X JAPAN ~ Continues the Attack (Invincible Night) at Tokyo Dome

live report - 08.01.2009 05:20

On the special date of May 2, X JAPAN played the first of two days at the Tokyo Dome, continuing their new attack on the Japanese rock scene

The atmosphere around the Tokyo Dome crackled with excitement as fans grabbed last minute goods, took photos of the various cosplayers mingling around and relaxed before the live. Inside, the excitement seemed, if anything, greater with the hubbub of chatter set to a lovely background music that mixed orchestrated versions of Without You with Say Anything.

As the house lights went down, the room was filled with the red glow of thousands of glow sticks, all making the X sign, and deafening screams for the members. As YOSHIKI and TOSHI were illuminated on stage, the screams became a roar, getting louder when the first notes of Rusty Nail were played. The audience sang passionately along with TOSHI, while HEATH ran along the giant runways positioned near the stage. It was both visually and aurally stunning, with fireworks, glowing red lights and YOSHIKI's powerful drums reverberating through the building.

The crowd did't stop singing as Weekend followed, and the guitarists raced down the runways playing with the skill and standard one might expect of X JAPAN band members. The guitar solo was HIDE's though, and as his image adorned the video screens, there was a massive scream and a wave of glow stick X signs. The song finished with YOSHIKI on the piano, the subtler sound allowing TOSHI's clear vocals to carry over the entire crowd.

A short MC followed - the first of many. It was a news announcement about the release of a new song entitled Jade, although YOSHIKI kept interrupting TOSHI by hitting his drums. "YOSHIKI is in good spirits tonight!" was TOSHI's response. The MC was followed by the first playing of Jade, a heavy song with an introduction of thudding metal drums and spiky guitar phrases. The verses featured a strong bass line from HEATH and a rather anthemic chorus. Initially, the vocals seemed quiet, but TOSHI grew with confidence as the song continued into SUGIZO's solo.

It was followed by a song from HIDE - PATA ran down the runway to play the introduction to Celebration. The video screens became ablaze with psychedelic imagery and the famous "Love me..." hide guitar pattern. PATA and HEATH played along as the videos showed HIDE singing into a megaphone. As if to reinforce this party atmosphere, giant balloons were released over the crowd as they danced along.

X JAPAN took a break as the atmosphere was cooled by orchestral background music. TOSHI asked how the audience was before YOSHIKI spoke. "I wonder if HIDE is ok," he mused to huge cheers. Rose of Pain was announced, though the crowd became quiet; after a few appreciative "oohs" they simply waved their glow sticks to a beautiful acoustic version of the song. HEATH, TOSHI and PATA were seated, and PATA played a Spanish guitar, giving the song a lovely quality as TOSHI sang.

Afterward was another long break, although when YOSHIKI returned, those who had sat down gave him a standing ovation. He carried with him a bunch of roses and spent some time greeting the audience while throwing roses to those seated in the arena. Once he had made his way to his piano, he began to play the dulcet introduction of Tears for a beautiful piano solo. The crowd, touched by the emotions, sang along to the sad ballad, even when YOSHIKI had stopped playing for a while. Then, TOSHI appeared alongside him to sing, and the spotlights concentrated on the piano alone until in a great rush of light, the whole band was illuminated while playing a powerful version of the song.

Piano notes and a SUGIZO violin solo of sinuous Middle Eastern sounds led gently into Dahlia before green lasers burst forth with a terrific scream from TOSHI, and once more the music fired into life. YOSHIKI's power and speed at the drums was simply amazing, and in HEATH's solo, the two instruments combined, creating some cool, dark and funky sounds. Dahlia ended with a thunderous climax as lasers punched the air and at the back, a giant red X shone to turn the whole stage red for the last song, Kurenai. It was greeted with a massive cheer; HIDE played the introduction, to which the crowd sang along with TOSHI. Then a a long cymbal roll gave in to the full power of Kurenai. Silver streamers shot out over the audience with flames that flared up on stage. X JAPAN played with excited passion, running all over the stage and jumping around manically, thoroughly looking as though they were enjoying this performance.

The short main set finished, and encore calls rose up together with the traditional Mexican wave seen at X JAPAN concerts. However, the next section was a fashion show matching Violet UK with h.naoto. While Violet UK's music was a lovely and heady mix of tribal and choral sounds, the audience appeared a little perplexed and was much happier when YOSHIKI appeared for his drum solo. Starting soft with a funky beat that built in both tempo and volume, the solo mesmerized the audience. YOSHIKI's drum kit rose up and "flew" down the main runway in a performance that was both musically and visually dramatic, and it ended with fireworks.

It calmed afterward as the touching ballad Without You was played by YOSHIKI, who wore a red coat while sitting at his piano, and TOSHI. Video of old X JAPAN concerts appeared on either side of the stage, and this nostalgic trip, combined with the beautiful music, elicited some audible sobs from the audience. When the pair left the stage at the end of this first encore, there was another moment of X nostalgia as YOSHIKI jumped onto TOSHI's back to be carried off.

The second encore came with the reintroduction of HEATH, PATA and SUGIZO. Meanwhile, TOSHI rallied the crowd, asking them to repeatedly sing "in the rain" before announcing that the next song would be I.V. TOSHI looked to the other members to sing, but only SUGIZO was up for it, and the attempt to make YOSHIKI sing ended with TOSHI chasing YOSHIKI across the stage. The endless singalong ended with YOSHIKI kicking over the gong placed near his drum kit before the real song began with its storming guitar riff.

The finale, though, was as expected, X. In an explosion of drums, the music reverberated throughout Tokyo Dome, making the whole building seem to shake. The crowd danced excitedly, and the sight of 55,000 bodies all jumping together in an X sign was incredible. The whole performance was a marvelous sight and reminded everyone of the power of X JAPAN from 10 years ago. One couldn't help but wish the whole live could have had this power, rather than having a fashion show interjected in between. Through the forest of arms making the X sign, the Muteki session band appeared along the runways waving flags while TOSHI endlessly roared "We are! You are!" to screams of "X" from the audience. HIDE rallied the X fans through video. The live came crashing to an end with a thunderous tumult of music and lasers punching the air wildly.

Endless Rain marked a beautiful epilogue to the evening. Soft piano sounded in a room lit by glow stick stars. TOSHI's vocals were lovely and heartfelt, and he encouraged the crowd to join him, eventually letting them sing alone, all 55,000 in one voice. YOSHIKI seemed to be crying as he stopped playing the piano, allowing only the audience to be heard. The crowd never stopped singing either, carrying the song to the end and into the SE of Say Anything. As X JAPAN said their prolonged goodbyes and brought the giant HIDE doll out, they were greeted with warm applause from an appreciative crowd who, despite the short set list, had enjoyed every minute.

It can't be said that X JAPAN did not deserve that applause. When they played the old songs that had made them the greatest rock band in Japan, they were truly magnificent, playing with the verve and passion one might expect. However, the key thing is when they played. In over three hours, the song count came to a mere twelve, and while their showmanship was undoubted in technical mastery and the flamboyance of the drum solo, one couldn't help but think that if they spent more time on playing and less on fashion shows or prolonged breaks, the X JAPAN of now would leave a far greater impression.
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