X Japan










I.V. Hametsu ni mukatte

Tokyo Dome 3 days 2008

Night of Destruction – Part 2

With "Week End" next, golden "X"es spreading out from the stage lights and the two large screens on each side of the stage – those above dark for the time being – turning the color of TOSHI‘s coat into an even deeper pure gold that is actually almost met by PATA‘s.

PATA being that "hade" (flamboyant) for him makes me smile, really, makes me want to ask him in a follow up of our earlier interview, if he did consult with a stylist for the X stage. In any case, they both look great. So does HEATH, in an outfit that makes him the most visual of them all. His outfits will escalate, pleasantly so, to ever more VK during the 3 DAYS.

YOSHIKI, going crazy on drums, less than fully clothed again, with TOSHI‘s singing. HIDE, there again broadcast on the stage and again being naturally there. I know I’m repeating myself, but it is amazing just how much and how naturally he’s there. The HIDE and PATA combinations shown on the large screens above the stage feel just the same as so long ago. A feeling that is enhanced, for me, by PATA playing his old brown Gibson.

What makes me smile even more is TOSHI wandering over to HEATH again, as he used to do, during "Week End," and HEATH actually singing the chorus, singing being something he rarely did in X JAPAN. YOSHIKI actually is singing along, too, though without a microphone.

Unrelated to the music, something that pleases me is that TOSHI’s necklace actually is YOSHIKI’s "Passion" design, one of the two designs (the other was "Silence") that he released as limited edition for the shows. Or generally speaking, it pleases me that they are so obviously at ease with each other again. Though now that YOSHIKI has finally lost HIS sunglasses – at least on stage – I want TOSHI‘s newly acquired pair gone as well. But I love him laughing again, going wild, running around on stage, shouting at the audience, making them sing along.

Back to the song. "Week End" is actually when SUGIZO of LUNA SEA makes his first appearance as guest guitarist during the lives, nearly as Visual Kei as HEATH, in all black to HEATH’s black and white. He’s actually very low key in his entry, just simply suddenly there on stage, without any great fanfare. Probably first noticed by most people in the audience when he appears on the large overhead screen, in a sequence in which the camera slides back and forth between images of HIDE and him, sometimes even overlays of them.

I’m impressed with him as I watch, actually, more so than I had expected to be. Not just because his playing and posing is what Japanese call "kimatte iru" – one of those things hard to explain; "decisive" might be a word that comes close in English or "with an edge" – but because he fits on that stage, into the group much better than I had expected he would.

A doubt I hadn’t had because of his skills, which are beyond doubt, but because he is, after all, "SUGIZO of LUNA SEA." A group very different from X, and what I want on stage, that night, is X, not X with LUNA SEA (that I want in some other Extasy Summit), though I wouldn’t have blamed him for not wanting to become X, if that makes any sense.

The question doesn’t even come up, though. He fits and fits well, the spliced footage of old and current up on the screen making it eerily look as if he is playing with HIDE. Or maybe better for HIDE, in his place. Not just a guest guitarist, but somehow HIDE‘s music emerging from SUGIZO‘s guitar, played by his fingers, while at the same time he still very much remains SUGIZO. I’m wandering a little close to the edge of my comfort zone with the supernatural again, but if that is possible, I think SUGIZO has achieved what he later says he wanted to do: to become HIDE‘s medium. I’ll be happy to seem him do it more, in other concerts, in the future.

His official introduction doesn’t come until the next song, "Silent Jealousy" – by TOSHI‘s scream of "on guitar: SUGIZO" early in the song. Later TOSHI actually "visits" with him, giving him the same treatment as the X members, putting an arm around his shoulders. "Silent Jealousy" ends after some surprising head banging by YOSHIKI and TOSHI behind YOSHIKI‘s drums and YOSHIKI dismantling his drum set fairly early on in the concert. At one time he even dives into it head on, which makes me wince then I think of the bruises and cuts he has to get from that exercise. A familiar one admittedly, but also admittedly, I’ve always wondered how large an amount of emergency band aids and bandages they keep behind the stage for first aid. Not that cuts and bruises or even more severe injuries have ever stopped YOSHIKI from performing…

At least after that he gets a break since "HIDE no heya" is next – come to think about it, HIDE invented "HIDE no heya" for that purpose, to give YOSHIKI a chance to rest. Funnily, it’s that thought that brings some first sudden tears to my eyes that I have to blink away. Not that HIDE isn’t here anymore, but to remember just how much the people and things he cared about meant to him. That together with the crazy Joker on stage and the individual off stage who was in many ways complicated and troubled, and could be quite difficult to handle, there also was the extremely caring man who would go out of his way to look after others.

