Jrock Revolution was on the roof.
In a worldwide exclusive, Jrock Revolution, the ONLY international organization with official access to the shooting location itself, presents to you an X JAPAN backstage report of the I.V. PV shooting at Odaiba Aqua City.
Odaiba Report Part Two
By the time we get there, the area before the stage, behind and to the sides of the official PV shooting cameras, is cluttered up not only with the attending media’s profusion of equipment, but in fact crowded also by anyone on the roof who can manage to find a spot in there. Amazingly, the crowd is of "kankeisha" – people in one way or other related to the project – who aren’t usually given to displays of emotion in public and who had, up to this point, outwardly displayed only utter detachment. Now, finally, they crowd towards the stage just as fans would have done, had fans had access to the actual location.
We ourselves, unencumbered by large equipment and maybe being accommodated more than is common (as the only two female members of the press, for a foreign venture; I am the ONLY non-Japanese representative at the actual shooting location) manage quite easily to slip up right to the front, into an awesome viewing position maybe ten meters away from the stage. At the right front corner of it, there is a removable ladder affixed for the X JAPAN members to climb up.
The atmosphere on the roof is now a mixture of still subdued excitement and that slightly strange relaxed feeling just before a major event, when all preparations are done, equipment has been checked to beyond perfection, everything is on stand-by, and everybody is just waiting for things to start.
In true X JAPAN fashion, everyone is kept waiting while the X JAPAN members each go through their own final preparations, but actually not for very long by their typical standards. Not as long as the fans down on the ground in the park next to Aqua City have waited to watch the PV shooting broadcast, after they were informed of the location of the giant screens close to 5 P.M. via YOSHIKI Mobile.
On the ground, we learn later, at roughly the time we attend the press briefing for the event, things have been somewhat chaotic for a brief period. Overexcited, eager fans vying for the best viewing position in front of the trucks’ side-mounted screens press in too hard, unfortunately in the process pushing one of their own against one of the screens so forcefully that somehow she hits it hard enough to need medical attention, and is taken to a nearby hospital in an emergency car. Even later, a few days after the event, I learn from her own email that the fan in question is an acquaintance of mine, and that she actually discharged herself from the hospital to return to the event (for anyone concerned, she’s fine, and there wasn’t any permanent damage).
After that, with around 3,500 fans already in the park more than a couple of hours before the broadcast and more and more streaming in, police consider canceling the event, having already vetoed the idea of the X JAPAN members appearing down on the ground, possibly on the flat back of another truck, for fear of a mass panic. Fortunately, while police are still deliberating how to continue, fans take things into their own hands, several of them shouting entreaties to quit pushing, asking for the people in front to sit down so those in the back can get a clear view, managing to calm everybody down in time for police to let things go on.
Like everybody else, including X JAPAN management, police are utterly amazed at the number of people who flow in to attend, with 10,000-plus people eventually gathering there. As one of my friends in there put in later on, they make the park feel "worse than Yamanote line during morning rush hour" – that is, attended at least three times beyond capacity, people packed so tightly together they can barely move, as is the way during commuting hours on the major train line in Tokyo.
I doubt police would have been able to handle dispersing the crowd given the numbers. Trying to move out all those people only might have lead to worse havoc. But then again, police didn’t need to: as X JAPAN comes through for X JAPAN fans, X JAPAN fans come through for X JAPAN, too, so no official interference was required for things to move on smoothly. Even before there was anything for them to see, we could hear from the roof the shouts of fans on the ground calling out, "We are X."
For us on the roof, the shooting finally starts just short of 7 P.M., when dark-suited attendants spill forth from the wardrobe tents to ever-so-politely clear the path to the stage for the X JAPAN members.
The first to appear is HEATH. Wearing an embroidered, flaring coat that reminds me of his appearance during his Blue and White Night solos (though without the cape he was wearing then) he is definitely the most old style "visual" of all the members this night, despite much shorter hair than in the X JAPAN days. He seems buoyant, excited, his hair in a decidedly wilder style than when I saw him last, at a Lynx gig in the summer, barely able to stand still while his hair and makeup people make some final adjustments. Still, or again, very much "X JAPAN‘s HEATH," showing that untamable energy that always made it so much fun to watch him on stage.
PATA is the next to make his way to the cleared area before the stage. In typical PATA fashion, he slips in unobtrusively rather than make an entrance, very distinctively low key PATA, despite those bell bottom cut silver pants that shift across colors of the rainbow under the stage lights, and I have to admit make me blink. They remind me of the Blue Night, White Night special edition box cover,without the printing on it. I had no idea that there actually is a textile like that until I see them.
