COLUMBUS — As the rain poured down on the cheering crowd, the three girls danced out onto the Ernie Ball Stage to the soaring sonics of thumping drumbeats and shredding guitars.
“Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai! Hai!” they shouted in unison, Japanese for “Yes!”
The crowd of more than 20,000 was unfazed by the storm’s downpour. They returned the chant as the girls ran to the front of the stage, jumping on three platforms at the center, right and left and continued shouting “Hai!” some 28 times, throwing their fists into the air with each chant.
Seconds later the three members of Babymetal — dressed in bright red tutus, black leather corsets and signature Doc Martins — jumped from the platform and began singing the catchy “Catch Me If You Can.”
The crowd of heavy metal fans jumped for joy.
It was May, 2015, and the Japanese heavy metal-J-Pop fusion phenomenon called Babymetal was performing for the first time in Ohio during Rock on the Range at Mapfre (Crew) Stadium.
A year later the trio returns to Columbus as part of the lineup for the Journeys Alternative Press Music Awards Show at the Schottenstein Center. On July 18 they will perform at the show and also do a musical collaboration with heavy metal icon Rob Halford, lead singer for Judas Priest.
According to the press release announcing this collaboration, AP said, “Combining raw 1970’s-era classic heavy metal influences with fresh modern visuals and Japanese pop styles, this performance will be a can’t-miss moment amid the evening’s festivities.”
In the announcement, Babymetal’s lead singer, 18-year-old Suzuka Nakamoto (who goes by the stage name Su-Metal) said, “I am still at a loss of what to feel, but to be able to perform together with the metal god, I am in disbelief … I know it will be an amazing experience for us and I am really looking forward to it.”
Halford added, “It’s really cool to hear and watch such a strong young Japanese metal band make solid growth in the world with such unique conviction and invite me to head bang along with them for this special appearance. Further proof of the continuing power exchange from the roots of metal into the future metalsphere!”
Su-Metal is joined by backup singers Moa Kikuchi (Moa-Metal), 16 and Yui Mizuno (Yui-Metal), also 16. They first performed as Babymetal in November, 2010 at ages 13 and 11 as a sub-unit of the Japanese J-Pop group Sakura Gakuin. As their stage appearances in Japan increased, their popularity grew, mostly through the unique blend of heavy metal music supplied by their “Kami Band” of heavy metal musicians and their kawaii (cute) “J-Pop” vocals from their Sakura Gakuin roots.
In 2014, the Babymetal concert video song “Gimme Chocolate” went viral in both the United States and Europe on YouTube and has generated almost 54 million views, leading to tours here and in Europe in 2014-15.
(To see videos from all the performances mentioned in this article, go to our new Rural Life Today YouTube page at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfzrVXxXo6JUnXxbhYW2_gw and click on the Babymetal Chronology playlist; and be sure to “Like” our page!)
In May, they toured the U.S. with stops including Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago. They return to the U.S. in July for the Columbus awards show and additional U.S. tour performances.
On June 11, Babymetal won the British heavy metal music magazine Kerrang Award for Best Live Band, last year won the Metal Hammer Spirit of Innovation Award and is nominated for this year’s AP Best International Band Award. Their sophomore CD “Metal Resistance” was released April 1 and the band made its U.S. television debut on Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” April 5.
“I’m not sure what I’m about to see,” Colbert said to the TV audience in introducing Babymetal, “But I’m pretty excited about it.”
If you want to know what all the excitement is about, plus see performances by groups such as A Day To Remember, Papa Roach, Dashboard Confessional, Good Charlotte and Of Mice & Men, AP Music Awards tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster. VIP experience packages are available via SoundRink.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.