ONE OK ROCK’s Ambitions live at Tokyo Dome took place April 4-5, 2018. This was my first time seeing the band live and wow. From all the videos I’ve seen, I knew they were going to be great, but there really isn’t anything to describe seeing them in person.
At the door, we were given synchronized lights which we were instructed to turn on and leave on our wrist. The start time on both days were a bit delayed, and the second day was delayed by a whole 30 minutes. When the lights went down, excitement filled the entire venue as streaks of light were displayed on the monitors at the back of the stage. They went from the right towards the middle, and then down the runway, and then again but from the left. The lights we were given when we entered the venue lit up and it was quite a beautiful scene seeing all these lights flashing in the audience. Smoke filled the stage and then suddenly Taka appeared at the front of the runway singing Taking Off. There he was, in the flesh! Taka!!
On the first day, my seats were on the first floor stands near the back on the 3rd base side (left side of the stage), and on the second day, I was in the second floor stands way up there, but it was dead center. Maybe because I was near the back on the second day and therefore there weren’t as many people behind us so I couldn’t hear the audience as well as the first day, but it felt like not as many people sang along that day. On the first day, the audience sang along to almost all the songs. But like I said, maybe they sang along on the second day too but due to my seating that day I couldn’t hear them as well. Anyway, the crowd was pumped. It got especially loud during the parts where the audience was supposed to sing along.
I really like the live version of Cry out and Bedroom Warfare. The way Taka belts out “shout it out now” and extends the “now” while the crowd sings the “ohhh~” part in unison is just breathtaking. I think the chorus and beat of Bedroom Warfare is really catchy and I like it, but I’m not fond of all the repeating of “keep your enemies close” in the studio version. The live arrangement is a million times better. For one, there isn’t all that repetition, and the added riffs are really cool. They didn’t sing 20/20 in this set like they did during the Ambitions Japan Tour, but if my memory serves me correctly, Taka was all up in Toru’s face during this song.
The band gave their greetings after Bedroom Warfare. On the first day, Ryota asked the crowd to let him hear their voices as loud as they could. Maybe Tomoya wanted to keep it up and greet the crowd just as loudly, but instead his voice cracked. It was cute.
After everyone’s greetings, Taka pointed his finger up in the air and with the familiar clock motion, Clock Strikes began to play. I think Taka hit close to 20 seconds on long note on the first day; probably not as long on the second. He probably messed up on the second day too because he usually sings a pair of “believe that time is always forever” just once before letting the crowd sing it, and then he sings it again before the long note, but on this day, he sang it twice, leaving the crowd to sing the last part before he goes into the long note. This made him start the long note as the crowd was still singing and I think a lot of people were confused by that. It’s possible this affected the length of his long note. I think he “only” went maybe 15 seconds the second day.
I absolutely love One Way Ticket so I was very excited to hear it live. To be honest, I had originally thought that someone else sang with Taka because the part at the beginning sounded like a different voice. I realized later that it was Taka though since there’s no “featuring” artist listed, and watching him sing it live, yup, definitely him. It’s amazing how he can change his voice like that. As he walked down the runway, it rained confetti. Very pretty.
After One Way Ticket, the monitors started playing a video that showed the history of ONE OK ROCK. It started in 2005 and showed their concert footage throughout the years. It was all small live houses until 2010 when they performed at Budokan. From then on it was all large venues: Yokohama Arena, Yokohama Stadium, Saitama Super Arena, Nagisaen, that huge parking lot in Taiwan… When the video finished, the spotlight was in the back of the venue and there were screams as the band headed to the stage in the back.
Taking their positions on the stage, Taka mentioned that they thought hard about how they should make their entrance at the back, and one of the ideas that they floated around was them flying to the back, but that was quickly scratched off the list since Taka is afraid of heights. In the end they decided to just enter normally. When asked how many people were attending a ONE OK ROCK live for the first time, about half the people raised their hands, myself included. Taka made small talk with a young audience member. He asked how old they were and it turns out they were 13, which means they were born when the guys started the band. He joked about how the mother must be dragging the kid along, but it seems the kid was a fan too.
