Years ago, Moriuchi Takahiro (also known for his stage name, Morita Takahiro), frontman of the four-part emo-punk band ONE OK ROCK, had one goal—that is, to make his oddly-named band world-famous. The moniker is a no-brainer: it’s actually 1 o’clock, but of course, boys being boys (they were teens during the band formation), they had to spice it up, adding the word ‘rock’, the very core of their passion, into their identity. It took them some building and breaking ’till they were found by fate, and it smiled. How could anyone not smile looking at their goofy, fool-cool antics behind the scenes, and the endearing lyrics swelling over their ultra-pumped rock songs?
Fate must be a fan. Because things are coming up on speedway.
A part of Manila shook this Tuesday when these four men came; all grown up, partly childish, yet musically mature from their experiences in techniques, harmony, and culture. It was one of their stops for their Asian tour, the final drop of their global 35XXXV journey, which happened throughout the second-half of 2016. One would think about the exhaustion; there’s no joke in moving around, living with the same people and doing the same music for a long time, but they loved it. There is passion on their sweat, particularly evident on leader Toru’s, who probably is among the most surprised at how they’re climbing up the ladder to becoming the new punk-rock darlings. Darlings, of course, since I am a lady.
Mall of Asia Arena rang with a lot of expletives at the much-awaited year-opening gig, but this is defiance against the gravity that weighs the common folk down. The crowd had their arms up as Taka screams, “Raise your fucking hands, Manila!” and everyone did it earnestly. Most of the glow lights came from phones trying to capture the event as keenly as possible, but with everybody on the move, the question is… HOW?
I call that night a complete revelry, as everyone swept through the floor and the lower box with sheer bliss, some sporting unusual costumes along with the sea of black. ONE OK ROCK Live in Manila is more than a rock concert stage; it’s a grand meeting of otakus who loved Japanese rock fervently. There’s no rule, status, age or dress code. We are all delinquents, and this night is proper for pure delinquency.
The stage is bare with few decorations on; only the newly-done logo of ONE OK ROCK featuring a triangular mandala in black and white. Low key. After waiting for hours by the queue, people are expecting something explosive, but I reckon nothing can be as explosive as the dynamite Taka is. The boys entered the stage when everyone is sat; they just walked right there—no opening sequence, no front act. Just them. All of us saw Ryota’s bare abs (or the absence of it) from a distance, and we knew. The show is starting.
Of course, 35XXXV tracks rolls first into the live playlist, and ‘fuck’ spewed over the dome like nobody cared. Two songs in, and Taka introduced themselves—there was no need, but he was answered with a satisfying roaring from the audience, an exhale from a long waiting. I am hoping for a contented smirk and I think there was.
After watching the Mighty Long Fall Yokohama Arena 2014 performance, I knew what these guys are made of, and what they make. They make crowds go wild because of some certain charisma. Taka says it’s because of their looks (I beg to agree) but I think the main highlight is their music; they give a fresh, new spin on rock, thanks to Taka’s endearing voice, plus their cultural factor, which Japanese enthusiasts love wading into. Of course, I would also count Toru’s glorious arms, Ryota’s dancing bass game, and Tomoya being a perpetual cutie behind that drum set. During the stops, everyone, most especially the girls at Upper Box 221, screamed in earnest with genuine fangirlism. How do I know? I was sitting beside them.
They sang what was almost expected: Deeper Deeper, Clock Strikes, Memories, Cry Out, Last Dance. Fan favorites, of course. I would have wanted some other songs, but I couldn’t demand more. Thumbs up for the beautiful crowd who kept up the boys’ spirit, and I think they give out the same love in return. During intermissions, Taka would keep wooing the audience, of course, in a punk-like way, in comprehensible English. Following his journey, his diction improved very fast and he speaks with confidence; that’s what world wide tours do. You gain that brilliant tenacity when talking to crowds of complete strangers. Toru and Ryota offered great support in guitars and bass, and I now finally can see which of their four to five set instrument is for what song. Tomoya remains pumped at the back, giving consistent, constant beats, although I might suspect some problems in the monitors aroused during the performance. But, like I said, who cares? It is a night of delinquency.
When lights shut off for their last song, the crowd stood still. Encore. Everyone pushes for it, one bit and another, until the crowd united for “We want more” (because it is understandable compared to the Japanese phrases some are trying to scream). We knew it, they’d return; I could see Ryota’s abs like neon and they walked back to their bare stage, ready to do things again after a few minutes of rest.
That’s what they require. Perpetual yearning.
An acoustic performance of Wherever You Are, featuring our very own ship, Toruka (since girls will not give one or the other to another of the female species), starts their last stage. Toru slaps on his guitar for the beat; the song sounded like a local harana, but the winning gem is Taka’s ad libs, as well as the beautiful crowd singing during the solo. Taka must be impressed. In fact, he put his hands to his heart during a moment, and that made such a dent, because probably, he felt touched at the mastery of their lyrics, in his first time ever here in Manila.
For a man who has been struggling to build something with his own hands, he must be proud. Here, hundreds of non-Japanese speakers actually blurt out the lyrics as if they understood all of it. After grueling years of painstakingly building up the band’s musical colors and making them renown, this is one proof; a fruit of their labors.
They finished off their final, final stage with 完全感覚ドリーマー, including a noteworthy rap solo which wasn’t heard because the crowd went wild as balloons came tipping over. He hit the high notes flawlessly and then end with his jumping spree while Tomoya, the cinnamon roll drummer, paraded his final beats. Everyone cheers as Toru spills out guitar picks and Ryota throws away objects that from-where-I-was-standing-I-don’t-know, and then, Taka takes a white sheet from the standing crowd. He shows it to us: a cloth with the Philippine flag in the middle, surrounded by the signatures of his fans who waited so, so long to meet him. He might not remember their names, but I’m sure that flag will be folded up somewhere in their 35XXXV keepsakes. Phones up, and this debuts the Manila crowd in Taka’s Instagram, where all four of them smiles behind the fabric memento. A bow, a goodbye, and a promise of return spikes the crowd’s screaming once more. The last of which, I’m afraid, may take quite a good while, but for those who have been there, they have moments to relive with.
Taka’s tattoos were barely visible from where I was, but I heard about this particular phrase inked on his body, and it snooped under the blankets of my head for a while. “A man may fall many times, but he won’t be a failure until he says that someone pushed him,” says Elmer G. Letterman, something which probably reminds Taka his era of rebellion, and how he braved the tides by coming forward and facing his fears—himself, which he continually conquers every album release. On my part, I was there for his voice, but moreso, I was there for his journey. Seeing that man triumph over the big falls of his life, continually building up dreams and breaking free from the old ones, was such an inspiration. I might have not lifted my “fucking hands”, but I am keeping this inspiration in my heart-pockets, so I could also build and break free, and recreate myself every time, in a form of delinquency from what this world demands of me.
ONE OK ROCK Live in Manila, 35XXV 2016 Asia Tour. I’m afraid I regret using my phone camera and not bringing Sushi (my Sony 3NX Alpha). However, what’s done is done. The crappy photos do not say a thing at, despite how basic the stage is, how lovely the whole night was.