anything. They’re just there to look like a backing band. They flail around and pretend to play, but if you watch them closely, they’re not actually doing anything with their instruments. The second group of band members, dressed like ghosts, actually does play their instruments. It seemed odd, but when you look at the whole thing as theater, it’s all part of the show. Having seen both the I-D-Z Apocalypse and 1999 1997 Apocalypse videos, I’ve seen the group gradually progress from being a novelty side-project to being a fulltime band that’s as much of a big deal as their parent group, Sakura Gakuin. That said, the show that I really want to see is the one that hasn’t been released yet. As good as the material on this video is, the Budokan concert is the one to check out because Budokan arena in Japan is the Holy Grail of places to play. You can’t say you’ve been successful unless you’ve performed there, and when a Japanese group does get to play there (appearances at the Budokan Arena are by invitation only - you can’t just book a gig there), their shows are always more elaborate and special. I had hoped that this release would have the Budokan show on it, but unfortunately I’m going to have to wait until 2015 for that. If you’re a fan of Babymetal, though, 1999 1997 Apocalypse is still a worthwhile (though expensive) purchase.

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