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There’s a rabid, swirling moshpit of sweaty dudes with bushy beards, decked out in rock-band T-shirts, and an aggro, two-guitar lineup sporting corpse paint and spewing growly, speedy metallic riffs atop double kick drums. Fans’ fists thrust into the air in salute. But they’re not making the classic metal horns — they’re making the sign of the “Fox God,” the “patron saint” of Japanese idol band Babymetal.
The group is three teenage girls — Moametal, 16, Su-metal, 18 and Yuimetal, 16 — who sing, dance and are unbearably adorable all over the stage, backed by a very talented band. Think of it as Disney-era Britney Spears fronting Slayer. Plus an extra side of cuteness, minus creepy underage sexiness.
Is it a gimmick? Yes. Does it work? Definitely. Babymetal sing almost exclusively in Japanese, and one can imagine, as with Menudo, if the girls “age” out of the band, equally precious and endearing hopefuls will be waiting to don sparkly tights, pigtails, and petticoat skirts. With the giant team of Amuse, Inc. behind them, plus lyricists and songwriters Tsubometal and Kitsune of Metal God, Babymetal have won over, and then slayed, crowds across the world. The 2,100-person-capacity Playstation Theater sold out weeks in advance; overseas, the band headlines London’s Wembley Arena (capacity: 12,500) and Tokyo Dome (55,000) back home in Japan.
But their New York crowd — an eclectic mix of Japanese fans, middle-aged white guys, and cotton-candy-haired girls in cat-ear headphones, all of whom are uniformly mesmerized and enthusiastic — swooned, almost literally, when the girls spoke a few words in English. (One utterance: “You make me happy!”) The NYC audience didn’t care if they didn’t speak Japanese; Babymetal prove music is really the universal language, even if translation uncovers less-than-revelatory lyrics. “Doki Doki Morning,” according to the band’s website, goes: “Straight, straight/My bangs’ end makes a straight line/It’s a cutie style…. Today’s lip gloss shall be that? This? That? Which?” Not exactly Anthrax, but it works.
One of the band’s best-known tunes, “Gimme Chocolate!!,” begs the question: Are Babymetal too saccharine? Thankfully, due in no small part to the exceptional metal chops of their band, and the winning contrast between the heavy music and the girls’ seemingly genuine glee, they manage never to be cloying. They’ve even won over big names in the metal world: Much of the metal press loves them, as do Dragonforce and Metallica.
Coming out for their encore in shiny hooded cloaks, Babymetal, flashing their dimpled grins and Fox God signs, looked like an adorable coven of teen witches, the drama, energy, and theatrics of the fourteen-song set — with tightly choreographed, aerobically challenging routines — entirely fitting for the concert’s Broadway location. Even the most jaded concertgoer must have left with a growing Grinch heart, and probably a Fox God T-shirt, too.