You know what’s more impressive than a lot of words thrown at you? Numbers. Like 30 million, for example. That’s how many records X Japan have sold. They also sold out the Tokyo Dome, which has a capacity of 50,000, 18 times. Prevalent in the 80′s until the mid 90′s the band went on hiatus until 2007 when their reunion was met with tons of publicity. Fast forward to the present and the band announced they were playing Lollapalooza and a select handful of dates in America. New York was naturally on its list, and for their first show ever in New York, the bands and fans did not disappoint.
Before we can revel in spectacle, we need to get down to details. Walking to Roseland, the line snaked around the block and upon entering you could see the a cultural movement with each fan. Apparently there was free pizza delivered by Yoshiki, I wasn’t there in time but I could imagine it being quite the treat. The band, known for spectacle and style, has a hybrid hyper-Glam Rock persona to them. While it’s short-hand explanation, the attire fits into the very popular Anime culture and fashion. There were people with tails, someone wearing an eyepatch, another wearing a surgical mask, one wearing a motorcycle jumpsuit, the Japanese Lolita fashion, and plenty more.
Pageantry and performance made for a great visual but when we talk about music, it is not just about visuals. X Japan brings a style that is rooted in ballads. Extended and sweeping solos, musicality at the forefront, and rolling riffs propelling each song with some thundering guitar work. It’s a swagger that was honed in large stadiums, and on October 10, the band put all that effort into the intimate, for them anyway, Roseland Ballroom.
The grandiosity begins when an orchestral introduction gives way to Yoshiki Hayashi climbs on top of his drum kits (perched high above the stage with stairs rising up to greet the kit) and strikes a pose. As Hiroshi “Heath” Morie on bass, Tomoaki “Pata” Ishizuka on guitar next to Heath, and YÅ«ne “Sugizo” Sugihara on guitar on the opposite side of the stage, make their way out the loudest cheers are for lead singer Toshimitsu “Toshi” Deyama. I had a little glimpse into the awesomeness that was coming when I caught a glimpse of the setlist and saw “lasers” next to a couple of songs. What’s more metal more than lasers?
The band kicked things off with “Jade”, and the band sounded great, with Toshi’s vocals and Yoshiki’s metal drumming delivering “the goods.” The twin guitar attack isn’t as aggressive as what we’ve become accustomed to when we talk about metal, but Pata and Sugizo have chops to spare and provide some sweet riffs. Heath holds it down on bass, adding a steadier bassline to accompany Yoshiki’s pounding drum work.
The crowd was throbbing mass of individuals jammed in front, arms up, and people singing along. This was a dedicated fanbase whose dreams of seeing the band were finally realized. To think it took this long for the band to hit America, it must have felt like a relief for the band and fans alike. The lasers hit during “Rusty Nail” and again, the epicness of it felt real rather than a forced and perhaps pompous indulgence. Each song was dramatic with dynamic vocals and extended solos.
X Japan pushed through their extensive catalog, with their oldest songs still sounding fresh. Again, not a rehash or a nostalgic look back as an older band tries to cash in on one last check. The band was positively youthful in their excitement and their were plenty of smiles and shout outs by Toshi.
The extended piano and violin solo was well received and created a nice break from the action. Each member of X Japan is truly a master of his craft and seeing Yoshiki and Sugizo showing off their piano and violin virtuosity. This was X Japan’s last stop in America and it coincided with Toshi’s birthday. A sing-along as well as plenty of handmade “Happy Birthday” signs greeted Toshi. An exceptionally large cake was rolled out as well to celebrate this special occasion.
As Toshi and Yoshiki waved goodbye, thanked the crowd and told them to keep dreaming, they also paid respect to “Hide”, one of the founding members who deceased. The band will continue on, with a new album set to be released in 2011. For fans, old and new, this was a truly memorable show and may not be their first and only show in New York. The band and its fans share a symbiotic relationship. X Japan rocked and there was no cynicism to be found at Roseland Ballroom. This show was a master class in musical spectacle and I hope they make one last trip back to New York.
X Japan at Roseland Setlist
Violin and Piano Interlude
Born To Be Free
Art Of Life