Last night, I saw my third Japanese band live this year. I managed to snag a ticket for One OK Rock’s show at the O2 Islington back in June. i first heard of them from watching Rurouni Kenshin earlier this year, and I was instantly hooked. The four piece didn’t sound typically J-Rock at all, and the words sung were both in English and 日本語. And if it wasn’t for the Japanese lyrics, you’d think they were American.

The O2 Academy Islington is a small-to-mid sized venue and had seen the likes of a few decent Japanese acts performing here like The GazettE and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. I guess it makes sense to book venues like this as one may well be unsure of the response one would get (OOR sells out arenas back in Japan). The venue is an 800-capacity hall and from the queue that snaked around the N1 shopping mall you’d think a good 2000 had turned up. Whilst standing in the queue for 30 minutes, I entertained myself by listening to three Japanese girls excitedly talking about the gig, something about colours and description of a market nearby[1]. No, I didn’t turn around to them and say, “Are you ladies from Japan?” with a cheesy grin. あぷない!

There were signs politely requesting that no photos or videos were allowed during the show. Uhuh. Grabbed myself a t-shirt at the merch stall[2], I finally got into the hall which was already well packed. I chose stage left where Tōru would be, but the small nature of the venue meant I was gonna got a great view anyway[3].

The stage was already set with OOR’s gear which meant there were no openers, and Tomoya, Ryota, Tōru and Taka got onstage at 8 PM sharpish to a resounding cheer from the audience, with ~Where Idiot Should Go from their 2013 record, 人生x僕=, playing in the background. OOR kicked off their set with Ending Story?? much to the relish of the punters, surging forward to get closer to the stage. The sound in the beginning was somewhat subdued as Taka’s voice was drowned by the audience’s. Nevertheless, this was rectified soonish by the FOH engineer and the band sounded absolutely superb by the time the audience were clapping their hands in time to the intro of Deeper Deeper.

Taka et. al were absolutely relentless in their performance with three tracks from 人生x僕= played back-to-back. Taka asked the audience to sing along to the intro of アンサイズニア which brought the house down. The first sign of respite was noted by the time they played C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h. from 残響リファレンス. More audience participation occurred in the set as a lot of people in the crowd took out multicoloured paper clock hearts during Clock Strikes (no, I didn’t have one. Heh). All I could do is, err… twirl my newly-bought OOR tee.

OOR played their hearts out and Taka’s MC expressing his gratitude to the response the band was receiving was palpably genuine. Hey, you travel halfway across the planet to perform and see Brits singing back in your mother tongue[4], you’d be moved, right? The band brought their gear with them and Toru had with him his Gibbo LP Customs and PRS guitars. Ryota had his Warwick basses including the ones with the red LEDs on the fretboard.

In the second half of the main set, it was obvious that the stage was strewn with items thrown onto the stage for the band. There were tees with caricatures of the band members (Tomoya’s was the best) but the best item had to be a pair of shocking pink panties, which Taka then placed on Tōru’s head. Most of the songs were indeed hard rocking tunes bar Be the light, and was a pretty good mix from their older records. Re:make was one of my favs from their older stuff that they played last night, and they just. Went. On. Gila.

They ended their set with The Beginning during which time I was just amazed how Taka can still retain his voice’s intensity by this time. They left the stage after saying their thanks and the obligatory front row high fives. The familiar an-ko-ru 「アンコール」chants then began when the house lights were down. You’d never think this was a gig in Angel, Islington! It was about 5-10 minutes and the band came out to do one more song. They played the jiwang karat Wherever You Are, and I only knew the 愛してるよ bit in the sing-along. Heh.    

At the end, Taka promised again to come back to London and the foursome took a group bow. Taka finally thanked everyone who came to the show in Japanese and a heartfelt 愛しはず! Tōru then shouted a final ありがとう to his mic and that was the end of their unbelievable London live debut.

O2 Academy Islington, London 26.10.2013 set: [INTRO] Where idiot should Go / Ending Story?? / Deeper Deeper / Nothing Helps / アンサイズニア / C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h. / Let’s Take It Someday / じぶんROCK / Clock Strikes / Liar / Be the light / Re:make / NO SCARED / 完全感覚Dreamer / The Beginning // [Encore] Wherever You Are

[1]I was testing my ultra basic Japanese that I learnt thus far lah. Tsk.
[2]”Enjoy the show!”, said the lovely 日本の女. Kat gua aje tau. Tsk.
[3]Most of the punters were not tall. Heh.
[4]I still don’t know the 日本語 words to SCANDAL’s songs let alone OOR. *head hangs down in shame*