January 12, 2017 – There is a saying that goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and the answer is, “Practice, practice, practice.” Unless you’re Yoshiki – then the answer is “walk.” When he posed the question, he explained that he used to live very close to Carnegie Hall, only about 30 steps away. So he would simply walk to the venue.
Jokes aside, Yoshiki has undoubtedly spent many, many years practicing classical music, which led to Yoshiki Classical featuring the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra selling out two nights at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City.
If you have never been to a classical music performance before, there is something magical about hearing the music performed live versus hearing it recorded. Nothing is as breathtaking as hearing a live orchestra creating music right in front of your eyes and ears.
The evening started with only the orchestra playing “I’ll Be Your Love.” This was followed by clips from the “We Are X” film, shown on the walls behind the orchestra, featuring Yoshiki explaining his life history and how he started playing classical music to becoming the drummer of a rock band. As the video clip came to an end, Yoshiki himself emerged on stage wearing all black and the audience clapped excitedly.
Between almost every song Yoshiki would stop and give a brief explanation of the song and why it was created. “Welcome to Yoshiki Classical,” he began in a soft voice. “Wow, I’m finally here! I was very nervous 10 minutes ago but now I see all your faces and I feel better.”
He explained how it might seem a little weird to play a song called “The Last Song” first but it is a very important song to him. It was the last song his band X Japan played before disbanding and it was then the first song they played when they reunited 10 years later, so it is special for him.
The night was not only instrumentals, with two vocalists joining Yoshiki on stage throughout the evening to provide lyrics for his melodies. Vocalist Katie Fitzgerald came onto stage twice during the first portion of the evening to help add vocals to “The Last Song” and “Hero.”
Yoshiki talked about how he was asked to compose a theme song for the Golden Globes and it was about being in the right place at the right time to get asked to compose such a theme. Carnegie Hall may be a large space and yet it still felt intimate due to the overall quietness while the performance was going on. The room was entranced the entire evening by the powerful, beautiful music.
The song Hero featured Katie on vocals, her beautiful high-pitched voice captivating listeners. Yoshiki mentioned that Katie is the vocalist with his project, Violet UK and how she graduated from Harvard. Yoshiki also spoke to conductor Yuga Cohler who was honored to be performing at a venue like Carnegie Hall with an artist such as Yoshiki.
Before introducing “La Venus,” Yoshiki revealed he wrote it as the theme song for the film, “We Are X.” “I have a band called X Japan, incase you didn’t know,” Yoshiki earnestly said, incase any in the room wasn’t aware of non-classical music career. The crowd chortled, but it was a serious comment, as some attendees may not have known who Yoshiki was and simply attended because they enjoy classical music. “I usually play crazy drums, really crazy drums, but tonight I’m playing piano.”
He went on to explain how X Japan’s story is almost too crazy to be true, and yet, it is true and documented and explained in the “We Are X” film. “We became pretty big rockstars,” Yoshiki said when talking about childhood friend and X Japan vocalist, Toshi. During “La Venus,” clips from “We Are X” were shown on the walls behind the orchestra, including scenes of hide’s passing, which are still very painful to watch to this day – 18 years after hide’s passing.
After that emotional song, Yoshiki announced he would be performing a work not his own, but that of Beethoven. He performed Moonlight Sonata.
The last song of the first half was “Anniversary,” which he wrote for the Emperor of Japan’s 10 Year Anniversary. Yoshiki originally wrote the song to be 25 minutes long but was advised against played a piece for that long and altered it to be about only 7 minutes long. It’s a very powerful song and a perfect ending to the first half of the evening.
There was a brief intermission as is standard at classical concerts.
Once everyone returned to their seats and the orchestra returned to the stage, they began playing “Tears” once again without Yoshiki anywhere in sight. Only once the song concluded did he reemerge, this time wearing a white coat.
The next song, “Miracle,” featured vocalist Ashley Knight. Miracle is the song that X Japan uses as their opening music. It was first played at X Japan’s American debut at the festival Lollapalooza in 2010. Ashley has an opera voice – a contrast to Katie, but just as beautiful to hear.
Yoshiki regretted to inform the audience that due to technical difficulties, the program would be changing from what was printed. The songs “Bloom Like A Rose” and “Say Anything” would not be played. He said it was an honor to be playing Carnegie Hall. He thanked both the orchestra performing with him and the audience for attending and help sell out the show.
“I came to pursue the American Dream.” Yoshiki said how it wasn’t easy, but he kept trying. People around the world are pursuing the “American Dream” – no matter your nationality – if you’re Asian, Hispanic, Black, White, everyone is pursuing a dream. Yoshiki hopes America will keep that dream alive for the entire world because we are all the same. We all want to pursue our dreams. After this inspiring speech, Yoshiki proceeded to play the American national anthem – The Star Spangled Banner. “I want to play this song to thank America.”
Following that patriotic display, vocalist Ashley reappeared on stage to sing River of the Light.
The next songs all flowed together uninterrupted by explanation – Without You, Kurenai, a transition piece, and Art of Life. Yoshiki spoke softly, with tears in his eyes, as he dedicated Without You to hide, Taiji and his father. More images were shown on the walls, causing a palpable sadness to roll through the venue. Yoshiki closed his eyes while playing, his fingers knowing the keys without his eyes needing to see. He is his music, and it is him. With his eyes closed and head thrown back, he put his soul into these songs.
As Without You ended, the audience tried to clap but the music merged into Kurenai without hesitation. The music for Kurenai was brief, followed by a violin solo transition straight into Art of Life. It was a smooth transition between all the songs, so much so that one who is not familiar with the music might not even have known it was more then one song at. Art of Life is a very intense song, even more so hearing it live.
“I lose my friends and my father, but they still live in my heart.” Yoshiki explained.
The finale was “Endless Rain.” Towards the middle of the song, Yoshiki looked toward the audience as if on cue, and the crowd began to softly sing the chorus to Endless Rain. They sang this in unison until the music moved on past the chorus melody.
“Endless rain, fall on my heart 心の傷に
Let me forget all of the hate, all of the sadness”
All the while, a giant mirror ball above the stage was spinning and lighting up the entire auditorium. The stage was so bright and with the lights everywhere, it almost felt as if we were all moving too.
The evening ended with a standing ovation for Yoshiki and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. After bowing and walking off stage, the crowd still cheered and Yoshiki came back out multiple times! He accepted flowers from those at the front of the stage who offered them to him – in fact, there were more flowers then he could possible take or hold at once. Yoshiki came back out with his lovely vocalists and composer and the four of them bowed together. The cheers went on long after Yoshiki left the stage, nobody wanting to say good bye to this picturesque evening.
Yoshiki Classical Special at Carnegie Hall
January 12 & 13, 2017
- I’ll Be Your Love (Theme for the World Expo Japan)
- The Last Song
- Forever Love (Theme for the animation film X)
- Golden Globe Theme (Theme for the Golden Globes®)
- Hero (Theme for the animation film Saint Seiya)
- La Venus (Theme for the film We Are X)
- Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
- Anniversary (Theme for the Emperor of Japan 10 Year Anniversary)
- Tears (Theme for the TV drama Nikushimi ni Hohoende)
- Miracle** extra song: Star-Spangled Banner – new arrangement by YOSHIKI
- River of the Light
- Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky)
- Without You
- Art of Life
- Endless Rain (Theme for the film Zipang)