Founded in 2005, ONE OK ROCK is a band with deep ties to American pop-punk and alt-rock scenes. Greatly influenced by bands like Good Charlotte, they’ve toured and collaborated with such acts as Fallout Boy, Hoobastank and Yellowcard. Their recent North American tour took them to New York, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
For the San Francisco show on January 22nd, ONE OK ROCK played at the historic Warfield, which has previously hosted the likes of Guns N' Roses, Green Day and The Grateful Dead. ONE OK ROCK’s success over the past year was reflected by the choice of venue: The Warfield is double the size of the place where they last performed in the city.
The fans’ dedication and excitement were palpable in the air outside The Warfield. Even though it was a cold and rainy night, they were still queued up round the block, many trying to get a better view of the venue’s doors. By 7pm, the doors were open and the concert hall was packed, especially the sold-out VIP and floor sections, from where came multiple chants calling for the band to come on. Other concertgoers took the chance to line up for ONE OK ROCK merchandise — some fans were even putting on their new T-shirts straight after buying them.
The night was opened by American post-hardcore band Our Last Night, who have their roots in the same musical subculture as the headliner. As they played through their hits, it was interesting to hear how they’ve developed their own distinct sound, despite sharing many musical influences with ONE OK ROCK.
When the house lights dimmed again, slowly pulsating blue lights bathed the stage in a dreamy glow. Drummer TOMOYA came out first, and was met by deafening screams as he settled in behind his drum kit. Bassist RYOTA and guitarist TORU walked out together and took their places at opposite sides of the stage. There was a beat of breathless anticipation before frontman TAKA showed himself. The crowd saved their loudest screams for him.
“What’s up everybody?” said TAKA in English. “How are you doing tonight? Are you guys fucking ready for this?” The band then jumped straight into Taking Off. The singer urged fans to put their hands up, but the entire audience was already lost in the music, pumping their fists and dancing away. Many seemed to know the words to every song. This energy continued through fast and heavy songs Take me to the Top and Cry Out, during which the whole band headbanged along with the frenetic, undulating audience.
After an extended guitar solo by TORU came Clock Strikes, a calmer rock ballad. This live rendition felt slightly slower than the studio recording, and TAKA’s vocal range and prowess were awe-inspiring. Emotions ran high and a strong sense of unity took hold in the concert hall as the walls reverberated with the sound of not just TAKA’s voice, but the entire audience’s.
Hard to Love was opened by an emotional speech by TAKA. This song, exclusive to the English-language version of Ambitions, was written about the vocalist’s difficult relationship with his father and the struggles he’s faced trying to live up to his father’s expectations while staying true to himself. “I hope I’ve made you proud enough,” sang TAKA, and judging by ONE OK ROCK’s international success, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The show slowed down after this strong vocal performance, and TAKA stepped off stage, placing the focus on his bandmates. TORU and RYOTA gathered round TOMOYA’s drum kit for what felt like a casual jam. They started by playing experimental minimalist sounds from their respective instruments that sounded almost alien, then gradually progressed towards a fast-paced rock instrumental that had solos for each member. This instrumental led into Bedroom Warfare as TAKA retook the stage.
Next came The Beginning, the song that skyrocketed ONE OK ROCK to both domestic and international success thanks to it being the theme song for the 2012 live-action film adaptation of “Rurouni Kenshin”. As soon as the first few words were sung, the audience went into a frenzy, and the collective voices of everyone singing along overwhelmed the hall. This group karaoke vibe continued into Take What You Want, where for long stretches of the choruses, TAKA held the microphone out towards the audience.
To end, ONE OK ROCK played Mighty Long Fall, another song used in the live action "Rurouni Kenshin" sequel. As the members exited the stage, fans began chanting for an encore until the band came back out to play American Girls. “This was wonderful. Thank you so much!” said TAKA as this final song faded. “We miss you already. I don’t want to say goodbye just yet. We’re definitely coming back here. So, don’t say goodbye, say see you soon!”
With this promise, the singer departed, officially ending the concert and fans left feeling satisfied and excited that there would be a show again soon.
01. Taking Off
02. Take me to the Top
03. Cry Out
04. Deeper Deeper
05. Clock Strikes
07. Hard to Love
08. Instrumental - TORU, RYOTA, and TOMOYA
09. Bedroom Warfare
10. The Beginning
11. I was King
12. Take What You Want
13. We Are
14. Mighty Long Fall
01. American Girls
ONE OK ROCK at The Warfield, San Francisco
live report - 02.14.2017 19:01
On January 22nd, ONE OK ROCK gave fans at The Warfield a night to remember.
© Julia Wang