On the 27th & 28th February 2019, the only rock band I know of to sport wolf heads returned to the UK to perform in Manchester and London as part of their Chasing the Horizon European Tour.
I attended the Manchester gig on the 27th and I am very happy to say that it was absolutely brilliant. Not that I expected anything else – I saw them live last year in Newcastle when they were touring with Don Broco and in my opinion, they were the best band at that live show even if they didn’t play their big hitters. They were more low-key, playing some of their more recent releases and went against my expectations by not playing any of their anime hits.
This time around I got more of what I expected as they went all out with a mixture of songs from their most recent album, Chasing the Horizon, and some anime classics. Did I expect them to lead in with database? No, I certainly didn’t – but it sure was a good song to get the crowd into things.
This did however set a precedent that the ones the crowd were most excited for were the anime songs – Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans’ Raise your flag got a tremendous response and there were a lot of people singing along to the entire song; so much so that I think it even shocked the band themselves. Add in Winding Road from Golden Kamuy and Seven deadly sins from The Seven Deadly Sins and I think you’ve got their four most popular anime tracks all in one sitting.
It wasn’t just anime stuff though, as the band showed off their really strong repertoire, picking some of the strongest tracks from Chasing the Horizon. The album opener 2045 did get played, although I was expecting them to open the show with it, followed by the likes of Broken People, Break the Contradictions and my personal favourite, Dead End in Tokyo. I was mighty pleased about the latter as it’s very evocative of Shinjuku, and having stayed there three times in my travels, I know the area well and can pick a lot of it out in the music video.
The biggest surprise of the night was getting an acoustic version of Chasing the Horizon, which I have to say works really well as it’s a slow-paced track that carries themes about chasing your dreams. The acoustic take on that just sounded really good and I really appreciated them doing something different with that track.
It’s interesting to note that they did have the option of playing their newest track, Left Alive, instead of Winding Road, but I think they tailored it to the vibe of the crowd and went with Winding Road instead. Not that I minded as I do love Winding Road, it’s just that it would have been really cool to have heard Left Alive before it had even been released (the digital single released around two and a half hours after the Manchester gig ended).
The venue itself, Manchester Academy 3, is a quite small and intimate one, although typical of many students’ union event spaces. The sound was pretty great though and the setup was well balanced. The few western bands I’ve seen tend to prioritise the volume of the instruments for an ear-wrecking experience, but I find Japanese bands in particular try to get the balance right, making for a more comfortable and expressive live show. The vocals of Tokyo Tanaka and Jean-Ken Johnny could be clearly heard over the instruments so that got a big tick from me.
Overall, it was a great event and I really can’t recommend them enough. I know that the likes of the GazettE and ONE OK ROCK are really popular with western fans of Japanese music, but in my opinion MAN WITH A MISSION is the best Japanese rock band at the moment and I really hope they keep making inroads internationally. If you do get the chance to see them, you don’t want to pass it up. Their music is great and hearing it live is just a treat.
If you didn’t catch them this time, MAN WITH A MISSION are playing at Download Festival 2019 along with other Japanese bands such as Lovebites, Coldrain, and Crystal Lake.