Who was, as YOSHIKI has frequently said, one of the two, together with TOSHI, who would put together again what YOSHIKI tore apart. Who cared enough about fans to meet one – and become and stay friends with her – when he was told a severely sick girl’s wish was to see him. Who started to support the Bone Marrow Donors Society, in fact became a donor himself, after he was made aware of the issue, because of that girl.

Caring that way is something he shares with TOSHI, who visited the parents of a fan who died of AIDS, then initiated what would turn into "X Fights Against AIDS," going on to appear solo and jointly with YOSHIKI at the "Act Against AIDS" early 1990s charity concerts.

Old stuff, I know, but I can’t help remembering all that, as I keep watching "HIDE no heya," still as crazy as it used to be. HIDE is there on the projection screens, and the very incompletely attired women who accompany him on screen are replicated live, performing on stage along with HEATH and PATA.

I keep waiting for a close up of HEATH on stage during that, because some times in the old days, he quite looked as if what he wanted most was to get away from the women, and I want to see if that has changed. Unfortunately though, there isn’t a shot that would clarify that, so my curiosity remains unsatisfied.

It goes from very crazy to fairly quiet next, with an acoustic version of "Say Anything" with TOSHI on guitar, together with HEATH and PATA, the latter on acoustic guitar as well. In a set up that instantly brings back memories of "Rose of Pain" in Blue Night, White Night, only with different seating, PATA on TOSHI‘s right, where HIDE used to sit then, HEATH on TOSHI‘s left in PATA‘s old position.

As in Blue Night, White Night, TOSHI does a spot of MCing before the acoustic piece, to the background music of, as he informs the audience at the end of his talk, the acoustic version of his own new single, "Earth in the Dark." Unlike his previous solo work since after the X JAPAN break up, it’s a soft rock piece, one that I love, because it reminds me a great deal of his solo work during the X and X JAPAN times, something that I am rather – pleasantly – surprised to notice.

Laughing, he tells the audience (roughly translated), "You know I haven’t sung anything like this for ten years. I’ve been singing Iyashi Kei (healing music), and I really thought my pitch had gone down. But when I sang rock again [during recordings and rehearsal] it was right up there again. I guess my voice changes when I sing rock."

What he talked about as well, in a comment he usually makes these days, were those past ten years, that they have helped to make him grow stronger, helped him learn that there is no hardship that can’t be overcome, and that he wants everybody to learn that as well. That he wants to say, especially to all children, that no matter how difficult things are, or no matter how much they might be bullied – according to his own words in previous interviews, TOSHI was bullied by one of his two older brothers as a child which greatly affected his life – not to kill themselves.

A message somewhat astonishing for a rock concert, maybe, by common standards – though then again, out of "sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll" it’s always been only the Rock for X, unless one counts alcohol and cigarettes as drugs. But it’s actually not as new a message as even TOSHI himself seems to believe. Even in the old days, he told audiences things like "never give up on your dreams." Which reminds me, that, if I could ever say anything to him personally now, what that would be is "thank you for making one of mine – the reunion of X – come true."

I’ll have to settle, though I pleasantly do, for "Say Anything" the song. Though as that is one of the two songs, along with "Forever Love," that have most affected my life, I have to blink away some unexpected tears again as he starts singing. I don’t want to cry now; I want to see what’s happening on stage, every single second of it, until they go off stage after the end of the song.

What happens next on stage makes me smile again. YOSHIKI runs from one end of the stage to the other, throwing roses into the audience again, before walking back to his crystal piano for the piano solo – all of 27 seconds (I’ve timed that later on the WOWOW broadcast), before he briefly breaks off to adjust his position on the piano bench. Then resumes playing. Actually starts playing "Without You," something I listen to daily on his MySpace, but at that moment I don’t recognize, probably due to emotional overload. Or that maybe I do recognize, but am so much used to in the instrumental version, without vocals, that what’s about to happen doesn’t really register yet.

When TOSHI walks back on stage – this time, that YOSHIKI design necklace (he’d worn a different one for a bit) very prominently visible with his collar wide open, which makes me smile again. Both that he’s wearing that necklace and that clothing’s coming off a bit, as it used to (a lot, often, in the old days) – my first thought is, "Why’s he walking into the piano solo?"

And only then it hits me – really hits me, my legs are shaking for a moment and I have to grab the back rest of the chair in front of me for a moment – what’s going to happen. Realizing just a moment before TOSHI starts to sing that he actually will sing "Without You."

