WORDS: Jack Fermor-Worrell
It’s a bitterly cold Monday night in Manchester, and yet, a hundreds-strong queue of people extends down the road next to Manchester Academy. The act they’re waiting for – fast-rising Japanese rockers ONE OK ROCK.
Long lines and an incredibly short set length of just twenty minutes mean that much of the crowd (including this reviewer) miss openers DEAD!, but the venue is significantly fuller by the time WE CAME AS ROMANS start their performance. Led by charismatic frontmen Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone, the band proceed to more or less decimate the Academy with a short but effective set of melodic metalcore and alternative rock that’s both abrasive and surprisingly catchy. Opening with new track Regenerate from their recent self-titled fourth album, the band deftly prove any potential doubters wrong with a strong showing that leaves the crowd shouting for more. Their set suffers a tiny bit in the middle, simply due to the nature of some songs sounding samey; and they do seem to play for less time than advertised – but, minor complaints aside, this is nonetheless an impressive performance.
Emerging to the bouncy pop-punk tones of Take Me To The Top, Japanese four-piece ONE OK ROCK immediately dispel any doubt as to who the crowd are here for, sending Academy 2 into a frenzy of screaming and jumping. Since they began in 2005, the band have gradually built up a dedicated fanbase across the world, and it really shows tonight – the crowd singing along to almost every lyric that comes out of vocalist Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi’s mouth. With a set made up mostly of tracks from newest album 35xxxv, the Japanese mob have an arsenal of relentlessly catchy pop-punk-tinged anthems that barely relent for almost the entire show. Memories, for example, packs a chorus that could level a city in its strength, and Stuck In The Middle captures a SLEEPING WITH SIRENS-esque level of melody. Things take a vastly different turn mid-set though, as an acoustic guitar is wheeled out. Before anything can happen though, the crowd launch into an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday for guitarist Toru Yamashita – who appears both bemused and delighted. This is immediately followed up by emotional ballad Heartache. It’s undoubtedly a highlight, as many draw out lighters and sing their hearts out to the track’s devastatingly affecting chorus. Things don’t remain so slow for long though, and the band soon jump back into heavier territory with Suddenly. As their set draws to a close with Mighty Long Fall, the four members of ONE OK ROCK appear visibly elated by the response to their music, and the audience continues to go wild long after they retreat backstage. Obviously, that’s not it though, and the band soon return to power through newer song The Way Back and fan-favourite No Scared. ONE OK ROCK might still be a relative unknown to many UK rock fans, but if they continue to play sets like tonight’s, they’ll hit the big-time on these shores soon enough.