It is rare for a band not based in the U.S. or Europe to make it big in America, but against all odds, Japanese rockers One Ok Rock, stylized as ONE OK ROCK, have done just that and are taking North America by storm with a headlining tour in support of their newest record, Ambitions. Begun back on July 6th, the tour continues on through August 19th, and has made plenty of noises all summer long. Then, on Friday, July 28th, fans gathered for the first of two nights at New York City’s Playstation Theater in Times Square to witness ONE OK ROCK’s live show with support from the likes of Palisades and Set It Off.
Hailing from just across the river in New Jersey, Post-Hardcore band Palisades took the stage first to warm up the growing crowd. After forming in 2011, the band quickly signed to Rise Records (PVRIS, Of Mice & Men) and have released three studio albums, their most recent being a self-titled in early 2017. A huge cheer greeted Drummer Aaron Rosa, Bassist Brandon Elgar, Rhythm Guitarist Matthew Marshall, Lead Guitarist Xavier Adams, and Lead Vocalist Louis Miceli as they kicked off their set with their heavy single “Through Hell.”
Moving on, the stage was appropriately bathed in dark red light through that and another newer track, “Personal,” before Palisades went into “Dark.” During “Dark,” Miceli asked the crowd to wave their phone lights, which nearly everyone happily obliged, making for quite a spectacle. Palisades excelled at engaging the crowd throughout the entirety of their short set by focusing on positivity, encouraging fans to think of special people in their life during “Memories.”
A nice surprise came in the form of a cover of a major radio hit: “Unsteady” by the X Ambassadors. Palisades are no stranger to putting their heavy spin to Pop songs; they have appeared on a volume of the ever-popular Punk Goes Pop series, and they excel at doing it. Even those in the crowd unfamiliar with the band found themselves singing along, no doubt gaining some new fans in the process and, again, Palisades show off their knack for engaging with the crowd.
To close out their short-but-sweet set, Miceli got the crowd waving and jumping along to “Let Down,” the first Palisades single to make it to the radio. Even the die-hard ONE OK ROCK fans crammed up against the barricade were enjoying the band’s passionate and energetic performance. Musically, Palisades share several similarities with the night’s headliner, making them a perfect choice for an opener.
Judging by the roar from the crowd when Set It Off took the stage, there were plenty of fans who came to Playstation Theater just to see Set It Off. It was apparent why that was the case as soon as the band kicked off their set with the upbeat “Ancient History.” In addition, the band had an eye-catching stage set up with neon-bright monitors. Despite a bit of trouble with his microphone, Vocalist Cody Carson hopped off the stage to mingle with the crowd during “Forever Stuck in Our Youth.”
Each member of the band had their charisma turned up to maximum, each bouncing around the stage and seeming genuinely happy to be playing during “Never Know,” “Upside Down,” and “Bleak December.” Carson even took a handwritten sign from an excited fan before he was plagued with even more technical problems. Even so, that did not stop him from giving an inspirational speech about following your dreams before playing “Something New.”
Then, troubles seemingly fixed, the band went into one of their most popular tracks, “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” and continued into a high-energy finish with “Why Worry,” during which Carson crowd-surfed through the song’s final verses. Afterward, he invited the crowd to greet the band at their merch booth, saying, “Don’t leave without saying goodbye to us.” The band’s endless charisma and excitement got fans even more hyped-up for the main event.
With an impressive eight studio albums under their belt, the band has worked hard to “make it” in the U.S., and did so when they signed to Fueled By Ramen in late 2016 before releasing their most recent album, entitled Ambitions, which has both an English and Japanese version. Those unfamiliar with the band should check out the English version of Ambitions, as you are sure to find some catchy and accessible tracks.
After a few lineup changes, ONE OK ROCK is now made up of Drummer Tomoya Kanki, Guitarist Toru Yamashita, Bassist Ryota Kohama, and Lead Vocalist Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi. The four-piece was greeted with a blast of cheers from the crowd as they went into two hard-hitting and catchy tracks from Ambitions, “Take Off” and “Bombs Away,” immediately showing off their impressive musicianship and showmanship. Moriuchi excelled at working the already energetic crowd, nearly all of whom were happily singing along to every word. Then there was Kohama who repeatedly took to the front of the stage to give fans a better look during his incredible bass-slapping solos, drawing in all the attention when he did so during “Clock Strikes,” though Moriuchi did put on an impressive vocal display by holding out the final note for what seemed like several minutes.
Keeping the momentum going, each member continued to work the crowd during “Bon Voyage” and the Japanese version of “Bedroom Warfare.” Following that, Moriuchi took a moment to mourn the recent, tragic passing of Linkin Park Vocalist Chester Bennington. ONE OK ROCK were set to open for Linkin Park and Blink-182 on their now-canceled summer tour, so to pay tribute, the band covered the title track from Linkin Park’s newest album, “One More Light.” The tribute was moving, sounded excellent, and was followed by a long period of silence in memory of the legendary and inspirational Bennington.
Then, turning things back around, ONE OK ROCK went into “I Was King,” “Take What You Want,” and “The Beginning,” each song with its own completely different lighting that perfectly matched the song’s tone. Finishing off their set with “Jaded,” “Mighty Long Fall,” and the anthemic “We Are,” the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand and had them all singing along to the simple-yet-effective refrain of “We Are” before leaving the stage.
Of course, after several agonizing moments, the band returned to play the insanely catchy and upbeat track “American Girl.” Everyone in the crowd gave it their all as they danced and screamed along to the final song of the night, though no doubt many fans would be returning to see ONE OK ROCK put on another stellar performance again the next night.