One OK Rock are, to use a familiar phrase, big in Japan. So big in fact that last summer, across two shows at Shizuoka’s Nagisaen Park, the band played to a total of 110 000 fans. Captured in the forthcoming concert film 2016 Special Live In Nagisaen, the gigs were on the same epic scale as historic live events like Queen at Wembley Stadium or Green Day at Milton Keynes Bowl.
Although the quartet haven’t yet achieved such popularity outside their home country, they’re making a real go of becoming “Japan’s first globally recognised band”.
Their last three albums have been recorded with John Feldmann, the US producer responsible for all the recent hits by Good Charlotte and blink-182. They’ve signed with Fueled By Ramen, the label home of Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. They’ve toured globally (on their own and with the likes of 5 Seconds Of Summer). And, as a real indication of their arrival on the international stage, earlier this year they were due to support Linkin Park on their North American One More Light tour.
It’s all paying off. They’re not headlining stadiums outside Asia (yet), but their current Ambitions world trek is easily selling out venues like Shepherd’s Bush Empire. And each fan who turns up is just as fervid as those at the outdoor spectacles in Japan.
So, even as the four band members step out onto the stage in London, there are screams. They only intensify as Taka holds up the microphone, tilts back his head, and delivers the opening line of Bombs Away. “This is the end of you and me,” the rest of the audience sing along in unison, almost drowning out those who’ve decided to continue screaming instead.
The nimble-footed frontman, always moving, often pointing, sometimes getting tantalisingly close to the hands reaching over the barricades, takes it all in his stride. An old hand at playing to tens of thousands, he relies largely on hand gestures. Get the crowd to pogo along with him? There’s one for that. Make the audience sing even louder than they already are? There’s another one for that.
Amplifying the drama of a moment comes just as easily. With all the poise of Michael Jackson, he simply stands still, raises his arms, looks up at the ceiling, and waits for the venue to erupt. They do, time and time again, but never as exuberantly as during Take What You Want.
The band suddenly stop playing. The frontman surveys the crowd, standing silently as they scream “Taka” and/or “One OK Rock”. Even when they begin clapping in unison, he remains resolutely still. And only when the entire venue finally descends into silence does he belt out the line “It’s hard to see your tears in the pouring rain”. (Spoiler: the silence doesn’t last long.)
With such mastery on display, the only element missing from such a high-energy show is some crowd surfing from the unstoppable, twisting, bouncing, leaping front man. It’s not to be, but that doesn’t diminish the magnetism of this band’s performance. Whether it’s the impossibly catchy songs, their self-assured delivery by guitarist Toru, bass player Ryota, and drummer Tomoya, or the larger-than-life character of the gutsy singer, One OK Rock have absolutely everything a band could need to rule the world. They’re already well on their way.