Perhaps because there were a lot of first-timers in the audience, the band then reminisced about their humble beginnings. They talked about how at first it was just three members with Toru, Ryota, and Yu. Toru was on vocals in the beginning but he quickly realized that his singing wasn’t up to snuff and he told Ryota, “I’m going to search for a vocalist.” Toru’s friend invited him to a live and that’s when he saw Taka perform for the first time. Toru thought Taka had a great voice but was very gloomy because he was looking down the entire time he was singing. He felt that Taka would have more fun singing in their band instead, and thus started Toru’s famous stalking of Taka until he joined. Taka said that Toru found out where he worked and would show up all the time, to which Toru quickly interjected to set the record straight, reminding Taka that he told Toru where he worked. Taka then demonstrated how Toru would disturb him at work, coming up really close to his ear and just kept on repeating, “Join my band. Join my band.” But thanks to Toru’s persistence, Taka joined and it was a real jackpot for the band.
Ryota went on to explain how he was really scared of Taka at first because Taka would often squat gangster style in the rehearsal studio.
(see 4th photo)
As is well known, Ryota didn’t really talk to Taka during the first year after he joined. Taka would get mad at Ryota for not moving around enough on stage, and would smack him on the head or kick him while they were performing to get him to move. Back then, Taka used to wear a lot of baggy clothing and was very intimidating. When Tomoya joined the band, Ryota felt like he had been blessed with an angel. Ryota couldn’t stop smiling, and everyone immediately decided that Tomoya would be their drummer, even though they hadn’t yet heard him play. Back at Taka’s place, they made Tomoya play something which of course put him on the spot, but the moment he started drumming, the other three guys looked at each other and just smiled and nodded. All of them remember that day very well.
After all the nostalgic talk, they played an acoustic version of their first major debut single, Naihi Shinsho. In the special video for Primal Footmark members before the Dome Tour started, they had mentioned that they would be playing some songs that they haven’t played in several years. I immediately hoped that they would sing Naihi Shinsho, and my wish came true! I was mostly interested in hearing how Taka would sound singing the song now because his singing style and voice were quite different back then. Taka can still sing in that old style, but his voice isn’t as raspy as it was in the past. The acoustic version was great! I really enjoyed it.
Since they were on the topic of old songs, Taka mentioned Keep It Real and Yume Yume, and how Toru used to rap. Of course the crowd urged them to sing it, and Toru started playing Yume Yume on guitar. He was then joined by Tomoya and Ryota, and it was like a mini jam session. They played it instrumental for a bit (Toru refused to sing/rap), and then skipped to the chorus where Taka began to sing. Oh, it was glorious, even if they only sang a little bit of the song. When the crowd protested that they didn’t sing more, Taka promised that one day they’ll sing the song for us, to which everyone cheered.
Next they sang Wherever you are. The synchronized lights all turned purple and it was so pretty.
They often sing this song acoustic during live performances, but this time they performed the original version. I’m kind of glad they decided to do the original version because we have so many instances of the acoustic version already. The audience of course sang along.
After Wherever you are, Toru, Ryota, and Tomoya returned to the main stage, leaving Taka all by himself. Ryota kept teasing Taka though, repeatedly asking him if he’d be OK by himself and saying that it looks like Taka wants them to stay. Taka finally told them to hurry up and leave, showing just how well they all get along. He said he would sing one last song for us at the rear stage, and he would do it alone. With guitar in hand, Taka performed Last Dance, and we got a glimpse at how Taka writes melodies for OOR songs.
On the second day, perhaps because they started a half hour late, everything seemed a bit rushed. They didn’t talk nearly as much during the MC. After reflecting on some of the video footage, they talked about how Taka was really pumped up for this tour.
After was the instrumental part. It was so awesome! Tomoya had a really long drum solo. I love all the guys, but Tomoya is my favorite after Taka, so this was a real treat. Next up was Deeper Deeper. So awesome to see Taka scream in person! While I don’t usually like screaming, I find Taka’s screams to be quite refined. Anyway, this song really gets you pumped up and the crowd sung along to the chorus. For I was King, the stage lighting was all yellow, and again the audience sang the chorus together. Take what you want was very emotional. Like Taka usually does when he sings this song live, there was a long pause after the first verse. It was dead silent until the music started. The studio version featuring 5 Seconds of Summer is nice, but I much prefer the live performance, if only because Taka gets to sing the entire song by himself.
Next was one of my favorite songs, The Beginning. We all sang along and it was great fun. The song after totally caught us off guard. In Osaka they sang Start Again, but they had a special surprise for Tokyo. Taka said that if we didn’t get excited for the next song then they would never perform it again. He told us they had special guests just for Tokyo and then called his comrades onto the stage: MAH from SiM, Masato from Coldrain, and Koie from Crossfaith. Yes– They sang Skyfall! This was the first time they ever performed it live. To be honest, I’m not a fan of metal-type screaming so Skyfall isn’t a favorite song of mine, but it was really cool to see them sing it live.
