Wednesdays aren’t usually particularly eventful days at the HarbourFront area in Singapore, with most people occupied with work, school or other activities. Most people would know that this is home to Singapore‘s largest mall, VivoCity, the gateway to Sentosa Island. Fewer may know that linked to it by an overhead bridge and a covered walkway lies the neighbouring St James Power Station, hardly a place one would expect to see much buzz in the daytime – the unassuming-looking former coal plant now houses a whopping eleven entertainment venues and nightclubs, making it a popular spot for clubbers and concertgoers to unwind and have a good time after a hectic week.
Just a few weeks back, however, our reporters at J-Network would soon find that this was certainly not the case on the 27th of July, 2016.
The occasion? The Singapore stop for MAN WITH A MISSION‘s ASIA TOUR 2016.
MILLIAN Singapore, located towards the rear of the power station and doubling up as both a club and a live music venue, saw hundreds of fans rocking out to a pack of wolves armed with instruments and a stage that night – an unusual sight on a Wednesday evening indeed.
At around 4pm, the team at J-Network made our way to the venue, and our reporters were soon greeted by a sizeable crowd of enthusiastic fans of the Shibuya-based rock band MAN WITH A MISSION seated along the designated lines on the covered porch outside MILLIAN Singapore.
The band clearly had a dedicated following: towards the side of the queuing area, a fan-made banner was placed conveniently on the floor to allow concertgoers and supporters of the legendary wolf pack to write their well-wishes before the concert. Fans left their personalized hand-written notes and signatures around a black silhouette resembling Singapore itself, with MAN WITH A MISSION‘s iconic wolf head imprinted onto the island shape itself.
The well-wishes came in an assortment of languages as well, with some coming from places ranging from Indonesia and Malaysia, to Hong Kong and Taiwan, and even Singapore-based expatriates from Japan itself – a testimony to the unifying power of music. There was no shortage of local Singaporean fans either, as many turned up in iconic t-shirts from MAN WITH A MISSION‘s previous concerts and even had their exclusive towels. It was no surprise that their most recent album was titled “The World’s On Fire” – our reporters would later get to see how the five-wolf band could really fire up fans from all over the world with their performances.
By around 5pm, one could see more fans streaming in and getting ready to purchase the assortment of merchandise on sale. Our reporters decided to check out the goods laid out on the counter: there was a black T-shirt emblazoned with two versions of the band’s logo on the front and back on sale for SGD 25, a bright yellow sticker with the iconic wolf head symbol for SGD 1, and a magenta-blue scarf towel for SGD 15 which would be used subsequently in the concert as part of crowd participation traditions. The band’s CDs were also on sale, and MAN WITH A MISSION songs could be heard on replay during the waiting time before the opening of the concert venue.
Soon, the colours of the evening sky became visible and with it, the queues for MAN WITH A MISSION ASIA TOUR 2016‘s Singapore concert snaked far beyond the sheltered porch and could be seen lining across the carpark area outside MILLIAN as well. The opening of the venue drew much excitement and anticipation from the hundreds of fans ready to watch the wolves rock out to their favourite hit tracks that night, and our reporters made our way into the venue.
For the uninitated, MAN WITH A MISSION first debuted in 2010 and is currently registered under Sony Music Records, and the band has experimented with elements from punk rock, nu metal and dance-pop in the course of their six-year discography so far. Anime viewers may remember quite a number of their songs being used as the theme songs for a number of popular anime series, including but not limited to Log Horizon, The Seven Deadly Sins, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.
According to the band’s official website and an interview with the website JaME World, the five members of MAN WITH A MISSION are the product of a mad science experiment that resulted in the creation of artificially-made androids with the head of a wolf and the body of human being. The band comprises members Kamikaze Boy (bass, chorus), Spear Ribs (drums), Jean-Ken Johnny (guitar, vocals, rap), DJ Santa Monica (DJ, sampling) and Tokyo Tanaka (vocals and rap).
Before long, the time had come for the wolves of MAN WITH A MISSION to meet the audience as the lights began to dim and gradually turn to shades of blue. The audience went wild as the band emerged onto stage after an hour’s wait, and guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny took the lead to introduce themselves to the very excited crowd, calling out “We are MAN WITH A MISSION!” The fans responded by raising their hands in the air in a gesture resembling the claws of a wolf, the signature iconic pose frequently done by band members during concerts, and this was followed by much applause from across the audience.