I know he’s already said he sang it on his spring blog, when he talked about visiting "my old friend" in L.A., but what’s always been strongest in my mind was YOSHIKI‘s comment of "let’s wait for TOSHI to come back" at his 2002 classical concert in Tokyo. Intellectually knowing that he did sing it already, that for YOSHIKI, his own long wait – happily – had already ended hadn’t yet made it real for me, since for me and all other listeners, "Without You" was still only out there as an instrumental, yet to be sung by TOSHI for all to hear.

As he does now… it’s beyond words, really. Precious, something I’ve waited for, too. Not only me, everybody here now at Tokyo Dome. Tomomi definitely, too. I don’t know who of us started it, but we end up with our arms around each other, as TOSHI does start to sing, and as the song goes on, we’re crying for real. There is a limit to what amount of tears one can blink back, and that was definitely broken by the amount welling up at hearing this finally. Of seeing the pictures displayed on the large stage screens, of them all together. The song is accompanied by footage of the band from long ago, of happy times, with everyone smiling, running around, hugging each other.

Though what I love most is the way YOSHIKI and TOSHI smile at each other at the end. A smile that sends more tears sliding down my cheeks, after just barely having managed to dry those before.

Happy tears, though, gladly shed, all of them, for the privilege to be there, and to watch that.

And real laughter next, when after TOSHI talks a bit about "I.V." while YOSHIKI idly plays the piano, and then asks YOSHIKI to comment on it as well, YOSHIKI goes all shy and shakes his head, smiling sweetly but despite the sweetness of the smiles still stubbornly refuses to answer, which leads TOSHI to prod his back several times with the microphone. I don’t know if that shyness is pretended or real, but if it is pretended, he’s certainly persistent. Or maybe he just feels like teasing everybody, a thought that makes me laugh, too.

Unsurprisingly, YOSHIKI wins the contest, if it was one. I don’t know who could resist those looks and smiles, really, and TOSHI for sure never really seriously tried, though he seems to have fun pretending. Well, they both do. In fact, what the whole live so far seems about to me – actually, that does apply to all of the three nights, looking back – is YOSHIKI and TOSHI having fun together, and dragging PATA, HEATH, and SUGIZO along with them, with all three happy to be dragged.

This is what I’d imagine X would have been when they were still in high school or in their early Indies days, loving music, loving to go crazy on stage, without a care, just finding fun and freedom in performing. Not carefree now, by the way, about the quality of their performance, and not carefree, either, about their fans. That’s been clear from the barrage of messages – all a very moving mixture of very serious and terminally cute – that YOSHIKI has released on YOSHIKI Mobile and those on TOSHI‘s official blog, that he started on the 28th, his first post being about the lives. But free of the outside pressures that seem to have stifled both YOSHIKI and TOSHI in many ways during the last years, inhibiting their communication, which I personally think was what led to the break up ultimately, them not being able to talk easily anymore.

Pardon another digression into the past. This is the start of the new X, and I celebrate that, but for me, that new start comes with remembering the past. The times I’d rather forget, but can’t, but more so what was glorious, and most of X was glorious. It’s even more glorious to have them back, as they are.

Still having fun, YOSHIKI does a rather long (51 seconds timed by the WOWOW broadcast) piano intro to I.V. before TOSHI seriously starts working up the crowd. That makes me laugh, too, because at the January interview, I said I wanted to hear the full piano intro that he said he had to cut to fit the movie time limit and he said he wouldn’t do it. I guess this is another "thank you" I’d like to say, if I could. Anyhow, it makes me smile.

English lyrics, released in full for the first time here, appear on the back of the stage as TOSHI encourages the audience to sing them along with him. "In the rain/I’m calling you dear/Find a way/Can’t you see me standing right here…" The audience seems to struggle with the unfamiliar lyrics, Japanese people usually needing a little time to feel comfortable with singing in English, though the first new song of X JAPAN is familiar by now.

When the song comes to a true dramatic start after the singalong, SUGIZO is back out on guitar now, with HEATH and PATA back as well, the flashing lights and explosive energy contrasting with the moment of "Without You" shared by YOSHIKI and TOSHI only. Somehow, I think that even if "Without You" will be released as an X JAPAN song, it’ll still be something that’s the two of them only. It’s fitting somehow, in my opinion, since it seems, from TOSHI‘s comments, that this is the song that made them want to work together again.

Not to say the other members are less important. X wouldn’t be X as it is without them. Without HIDE and PATA and HEATH. Without TAIJI, either – if there is one regret I have, it’s that he wasn’t there, neither on stage nor, to the best of my knowledge, in the audience. By his own choice, I think, as he said in our interview that "I’m X, not X JAPAN" and it might have been hard to go and watch. Or then again, he might just have been busy as sound producer for "Attitude" – though, I think if he’d really wanted to go he’d have. If he didn’t want to, it’s okay by me that he didn’t, but I do feel a little lonely for him. Some dreams haven’t come true yet, then. I hope that one will, eventually.

