AS promised, Japanese rock quartet ONE OK ROCK returned to the halls of the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on January 29 with another phenomenal concert that left local J-rock fans with a bad case of so-called post-concert depression.
Met with much enthusiasm and appreciation, would this be enough to bring back the band for their third live gig in Manila? Started early in January, ONE OK ROCK’s Ambitions Asia tour rounded up major concert venues in Bangkok, Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, Hong Kong and Seoul. As the fifth leg of the tour, Manila was lucky enough to be shortlisted.
The highly anticipated Manila concert carried cuts from their latest album Ambitions, such as “Bombs away,” “Bedroom Warfare,” “One Way Ticket,” “Bon Voyage” and “I Was King.” Other well-loved hits like “Cry out,” “Re:make” and “Wherever” you are gave the audience a taste of that raw and edgy sound—the kind the band was known for—and raised the energy level of the show a couple of notches. Several songs in and it was clear that lead vocalist Taka had fulfilled his expectations from the Manila fans who can sing along to their material, even those in Japanese. He invited fans to sing a part of “Take What You Want” and hinted through a hand gesture to prolong the singing, to which the fans gladly obliged.
This is the part when he kneeled on center stage, looked up, closed his eyes and soaked in the voices that filled the MOA Arena for a dramatic two minutes.
Taka’s wish for the Wall of Death, a stunt he requested and missed in 2016, was finally granted when they performed “Mighty Long Fall.” In the mosh pit, the fans gathered in a circle, headbanged and slammed in the middle on cue. A very much satisfied Taka responded with a nod several times. Good thing that this time, the floor area was solely dedicated to the mosh pit, providing wider space for fans to maneuver.
Some of the fan service missed were bassist Ryota being topless, physical contact between Taka and guitarist Toru, and Taka shaking hands with fans. But the bandmembers made up for it and surprised everyone when they tried their best to speak in Filipino and addressed the crowd.
Tomoya’s “Mahal Kita” was reminiscent of the time he shouted those words in the first Manila concert, yet the fans simply can’t get enough of it. Female fans, however, got extra giddy when Taka changed the lyrics of “American Girls to” “come and break my heart, you Filipina girls…” Contrast—first and second shows: As one of the most relevant J-rock bands of this generation, ONE OK ROCK’s local popularity grew steadily and gained significant traction after the release of The Beginning, the official soundtrack of the first installment of the movie hit Rurouni Kenshin in 2012.
Through the initiatives of the local fandom and years later, Manila fans saw the very first ONE OK ROCK concert, a first for any Japanese act to do so in the MOA Arena. The 35xxxv concert was an introduction of sorts of the band to local fans with a performance filled with spontaneity, while the second encounter aimed to please both parties in a memorable two-hour show.
Worth mentioning is the superb stage production that delighted fans with an amazing light show and double high-definition digital screens that catered to the fans in the seated rows.
On the downside, the lightsticks and LED headgears were also frowned upon by the fans and even Taka himself, who was more aware of the accepted behavior during J-rock concerts.
Fans prepared several “gimmicks,” such as a message banner that got lost but was retrieved thanks to Ryota; the stickers that covered the mobile phones’ light; and the yellow bandanas that lit their concert outfits. While the fandom highly anticipated the band’s second coming, their attendance was just a tad short in approximation of the first one. The concert date falling on a Monday and ticket prices, which pretty much doubled, were the most obvious reasons for the turnout.
Since the fandom was more organized and vocal about following the rules on illegal recording or taking of photos using professional cameras, the number of mobile phones held the performances considerably lessened; however, there were reports of concertgoers livestreaming the event. The day after saw fans calling the attention of peers who uploaded concert clips on YouTube and Instagram. They wanted to safeguard their chances of enjoying the band—in the flesh—for the third time.
By all indications, the bandmembers want to see their Manila fans again, but the attendance and adherence to the rules are also crucial for the band’s return. After all, it was through their actions that brought them here, and it will also be their desire that will carry the band back to our shores.