X JAPAN WORLD TOUR Live in YOKOHAMA August 15: Midsummer Night

live report - 09.01.2010 03:00

Super Push Through Life’s Ups and Downs ~ Facing the World~
"I don’t really get it, but…we are!?" “---X!!!"

Bodies packed stadium and arena, chatting excitedly throughout the pre-show video featuring X JAPAN’s recent exploits followed by a lovely instrumental version of Forever Love. When the music cut off, a note of surprise issued throughout the stadium and thousands rose to their feet. The screams began and a sea of glow-sticks raised to form X patterns. The new overture, an operatic opus, suitably set the scene for drummer YOSHIKI’s entrance, which was heralded by a clamour of adoration. He appeared on the two massive screens framing the stage, posing proudly in an open-chested long white coat and skin-tight vinyl pants.

One by one, bassist HEATH, guitarists PATA and SUGIZO and vocalist ToshI took the stage to fervent screams. Meanwhile, a voice-over recited in English the band’s longing for this moment and their gratitude to those in attendance. The words, “Introducing X JAPAN” met with a roar of welcome; the word "Japan" echoed dramatically until an explosion sent a heatwave blasting through the arena and an image of the drummer in motion flared up on the side screens. The five members were arrayed across the stage-top screen as the exhilarating introduction to JADE kicked off the set. The onset of ToshI’s vocals was greeted by another round of cries, then the pitch escalated as the chorus began and thousands of glow-sticks and hands waved in the air.

SUGIZO showed no restraint, his momentum sending him twirling across the stage, and an image of PATA rose up on screen as his guitar wailed throughout the solo, supported by crashing drums and the ever-present cacophony of cries from the crowd. The instrumental climax was accented with further jets of fire before YOSHIKI climbed up onto his kit and posed behind ToshI as the vocalist sang out over the acoustic accompaniment. Then the key changed, sending ToshI’s impressive voice clearly to every corner of the stadium. With a raised fist, SUGIZO cued the final instrumental. Complemented by further streams of fire, ToshI cried, “On drums, YOSHIKI!” thus concluding the opening number with a hot drum riff.

“I missed you!” ToshI screamed. Launching into Rusty Nail, he ran all the way up the stage's left runway. SUGIZO followed but stayed behind at the runway entrance, and PATA mirrored his fellow guitarist. As ToshI sang, he spun freely and then cried out; the stadium responded twice as loud. His voice rang throughout the chorus, punctuated by another enthusiastically returned scream. The crowd’s voices then combined in song in a spectacular effort, the immense stadium proving to be no obstacle. “It’s great to hear your voices again!” exclaimed ToshI.

DRAIN opened up with a cool, deep guitar intro. The top screen featured the remaining onstage members: PATA, ToshI and HEATH. A cheer rose from the crowd as a video of hide filled the backdrop; the sixth member took the spotlight throughout the number. His image took over the three main screens, and the repeated murmur of “drain” blended easily with the live aspects of the music to make it seem as if the guitarist were actually present. The band exited in the wake of the number, allowing the crowd to scream their unchallenged affection for the former guitarist before calling for the current incarnation of X JAPAN to return. ToshI obliged, calling for PATA, HEATH and "SUGI-sama". Last to return, SUGIZO posed, hand on hip and pout on lips - which soon disintegrated into a childish grin.

ToshI then introduced “Quartet X JAPAN - without YOSHIKI” and announced that “SUGI-sama is going to play the violin for you.” The four members gathered at centre stage. SUGIZO took point, his beautiful violin melody a fitting introduction to the acoustic version of Forever Love. ToshI then showed off his own instrumental skills, singing and strumming the verse until the others pitched in. At the vocalist’s request, the crowd sang, putting even the most accomplished choir to shame. “On violin - SUGIZO!” ToshI cried, the focus once more on the guitarist turned violin virtuoso. The solo was capped with a whoop from ToshI, a sentiment echoed by the crowd. The final verse once more featured ToshI solo. A pause raised the expected thunderous reaction, and the final emotional chorus was littered with spoken lines, the unsung lyrics just as beautiful as those put to melody.

A break ensued after the members took their leave, SUGIZO with a fittingly classic bow. When YOSHIKI reappeared, he ran all the way across the stage and down the left runway, vigorously tossing bouquets of roses before hurrying back the other way. He climbed down from the stage and ran past the crowd, tossing the final bouquet into the bleachers. Soon seated at his piano, he grinned and without a word and set his fingers to the keys. The inevitable screams of his name filled the air as he began to play Tears which was sung by the crowd, pausing only to cue ToshI’s return to the stage.