Aside from those pants, he looks exactly like I remember him from the X days, his expression a little sleepy, his long and curly hair flowing down over the back of the black coat and white shirt that complete his stage outfit.
Like every other X JAPAN fan I know, I hadn’t been able to stop myself from wondering, before the event, how he would choose to appear. Having followed developments closely since last November, when the first more that usually believable hints at a possible reunion had made their way into the public here, I had naturally seen his hair grow longer over the summer, after that "New Project" announcement, but there also had been that comment, a few months back, in which he stated that while he’d always be happy to perform the X JAPAN ballads, he didn’t want to sing the "violent" rock songs anymore, didn’t want to appear on stage as a rocker anymore…
Needless worries, it turns out, when we finally get a look at him, as his attendants step aside when he joins HEATH and PATA. He’s obviously at ease in black pants and a black shirt, topped by a light brown trenchcoat that we will see sometimes turn golden under the stage lights when they later perform. The sunglasses he is wearing, that I personally would have preferred not to be there, still call up nostalgic feelings, as they look a lot like those he wore during the 1992 Extasy Summit at Nippon Budokan. He looks happier, more comfortable as a rocker than I had dared hope after that summer comment, and very focused, much like TOSHI in X and X JAPAN times always was reported to be, before concerts.
YOSHIKI I have seen even more recently than HEATH, exactly a month ago at the Catacombs premiere, here at Aqua City in Odaiba at the Mediage cinema complex, several floors below where we are now. That was a different incarnation of YOSHIKI. The man who was there then was the successful L.A. composer and producer Yoshiki Hayashi, in a black suit and shirt, wearing the sunglasses fans have become used to seeing on him, whether they like it or not (and again, I personally do not like them at all).
Striding towards that empty space before the stage now to join the others, in dark pants with plenty of silver accessories and a black lace shirt like those seen in his most recent photo shots, and without sunglasses, this is not recent L.A. producer Yoshiki Hayashi. Here now is very much "X JAPAN no YOSHIKI," "YOSHIKI of X JAPAN," the co-founder of and genius behind Japan’s most legendary band, named back in the day as one of the two "most different" men in Japanese rock in a 1991 joint interview for Rockin on, Japan with Sakurai Atsushi of BUCK-TICK fame. The rocker who’s been missing in action for way too many long years. YOSHIKI for whom the description, even repeated at his official profile at the old Tofu Records website, of "Demon on Drums, Princess on Piano" was perfect.
There is a brief huddle before the stage. It makes me think of YOSHIKI‘s report in "Reminiscing with YOSHIKI" that "we did make arrangements in advance, I think, but somehow we also always ended up having spontaneous decision making meetings on stage during concerts. I mean, that’s really not normal, no other band does that. X really was weird!" Then finally they head onto the stage itself, a move that causes a flurry of activity everywhere else.
A move that not only causes the attending media people to overwork their own professional equipment but all the so-far pointedly unmoved "kankeisha" to whip out their own digital cameras or cell phones to take personal memorial shots as the members appear on stage.
As they do, there is suddenly an incredible feeling of excitement in the air, something that has been building up for some time already but has been kept subdued by everybody, maybe because everyone was still holding their breath, not wanting to jinx the event at the last moment; after all, as YOSHIKI himself says once again later in the evening, one never knows what might happen with X JAPAN, what last-minute catastrophe might upset all carefully worked out plans. Or maybe, after all these years, it was hard to believe it would happen, even after the official announcement, until it actually did.
Nothing unexpected happens, though, and excitement and anticipation rise tangibly to such a degree that even here on the roof top, even among the Japanese entertainment and media professionals who are hardest to impress, the air itself finally seems charged with energy so intense it seems ready to explode.
All of it culminates into one brief, breathless, perfectly silent second, like that last calm moment before the outbreak of a huge thunderstorm, upon the end of the location director’s countdown to the actual shooting.
"Gobyou mae – go – yon – san – ni – ichi!"
"Five second count down – five – four – three – two – one!"
The next breath brings the explosion: YOSHIKI hitting his drums.
A sound that’s not been heard live in Japan since that last night of December 31, 1997 at Tokyo Dome. A sound, a sight, that is nearly unbelievable even as it happens, maybe twenty-five, thirty meters away.
"On drums: YOSHIKI!" — TOSHI doesn’t say this now, but it feels like the times when he did, when with that YOSHIKI used to break out into the all-out, no-holds-barred high-intensity drumming that always was his trademark. Here, on the Aqua City roof now, it’s really YOSHIKI of X JAPAN again, unlike his level at Anime Expo self-reported in Fool’s Mate to have been "maybe at 30% of what I really could have done if there’d been more time for rehearsals," but full power, no reservations, completely overwhelming 100% unbelievable YOSHIKI. And, I couldn’t help thinking, performing as if he was inviting a collapse on stage or right after again. (Which doesn’t happen in the end, I’m sure to everyone’s relief.)
