TVD Live Shots: Babymetal and Avatar
at The Anthem, 9/8

It was a theatric night with two contrasting bands at Washington DC’s Anthem, on Sunday, 9/08, as Babymetal, with Avatar, stormed the Wharf.

In Babymetal you have the perfect gateway act to the wider world of metal, and I’m glad they’re getting booked on some of the bigger American rock festivals. Judging by the crowd, their fans are more than just people who think they’re hot. To me, it seems like the obvious thing is less gatekeeping and more embracing. Besides, when was the last time your favorite burly dude band played Revention and tried to summon a dark god? Exactly.

From the moment the lights go dark and the band’s logo is projected onto the nearly bare stage, the room belongs to Babymetal. For the uninitiated, the sound is classic kawaii, a genre that features a mix of pop-ish vocals combined with thrash guitar. Leading on vocals, Su-metal is joined by Moametal and a temporary new member in impossibly intricate and impressive choreography.

Indeed, the choreography is what one notices first as the trio kicks off their set with “Megitsune” and what makes the performance so engaging to watch. The three young women barely appear to break a sweat during their hour and change set, which included “Karate,” “PA YA YA,” and “Gimme Chocolate.” This, on top of Su-metal’s impressive vocals and the skill of their backing band, all masked dressed in Grim Reaper-ish garb. Hanging back in the shadows, the musicians were not intended to be the main attraction here. Nevertheless, they killed.

While it may be easy to write off a band like Babymetal as gimmicky, the skill, talent, and hard work involved here is evident and deserving of serious consideration, as the fans present at the Anthem already knew.

Complementing Babymetal’s theatrics were Avatar, providing the crowd with a Scandinavian-style metal freakshow, in their very first performance in Washington, DC. What an absolute treat. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, Avatar formed in 2001 by drummer John Alfredsson and guitarist Jonas Jarlsby. The most recent album, Avatar Country, was released in 2018. The lineup now includes Henrik Sanelin on bass and Tim Öhrström on guitar. Our guide through the 40 minute set is lead vocalist Johannes Eckerström.

Again, the threads that connect this band with Babymetal is that, along with musical skill, both have a clear grasp of theatrics. Eckerstrom, face painted black, white, and red, is fun and unafraid to wag his tongue at the audience, and the men all wear costumes making them look something like a sinister marching band. It’s almost impossible to take your eyes off Eckerstrom, or anyone in the group for that matter, as together they are a visual feast.

Overcome by delight, I said out loud, “Oh my God, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.” I felt like I’d been hit by lightning, something I’ve only experienced a few times in my concert going life; now Avatar joins my small collection of thunderbolts. I stopped snapping photos for a few seconds to exchange excited grins with a few dudes standing against the barrier and throw some horns in the air. They packed musical talent, wit, amazing hair, and headbanging into their tight, six song, 40-ish minute set, which included “Paint Me Red,” “Bloody Angel,” and “Smells Like a Freakshow.” I was sad when it ended.

A YouTube commenter compared discovering Avatar to finding a leprechaun. Perfect. DC needs a headlining show from these glorious creatures. Come back, Avatar, come back!

BABYMETAL

AVATAR

AVATAR SET LIST
Hail the Apocalypse
The Eagle Has Landed
Paint Me Red
The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country
Bloody Angel
Smells Like a Freakshow

BABYMETAL SET LIST
Megitsune
Elevator Girl
Shanti Shanti Shanti
Kageron
Starlight
Gimme Chocolate
PA PA YA
Distortion
Karate
Headbangeeeeerrrr!!!!!!
The ONE
Road of Resistance

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  • Andrew Rose

    I saw avatar the night before in Charlotte NC without babymetal. They played a longer set and killed it. Even if you haven’t heard much of these guys I highly recommend going to see them. It was worth the 3 hour drive one way and I’m hoping I can see them again a little closer to home

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