The five-strong, all-female rock group from Tokyo made their UK debut at the MCM Comic Con in May 2016 where they played three short sets over the course of the weekend. Their ‘kawaii’ look and hard rock sound full of melodic hooks went down a storm with the convention crowd and now their UK fans have a chance to see them in action again as they play the Camden Underworld on October 12th. This is the first of five shows across Europe, following their sell-out gig in Mexico three days earlier.
BAND-MAID’s signature costumes take their inspiration from singer and guitarist MIKU’s days spent working at an Akihabara Maid café. While they may look like your typical cute J-popsters at first glance, make no mistake, BAND-MAID rocks, pure and simple.
With no support act it’s an early start. The fans who attended the pre-gig VIP meet-and-greet have bagged the best spots in front of the stage and the crowd are chanting for BAND-MAID as the house lights fade. They’re not kept waiting as the band take to the tight Underworld stage bang on time.
Staying in Akihabara maid character, MIKU welcomes the “masters and princesses” to their second London “serving”, as BAND-MAID call their gigs. The grungy basement venue may not be fit for a princess with its low ceiling, beer-sticky floor and infamous view obstructing pillars, but the jam-packed crowd in close proximity to the band generates a terrific atmosphere.
They launch in to their set at full throttle with REAL EXISTENCE and their hit Thrill. These are the two tracks that brought BAND-MAID to the attention of the international audience and they show what the band is all about. AKANE’s urgent, relentless drumming and MISA’s basslines are the driving force at the heart of BAND-MAID’s songs. Lead guitarist KANAMI throws her considerable arsenal of techniques at each track, shredding her way through crowd pleasing solos. Singer SAIKI’s powerful voice leads BAND-MAID’s twin vocal attack, with MIKU’s harmonising and alternating lines giving the songs vocal depth. The fans are into it from the word go too as the venue erupts with their chanting and clapping.
After the strong opening, the breakneck pace continues with the aptly named Don’t apply the brake which gets the crowd cheering and punching the air again. You won’t find any ballads in a BAND-MAID show and they rip through their 18-song set with energy and enthusiasm. The only let-down is that the small stage, wedged awkwardly into the corner of the room, leaves AKANE’s fast and furious performance difficult to see, obscured by amps and her fellow band members.
After the high-octane blast of the non-fiction days MIKU announces “introduce myself time” and each band member tries out their English on the audience. MISA gets the biggest cheer. The crowd chant her name as she steps towards the mic in her stockinged feet, greeting her fans with an endearingly bashful “I am MISA. Pleased to meet you”. Her shy, retiring personality belies the power and confidence with which she wields her five-string bass.
With the introductions out of the way, they crash on with the show at full pelt. A raucous version Don’t let me down turns out to be a fan-favourite. It’s easier to singalong with the English lyrics after all!
As the gig heads towards the last few songs, the band takes a quick break for a spot of banter with the crowd. MIKU makes a confident frontwoman. She works the crowd well and gets some laughs out of them, despite her limited English. SAIKI’s normally intense stage persona slips as she laughs and smiles her way through the language barrier, with a little translation assistance from MIKU. The crowd catch her drift though; everybody is happy to be here.
MIKU goes on to organise a bit of crowd participation. The fans already know the drill and join in enthusiastically, maybe leaving the pedestrians on Camden High Street wondering what the strange subterranean roars of “Moe! Moe!” and “Kyun! Kyun!” are all about.
With the banter and chanting all done, they get back to it with new single YOLO, due for release on November 16th. Its combination of intricate guitar work and booming choruses get the fans jumping again after the short rest. The highlight of this song is KANAMI’s wild tapping solo. It’s quite a sight watching her fingers flying up and down the frets. This one has ‘hit’ written all over it.
They finish their set with a blistering rendition of alone, giving everybody one last chance to enjoy KANAMI absolutely shredding it. There is no encore but their 90-minute set has run through every track on the New Beginning and Brand New Maid albums as well as their impressive new single.
The crowd leave happy, but perhaps briefly disappointed that the night has to end and there aren’t just a few more songs. MIKU promises “Encore next time London”. Bring on next time; it can’t come soon enough.
01. REAL EXISTENCE
03. Don’t apply the brake
05. Shake That!!
06. Beauty and the Beast
08. LOOK AT ME
09. the non-fiction days
10. Arcadia Girl
11. Price of Pride
12. Don’t Let Me Down
14. Brand-New Road
15. Before Yesterday
BAND-MAID at Underworld, London
live report - 29.11.2016 00:01
BAND-MAID kick-off the European leg of their world tour with a blinding show at the Underworld, Camden.
© Christopher Woods