There’s PATA and HEATH picking the melody on guitar and bass a few moments later.
Then, finally, TOSHI starting to sing.
In his trade mark high, crystal clear voice, as overwhelming as YOSHIKI‘s drums. If anything, more powerful than during the Dahlia days, more unconstricted. If YOSHIKI‘s drumming always was an explosion, a volcanic eruption, TOSHI‘s voice was like an ocean, a tsunami wave crashing down, a fast running river, completely overwhelming. Something to be swept away by and drown in, to lose oneself in…
It still is that. Utterly amazing. Impossible, really, to describe simply with words.
And despite the look of Dahlia times, the feeling is that of X more than X JAPAN, that of the early days: with TOSHI‘s voice smoother, more trained naturally now than it was in those first years, but with the same unrestricted joy in it that made it so remarkable right from the start, that made me fall in love with it, then, before I knew much about the rest of X at all. It’s good to see that that old joyous rocker incarnation of TOSHI is back, with even his movements and gestures familiar from the old days.
Those first moments of the song, hearing it as it continues… I still don’t know how to describe hearing it then and there in any way that would do it justice. There was the teaser clip put up here at Jrock Revolution and naturally, like everybody else, I listened to that. But, hearing the full song, there on the Aqua City rooftop…
It was beyond all expectation.
It’s flowing together in a perfection I hadn’t dared to expect, even while I know how obsessive a perfectionist YOSHIKI can be.
I had not, really, worried about them individually. All of them had, after all, followed solo careers of their own. Together again after ten years, though… that was a different issue. The fear had been much discussed, on the Japanese X JAPAN groups on MIXI and elsewhere, that after all those years, that after having been, for their fans and most of the Japanese public, THE band that changed it all, that they might not live up to that, that they might come back with something rather mediocre, as far too many former legendary bands sadly have. Such a return would have been unbearable for their fans, old and new.
I hadn’t actually been worried about things being mediocre, because I simply couldn’t imagine them settling for that. I had been worried that whatever the whole song would be would not be enough to satisfy all the wildly hyped up expectations. That the performance they were about to give would not be what fans expected, lacking of what fans really wanted, a full, whole-hearted return of X JAPAN.
Again a case of "shinpai muyou," needless worries. The band I see IS X JAPAN, "on bass: HEATH, on guitar: PATA, on guitar: HIDE, on drums: YOSHIKI, on vocals: TOSHI," as TOSHI used to introduce the X JAPAN members on stage. It’s TOSHI back too, very much so, that night, "X [JAPAN] no TOSHI." (To the best of my recollection, he’s never called them "X JAPAN" on stage…)
The fans below, I’m told later, can’t see anything yet; aside from brief, teasing flicks during the rooftop rehearsal the large TV screens below only show the "Kurenai" (deep red) X JAPAN logo until the official broadcast starts shortly after 8 P.M. It’s the sound of TOSHI singing that makes them realize that the drum sound they first heard drifting down from the rooftop is not yet another sound check, but the real thing. As they do, they break out into shouts of "YOSHIKIIIIIIII! TOSHIIIIIIII!" so loud that we can clearly hear them up on the roof, ten floors above the ground.
What fans also can’t see yet, on the ground, is TOSHI not only singing, but actually rocking to the sound of the music, at times turning his back to the audience (or more precisely, the front center camera, which would be the audience’s point of view) to move to the back of the stage, in front of YOSHIKI‘s drums, facing him again as he used to do, and if there is no head banging going on now, no one expected that in any case. Just the view of them facing each other like that again is sweet.
TOSHI — who at other times also moves over to PATA and HEATH, again just as in the old concerts — isn’t the only one to move on stage.
HEATH does as well, his movements in fact far more energetic than TOSHI‘s. He’s rather like a small tornado himself, the way he moves, with the energy he radiates, barely more controlled than one — but not wreaking havoc. Well, maybe later, with fan’s feelings, when they can see him, but even that will only add to the indescribable tension and excitement on the roof.
Actually, what he reminds me of most on stage is an overexcited grasshopper. I suppose that might be not the most elegant comparison, but (with my sincerest apologies for said inelegance) it’s really what comes to mind without thought, the way he skips with maniac speed back and forth between his place before his standing microphone to the back of the stage, or over to PATA, then close to the side of YOSHIKI‘s drums.
