At the end of the Jrock Revolution Festival in late May, 2007, YOSHIKI made the announcement that S.K.I.N. would be playing at Anime Expo. By the end of the Friday night concert, fans were already phoning their friends and making plans to attend the convention. Both national and international supporters flew in from as far away as France, Canada, and Japan.
By Thursday night of 28 June, 2007, concert goers were already lining up to claim their Premium Passes. Waits extended up to, and surpassed, four hours by Friday. Fans wearing homemade S.K.I.N. shirts, fans cosplaying as their favorite artists, and plain clothes fans who secretly harbored a die hard passion for this breed of Japanese music waited patiently without uttering a complaint. After claiming their golden tickets, the fans bolted off to the lines. The lines themselves wrapped around every spare inch of the area outside of the Main Event Arena. It was much like being inside a Shoots-and-Ladders game without a birds eye view available. Even though the Premium Pass holders had reserved seats, they still got there early, joining the sea of general admission ticket holders all hoping for a better seat than the person behind them got.
The S.K.I.N. concert started almost two and a half hours tardy. After a good five days of rehearsing, the band, in theory, should have been satisfied and primed. However, even though the Anime Expo schedule stated that concert was supposed to begin, Gackt was still polishing off those last falsetto notes during one last rehearsal. Nothing less than perfect would satisfy them. Fans waited outside in the hot California sun (many of them receiving sunburns for their dedication) until, at last, seating began.
There was one merchandise booth worked by a handful of volunteers, the corners dotted by dedicated staff of the S.K.I.N. Campaign team gathering e-mail addresses for S.K.I.N.’s mailing list. A concession stand kept steady business. However, the real action was happening inside the arena. Usually an ice-skating rink, the court had been converted into an enormous stage flanked by three video screens. An almost ethereal string of music played on loop. Fans settled into their seats, occasionally ruffled by attempts to do “the wave” or yells as the cameras panned across.
Finally, the lights dimmed. Immediately, the fans rose to their feet. The S.K.I.N. promo video, the one shown at the Jrock Revolution Festival and the one plastered all over the internet, played on the screens…then, the white sheet hiding the stage dropped. S.K.I.N. came to life from a sea of mist. A metal creation shaped like a mythical dragon replaced the typical microphone stand. The energy level in the theatre skyrocketed! Gackt, looking devilishly sexy in slimming jeans and a leather jacket, sported spiked-up jet-black hair, a new quality for the usually blonde or brunette vocalist. As the wide-eyed soloist launched into “GEI-SHA”, the audience filled the arena with screams of bliss and peals of delight. As the band is lacking a permanent bassist, Gackt brought along a member of his own back up band, Gacktjob, named Ju-Ken. Needless to say, he was thrilled to be there. The collared, but not restrained, shaggy-haired SUGIZO wore a sleeveless shirt and a destroyed-style floor length jacket, leaving his guitar-clutching arms bare. On the opposite end, Miyavi, an energetic, tattooed, twenty-something with colorful extensions, was already burning a warehouse of energy in trademark tank top and loose pants. His guitar was plastered with S.K.I.N. stickers. Behind the three front men, on a platform flanked by stairs, an already shirtless male with bleached hair named YOSHIKI was joyfully thrashing his drum set. Wanting it to be a surprise, S.K.I.N. purposely did not release any teasers of their new music prior to before the show. Fans didn’t know any of the lyrics, but it hardly mattered.
S.K.I.N. graciously displayed the titles of their songs up onto the video screens. “Killing you softly” rocked the arena, followed by “Beneath The Skin” ripping through the speakers. Most of the lyrics were in English. Two of the members are fluent in English, and the other two are studying diligently. Fully confident, the band members turned themselves inside out with effort, pumping as much rock into one hour as possible. Miyavi never stopped moving, even when he hauled himself one-handed on top of a speaker (an easy task in his six-foot frame), his feet were still tapping out the beat in mid air. When he wasn’t dancing with his guitar, he occasionally backed Gackt up on vocals. SUGIZO, on the other side, was having a deep intimate session with his guitar that border-lined on erotic. Pounding the bloody hell out of his drums, flashes of YOSHIKI’s history with X JAPAN flashed before fan’s eyes.
The concert stocked up quickly on memorable moments. Ju-Ken had a mini guitar/bass battle with Miyavi. Gackt put an arm around Sugizo and confessed that a mere two years ago, he “hated his guts”, but now they were “best friends”. Without a doubt though, the most beautiful moment came during the blur between “Beneath The Skin” and “Violets”. The rock music faded. YOSHIKI traded his seat at the drums for seat at the piano; a beautiful solo filled the air. So many people were focused on him that hardly anyone noticed Gackt quietly taking a seat at the opposing piano. The solo became a duet. In a pool of warm light, a virtuoso posed the bow on his electric violin and drew sweet, heavy notes. Now that SUGIZO had joined the ensemble, only one member was missing. Adept on plucked stringed instruments, fans pondered what instrument he would select. The fourth spotlight revealed a sitting Miyavi, eyes closed, strumming a traditional Japanese shamisen. The video screen showed four bars of footage spliced together, each rectangle displaying a close-up view of each individual artist’s actions. For many witnesses, the loveliness and splendor of the harmonious quartet overwhelmed them to tears.
After returning to rock to wrap up the tail end of “Violets”, SUGIZO smashed his guitar into a thousand pieces. YOSHIKI destroyed his drum set in a fit of emotional violence. Although he cut his hand during the process, the prodigy calmly dismissed it as “it’s just rock and roll”. S.K.I.N. received thunderous applause. Fans cheered for an encore (most chanting “an-ko-rei” like their Japanese counterparts), however, the stage crew had already began breaking down the set.
Hardly a month from the Jrock Revolution Festival, another chapter in Jrock history in America has been written. Even though the concert was a victory, back stage, the musicians immediately nit-picked and fussed over the tiny mistakes that went unnoticed by the fans. S.K.I.N.’s scrupulous nature ensures that every future concert will be flawless. As S.K.I.N. was created with America as its goal, they won’t be satisfied until they’ve completely conquered.