ONE OK ROCK in Manila: What Rock n’ Roll Dreams Are Made Of

By Joey Dizon


This is the stuff that legendary shows are made of.


If one were to create a template that would establish the standard for live shows—ones that any serious concertgoer and music fan would forever cherish—PULP Live World’s production of ONE OK ROCK’S 2023 Luxury Disease Tour most probably hits the bullseye. Selling out the historic venue is an accomplishment in itself. However, seeing a sea of hungry, passionate, and energetic fans on their feet—from the front row to the rafters, singing every word to every song with such emotional gusto—is infectious, even to the most casual listener, i.e., myself.


Though I’ll be the first to admit that I previously did not know much about the internationally celebrated phenomenon that is ONE OK ROCK, the smiles, screams, and pure joy the crowd exuded that evening hinted at something magical. 


As drummer Tomoya Kanki, bassist Ryota Kohama, and guitarist Toru Yamashita entered one by one in grand, triumphant fashion, and with vocalist Takahiro Moriuchi charging in with a raised fist soon after, the Araneta Coliseum exploded. A flood of state-of-the-art graphics and a sea of lights washed over us, making it clear that this was the show worth waiting and traveling for.


The music was phenomenal. From the opening trifecta of “Wonder,” “Save Yourself,” and “Taking Off,” I realized this wasn’t just ordinary music. These were anthems crafted for arenas: humongous choruses, soaring vocal melodies, majestic sonic textures, and continually peaking movements. They are what rock n’ roll dreams are made of—the soundtrack to life and all its twists and turns.


The set did not disappoint.


With an ever-changing backdrop and light sequence, emotionally gripping favorites like “Let Me Let You Go” and my new personal favorite, “Clock Strikes,” seemed to triple the size and volume of the Araneta Coliseum. Cheers—or rather, ROARS—of approval echoed throughout the venue, with fans not missing a single cue to jump and scream the words at the top of their lungs. The forward march of “I Was King” and the all-out scorcher “Renegades” kept the momentum high. Even the poignant part of the show, featuring an acoustic rendition of “Your Tears Are Mine” and the much-awaited anthem “The Beginning,” was too captivating to miss.


Beyond the spectacular production and music that is uniquely ONE OK ROCK, the fans’ smiling, nearly crying, and inspired faces stood out. They stamped their feet throughout the show, producing a deafening rumble to show their love and appreciation. It was evident that the band members fed off that energy and warmth. Drum, bass, and guitar solos included, the entire set was elevated by vocalist Taka’s voice, which is pure rock n’ roll gold.


Like all good things, the show approached its finale. Vocalist Taka remarked, “I know, it’s sad. We’re sad whenever this part of the show comes.” After promising a quicker return to Manila, the band launched into “Wasted Nights” and crescendoed with an encore of “Wherever You Are.” These trademark favorites had everyone giving their all until the very end.


Nobody wanted to leave.


Outside, fans played music from speakers, headbanging in the streets, trying to hold onto the moment. Many excitedly reviewed, edited, and uploaded videos on their phones, while others shared stories of their favorite parts of the show around the Araneta Center. I suspect those stories will be shared for weeks, months, and even years until the band returns.


I can’t emphasize it enough: PULP Live World Presents: ONE OK ROCK Live in Manila was the greatest rock show I’ve experienced in a while. It truly embodies the phrase “Live Loud.” Along with the thousands in attendance, I will continue to do so, especially with shows and artists like these.