The final show of Takayoshi Ohmura’s METAL PARADOX tour started as so many concerts do; in a long line of people shivering in the rain and wind. Soon-to-be audience members shuffled sideways to keep their backs to the gale. As the ticket numbers were called, the line threaded into the stairwell leading to the venue. Once past the coat check, the merch table, and the bar, concert-goers packed into the auditorium. As the crowd inside grew, so did the temperature and the humidity from so many damp bodies. A few people ignored the discomfort and chatted among themselves. Others stood quietly, took some pictures of the empty stage, or squatted down to rest their legs. Eventually, the stage lights came up, the musicians came out, and nobody in the room could claim to be unhappy.
If you are a fan of BABYMETAL, then Takayoshi Ohmura should be a familiar name. He has long been a guitarist in the Kami Band. Kami Band bassist Boh and long-time drummer Hideki Aoyama were also on stage for this concert. Several audience members wore BABYMETAL merchandise to this show. They soon learned that this was not metal for babies. Joining the BABYMETAL veterans was Kuze Atsushi from the bands Concerto Moon and Screaming Symphony. The four of them carried out a performance that was forever burned into the memories of all in attendance. It was pure melodic metal, with no gimmicks.
Ohmura is a guitarist against whom other guitarists should be measured. He should be counted as one of the great virtuosos of the world, like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or Yngwie Malmsteen. However, while his solos are stratospheric in their speed and composition, his music is still approachable. Most of the audience didn’t know the songs by heart, but anyone who has listened to rock and roll or metal could anticipate when the riffs or beat would change. It was recognizable, and easy to listen to. It was incredibly fun to see live and to be in the crowd, and to feel the anticipation when a drum fill meant that a solo was coming.
He is also an accomplished showman. He not only entertained and awed with his incredible guitar abilities, but he surrounded himself with extraordinary musicians. On his bass, Boh picked, plucked, hammered, swept, and tapped his way through the songs, leaving as many mouths hanging open as the Guitar God. Aoyama’s rhythms and fills were beaten out with the explosiveness of a small war, but with factory precision. In front of all of them was Kuze Atsushi, whose stage presence and power raised the entire concert to a level that nobody watching could have anticipated. Think of Joey Belladonna from Anthrax for his combination of raw vocal power and eagerness to entertain.
There was a fifth musician who was supposed to be on this tour as well. Mikio Fujioka was billed as a guest guitarist before his tragic death in January. The posters which advertised this concert still bore his picture. After the first five or six songs, the band paused to remember him. It wasn’t a funeral atmosphere. instead, it was jovial as the band members took turns remembering fun times with the guitarist nicknamed “Little God”. Members of the stage crew brought out two of Fujioka’s signature guitars, a six and a seven string. They set them up on stands in the middle of the stage as the musicians remembered him with good humour. Occasionally, one of them would reach out and rest a hand on one of the salmon-coloured ESP’s. In memory for his love of his favourite beverage, Takayoshi Ohmura himself set a can of beer on the floor between the two guitars.
After the tribute, Atsushi left the stage, and Ohmura, Boh, and Aoyama began a long instrumental set. At first, it just seemed like the three of them, but after a minute or so, a second guitar could be heard in the mix. They had taken recordings of Fujioka from the studio, many of which were just fooling around or practising, and had built an amazing instrumental set from it. There were many moist eyes resting above bright smiles as the audience was treated to music that had never been made public before, from an incredible artist who was taken before he should have been.
After that emotional masterpiece, it was time to continue the show. The guitars on the stage were removed from being displayed, but Ohmura strapped on the six-string model and played it for the remainder of the show, keeping Fujioka’s presence in the room while the regular set played out. It was as raucous and exciting as it was in the beginning, as Kuze Atsushi came back and powered the band through until the end. And when the house lights came up, the stage lights dimmed, and the crowd was finished clapping, shouting, stomping, and whistling, they filed back into the night. The rain and wind stopped out of respect for those who had just experienced one of the best concerts in their lives.