ONE OK ROCK show off their Ambitions in Los Angeles (Live 2017)


The Wiltern Theatre, August 12, 2017

Concert review by Nhu Nguyen

There’s a line in ONE OK ROCK’s latest single “American Girls” that goes, “Come and break my heart you American girls.” While watching the band perform this song on day 2 of their back-to-back Los Angeles shows, I sang along with a new lyric I made up on the spot: “All you Tokyo Boys keep breaking my heart”. It was my first time seeing them perform, and now I understand why girls adore them and boys want to be like them.

The Saturday evening show, part of ONE OK ROCK’s “Ambitions” tour, started off at 9pm sharp with the explosive “Bombs Away”. Vocalist Taka looked casual-rocker cool in a white cut-off sleeve paired with torn white pants, and guitarist Toru in a plaid cut-off sleeve shirt paired with black jeans. Bassist Ryota and drummer Tomoya’s long shaggy haircuts were perfect outer markers of their care-free attitude.

The reasons for ONE OK ROCK’s popularity at home and successful ascent on the international stage are crystal clear during a live performance. Taka’s voice alone could convert naysayers — “Clock Strikes” featured the most memorable vocal work that night as he held a long, unwavering note for the bridge. “Bedroom Warfare” may have a seductive intonation on your headphones, but in person, it’s the bass line that steals all your love.

Longtime ONE OK ROCK fans have commented that their most recent album Ambitions felt too clean and over-produced — their rawness supposedly lost. Live, Tomoya’s drumming begs to differ. The instrumental performed by guitarist Toru and the rhythm team further proved that just because their recent creations were lighter in tone doesn’t mean this rock band has lost any of its power or intensity.

When ONE OK ROCK did switch gears and slow things down a bit, they brought the audience to a solemn standstill. Tragically, a week before the Japanese group was due to join Linkin Park on tour, frontman Chester Bennington passed away. To honor Bennington’s life, the band covered Linkin Park’s “One More Light” as fans turned on their lighters or waved around their phone screens. It couldn’t have been clearer how much Linkin Park’s music influenced these four Japanese musicians, with Taka channeling Bennington’s voice in both delivery and emotion.

The Ambitions album is ONE OK ROCK’s acknowledged attempt to reach a broader audience – after all, it’s reflected in the title. But throughout the night, the set list — built primarily on recent offerings sprinkled with a dash of old hits like “The Beginning” and “Mighty Long Fall” — showed their music has stayed strong, earning them a place alongside their Western counterparts without sacrificing their own identity.

Introduction – Ambitions
Bombs Away
Taking Off
Clock Strikes
Bedroom Warfare
Bon Voyage
I Was King
One More Light (Linkin Park cover)
Take What You Want
The Beginning
Mighty Long Fall
We Are

American Girls

Photo credit: ONE OK ROCK Facebook