The famous Indiana Jones quote, “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage” comes to mind when describing the amazing journey of J-Metal band, Loudness. They made history being the first Japanese band to sign with an American label in the 80s. This past week marked their very first tour in Australia, thirty-eight years in the making. They’ve been busy after all, with over thirty albums in their catalog and have even toured with the likes of Motley Crűe.
Brisbane was the final stop on their Australian tour, staging their last show at the Woolly Mammoth (yes, there is a woolly mammoth there in the downstairs bar). Entering before doors open, was already a queue lined along the depths of the bar to head upstairs. The crowd a mix of cultures and ages, which is a testament to Loudness’ sound- it transcends generations and cultures. After scanning tickets, heading up the “Empire Strikes Back” scrolling text stairs (yes, Star Wars opening stairs), we found ourselves in a large darkened room with booths along the walls and a well-lit bar to the back. Stage setup being finalized, glowing in red. Merch stall right next to the stairs selling Loudness and support act Elm Street merch.
As the venue started to fill up, right on schedule first support act, local Brisbane metal band, Asylum hit the stage, bringing a mighty roar to the Woolly Mammoth with their opener, Demon’s Call. Their brand of metal quite apt for their name, shredding their axes like no one’s business and crazy quick thrashing at the drums. Vocalist/Bassist Jamie Stephenson thanked the audience for coming out to support both local and international acts, before introducing new song, Victim Complex. When it comes to Asylum’s energy, the Duracell Bunny has got nothing on these guys. Concealed Death marked the end to the perfect storm for the night’s first act.
A brief intermission followed, with the stage set up changeovers and the crowd given the opportunity to top up at the bar. Suddenly Melbourne metal outfit, Elm Street take on the stage with a “Hey!” and begin barrelling into their speedy set. Their music loud, clear and with sweet riffs. Elm Street came to kick ass that night and had the technical chops to prove it. Their set included Heart Racer, Kiss the Canvas and a kick-ass cover of Queen’s We Will Rock You, which got everyone in the room singing, stamping and clapping along. They closed out their set with what they called their anthem, Metal is the Way, which quite literally Loudness quietly made their way through the green room door at the side of the stage during the act’s climax.
The audience built during the second intermission and caught another breath as well as another sip, while the stage went through its final transformation. Now it’s worthy to note, that this is a pretty intimate concert setting especially for a band like Loudness who have played and still play at stadiums in their native homeland. The night’s audience would be envied by those in Japan for such a setting. Once Akira’s guitar was up on stage, audience members crowded towards it taking photos proving just how revered these Metal Gods are.
Background music played all the metal and rock hits however the darkened room managed to get even darker and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell played suddenly that bit louder. Alright fine, a lot louder and the crowd sang along, while they moved even closer to the stage with great anticipation. Loudness members walked onto the stage with the AC/DC hit playing, taking up their respective weapons of choice. Opening with their hit Crazy Nights, the audience sang along, to which vocalist Minoru took advantage. He worked the audience showing off that professional level stagecraft, which in our recent interview he mentioned he had learned from Motley Crűe. Like Hell and Heavy Chains allowed Akira to pull out some technical guitar wizardry. In all honesty, his guitar work is outstanding and deserving of metal god status. Arguably, he may even be the best Japan has produced.
Minoru between numbers asks “who can speak Japanese?” to the audience (some of which were Japanese) and a lot happened to respond with hands up. He spoke about how long it’s taken to get to Australia and how happy they were to be here finally, leading into Let It Go with its beautiful intro. As they continued playing tracks from both the Thunder in the East and Hurricane Eyes albums, it was incredible how up close Loudness got to the audience, literally on the edge of Stage Front. The crowd was totally enraptured with the legends as were they themselves posing, waving and making faces for photos being taken by audience members. During one number, bassist Masayoshi photobombed Akira!
Taking a breather, Minoru spoke about how hard it is to choose what songs to play with over 400 songs recorded and 30 albums and asked the audience to choose. A choice of Sleepless Night was shouted, to which they teased by playing the intro. Minoru asked Akira what he wanted to play, to which he responded by playing the intro riff to AC/DC’s Back in Black. Minoru asked the audience if it was alright to play their new stuff from Rise to Glory to which the audience enthusiastically cheered as he showed off the back of his denim vest emblazed with Rise to Glory patching. They broke into Soul on Fire to which audience sang along and followed up with I’m Still Alive.
Minoru, Masayoshi, and Akira left the stage to give over the spotlight to drummer, Ryuich Nishida for an out of this world drum solo act. His speed and accuracy across the kit are sharp as they are deadly showing off some tricky moves. The band returned together onto the stage, with Minoru introducing all the members and spoke about the gig being the last on the tour and the hope to return to Australian shores. The audience cheered, a lot of love was in the room giving all the motivation in the world for Loudness to deliver a thunderous four-part encore with Rock’n’Roll Gypsy, This Lonely Heart, Crazy Doctor, and S.D.I. The band took their bow together at the end and staying on stage to high five, fist bump and quickly chat to the audience before making their exit (yes I did talk to Minoru again for five secs and he remembered our interview! I also met Akira too and got a high five).
Now, considering we’ve had two J-Metal bands on Australian shores in the past six months (Babymetal at Good Things Festival and now Loudness), I’m curious if we may be seeing the start of a J-Metal movement in the Australian market? I sure hope so!
Review Contributed by Sarah Minazzo
Gallery by Roger Brooks (SYDNEY)