Our reporters could even see one particular member of the audience clad in a wolf head mask – clearly, the J-Network team was not the only one who took notice, for soon after vocalist Tokyo Tanaka proceeded to serenade him, opening the concert with the first song of the night. Enter flashing lights, a computerized beep noise, and the unmistakable lines announcing to the audience “Counteraction rising… yeah, we are ready for the punch line! There’s no use with all your gimmicks, SO CHECK THIS OUT!” before breaking into a rap. Fans raised their hands to the beat, and the wolves on stage got the crowd echoing after them with the “whoa-oh-oh-oh” before the chorus.
This song was database – fans of the manga series Log Horizon ( ログ・ホライズン) will remember this song being used as the opening theme to the anime adaptation of the series. The lyrics evoke familiar imagery from technology commonly associated with the routine of work, with mentions of logins, cracking of keys, and even calculators, and explores the lingering sense of frustration experienced in trying to survive working within an alienating state of affairs.
Following that, Jean-Ken Johnny turned to the audience to ask “Can we hear you sing?!” as the band proceeded to perform their next track. Wolf howls were heard – unsurprisingly. A familiar guitar progression that resembled the chorus for another of their songs, “Get Off of My Way“, greeted the audience as fans showed their support for the band by singing along to the Japanese lyrics as well. This song had lyrics both in English and Japanese, typical of MAN WITH A MISSION‘s many works, and attempts to chronicle the internal tensions of an individual who strives to not let his life be in vain and without purpose. The audience echoed along to the chorus “I’m gonna dive, today” and were clearly enjoying this very empowering number Dive, much to the band members’ delight.
“It’s good to be back in Singapore! Arigatou! We are MAN WITH A MISSION!” The crowd roared in exhilaration as the wolves came closer to the audience to interact with them.
The revving of a motorcycle can be heard in the background, and the rapid bass line that accompanies the opening invited members of the audience to join in the beat with chants of “hey! hey! hey!” This song had a noticeably heavier sound to it, but the message behind it was about as self-explanatory as its title itself: exhorting the listener to “Take What U Want” and seize the opportunities that may come by in life. Seeing that MAN WITH A MISSION‘s loyal following had turned up in no small number to witness them perform, perhaps fans did heed their advice after all.
Soon, the audience began to clap along to the rhythm of Tokyo Tanaka‘s rapping, and fans in the VIP section became visibly enthralled as bassist Kamikazi Boy walked closer towards them and gave them a high-five! Is this his ironic nod to the song’s title – distance – by closing the distance between them with a literal physical gesture in that direction?
A closer inspection of the lyrics would reveal that this track initially begins on a more pessimistic note, evoking a demon who “clutches” the listener and “plunders the soul”, and referencing humanity’s helplessness with an absent divine figure. The bridge then offers a glimmer of hope, revealing the song’s real meaning: the listener himself or herself can choose what to do next, and how to change the world. The power to decide was ours.
The familiar synths to the next song could be heard, along with the “woahs” that preceded the iconic refrain “the pain and the pleasure, all come together, there is no reason why” – it was time for MAN WITH A MISSION‘s Seven Deadly Sins! Not unlike the title, the song covers the theme of resisting the temptation of succumbing to one’s “sins”, so as not to let them take over oneself.
This song was used as one of the opening themes for the anime adaptation of the popular manga series The Seven Deadly Sins (七つの大罪), and one of the reporters at J-Network was introduced to the band’s music after discovering this song and taking a liking to it. The audience clearly shared this sentiment too – everyone was singing along to the chorus and joining in the “woahs” as well!
(Incidentally, Seven Deadly Sins was the seventh item in the sequence of the concert, inclusive of songs and MC segments.)
“We are MAN WITH A MISSION!” The wolves introduced themselves to the audience for the third time, and asked who was from Singapore. With this being the Singapore stop of their Asia tour, the response from the fans was visibly large. “It’s a really great country. The food is delicious.”
What they did next was – perhaps – the most un-un-unbelievable thing to happen that night. Singaporean fans will get the reference: this is not a mis-spelling of the word “unbelievable”, but the lyrics to a viral hit song used in a local MediaCorp Channel 5 sitcom series. The song itself was deliberately designed to reflect uniquely Singaporean elements while poking fun at the form and execution of many popular Hokkien karaoke numbers from the 1970s.
