Radwimps (ラッドウインプス): Australian Tour 2023, Forum Melbourne, Melbourne, October 13th 2023 – J-Rock Live Review

It’s crazy to think that Radwimps didn’t realise their power in Australia until their arrival.

Yojiro Noda, Akira Kuwahara, Yusuke Takeda, and Satoshi Yamaguchi; collectively known as Radwimps (ラッドウインプス, Raddo’uinpusu) is a Japanese rock band that have been conquering the Japanese music scene for a good part of 20 years. Despite now being veterans in the industry, 2023 has marked their first ever visit to our shores on their sold-out 2023 Australian Tour, proudly presented by Crunchyroll.

With the show starting with their song ‘Grand Escape’ and the stage lighting revealing only Radwimps’ silhouettes, it wasn’t long before I felt I had gone through a rainbow tunnel thanks to the fantastic visual production on the big screens. It truly felt like I had escaped reality and I found myself in a wonderful safe space where I was with likeminded people who loved their music just as much as me. But this is just the magical effect that Radwimps has on their fans. Their songs all so eloquently written with catchy melodies to lose yourself in that contain so much emotion and heart.

Noda admitted at the beginning of the concert that they almost did not come to Australia as they weren’t sure of the reception they would receive. But with three sold out shows in Sydney and Melbourne in total, with one venue even bring upgraded for bigger capacity to meet demands, it’s hard to believe that these concerts almost didn’t happen.

It is clear to see that Radwimps have a dedicated following here, evident in an entire sold-out Australian tour, greatly satisfying fans who have been hungry to see them perform live and tick these J-Rock kings off their concert bucket list. One passionate fan even arrived as early as 9am to the Forum Melbourne venue in hopes that he could grab the best spot at the barrier for Radwimps’ second Melbourne concert, also the final leg of the Australian show.

Despite Radwimps having been around for years, I only came to know of their existence through their collaborations with renown Japanese director and animator Makoto Shinkai. Radwimps have done the music for the soundtracks of three Makoto Shinkai’s films so far including 2016’s ‘Your Name (君の名は。, Kimi no Na wa)’, 2019’s ‘Weathering With You (天気の子, Tenki no Ko)’, and more recently Shinkai’s latest animated feature ‘Suzume (すずめの戸締まり, Suzume no Tojimari)’. Their music is the beating heart of these fantastic Japanese animated films and if you haven’t seen them yet, I strongly recommend a viewing for all three. They are each uniquely poignant, beautiful, moving, and brilliant.

I have thoroughly enjoyed these films and their accompanying soundtracks which have helped me find Radwimps. Through my initial discovery, I then deep dived into Radwimps’ catalogue and was thoroughly impressed. So naturally, as soon as their Australian tour was announced, I was excited to see how they would be like live, let alone in my own city!

Despite Japanese music having its own unique flavour and sound, it is known that Japanese music is not really accessible. I remember struggling to find Japanese music CDs and resorting to an Asian speciality store to help me out. Over time, fans would share tracks from Japanese artists on YouTube and that would be my main resource to listening to Japanese music.

It is still a struggle to this day but times have changed. Slowly, more and more Japanese music artists are embracing the international music market and are making their music accessible to not only Japanese people around the world who reside outside of Japan, but also to Japanese music fans globally. It is even rarer still that Japanese musicians will internationally tour.

If you want to see your favourite Japanese artist in concert, more than likely you would need to go to Japan. Even then, there is no guarantee that you will even get a concert ticket. Thankfully, Radwimps are one of those Japanese artists that do tour internationally and I cannot share enough how important and special this is not only for Radwimps but for Japanese music. And with their visit, I dare say it’s important too for Asian music in Australia.

Supplying the vibrant Melbourne crowd with excellent tunes throughout the night, Radwimps displayed just how talented they are. The set-up consisted of a twin drum set, a bassist, a lead guitarist, a lead singer doubling as the songwriter and on the keyboard, and a catalogue of music containing an eclectic mix of music genres, with Radwimps mastering all of them. The set-up also included a giant screen behind the band which displayed visuals to suit the songs being performed.

