Yoshiki has appeared at Otakon several times, but never like this. Fans were promised a full concert based on Yoshiki’s classical tour, and with Pata and Heath as special guests, everyone knew they were in for a treat. As everyone poured into the hall for the Sunday concert, energy was high. Everyone was excited to find out exactly what Yoshiki would give us. In the end, no one was disappointed.
After lights went down we were all treated to a video that clearly showcased the two essential elements of Yoshiki as a performer: the hard-hitting rock drummer and the always-elegant classical pianist. The video showed, among other things, clips from X Japan’s more recent performances, including snippets of their 2010 North America tour featuring Yoshiki stage diving into seas of fans. As the video played, the man himself entered and got settled at the piano. Almost instantly as it ended, the concert opened with a stunning version of Forever Love, the piano accompanied by two violins, a viola, and cello. Yoshiki would later explain that, though technically a quartet, he called his string players the “Yoshiki Sextet” because it sounded better than “Yoshiki Quartet.” They accompanied him beautifully throughout the show, providing added depth and color to many of the songs.
Yoshiki stood to the cheers of the fans and, with a wide smile on his face, explained that the next song would be Anniversary, written for the tenth anniversary of the Emperor of Japan. As Anniversary ended, he stood again, clearly enjoying talking to the fans. He joked that he had come to Otakon in 2006, 2010, and now in 2014, so clearly he should return in 2018 as well – a proposition that his fans would surely have no objection to. He then told everyone that he had several guests for the show and introduced the first: Katie Fitzgerald, the vocalist for Violet UK. Together, they performed HERO, the new theme song for the Saint Seiya movie. The piano and vocals wove together, which was a bit of a stand out from a show that was otherwise almost entirely instrumental.
At the end of HERO, Katie exited and Yoshiki called for requests from the audience. When someone called for Tears, he called her back out, joking that he was glad she hadn’t left already, because he wanted her to sing if he was going to play the classic X Japan ballad. Together, they launched into another piano and vocal duet. Fans were perhaps a bit surprised to hear the English lyrics instead of the Japanese that everyone is so used to, but it worked well. I’m sure at least a few fans were singing along, though probably in Japanese. After Katie exited one last time, Yoshiki performed a lovely Swan Lake piano solo.
Following the piano solo came the most emotional part of the event. Yoshiki explained how he started playing piano as a child and spoke of his father’s death. He explained how he met Toshi as a child, then how X was originally formed and, ultimately, how they disbanded. It was clear he was crying as he spoke of Hide’s death, and then of his reunion with Toshi and the dilemma of reuniting the band without Hide there. He explained that he hadn’t been sure about doing having X Japan without Hide. Also mentioned was the reunion with Taiji and then his later death. He confessed that part of the reason for the pause in X Japan’s activities was, in fact, Taiji’s death. In the end, he dedicated his next song to his father, Hide, and Taiji, leaving tears in the eyes of the audience as he returned to the piano to begin Without You. The performance was accompanied by video and stills, including clips of past X Japan lives with Taiji and hide and photos of Yoshiki’s own childhood. Image and music wove seamlessly together, creating an emotionally devastating but beautiful moment.
Fans were then treated to a short version of Kurenai, while the Yoshiki Sextet took over so that Yoshiki could get things set for the next big moment, Art of Life. Though a shortened version, fans were treated to a taste of the true rollercoaster of that song, from Yoshiki’s piano solo to the appearance of both Pata and Heath for just a little bit of pure rock and roll. It was clearly a teaser, a little taste to wet appetites for X Japan’s Madison Square Garden show and it delighted the fans.
Once the song was done, Yoshiki jokingly asked them “what are you doing here?” Heath asked everyone to come to Madison Square Garden, and Yoshiki jokingly translated it as “You BETTER come to Madison Square Garden!” before correcting himself and saying, “He actually said, please come.” Pata spoke briefly, leading to Yoshiki asking if he was “already drunk” even though it was the afternoon. The joking continued with Yoshiki translating Heath as saying “Madison Square Fucking Garden,” before Pata and Heath headed off with a thank you from Yoshiki and cheers from the crowd.
Yoshiki then announced that the next song was the last, but promised to come back, before introducing the members of the Yoshiki Sextet. When he returned to the piano fans were greeted with another fan favorite, Endless Rain and, of course, a disco ball. Because it wouldn’t be Endless Rain without a disco ball.
After he exited to a recording of Say Anything, fans weren’t quite ready for everything to end. Everyone was quickly on their feet for a standing ovation and chanting “X”!, calling Yoshiki back on. Though he didn’t end up playing another song, he encouraged fans to make X arms before taking a photo of the audience from the stage. He led the crowd in a chant of “We are!”…“X!” and took one last bow with the Yoshiki Sextet before the show ended for good.
Everyone knew they were in for a treat before the show even started, and that proved to be true. As fans lined up to buy merchandise, more than one person was heard commenting that they couldn’t wait for the Madison Square Garden show.
Miracle VTR (with video opening)
- Forever Love
- HERO (with Katie Fitzgerald)
- Tears (English version, with Katie Fitzgerald)
- Swan Lake (piano solo)
- Without You
- Strings Transition
- Art of Life (with Pata and Heath)
- Endless Rain
Say Anything (exit music)
Live Report by Jerusha Burnett