Jean-Ken Johnny proceeded to sing a line from the song – “un-un-un-un-unbelievable“, before adding “but that’s not what we’re here for“. This very act captures the ability of the members of MAN WITH A MISSION to truly appreciate deeply local elements in the many countries they have toured, and to establish a heartfelt connection with their audience wherever they go – it is this, along with the signature rock sound and intensely provocative lyrics that make listeners think, which has helped the five-member band with origins in Shibuya attain a massive following across the world.
“ARE YOU READY?!”
Loud cheers could be heard across the live house as fans readied themselves for the next item on the night’s set list. It was as if DJ Santa Monica could feel the pulse of the crowd from where he was, for his eyes began to … glow, with a bright yellow hue! The audience echoed along to refrains of “nah nah nah” and the chorus, which by then gave away the title of the song: Give it Away.
The song explores the feeling of being trapped in an endless routine and trying to break free from it, with lines like “don’t waste my time” conveying this sense of frustration with an alienating state of affairs reminiscent of the song database. MAN WITH A MISSION‘s official Instagram account reveals that this song is actually used as the theme song for the MONSTER JAM FESTIVAL, an annual monster truck racing and showcase event in Japan.
At this point, the concert seemed to take a different turn – the atmosphere was noticeably wilder, and the band members experimented with more unusual moves in line with the next item they were performing. Fans even got to see DJ Santa Monica performing a backflip on stage, and somewhere during the song, Kamikaze Boy pretended to chew on his guitar – a staple part of MAN WITH A MISSION‘s concerts that see its members pretend to chew on various props, ranging from guitars to towels and even banners! Yes, you’ve guessed it – the house went out of control as the song Out of Control was performed!
This is one of the band’s songs where the name “man with a mission” is actually mentioned in the lyrics, and the song provokes listeners to break free of external constraints trying to define them, with lines such as “I’ll never act a role like you” and “shout it out loud the words of your own“. Stylistically, Out of Control uses rap segments for its verses and adopts a monotone effect for the first half of the chorus, perhaps to strike a sharp contrast with the title, before proclaiming with confidence and newfound melody “we are the ones that will stand up and fight“. With the studio version featuring American punk rock band Zebrahead, it was used as the ending theme song for the Japanese release of the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road.
The stage lights began to dim as the band members went backstage, making way for the screen which then played what appeared to be instructional videos for the dance routines to the songs FLY AGAIN and Get Off of My Way. Featuring MAN WITH A MISSION‘s camera and video director Shiiku Sukio (飼育好男; literally “breed-loving man“) and DJ Santa Monica, the videos showed the duo demonstrating what to do and what not to do for the dance steps. Here, the audience followed the demonstrations as they appeared on the screen, and fans had a good laugh as the “what not to do” segments poked fun at other popular icons and showcased the band’s signature classy humour.
The videos would first show fans how to move their hands for the song, the “correct” routine, before presenting two “incorrect” examples: while the first would involve the two performing the hand movements in the reverse direction, the second had them perform steps from Michael Jackson‘s Thriller (complete with DJ Santa Monica in the iconic red Thriller costume) instead for FLY AGAIN, and kung fu postures similar to those done by Jackie Chan instead for Get Off of My Way.
Soon, the wolves were back on stage!
This time, the members of MAN WITH A MISSION were ready to perform a live cover of a song from their favourite band Nirvana: their rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit certainly did justice to the song, and added a characteristically unique twist to the track with several stylistic differences from the original, including rapping some of the verses instead of singing them to add a faster tempo to the cover. The fans joined in the fun too!
It wasn’t long before the audience would put those moves they had watched earlier to practice, for the electronic sound effects ushered in the next song to come, which was none other than the fan favourite FLY AGAIN. The rap verses to this fast-paced number call upon the listener to continue to persevere and climb back up again in spite of the obstacles, striking a particularly inspirational tone that would be seen again shortly. Everyone performed the dance steps when the chorus came, and members of the band even threw water bottles into the audience for the fans to catch after a physically tiring routine!
“It’s our first time touring Asia. Thank you for waiting for us. We heard you through SNS (social networking services) like Facebook, Twitter and we heard you a lot so thanks!” explained Jean-Ken Johnny. The audience sat up to listen to what they had to say. “We went to Europe. Also to the USA and soon Taiwan and Hong Kong. It’s great to see you laugh with our music. Thank you.”