There are no bad Radwimps songs. All were beautiful, catchy, fun, and engaging. Even the moments when Noda’s voice was accompanied only by two acoustic guitars, every moment that Radwimps were on that Melbourne stage was a joy to witness. Some of the best moments of the night didn’t even include any singing! One of the highlights of the concert was the jam session where every band member tried to out-play each other. This was funny, surprising, severely entertaining and showcased just how talented every member of Radwimps is.

The Melbourne audience were equally as excited to be at the show as much as Radwimps were. From the very beginning, the room was filled with anticipation and excitement; silent and respectful but ready to burst with happiness the moment the band would take to the stage, and sure enough, they did. Fans were loud and animated during the catchy numbers, and the room fell silent during the slower numbers, making for more intimate moments. It was so much fun to be in the room when it would erupt with joy when the Melbourne crowd recognised the first few notes of their favourite songs. It was really a special night.

Whether it be waving your arms to the music, clapping in unison, turning on your phone light to help create artificial stars, dynamically fist pumping your arm in the air, jumping during the chorus, dancing, or singing along, Radwimps made sure to include everyone in the fun that they were having, even acknowledging the patrons that stood right at the back of the venue several times which was very sweet. Some Radwimps and anime fans even made the effort to attend the concert in cosplay, one patron dressed up as Suzume, a character from the movie of the same name that Radwimps have created music for.

The interactions between Radwimps and their fans was infectious and completely sincere. Even with the crowd teaching Noda how to cheer “Aussie, Aussie Aussie. Oi! Oi! Oi!” after the Melbourne audience did the cheer themselves during a quiet moment in between songs. Noda responded with, “Awww, I wanna join that!” and after quickly learning how to do the iconic Australian chant himself, Noda delightfully stated with a satisfied smile, “Woah, that’s awesome! Okay, I learnt something!”.

All the while throughout the night, despite the date being Friday the 13th, Radwimps were not afraid to share their joy and disbelief of how great the atmosphere at Forum Melbourne was. Affectionately reflecting on their sold-out Australian tour and how they were having the best time, just as much as their fans. To quote Noda, “I can’t believe this is happening! It’s Friday the 13th and it’s the best Friday the 13th ever!”.

While every song was fantastic, if I had to choose, my favourites of the night were ‘Grand Escape’, ‘SUMMER DAZE 2021’, ‘Theme of Mitsuha’, ‘Sparkle’, ‘Nandemonaiya‘, ‘いいんですか? (Iin desu ka?)’, ‘Dream Lantern’, and ‘KANATA HALUKA’ from Suzume. Admittedly, the Suzume song ‘KANATA HALUKA’ brought me to tears because I remembered just how wonderful the film is as well as Radwimps’ music in it. Radwimps’ music stirred up some deep emotion in me, reminding me on just how much I do love both anime and Japanese music in a single moment. It also helped that during the song, parts of the Suzume film were displayed on the big screen behind the band, accompanying every second of the song.

Seeing Radwimps live in concert at the iconic Forum Melbourne venue on their first ever Australian tour, and at their last show of the tour, was even better than I ever imagined. While anime and J-Rock do often go together, it isn’t compulsory to enjoy Radwimps’ music, although it helps!

With Radwimps humbly acknowledging what an unforgettable night the final Melbourne concert of their tour was, I really hope that Radwimps honour their promise to return to Australia for another tour sometime soon. Hopefully with new music too!

Radwimps’ final Melbourne show on their first ever Australian tour was honestly one of the best concert experiences I’ve had. It was surprising to see just how surprised they were with how popular and in demand they were in Australia. Their talent is boundless, their stage presence is captivating, and together with their fans, Radwimps have helped to create what I dare say is one of the best Asian music concerts in Australian history. This is surely one concert experience that I’ll never forget. Really, you just had to be there.

Thank-you Radwimps for visiting Australia! Please don’t stay away too long.

Radwimps’ sold-out 2023 Australian Tour, powered by Crunchyroll, was held in Sydney on October 9th at Hordern Pavilion and in Melbourne at Forum Melbourne on the 12th and 13th of October. Tickets were provided to the final Melbourne show on Friday the 13th of October for the purpose of this review.

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Photography by Grant Alexander.

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