The only times when he stays in one place really are during the choruses, when he has to be in front of his microphone stand. I wonder how he manages at all to play, the way he is moving around, though his playing doesn’t suffer even one second but for all his extraordinary activity.
Fans who only saw the later official part of the shooting notice he is more animate than ever, remarkably so, even in the second rehearsal and definitely so in the later broadcast to the fans on the ground. In this first stage, he’s just PATA, in the best sense of saying this. Far different from the almost elemental force YOSHIKI‘s drumming is, not as intensely affecting fans as TOSHI‘s incredible voice does, not as flamboyant and excited as HEATH looks that night. He’s the same as always. Just PATA.
But "just PATA" is, I think the best compliment to pay to him. As YOSHIKI did in the Blue Night, White Night reminiscences interview when he called him the "antei shite iru" — reliable, stable — rhythm guitar player who made it possible then for HIDE to indulge in his antics (and, according to HIDE himself a better guitar player than HIDE, with a matter of record that he played lead guitar in several of X‘s higher speed, more complicated songs). I think PATA provided that stability for all of the others, not for HIDE alone.
PATA, as ever, looking down at his guitar more than into any camera, really is just PATA, very comfortable, very welcome by all back to the X JAPAN stage. (And there are Ra:in lives later in November in Tokyo, of which I intend to catch at least one.) PATA always reminded me of something even less flashy than a grasshopper, of a plain and taken-for-granted ship’s anchor. Maybe not a complimentary description to the average person, but as anyone who sails can tell, something that’s utterly necessary: the one reliable thing that provides stability when it is most needed.
In truth, during this first rehearsal — we’ve been told at the press briefing there will be two, before the shooting that fans will get to watch on the huge screens, so I’m not worried now about missing something vital during this one — I’m having only eyes and ears for YOSHIKI and TOSHI, who for me always were not only the co-founders of X but its core, the only two people without whom X can’t be X or X JAPAN (for hardcore fans, there’s quite a difference between those).
In any case, what’s happening here just now is something that makes me wonder if I should pinch myself, to confirm it’s real and not a dream or wishful-thinking.
What wakes me up from that dream come true to tell me it’s reality and not a dream, is the location director’s shout of "Shuuryou!" – "the end" or "done," the Japanese equivalent for the Hollywood "cut," at the end of the song.
There is a break after that, during which the X JAPAN members retire to their wardrobe tents while, I assume, technical staff is checking on the results of that first shooting, fine-tuning their production plans after having seen them finally in action.
YOSHIKI on his own reappears a few minutes later again, this time with the sunglasses last seen at the Catacombs premiere in place again and wearing that beautiful lace shirt (which, naturally had come off, not unexpectedly, during the first PV shooting part: YOSHIKI drumming and upper body wear never went together in the past and it still doesn’t now; it never will, I guess. Not that I have heard anyone complaining about that.). He returns to stage for what it turns out is the interview that is eventually posted as an official interview on MySpace.
It’s for that interview that the HIDE plushie comes first into evidence, when after directions from stage someone goes off to fetch a variety of those, in different sizes, from somewhere in storage; which one to use appears to have been a spur of the (last) moment decision again. I suppose that the largest I saw was the one used for maximum impact on TV and online.
Personally, I am not sure what to think about it there. I suppose it is a gesture meant towards those fans who were angry simply at the thought that X JAPAN would perform again without HIDE. For myself, it’s very weird to witness all the HIDE doll excitement on TV later, since I simply can’t forget he can’t be there and can’t consider the doll a replacement. That his music is in X JAPAN‘s first song they perform together after ten years is fitting, to me, but that’s not how I can feel about that doll.
The interview itself we can neither see nor hear at that time, though Mr Shirasaka, who conducted it, very kindly informed us about its content (and gave us permission to put a translation, to come, on JRR) afterwards. For us it’s during that break that we first discover that there is more of HIDE present than just the doll, when we see a display of his favorite guitar, together with two other models he has used, just in front of the stage to the right.
From the person in charge of it we learn that it is actually used on stage, displayed in front of the microphone that stands where his place in X JAPAN performances used to be, something that we were unable to clearly see from our location. Unlike the official PV shooting staff, we aren’t at stage level or above but well below. From where we watch, the silver stand of the microphone is practically invisible against the backdrop of YOSHIKI‘s crystal piano and even after we’re told the guitar is there, from our position, all we can see later is the neck, just the upmost curve of the body even after stepping onto the first rugs of a nearby step ladder.