The vocalist added his own voice to the song and rested one hand on YOSHIKI’s shoulder. His white jacket complimented the pianist’s coat, creating a touchingly pure image. HEATH and PATA chimed in to fill out the music while sitting casually on the steps beside the drum kit. Meanwhile, a close-up of YOSHIKI revealed tears running down his cheeks as the fans sang along enthusiastically. ToshI raised his fingers in a peace sign as the lyrics “dry your tears with love” issued from every voice in the stadium. “Everyone, thank you so much,” he murmured. A voiceover joined with YOSHIKI’s final solo, the pianist himself concluding with: “I will dry your dreams with love and forever with…tears.”

Just when it seemed unlikely that anything could surpass the beautiful ballad, an orchestral instrumental of Kurenai preceded the return of hide. Playing a slow, simple guitar version of the catchy melody, his glowing pink hair and fluorescent green instrument created a nostalgic image to fit the piece. ToshI entered to perform a duet with the beloved guitarist. hide’s image faded towards the finale of the slow verse, and then ToshI screamed, “It’s Kurenai!”

An explosion of streamers showered the arena. The instrumentalists reappeared, YOSHIKI once more shirtless and SUGIZO now sporting only a mesh shirt that showed rippling tattoos as he worked the guitar strings. ToshI extended encouragement to the crowd, basking in the resonance as they shouted the chorus to him. He finally joined them as the music dropped out; the thousands of voices accompanied ToshI’s magnified voice as well as any instrument. A lead-in from YOSHIKI then saw the full band in motion once more as the song reached its ultimate capacity.

Into the silent admiration, ToshI screamed, “We’re still here!” which drove the crowd to find their voices once more. He then announced: “We’re going for a new song! On piano - YOSHIKI!” The maestro settled into a lovely piano solo, punctuated by screams from overstimulated fans until he raised his hand high in triumph. “Born to be Free!” ToshI yelled, and the crowd shouted in time with the heavy guitar intro. Three cages descended to hang above the stage, with dancers adding flavour to the wild number. Back on drums, YOSHIKI drove the piece along. SUGIZO’s guitar solo was a sexy piece of music that had the crowd screaming in appreciation. ToshI’s final note of the interlude was electronically suspended as YOSHIKI skilfully slammed down clashing chords before the final upbeat chorus.

The electric section then took over the stage for a three-way instrumental. “On guitar, PATA!” ToshI announced, and said guitarist let rip as he sauntered in from stage right. Huge applause greeted SUGIZO’s musical entrance from stage left. A similar wailing melody fell from his fingers until he pointed to HEATH at centre stage, the bassist giving his all before handing off to PATA once more. This time, the leader of the trio played a falling scale right down to the bottom frets that SUGIZO then imitated. HEATH turned up the heat with a funky bass solo that lightened the intensity and set the mood for PATA’s smoother rendition, which culminated in a hand raised to the open sky. SUGIZO then followed up with a more melodic number that PATA and HEATH slipped into. Gathering at centre stage - SUGIZO spinning all the way - the three finished as a unit, music giving way to overwhelming applause from the crowd.

YOSHIKI soon gave the fans what they demanded. Smoke puffed about a platform set on the arena floor, and the drummer and his tools rose to greet the crowd. Now draped in a red coat, YOSHIKI simply basked in the moment as thousands of people devoted their voices and breath to him. He clasped his hands before his bowed head, and the crowd’s screams turned feverish. Then, in one smooth movement, he discarded his coat and swept into position behind the complex drum kit complete with keyboard and synthesizer. As he struck each surface, a fascinating rhythmic harmony issued from water-filled drums, creating a unique solo that earned constant encouragement.

Every so often, YOSHIKI miraculously spared one hand to throw in a few chiming notes on the synthesizer until eventually, a dramatic, operatic recording rose up beneath the drumming and the cameras closed in to reveal YOSHIKI’s fierce expression. A pause; screams from the crowd; an answering, raw scream from YOSHIKI as he resumed with another riff. This time, he hopped up on his kit during the interlude, presenting himself to his audience. Smacking a cymbal once, twice, thrice, he jumped back down. Voice echoing through the body of a drum, he screamed again before resuming with a wild strength that sent water flying into the air. An explosion accented his rhythm, repeated four more times before a final, fast and heavy riff that culminated in one massive bang from the far end of the stadium.

YOSHIKI grabbed his coat and stumbled to the platform steps where he sat grinning and flashing a peace sign. Helped into his coat, he then took a seat behind the piano previously unnoticed below the platform. Further brandishing his skills, YOSHIKI wowed the masses with a piano solo that took form as the memorable refrain of I.V. and the words were soon picked up by the crowd. An unseen ToshI threw in the occasional echo amidst the stadium’s unified voice, and the lyrics appeared on the stage backdrop for all to read.

