Words and Pics: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
X Japan have sales in excess of 30 million, have sold out the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome some 18 times, generate feverish reactions from their army of fans yet the western world seems to be extremely slow in catching on. How does a band that’s been in existence since the late 1980s, with a back story that has resulted in a documentary ‘We Are X’ , not trip off the tongue like Guns ‘n’ Roses or The Rolling Stones? It seems that’s all about to change. With #XDAY trending, that sees the launch of the documentary and a show at London’s Wembley Arena. Further events are to be hosted around the world before the ‘We Are X’ documentary is released on DVD \ BluRay late April 2017.
Before the live show began at Wembley Arena, the fans were treated to a screening of the documentary in forfeit of a support act. It was a move that worked well and saw the arena, set up as a fully seated event, pretty much full before the 6:30pm start time.
Heart rending, honest and a fascinating insight into Japan’s most successful rock act, the documentary elicited all manner of emotion from the crowd as Yoshiki is interviewed and explains X Japan’s story from their roots all the way up to a performance at Madison Square Garden on October 11, 2014.
People often talk about the ‘Curse of X’ and it’s easy to see why. Tragedy has followed the musician and his band from their early beginnings. His father committed suicide when he was still a child, his mother assumed bad spirits were present in his belongings so threw out everything of Yoshiki’s fathers, leaving Yoshiki with a single photo of him and his father together. When interviewed about why the band broke up in 1997, it was put down to his childhood friend and X Japan co-founder and vocalist Toshi being “brainwashed” by a cult. With the death of guitarist hide five months later and former bassist Taiji dying just eleven months after performing with the group for the first time in 18 years this was a documentary that needed to be made.
Pick up a copy when it’s released in a few weeks:
And so to the show. As the last few seconds of the documentary fill the screen, the band walk onto the stage ready to perform for some 2 hours. Photography is to be done from the first tier at the side of the stage, thanks to the amount of pyro being used during the set.
For those people who’ve not followed the band throughout their career, the current line up comprises Yoshiki on dums, piano and keyboards. He’s joined on lead vocals by Toshi, the two original members of the band. Pata, on rhythm guitar joined the band in 1987 and following the 1997 break up, rejoined again in 2007. Heath on bass, replaced former bassist Taiji in 1992 and has been with the band ever since and finally Sugizo on lead guitar who replaced the iconic hide when the band reformed.
When footage of the former members is shown on screen, the crowd show their appreciation and the roar is almost deafening.
The set itself is a mix of fast paced, power metal numbers, slower classical focused tracks with time in between for solos from the band members. The crowd lap it all up. Every time someone shouts ‘WE ARE…” the corresponding “X” roar shakes the rafters of the arena. When Yoshiki takes time to talk to the crowd and reflects on the highlights and the pain the band has endured over the length of their career, it’s even more emotional with many members of the crowd offering Yoshiki vocal support as best they can.
Some of the on stage banter feels totally natural and extremely unrehearsed. Of course when English isn;t your first language, a casual chat about the show, the release of the special Wembley edition of ‘We are X’ between Yoshiki and Toshi takes on an almost comedic value as it becomes clear that Toshi has either forgotten the script or has lost track of what was expected of him. It lightens the moment and makes the even feel more like family rather than band and fanbase.
There are tributes to other bands that have presumably helped shaped X Japan, including Bohemian Rhapsody which is an understandable choice for Toshiki, as is Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. One thing that really stands out is during an early violin solo and the beautiful instrumental rendition of ‘Life on Mars’.
The mix of styles, ballad\ classical vs symphonic \ power metal is an interesting clash and for any other band it would probably be a disaster. Not so for X Japan who seamlessly blend it all together to deliver a unique, moving experience and one that probably won’t be seen again in the UK for some time to come.
Pick up the DVD and the soundtrack to the documentary and you’ll understand the attraction and the fascinating back story of this excellent band.
Hero (YOSHIKI song)
Kiss the Sky – (Recording of the audience)
Beneath the Skin
Pata & Heath Solo
Sugizo Violin Solo
Say Anything (Acoustic version)
Born to Be Free
Moonlight Sonata (Ludwig van Beethoven cover)
Yoshiki Drum Solo
Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover) (Acoustic)
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Art of Life (2nd & 3rd movement)
Tears (English version)