One OK Rock @ Dürer Kert, Budapest, 2019.05.19
In these last couple of years One OK Rock became one of the biggest, most popular Japanese acts worldwide. They formed in 2005 and they started to become popular overseas within the anime and J-Rock scenes sometime around 2011 with tracks like Kanzen Kankaku Dreamer, Re:make and No Scared. But after they did their first European tour back in 2013 they started to grow bigger and bigger. They were playing at bigger venues at each subsequent EU tour, they visited the US a couple of times and they also secured some important festival spots over the years. And while most of their worldwide audience still comes from the “Asia fan” scene, they are still growing fast as we could clearly see when the tickets for their first ever show in Hungary at a venue with approx. 700+ capacity sold out in a matter of a few hours.
They had two opening acts for this tour and the first one to hit the stage was the solo project of Dan Lancaster, with him and a drummer guy on stage. He worked with One OK Rock as a songwriter, producer and mixing engineer on some of the track from their last two albums and besides them he’s got acts like Bring Me The Horizon, Blink 182, Good Charlotte and Hollywood Undead under his belt… along with a Grammy nomination. And he sounded exactly like some Grammy kinda stuff: he played harmless, melodic, very-very radio friendly and polished-to-the-extreme rock tunes about love and all that. Next up was Anteros, another UK act, but with a very different sound. They were kinda sticking out, playing lighthearted pop-rock with a slight touch of new wave, fronted by a girl who’s obviously got a thing for Debbie Harry. And actually they didn’t just look, but also sounded like Blondie. Like a… well, not very good Blondie. But they did put on a proper show, I have to give them that.
And then One OK Rock hit the stage. This time they were touring with their latest album, Eye Of The Storm, that was released this February and that followed on the footsteps of the preceding Ambitions in pushing the band’s sound into a lot a more pop-rock oriented direction. They never played extreme music of course, it was always rock for the masses, but their earlier releases were quite a bit more edgy. In their recent ones however, they admittedly changed it to please wider audiences, especially in the US. And as a result… they ended up with that very, very generic US student radio rock sound? And while they still manage to write some stronger songs (like We Are, Changes or I Was King) I am really not as sure as them that this is the right way to worldwide fame.
But let’s get back to the show: the first time I saw them was a bit more than a year ago in Vienna, when they were already on this same route towards this arena rock sound and that show really did not do anything for me. It was just an OK, but bit tired rock show. The only thing that really struck me was Taka’s voice, which is even stronger live, but other than that it was absolutely not a night to remember. This one however was somewhat better, even those newer, more popish songs sounded stronger live and while in Vienna they were kinda lost between their earlier state of being an enthusiastic rock band and their new role as a fully professional international rock act, this time they were clearly a lot more comfortable with their new identity as the latter. They were good, polished, they put on a good show (well, mostly Taka did, who was running around the stage all of the time) and they even brought their own light equipment this time, bathing the stage in brightness. As expected, the concert was mostly about their two most recent albums that had a worldwide release: they played seven tracks off the new and five off their previous one, plus one instrumental tune and three older classics. The first of the older ones, Clock Strikes popped up in the setlist quite early, while The Beginning and Mighty Long Fall was left for later, closing the main part of the show. And after that, they only came back to play one more, Wasted Nights, the track that got its own music video around the release of the new album.
Overall it was not a bad show at all, it was just… OK. A proper gig by a professional rock group and that’s about it. They did enjoy it, I guess, but the spark that could make it all special seems to be gone by now. However it is clearly the was they have chosen and they undoubtedly do a good job at this whole “famous rock band” act, so let’s hope they will eventually get wherever they want to get with this new direction of theirs.
And now the setlist and the gallery. If you wanna check the full gallery with the Dan Lancaster / Anteros part included, go over here.
07.Take What You Want
08.Stand Out Fit In
11.I Was King
15.Mighty Long Fall