Then, YOSHIKI made his way back through the arena with arms raised in an X and climbed up to the stage. “We are?” ToshI cried. “X!!!” came the instantaneous reply. Again and again the call and response repeated, YOSHIKI taking over though his voice was already raw from the emotional drum solo. “HEATH isn’t singing,” he then proclaimed. “SUGIZO isn’t singing either.” The guitarist responded by stepping up to the mic and adding his voice to those of the crowd. Because YOSHIKI had taken a seat at the piano, it came as a surprise when the drums kicked in to speed up the pace - ToshI appeared on screen a moment later. Impersonating YOSHIKI, he concluded his turn as drummer by jumping up on the kit. Amused, YOSHIKI went with the flow. “I don’t really get it, but…we are!?”

X!!!” came the roaring response. Still, SUGIZO and the crowd sang until ToshI finally wailed, “I will give it straight from my vein!” and the piece took off hard. Lasers crisscrossing the venue throughout the number, HEATH and PATA could be seen playing hip to hip through the instrumental. The lights and instruments then dropped out for one last fan duet with ToshI. The music resumed with another round of fiery jets shooting into the sky. “Bye bye!” ToshI called in farewell as the band took their leave.

The crowd raised an encore chant of “We are - X.” The interlude was not short, but they didn’t seem to mind. YOSHIKI’s re-entrance, now in silky black, was greeted with fervour. “You guys are amazing!” ToshI exclaimed as he followed the drummer on to the stage. Each member was once again received with unfailing enthusiasm. With YOSHIKI on piano once more, further screams rose as ToshI began to sing, and then there was an unexpected introduction: “On bass - Taiji!” ToshI cycled through each member, following his own name with “And…hide!!” to complete a full attendance of seven.

Raising his drumsticks in an X, YOSHIKI effectively announced the song title. HEATH and Taiji faced off to the crowd’s delight. The whole stadium jumped with hands or glow-sticks raised to form X. Bouncing around behind YOSHIKI, ToshI reached out and smashed the cymbals, clearly riding an unbeatable high. When he held the mic to YOSHIKI’s lips, the drummer screamed incoherently and the entire stadium rode that impetus through to the end of the song. After many refrains of “We are X," YOSHIKI put all his strength into striking a gong that reverberated throughout the enormous stadium. The appearance of hide on-screen had the crowd outdoing themselves in response to the guitarist’s gibberish prompts. An explosion and inevitable heatwave marked the resumption of the song one last time and the drum platform rose up above the stage with SUGIZO on his knees below. The aftermath saw YOSHIKI fall to the ground, obviously unwilling to get up and walk offstage until Taiji and SUGIZO took his hands, and the three exited together.

Another “We are - X” encore chant had the crowd primed and ready for an entrance featuring a piggy back ride for ToshI courtesy of the eternally energetic YOSHIKI. “I love you!” he screamed. “I fucking love you!!!” ToshI threw in his own two cents with “We love Japan!” An emotional speech from YOSHIKI had the whole crowd screaming in adoration, proving their everlasting support. Then began the final song, ENDLESS RAIN, with YOSHIKI once more on piano. As ToshI’s voice disintegrated into a passionate cry, spotlights shone on the guitarists and HEATH, who was sitting daintily on the steps again. Another touching tableau of the band’s founders showed ToshI sitting at YOSHIKI’s back. The pianist was grinning and flicking his hair about as he tried to look back at his partner in crime. True to its name, the final number continued on and on until YOSHIKI was overcome with emotion. With his hands clasped before his face as he trembled with tears and cries of support echoed all around, ToshI sang the conclusion, and YOSHIKI added the final notes to the evening.

The long and soul baring performance saw an exhausted YOSHIKI once more glued to the stage floor as ToshI ruthlessly drenched him with bottle after bottle of water. The drummer eventually recovered enough to chase ToshI across the stage with a couple of bottles of his own. A multitude of peace signs and blown kisses were given to the crowd. Then YOSHIKI took a few laps about the stadium before embracing with the others. The group jump was performed with a bouquet laid on a speaker for hide and a final array of fireworks heralded the band's exit. The last view of YOSHIKI was of him bowing to the audience with arms folded in an X across his chest.

Taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the venue, X JAPAN offered their fans a tasteful and extremely well balanced show. The weather was perfect for the outdoor spectacle, and there wasn’t a single cause for dissatisfaction among the thousands who will surely be waiting loyally for X JAPAN’s next homeland event.

Set List:

1. JADE
2. Rusty Nail
3. DRAIN
4. Forever Love
5. Tears
6. Kurenai
7. Born to be Free
~ PATA SUGIZO HEATH solo ~
8. Drum solo
9. I.V.

Encore:
10. X (with Taiji)

Encore II:
11. ENDLESS RAIN
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