X JAPAN CONCERT 2010 REVIEW & LIVE PHOTOS: NORTH AMERICAN TOUR, VANCOUVER. YOSHIKI, TOSHI, SUGIZO, HEATH, PATA, HIDE.
We are X Japan! When the Jrock legends announced their first North American tour, some naysayers raised their brows at Yoshiki’s ambitions. Did the Visual Kei musicians deliver in concert? Above and beyond and beyond. Fans walked away speechless, and as you can see in the photos — X Japan is in fine form and visibly having fun. (Thank you to the band’s management for the tickets and the photo pass.)
I couldn’t take photos of the opening band, Vampires Everywhere!, so here is Sugizo in motion. My friend Bo writes: “I approached the opener with some trepidation after hearing tales of their rather abrupt departure from the stage in Los Angeles (X Japan fans apparently threw objects and booed). However, I found them to be a whimsical romp through the world of Screamo and actually quite enjoyed their song, though it was a bit on the long side… Oh, I just found out that they actually performed multiple songs and they just all sounded the same. How awkward.
Vampires Everywhere! was an energetic maelstrom of sound that somehow managed to find monotony amidst chaos. Perhaps they were trying to produce the musical equivalent of being bitten by a real vampire: first things are frantic and intense, but very quickly you begin to feel nothing at all.”
Snark aside, I urge concertgoers to be respectful during the opening performance. The group was invited by X Japan, and while their sound may not be to everyone’s liking, I don’t think that ever warrants cat-calls or launched tomatoes…
Not long after, a chorus swirled and the stage illuminated in blue… and there he was, Yoshiki, standing above his drums. Toshi, Sugizo, Pata, Heath. They took their positions, held up their arms and hammered into Jade (a new song). From start to end, the audience was hysterical, screaming out their names and waving X-shaped glowsticks.
And then: Rusty Nail. Silent Jealousy. Drain. X Japan’s classic songs, resurrected and fired out of a cannon (like the flames on either side of the stage).
Yoshiki’s live drumming was on fire. His years of headbanging messed up his vertebrae, which is why he wears a neck brace (as he explains in an interview with Kirsty Evans).
X Japan, so famous for their range of sound, transitioned from speed metal to a sweeping violin interlude by Sugizo. It was one of my favorite moments of the show.
Yoshiki’s piano playing is more urgent and expressive than ever. He can’t help but throw in Visual Kei flourishes — sweeping back his long coat-tails and ending a tremulous run with a bang — and crumpling to the ground. (I was only allowed to take photos for the first three songs, so unfortunately this moment isn’t captured.)
Toshi has one of the fullest voices I’ve ever heard in concert. We all held our breaths when he sustained a note… and kept it ringing… and ringing…
Bassist Heath. Solid. Hard. Icy.
Rhythm guitarist Pata. Sweeping. Flowing. Harmonic.
In place of the departed Hide: lead guitarist Sugizo. Glam. Resonant.
Yoshiki speaks: “I signed his band a long time ago, Luna Sea. So I’ve known him, it’s almost twenty years we’ve been friends. We’re not really replacing Hide, Sugizo is like a sixth member of the band. Hide is still there.”
Kurenai. Born to be Free. I. V. “As pioneers of the genre, X Japan certainly puts on a great visual show. Musically, they stand alone at the top,” says Bo.
We are X! We are X! We are X!
Yoshiki spoke in English. About how they’ve been waiting a long f-ing time to be here in North America. How it’s a dream come true. How we made it happen.
The climax. The encore: the unmatchable Endless Rain. Yoshiki’s gentle chords… then nothing but the voices of the fans.
My friend Bo only recently started learning about Visual Kei, and has this to say: “Musically, the intensity behind every note was palpable even from my seat in the back of the theatre; instead of blasting the audience with a wall of noise, they took the audience on a real journey through the ups and downs of each powerful song. I didn’t understand the lyrics, but I didn’t have to; the music said everything. Yoshiki’s beautiful piano runs, Sugizo’s chilling violin, and the piercing tone of Toshi’s voice would repeatedly draw us in before the full band would take us on a wild ride. By the time the night was over, this neophyte was a convert, standing at my seat, my hands in the shape of an X above my head, singing along to a song I had never heard before in my life.”
The last song, The Art of Life. “We never replaced Hide,” said Yoshiki. “He’s still performing with us in our hearts.”
For many of us, this is the first time we’ve seen X Japan live. Did the band meet your expectations? Floor you? What were your favorite moments in the show?
Japanese Word of the Day: Hisshou = Victory
Song of the Day: X Japan = Endless Rain (in Vancouver, appropriately)