My spot of sentimentality gets swept away by the next song, "Kurenai," which jointly with "X" takes first place in the X rock songs playlist. Though this is also were I have one complaint to YOSHIKI. One that might make some HIDE fans mad at me, but frankly, to me, he’s overexposed in the images above the stage. I wouldn’t have minded a complete HIDE barrage if they’d done "Joker." In fact, I’d have liked them to do "Joker" and then have HIDE there in every visual incarnation he ever had.

But "Kurenai," sorry, that’s not a song I associate with HIDE. "Kurenai" is a "Kurenai no toki ni TOSHI ga kuru" YOSHIKI and TOSHI thing, for me. It’s also, the way YOSHIKI says it, a play on words that doesn’t translate well into English, on the double meaning of "Kurenai," which can mean either "deep red" – as the song title in kanji does – or "won’t do/give something," with the whole sentence in English roughly meaning, "When no one’s giving [me anything] TOSHI comes [to visit me behind the drums]."

As he does again in this performance. Both of them head bang again, which makes me smile and laugh, as TOSHI puts his hand on YOSHIKI‘s shoulder. In the end, before he goes back down to the main stage, he ruffles his hair. Actually, I think he ruffled HEATH‘s hair earlier also, during "Week End." That was cute, too.

In general, I love it when he interacts with the other members. It’s one of those things that makes him special, the way he can interact. With all of them, including SUGIZO. Who by then, in the best sense, has become "atarimae" – normal, natural – for me on that stage.

It felt like far too short a live when TOSHI screamed "rasuto in ikusou" (the last song now) before the start of Kurenai, even though I knew that with the late start of the concert and the time limitations given at Tokyo Dome, where no one is allowed to play past a certain cutoff (that actually they were past then already), it would have to be shorter than planned.

But the encore is "Art of Life," so I know it will at least be another almost 30 minutes of them on stage, though I’m amazed that they’ve chosen to do that again, since really, it’s an insanely demanding piece and to do that at the end of the live, on top of everything else, I’m not sure is the most sensible thing to do. Even if I’m glad to see it performed live again.

HEATH and PATA just look like they used to, with PATA in a black lace coat that looks as if he might have swiped it out of YOSHIKI‘s closet and HEATH without his coat, looking a little like he does in Lynx then, though that’s not a complaint. HEATH without coat is just as fine by me as is YOSHIKI without one, though HEATH then at least wears a t-shirt still, sleeveless black, while YOSHIKI naturally has completely dispensed with upper body wear for his part on drums.

It’s during "Art of Life" that we see the first appearance for the three nights of the HIDE hologram. A full three-dimensional image of HIDE materializes from inside a projection box onstage, life-size and ghost-like in appearance. Like everybody else, I end up gasping at it, though while it’s technically amazing, I’m not sure I like the ghost-like feeling that comes from it at times; to me, HIDE looked more naturally there in the projections on stage of old footage.

The first part of "Art of Life," before he YOSHIKI switches from drums to piano, seems to end without incident, with YOSHIKI sitting smiling behind the drums as he finishes drumming, and I’m relieved that he’s made it through that part at least, which I was most worried about as they started "Art of Life."

My relief disappears the moment when he tries to rise to go to the piano and instead collapses into the drums and needs to be carried off stage, having overexerted himself again. Followed by the wait to see if TOSHI will come back on stage to announce once again that YOSHIKI‘s been carried off in an emergency car. If the next two nights will have to be canceled. Well, at that moment, I don’t care if they’ll be canceled, I just want to know what the matter is with YOSHIKI.

There’s a certain renewed relief in the loud speakers finally coming on to announce the end of the concert without giving any particulars, which makes me assume that at least the hospital visit hasn’t been added to tonight’s program.

An assumption that proves to be right some time later, at the Q&A for the international press we attend after the show, when he finally walks in, though the way he does, slowly, pale and visibly exhausted, rather makes me want to tell him to cancel the event and go home and sleep.

Though, when Tomomi and I finally end up at an all night open family restaurant talking, having missed the last trains, I can’t help but smile at it all. Naturally I wish it hadn’t happened, but then again, it’s a strangely fitting conclusion to the "Night of Destruction" that YOSHIKI should collapse in the end, as he used to, only too often. My hopes for the future are that in "Shinsei no X," he’ll do it less so.

To Be Continued with the Night of Madness and Night of Creation

Written by Rika
Edited by Misha