MAN WITH A MISSION
Regent Theater – May 15, 2023
Live Report by Molly Coggshall
photos: MAN WITH A MISSION Instagram
Sharp teeth, yellow eyes, ash-gray fur and fierce expressions greeted fans of the five member wolf band MAN WITH A MISSION at The Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles on the evening of Monday, May 15, 2023. Guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny was correct when later that night he commented that they were “different from other bands”.
Though the unique look of MAN WITH A MISSION may initially come off as a bit peculiar, the band has garnered fans around the world through their versatile musical style and their bilingual use of both Japanese and English in their songs.
Their most recent music video, “Kizuna no Kiseki”, which is also the opening theme song to the current season of the popular Demon Slayer franchise, has accumulated more than 12 million views. The fast growing fanbase of MAN WITH A MISSION was clearly reflected on the night of May 15th as the band performed to a packed venue.
The wolves prowled onto the stage amidst the sound of the crowd roaring in delight at their appearance, and the start of a highly anticipated evening began. An energetic entrance with “database” had the fans engaged in synchronized clapping and arms waving to the melody while the band rocked out onstage to the theme song for 2013’s Log Horizon.
A slight shift in the set list from the San Francisco show allowed the wolfpack to follow with “WELCOME TO THE NEWWORLD” which was received by the crowd with enthusiastic fist pumping.
One of My Hero Academia‘s opening theme songs, “Merry-Go-Round”, was featured next, and the fans could be heard singing in unison to the song’s chorus of “Whoa whoa, it’s all right / Everything will be all right”.
Vibrant green laser-like lights moved over the crowd as “Thunderstruck”, an AC/DC cover, started up. The song appeared to invigorate the band; Kamikaze Boy stood on a speaker to get closer to the audience and better show off his brilliant skills as a bassist, Spear Rib furiously banged on his drums – his fixed gaping smile only added to his energetic performance, and DJ Santa Monica danced, jumped, and used his elbow to hit the drum set’s cymbal on a final note.
“Emotions” and “Seven Deadly Sins” brought the band to a more somber tone. When the Japanese vocal portion of “Seven Deadly Sins” floated through the venue, Tokyo Tanaka put his head in his hands, seemingly out of great emotion.
“I love you!” echoed repeatedly through the crowd as a guitar change caused a short lapse in music. Bilingual guitarist Jean-Ken Johnny chatted animatedly with the audience.
“How are you all doing?” he asked the eager crowd, “It’s been more than forever!”. An enthusiastic reply came from several audience members claiming it had been at least 4 years since the band had toured the US. Jean-Ken Johnny’s response was, “That’s longer than the Olympics!” and the crowd laughed boisterously. Johnny gave a hearty “Enjoy the night!” as the band launched into “All You Need” and “Dark Crow”.
Jean-Ken Johnny, Tokyo Tanaka and Kamikaze Boy bowed themselves off stage as Spear Rib and DJ Santa Monica faced off in a musical battle between the drums and the DJ’s deck. As the electrifying DJ and drum session faded, the remaining band members also took leave while a short video began to play.
The video, titled something like “Fierce animals sketch” turned into a drift car race as Tokyo Tanaka sped furiously around a raceway while Spear Rib, who was sitting in the passenger seat, desperately tried to sketch the “fierce animal” (Tokyo Tanaka). His sketch did not turn out too well, and the video ended with Tokyo Tanaka hitting Spear Rib with his own sketchbook.
Once the video finished, Jean-Ken Johnny stepped back onto the stage and the audience screamed another round of “I love you!”. Sitting down on a wooden chair and pulling up an acoustic guitar, Johnny casually mentioned to the fans that the band needed to take frequent breaks as it was “something about [their] fur” that overheated them during performances.
Johnny continued to chat with the crowd making comments such as “Everytime you guys amaze us!” and “You definitely know how to have fun!”. Light strumming began on the guitar and Johnny launched into a heartfelt acoustic solo performance of “evergreen”.
Like true wolves, a pack doesn’t like to be separated for long and the remaining band members strutted back onto the stage to join Jean-Ken Johnny for another round of live music. “Get Off of My Way” got the crowd amped until the entire venue was jumping and dancing together to the beat, Tokyo Tanaka’s rapping a fun change in atmosphere.
“Blaze” followed closely behind and the energy was not lost as the fans could be seen waving their arms to the popular opening theme song from Mobile Suit Gundam. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a Nirvana cover, got the band so riled up that their wolfy behaviors couldn’t be contained, and Kamikaze Boy was caught chewing on his guitar strings while DJ Santa Monica gave his DJ deck a few slobbery licks.
“Do you know Japanese animation?!” Jean-Ken Johnny shouted the question to the audience. The response from the fans was deafening and the venue nearly vibrated with energy when “Raise your flag” from Mobile Suit Gundam began to play.
The next song, “Kizuna no Kiseki”, needed no other introduction from the band besides being called the “Demon Slayer theme song” and the roar in the venue intensified. “Last song!” Johnny called out to the audience and the set finished with the dark and edgy undertones of “INTO THE DEEP”.
“One more song!” turned into “two more songs!” and then “three more songs!”. As the crowd roared its enthusiasm, a few audience members even let out a wolf-like howl in hopes of calling the band back out. It seemed to have worked because the wolves stormed back onto the stage for a two-song encore which included “Dead End in Tokyo” and “FLY AGAIN”.
At one point, the lights in the venue dimmed, and DJ Santa Monica and Kamikaze Boy suddenly looked up towards the crowd – their eyes appeared to be glowing brightly in the increased darkness.
The encore came to an end and the band gave a bow to the screaming fans before saying goodnight. “Thank you very much LA!” Johnny yelled to a thundering audience hyped up from an exuberant night of live music.
MAN WITH A MISSION may at first appear to be ferocious creatures from a bad dream, but their vibrant music and impassioned lyrics tell a different story. It would seem as if many people agree as at least half of the shows on their US tour have completely sold out and only a few tickets are available for remaining shows.
MAN WITH A MISSION took over The Regent Theater on Monday, May 15th with their high energy performance and catchy music, so it’s no surprise that more people are joining the pack on their mission. Whatever that mission might be, it appears to have a bright future.
2. WELCOME TO THE NEWWORLD
4. Thunderstruck (AC/DC cover)
6. Seven Deadly Sins
7. All You Need
8. Dark Crow
9. DJ & Drum Session
11. Between fiction and friction I
12. Get Off of My Way
16. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover)
17. Raise your flag
18. Kizuna no Kiseki
19. INTO THE DEEP
1. Dead End in Tokyo
2. FLY AGAIN
MWAM Website: https://www.mwamjapan.info/