My Experience with X Japan

December 19, 2014

x kristenMadison Square Garden, Oct 11, 2014

If you have an immense love for ‘the land of the rising sun’ and are heavily into the Japanese pop and rock scene, then you must know about X-JAPAN (simply known as ‘X’). If not, well then they are THE biggest Asian rock band of all time! As initiators of the Visual Kei movement, the height of their success has sure been one HELL of a roller coaster ride. From their disbandment back in 1997 to shortly thereafter the death of one of Japan’s most beloved musicians – X lead guitarist & solo artist, Hide. Whether his untimely passing was an accident or suicide attempt (as constantly argued), we will never know. However, he is forever memorialized at every X concert. Even after the band’s revival 10 plus years later, they would face another tragic loss with their ex-bassist, Taiji. No matter what X has been through, the single force that has kept them rocking on strong and their existence alive are their fans. I am the newest addition to this family. Actually, I discovered Hide first with his Junk Story ~Singles Collection~, then heard of X’s Forever Love, around the same time I learned of other legendary Japanese artists back in 2002 – the golden years of my youth. But my attention was solely focused on GACKT and his projects at the time.

As I will go back and forth throughout this article, detailing the ambience of the whole X-JAPAN phenomena that happened at Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Saturday, 11 October 2014, along with my personal experience, there is no denying the dedication of their fanbase is REALLYunlike any other. Even how I was drawn to Yoshiki through GACKT (at the time when they were friends) speaks volumes. The diversity and outmost dedication of these fans of this extraordinary and resilient band is one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Such a grand evening at MSG it was. No exaggeration.

Now, if you are just discovering the amazing musical legacy of X like I was, there is NO WAY you CANNOT know who each member is. Yoshiki, whom plays drums and piano, is X’s main leader. He is unique because whether you usually consider the role of the vocalist to be main star of the band or hear the awesome strangeness of classical music infused with rock, this is one of many ways X has stood out throughout the test of their time – through his genius. Yoshiki’s shy-like personality yet hardcore rocker presence on stage really took my breath away. He can give off this same effect off-stage as well. A pioneer in his own right whom seems sensitive, yet no one can ever mistake where Yoshiki or perhaps the rest of the member stand, in terms their gender (as this is often confused with other J-rock bands today). Upon my research on the newest lead guitarist (as of 2008), Sugizo, he and Hide were friends and worked together for a short time before joining another worshipped band in Japan, Luna Sea. Although Hide can never be replaced, makes sense for Sugizo to fit in just fine. Yoshiki’s dearest friend for 45 years, Toshl is X’s vocalist. They often joke with one another sometimes how much of a ‘married couple’ they are. Even to the point when they wore matching wedding dresses together on stage, back in 1992. Toshl’s singing voice can never be mistaken or intimated even. There is not much that can be said about the long time guitarist, Pata and bassist, Heath. Although they may keep to themselves, they speak to their fans through their instruments.

The sight of X fans there that night – with our smartphones, glow sticks and the special bracelets given to us by the ushers in handy to light up the venue, the view was simply stunning; like looking at a moonlit sparkling sea at night. There I saw literally fans ranging from all ages and nationalities. Also some in full Hide attire and others in colorful X-inspired cosplay costumes. Even Hide and Yoshikitty dolls made their appearance. There must have been fans like me, whom have recently wondered where X has been all their lives. But also more impressively, fans that have worshipped this Japanese rock sensation since their heavy metal/glam beginnings in the 1980s. Fans whom literally grew up with the band and whom always wanted to see X live in person or who want to continue being ‘Xposed’ to them; doing the ritual “X Jump” and show an X arm cross, as a sign of respect and love. X-JAPAN is the only band (perhaps in history) that I know of that has this kind of following, along with their very own “anthem”(the X song) and gimmicks galore.

