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It was 23 January and Singapore’s historic Fort Canning hill was alive with the earth-shattering sounds of ONE OK ROCK and the roar of the fervent, 5000-strong crowd that seemed to know the words to all their songs. It was a perfect testament to how music has the power to bring people together despite language barriers—the fans present that evening hailed from different parts of Southeast Asia and even Japan.

Incidentally, the audience also broke out in an impromptu karaoke session while waiting for the live to begin, singing in unison to Hoobastank’s The Reason as it piped through the speakers. Light-hearted moments like these were more than welcome—after all, the most devoted fans had been queuing since the night before (through passing squalls, no less).

And then the guitars came to life, the members took to the stage and the crowd screamed.

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photo by Alvin Ho of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

Comprising Taka (vocals), Toru (guitar), Ryota (bass) and Tomoya (drums), ONE OK ROCK’s sound — which mixes alternative, punk and hard rock sensibilities with irresistible melodic lines — has won them legions of fans even outside their native Japan. This was the band’s third live in the city-state, the previous two being held in 2012 and 2013 in the cozy *SCAPE Ground Theatre and the rather more spacious Hard Rock Coliseum respectively. This live, the quartet’s final stop on the Asian leg of their 35xxxv album tour, was held in a venue many times the size of their last one. And if they were exhausted from their hectic Asian tour (with only two days separating their Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Singapore dates) it certainly didn’t show in their performance. Toru and Ryota’s towering sound built upon Tomoya’s fierce driving rhythms, and Taka handled both high notes and screams with great aplomb. Displaying charisma in spades, they took the headbanging crowd through the high-octane Take Me To The Top and the catchy Memories (during which Taka turned the microphone on the audience, which completed his sentence for him: ‘Go on and f*** yourself!’ ‘That’s right,’ he replied.) The high-energy set closed with fan favourite Clock Strikes, which saw the stage lights shining full in our faces and as we sang along to that memorable refrain: ‘Believe that time is always forever’.

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photo by Alvin Ho of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

After the final strains of the power ballad Last Dance faded, Toru and Ryota entered a guitar duel of sorts, presided by Tomoya on the drums. Toru’s guitar seemed to sing and weep to the deep tones of Ryota’s bass as the two musicians literally went head-to-head, eliciting squeals from many a fangirl.

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photo by Alvin Ho of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

Another highlight was a delicate and soulful rendition of HEARTACHE, where Taka was solely accompanied by Toru on an acoustic guitar. Please sing along with me, he implored, and a multitude of voices quickly joined his. The stars may have been obscured by clouds, but under the overcast skies a host of cellphone lights danced like fireflies in the night.

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photo by Alvin Ho of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

Then familiar piano chords began to sound, and although the crowd was already wild and euphoric before, this was when things really reached fever pitch. The Beginning is arguably ONE OK ROCK’s best-known work, having been used as the theme song of the first Rurouni Kenshin film. Some fans even managed to create a circle pit at Taka’s behest. The final song, Mighty Long Fall rounded off the concert with a flourish.

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photo by Alvin Ho of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

Encore cheers came thick and fast as soon as the band left the stage, so Taka and Toru returned with one of the most highly-anticipated songs of the night: a sparse, acoustic arrangement of the heartrending ballad Wherever You Are , which was surprisingly intimate for a concert of this scale.

The Way Back and the penultimate song, No Scared, saw Ryota and Tomoya returning to the stage, and revellers had fun tossing the large balloons that had been released into the crowd. The final song of the night was none other than the upbeat Kanzen Kankaku Dreamer, a live staple and traditional closer for OOR’s lives. Amidst cheers and earsplitting applause, the members threw picks and drumsticks into the eager crowd before joining hands and bowing deeply.

‘We’ll be back,’ promised Taka, before asking us to come closer to the stage for a group photo. And there and then, surrounded by Banyan trees with the Fort Canning Arts Centre rising in the backdrop, we took a picture together. It was just a moment, and the live lasted just under two hours, but for the people present that night it was certainly a time that is always forever. And the fans will be here, waiting to see them again.

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photo by Aloysius Lim of Amuse Entertainment/LAMC Productions

 

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