He then proceeded to make references to the many tensions and signs of instability that have plagued the globe recently, telling the crowd “There are a lot of things happening, especially in Europe. Many problems, it’s never easy. I’m not a perfect human – actually I’m a wolf. I’m not a perfect wolf. We believe in hope that we know how to do more to make the world better. This song is for the people of the world.” Jean-Ken Johnny concluded this heartfelt MC segment by introducing the next item for the night, on a more reflective note: The World’s on Fire.
This song can be said to be MAN WITH A MISSION‘s equivalent of Michael Jackson‘s Heal the World in many respects: it is relatively slower-paced, and marks a distinct shift away from most of the band’s other songs which touch on the relationship between the individual and society, instead focusing on the problems faced by humanity and the world as a whole, and calling upon listeners to come together and unite to do what they can to right the unnecessary wrongs and injustices.
The choice of song was very timely in more ways than one, for it set the stage for a more contemplative, emotional backdrop; perhaps also to prepare the audience for the next song on their list: Emotions. The theme song for the movie Kyukyoku!! Hentai Kamen (究極!!変態仮面), this track was MAN WITH A MISSION‘s second single after distance and proved to be an apt transition from the previous song, opening with a voiceover saying “this is the message for tomorrow“.
This was followed by a faster, more high-energy song with its distinctively noticeable strong guitar riffs. The band clearly struck a different chord here and welcomed the crowd to join in with WELCOME TO THE NEWWORLD. Once again, fans enthusiastically raised their hands to the beat, and echoed the title in the chorus aloud as the band members hyped up the floor!
“Thank you for coming! You guys are unbelievable – awesome! We are glad to meet you! We hope to see you again!”
Fans turned their attention immediately to the right, and cries of excitement could be heard as Kamikazi Boy walked into the audience from the right side of the hall, interacting with the audience up-close! An upbeat electro entrance made way for a quick rap, paving the way for an absolutely stunning finale as everyone joined in the dance steps to Get Off of My Way and sang along to the alternating of “get on” and “get off” that could be heard in the chorus.
“Thank you Singapore!” The wolves were presented with the elaborate fan-made banner complete with well-wishes and heartfelt personal messages from the many fans who turned up to join MAN WITH A MISSION for their Singapore stop. The band members tried to hang the banner against the drums, before walking off the stage – presumably marking the end of the concert?
One by one, the audience began to chant “an-ko-ru!” (katakana for “encore”) repeatedly and soon the entire house was calling for the wolves to come back onto the stage to perform even more! The enthusiastic chanting persisted for over two minutes and broke abruptly into an even louder cheer as the lights came back on and the band members finally reappeared, much to the fans’ delight.
They were visibly touched.
“You guys made this for us? It’s damn nice! Thanks! We have two more songs!”
The penultimate track for the night saw many of the fans whip out their towels to participate. The floor was full of energy as the audience responded to the calls of the song to DANCE EVERYBODY by dancing along to it!
A familiar song for many was selected to be the closing number for the night. MAN WITH A MISSION decided to perform the title song of its most recent single, Raise your flag, which was used as the opening theme for Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. The drum beat brought the hall to its feet, and everyone sang out loud along with the band, and brought the night to a memorable finish.
The members of MAN WITH A MISSION then called upon the official photographer to assist in taking a group photo with all the fans present at the concert, and proceeded afterwards to throw their guitar picks with the band logo into the audience. (Our reporter was lucky enough to have picked one up in the process!)
The wolves thanked the audience once more before leaving the stage, bringing the concert finally to a full stop. Members of the audience holding VIP tickets had an exclusive opportunity to obtain an autographed poster from them personally after the end of the concert!
The Singapore stop of MAN WITH A MISSION ASIA TOUR 2016 proved to be a truly unbelievable experience for our team of reporters at J-Network, and we recommend that readers consider attending a live concert by these wolves given the occasion to do so. The band’s sense of humour and natural charisma worked wonders in bringing the audience closer to their mission of spreading their music around the world. Who knows? One of you might become a fan with a mission!
3) Take What U Want
5) Seven Deadly Sins
6) Give it Away
7) Out of Control
8) Smells Like Teen Spirit
9) FLY AGAIN
10) The World’s on Fire
12) WELCOME TO THE NEWWORLD
13) Get Off of My Way
14) DANCE EVERYBODY
15) Raise your flag
Article written by grayingmantis and information compiled by Astrid.
Credits for official photographs go to Amuse.