For this special MSG event, I must admit in the weeks following up to this event, I did not surely anticipate how tremendous of a big deal this was going to be, and for so many. I was not even sure if I wanted to go, since I was just ‘born’ into the community of their fandom. Tickets were really expensive too. But luckily for me, there were not sold out (in which they would have indefinitely in Japan, in seconds). But yes, finally, I gave into the hype and got my finances together, pulling my lonely self from my Brooklyn apartment; thus taking that leap of faith into the ‘unknown’. Regardless if I looked like a pathetic Asian wannabe rocker chick-loser with no date or friend to accompany me, still – this would be a night that I would ever regret missing, being in the company of a religious cult-like following (and I understood why, as I describe how the show started).

People from all over the world were there, united as one. Japan is the most obvious of please where fans have assembled from, but from other parts of Asia too. Kind of wished my newest friend, Elena from Romania, could have been there too, to experience this with me, but I x japandefinitely kept her in mind and this is written for her. The only actual person whom was beside me at the concert was this girl named Eileen that came all the way from Malaysia. She being alone as well, I was amazed how far she travelled for X. Having a common bond with a complete stranger was suddenly the feeling that you can have even more in common with this person than you can ever imagine with anyone else. I felt that connection with her throughout the show. She even shared with me her portable battery charger at the time when my phone was dying from taking SO MANY PICTURES – 900 plus to be exact. Even if our friendship was severely short-lived, still – we were indeed like best friends.

When I had entered the venue from the lobby entrance to the arena and as I looked down below shortly before the show started (accompanied by the orchestra instrumental version of Forever Love playing in the background), I can only imagine the diehard fans with the General Admission/Standing room tickets must of lined up since early that morning for this perhaps “once in a lifetime” performance. My seat was in a reserved section, too far away from that general section and mosh pit, which made me green with envy. While not having the best view of the stage and the band’s stellar appearances, my view would be good enough later on to see one of my loves, Sugizo, the closest to where I was standing. Miracle started off as the opening theme of the show. At that moment, it felt like we were in a ‘church of rock’, so to speak, and the way Yoshiki makes his grand entrance, he was the priest of this mass or if not, God himself. It definitely set the tone for what else was about to take place.

Speaking of Sugizo, I felt he saw only me from the rest, as I blew him a kiss and him blowing a kiss right back to me, towards the song ending of the ‘X’ anthem. You can even see the act on Youtube. Ah, such sweet memories to have with a rock star, haha. But their entire set had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – all of kinds of fireworks (including fire that would lit the catwalk and some that looked like shooting stars) and just fire in general; as well as laser guns that shot colored strobes of light and nothing would be complete without bursts of X-shaped confetti and a big disco ball that shined throughout the ballad performances.

An hour into the show and hearing a familiar tune, perhaps it is apparent in one personal revelation that S.K.I.N will perhaps never get back together. For those who do not know, S.K.I.N is a band that GACKT and Yoshiki formed, shortly before Yoshiki reuniting with X that year, 2007. All activity was ceased indefinitely with him and Miyavi. Sugizo kept in touch with Yoshiki. The rumor is that GACKT and Yoshiki had a ‘falling out’ after their debut performance in Long Beach, California. Even though Yoshiki and Sugizo have lyrical and musical rights to the song called Beneath the Skin, this was a song that was originally sung by GACKT and should stay with him and that project. With some disappointment of Toshl announcing this as a ‘new’ song for their upcoming X album to be released sometime next year, I did not let this affect my overall thought or experience with X. Perhaps I was one of very few in the audience that knew this information. But to be fair, Toshl does sing this song a lot better than GACKT ever could. Even the musical arrangement has that elemental ‘X-factor’ to it. Still the love – my growing love for them was there. I could not help myself from getting lost and crazy into the music at times.