The band continued to thrill audiences with Mighty Long Fall. Man, I couldn’t help but jump a bit during this. The stage was lit up red and it was so awesome. I only wish they had sung the Japanese version instead of the English one.
The last song for the main set was Nobody’s Home. I imagine Taka Papa was probably in the audience. Taka told us that we were the scenery that he wanted to show “that person.” As always, it was a heartfelt performance, and the audience sang along the entire time.
After the band members left the stage, the crowd took out their phones and waved their flashlights. It was beautiful seeing the venue lit up like that.
The first song of the encore was the band’s newest song, Change. I think there was a lot of concern, especially in the foreign community, that the song was all Taka and that there was not much of a “band sound” to it. I was curious to hear how it would sound live, but it was closer to the studio version than I had imagined. That is, it wasn’t drastically different with extra long riffs like Bedroom Warfare. The instruments really resounded throughout the entire venue though and I quite enjoyed it.
On the second day, Taka forgot the lyrics halfway through… He suddenly went quiet and started to mumble some lyrics from the first verse of the song as he tried to recover. Then we suddenly heard a loud, “F**k!” It was so funny. After the song, he apologized for messing up, and then proceeded to pretend to stomp his foot in frustration like a little kid. Can you say “adorable”?? I really hope they keep this in the TV broadcast (and home release should there be one). Unfortunately this seemed to really weigh on Taka though, and he expressed his frustration in an Instagram post after the show.
Don’t sweat the little things, Taka! It just reminds us that you’re human! I think he was especially hard on himself because he wanted to have a perfect performance in front of his hometown crowd.
Up next was Kanzen Kankaku Dreamer. Oh man, the energy in this song! Everyone sang along and had a great time. You can really tell that this is one of the songs that gets the crowd pumped up the most. Taka thanked everyone for coming and for supporting them after the song, and he was so out of breath the entire time he talked. He breathed very heavily between words and you can tell he was very tired.
The very last song was, of course, We are. Ever since the official YouTube channel put up the video of this song from the Ambitions Japan Tour, I’ve been waiting for the day that I could sing it with everyone. This song is so special, and I think its message resonated with every single person in the audience. Everyone sang along very loudly. I’m not entirely sure if Taka messed up or if he meant to do it because he did it both days, but he switched from the Japanese version to the English version in the middle of the song. The first Japanese verse he sang in Japanese, but the second one he sang in English. It was a little confusing to sing along to but in the end it matters little. Taka is such an amazing performer. Even though he was breathing heavily while talking just a few moments ago, it had absolutely no effect on his singing. After the song, Taka collapsed in front of Tomoya’s drum set. He laid on his back with his hands over his face while the other three gave their greetings. Only after they finished did he get up. On the second day he sat slumped over in front of the drums while the others talked.
At the end, the band members were given banners that fans wrote messages on. On the first day, there was one that said Happy 30th Birthday to Taka. There were several banners on the second day. My friends and I signed a couple of them so hopefully our messages reach them.
What an amazing concert! Just, wow. Everyone in the band gave it their all and put in 120% effort. This was definitely the best concert I have ever been to, no comparison, and I can’t wait to be able to see them again. I wish I had become a fan earlier and gotten the chance to attend some of their other lives. I love that they really cherish their fans, and they don’t take their success for granted one bit. They are always very sincere when they speak to the audience.
Unlike the usual ONE OK ROCK concerts, all the Dome Tour concerts were entirely seated. Because of this, we weren’t really allowed to jump (Taka would instead instruct the crowd to “sway” by waving their arms sideways). You could tell that Taka’s movements were pretty restricted because of this since he didn’t head bang as much as he usually would. Even so, the crowd was very energetic and everyone had a grand old time.
When asked about the difference between lives in Japan and overseas, Taka has on several occasions mentioned his dislike of all the clapping at Japanese lives. I totally understand where he’s coming from. There was a lot of clapping, and I can see how it can become kind of annoying, especially in venues such as this where the acoustics aren’t specialized for concerts.
Anyway, here’s to hoping the band finishes their new album soon so they can go on tour again. I look forward to the next opportunity to see them live.
- Taking Off
- Mikansei Koukyoukyoku
- Kimi Shidai Ressha
- Cry out (English ver.)
- The Way Back -Japanese Ver.-
- Bedroom Warfare (English ver.)
- Clock Strikes
- One Way Ticket (English ver.)
- Naihi Shinsho
- Wherever you are
- Last Dance
- Deeper Deeper
- I was King
- Take what you want
- The Beginning
- Mighty Long Fall (English ver.)
- Nobody’s Home