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Japanese band rocks with American fans

Overview of the X Japan concert. (Christina Macias)

In 1998, X Japan’s farewell concert, The Last Live, opened with a voice-over:

“Welcome…We have been looking forward to this moment…Thank you for being here. We’ll show you the place where dreams and life become one. Memorize this night we will spend together, and keep us in your hearts.”

Seven years later, on Sept. 28, 2010, the same words echoed in the same serene female voice within Oakland’s Fox Theatre, beginning the second show of X Japan’s First World Tour.

In the tradition of X Japan’s old reputation for perennial tardiness, the doors to the venue opened nearly half an hour late to admit the line of devoted fans that wrapped around the building. Fans came decked out in their rock concert best: sporting everything from tour t-shirts to band member cosplays, and carrying plush dolls of hide and “Yoshikitty” (the product of collaboration between Yoshiki and Hello Kitty).

Once inside, the fans filtered toward the stage to the sounds of orchestral renditions of X Japan’s ballads “Forever Love” and “Say Anything” playing over the venue’s speakers.

Loud cheers greeted Yoshiki’s iconic crystal piano and drum set when the tarps were removed from each. As 9:00 showtime drew near, the crowd grew louder, and began calling out members’ names: “Yoshiki!” and “hide!” At intervals, the audience would chant “X! X! X!” while they pressed anxiously against the barricade in front of the stage.

About 15 minutes after X’s scheduled onstage time, the house lights darkened, and the crowd went crazy.

A scarlet “X” icon flashes on the giant screen. (Christina Macias)

The band’s scarlet “X” icon flashed on the giant screen behind the drum platform. Slowly, triumphantly, the silhouette of Yoshiki emerged. He only had to stand at his drums, surveying the crowd in the darkness, and one would believe God himself was on that stage the way the audience roared.

As the stage lights began to illuminate, the shapes of Heath, Pata, Sugizo and Toshi emerged and took their places. The audience grew louder with each band member. Once everyone was present, Toshi opened the set with a shout of his own, and the band launched into “Jade”–a song released shortly after the band’s 2007 reunion.

After “Jade” came “Rusty Nail,” a crowd favorite from the band’s heyday. The rest of the set list included both old standards such as “Silent Jealousy” and “Kurenai,” as well as some of the newer releases, such as “I.V.”

During the band’s anthem, “X,” Toshi led the room in the iconic “X Jump,” where one jumps while crossing their arms in an “X” at certain intervals in the song. The other members onstage also jumped at the appropriate cues, with Yoshiki crossing his drumsticks overhead. At the end of the song, the band led their classic, passionate call and response: “We are–” to which the crowd replied “X!”

Close-up of guitar. (Christina Macias)

The show also included piano and drum solos for Yoshiki, as well as an electric violin solo for Sugizo.

Toshi and Yoshiki addressed the audience in English whenever they spoke. The band was very active, with the guitars and bass constantly running around to play next to one another. Toshi himself often moved around the stage to stand next to the other band members, even venturing up behind the drums to sing with Yoshiki. Anyone could see from their interaction how much these men loved being onstage together.

The set ended with “Tears,” and the band left the darkened stage as fans screamed for an encore. True to form, the band was a bit late, leaving the fans to call for them in the dark somewhat longer than most other shows.

Once Toshi and Yoshiki returned to the stage, they opened with a brief speech. Yoshiki mentioned that the band was just as excited to be here as the fans were to have them.

“I can’t believe we’re actually doing it!” he laughed, referring to the U.S. Tour.

He also credited the late hide, who passed away in 1998, with bringing them back together, adding, “He loves you, too.”

At the end of the show, the members gathered at the front of the stage to have their photo taken with the audience. Then, as per tradition, they joined hands to bow several times before jumping in the air together.

Several fans milled around for awhile, reluctant to leave. For those who had come from as far away as Los Angeles, Illinois, Taiwan and Japan, this was a pilgrimage.  For everyone present, though, this night proved to be, as the opening voice-over called it, “the place where dreams and life become one.”