As the members played an almost three hour long set list, you could see on all their faces how they very much appreciated everyone who came to see them perform. Other fans and I were calling out to X in between the quick breaks between songs, us letting the band members know how much we cared about them. Sugizo was the hottest one there with his sexy smiles and grins. He occasionally strode down the catwalk, playing so confidently on his ESP guitars. He also plays the violin, as I forgot to mention. Yoshiki, whom was of course shirtless most of the time, wondered at one point where Toshl was when he was MIA for a short time; but then Yoshiki would scream and jump around, going back and forth constantly from playing on his drum set to his piano, as well as obsessively touch his hair. Later on, Yoshiki threw bouquets of roses out into the crowd, before ultimately throwing himself into the audience mosh pit with no prior warning. He disappeared after doing that stunt. I feared Yoshiki was being molested or worse *laughs* but he turned back up again and ‘survived’ the ordeal. Not as bad as him fainting at times while performing. When Toshl allowed us to sing some of the chorus with him. During their well-known SAW IV movie theme, I.V., and another (actual) new song, Hero, Toshl taught the crowd some of the lyrics so then we would be able to sing along.

The most intriguing and instantaneous moments of the show was when Toshl sang Forever Love, along with a backdrop of photos/memories of Hide and Taiji. The continuing flow of love and now tears had connected each one of us in that arena, and every person watching from the international broadcast/online stream from their homes (as it was said later on). Then near towards the end, Yoshiki played the Star Spangled Banner, which is America’s national anthem, and shared with us his story of how the band formed, as he and Toshl met in Kindergarden and formed a band together (which was not called X yet at that time) when they were just ten years old and how they did not anticipate how far this journey together would take them. Especially with MSG as a big dream of theirs that finally came true, but unfortunately minus their two members/friends.

Throughout these rocking sessions and intimate moments with X, these three hours flew by within the blink of an eye. Although they had supposedly performed encores, it was all a bittersweet ending. The show seemed very long, but yet… it was not long enough with the rock stars. No one wanted Yoshiki, Toshl, Sugizo, Pata or Heath to leave the stage. But inevitably – one by one, they did.  There was no denying the spirit of Hide was also there. We all wish he was alive for this. I left MSG with an unfulfilled, burning desire of wanting to be more ‘X posed’ from the band. I almost cried excessively on the way back home, listening to UNFINISHED (one of my ultimate x before concertfavorite songs from X) on repeat. Best breakup ballad song ever, by the way.

There was certainly no doubt or question about my fan status. No matter what anyone tells me, I had a special connection with X, and exclusively with Sugizo that perhaps no other fan will ever get to experience – unless you make it a major priority to, whenever they decide to go on their next world tour in the near future. As a fair warning, if you are thinking of seeing X live in concert, think of all the members as ‘the perfect man’ all women ever dream of being with, and then you go home with him. You have your way with him, but then he leaves at some point and you never see or hear from him for perhaps a very LONG time – by chance, or maybe even never again. The whole feeling of this concert is very equivalent to having a hot one-night stand with a GACKT-like figure.

With all seriousness, X-JAPAN is certainly breaking the barrier of language within the U.S. with their music and is perhaps making their mark with this overall performance. X is still determined as ever to still make it here, regardless of their current age or specifically Yoshiki’s health status deteriorating, rapidly. Yoshiki has always been saying all these years in Japanese TV appearances and magazine interviews that he will conquer America someday. Having seen this huge gathering of 15,000+ or so at MSG, I do believe that X done just that for this one night, and will indeed do more very soon. One can only hope. But without the support of fans throughout the years, this night perhaps would have never happened.

The only regrettable things about MSG were me going by myself, and that I was not a devoted fan of X much sooner. I am very grateful for this experience. That I did not miss a second, minute or beat of them performing – in my city, NYC nonetheless. This not only having been my first official concert ever but also (believe it or not) my first time that I can ever recall INSIDE MSG! This is a show that will live on in my heart forever, and of course for all whom were there. Cannot wait until this performance comes out on DVD!

by Kristen Perez

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2 Responses to My Experience with X Japan

  1. Tears | eLitere on July 21, 2015 at 6:23 am

    […] when the fans sing with the band… when you can actually see them. Kristen wrote about her experience at an X Japan concert and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I couldn’t be there with […]

  2. Why I love Yoshiki Hayashi | eLitere on September 5, 2015 at 7:24 am

    […] add too many of his songs here because I will write separate articles for them, but you can read Kristen’s article, if you haven’t yet, and enjoy the songs she mentioned there. Also, I do recommend I’ll […]

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