Once that first YOSHIKI interview of the night (he will be giving many more of them later, we are told, though off stage; I hope this means a great many rock magazine articles to look forward to!) is done, all the members appear on stage again for the second rehearsal and yet again, it’s overwhelming.
This time, the emphasis is on close-up shots, as opposite to the large scale, full stage recording, without staff cameramen impeding the view of members that seems to have been the first stage’s objective, and the cameramen moving in closely naturally draw our eyes to the members individually.
Who I notice first in this second time, during the intro of the song, is HEATH, a very X JAPAN HEATH, with the wild back and forth rocking during the X JAPAN times that wasn’t apparent during the Lynx gig in summer (though that might partly be due to the difference in stage size) and those wide legged stances that always made me wonder how he could do those without slipping. He’s playing like in the old days, too, with lot of activity that makes PATA a few feet away look even more… PATA for most of the song.
Though PATA actually is more lively in the I.V. performance than in any other X JAPAN performance I can recall, both in the beginning and then later again, when playing close up together with HEATH, rather wildly — for PATA — rocking to the music. What we also get to watch then, which has not yet been shown in any of the coverage that appears later on TV, is a guitar/bass battle, PATA and HEATH facing each other for that one, that can only be described as awesome. I wish a bit of that had been visible to the fans watching on the large screens below later. I definitely hope that it will be a prominent part of the promotional DVD if and when that comes out.
The second rehearsal comes to an end without problems as well. It’s followed again by a break for three of the four members, with only YOSHIKI returning to stage for a shooting of his piano parts of the song. To play piano, he also is wearing the black lace shirt again that strikes me as a hybrid between his costume preferences in X and X JAPAN. Not as elaborate as the X days’ coats but more "visual kei"-like than his rather plain X JAPAN shirts. In any case, he looks good in it. It’s good to see him on the piano like that.
The recording of his playing, with YOSHIKI apparently being in true perfectionist YOSHIKI mode that night, isn’t going as easily and smoothly as the two complete song rehearsals did. He stops the camera teams several times to start playing over again. For myself, that part is over too soon really, after too few minutes. I could have listened to YOSHIKI playing piano a great deal longer.
After that, the only thing left, though it turns out to be the longest in time, is the part that will be broadcast down into the park for the waiting fans, who greet the final lighting up of the screens with screams of the members’ names that make their way up to the roof again. Sound isn’t played down in the park, so unlike people at a rock concert, shouting and screaming and singing along, everybody becomes very quiet down there during the performance, to catch whatever they can hear of the acoustic part of the performance on the roof.
On the roof, the song feels like part of the night by now, something that belongs there, just as the X JAPAN members belong on that stage. This time, they play I.V. three times in a row, with brief intermissions between each performance. The feeling is even more than before that of the atmosphere as it used to be during an X JAPAN concert, the members having as much fun as the fans.
What is good to see, precious, in this one-song mini-concert is the interaction between the members, that actually, they are talking to each other, laughing as they do. To see YOSHIKI emerge from behind his drum set, on the same level as the others, not apart on some drum tower, to give some spontaneous onstage directions to the others as they all move into one of those center stage huddles. To see HEATH and PATA laugh about something that one of them said, PATA shake his long curls back as he does so. To see TOSHI sit down on YOSHIKI‘s piano bench during one of those mini breaks and smile at YOSHIKI, standing in front of him and talking to him. To see TOSHI talking to YOSHIKI behind his drums, to see him talk with PATA and HEATH as well.
Something that amuses me to witness in the break before the last performance is the number of hair and makeup people the members have publicly on stage: PATA, one; TOSHI, two; HEATH, three (he needs them, too, a wind that’s come up on the roof around that time isn’t very good for the condition of his hairstyle; then again, neither is his wild, smile-inducing dashing around). YOSHIKI, none. He does a short dash back into his wardrobe tent, though, while the other three get their makeup fixed on stage, someone putting a warmer coat around TOSHI while PATA takes the opportunity to smoke when he’s done fastest of them all with their adjustments.
After that, the fifth and last performance of I.V. follows, ending their performance, and after that, there is the rooftop interview that from our position on the stage we again can’t see. For most of it, for the content of the interview, that does not really matter because we already know what the surprise will be, one that will leave older and younger fans alike close to or actually in tears, since the title of the media kit has been "X JAPAN World Debut, Spring 2008 Live Concert."
I do have to admit I have a very strong desire to hug the person who told me of YOSHIKI‘s, in very typical YOSHIKI fashion spontaneously decided on, it seems, "in Tokyo" addition, though naturally, as a professional myself there, I don’t. Truth be told, I’m really too speechless at that pleasant surprise to say anything.
The fans on the ground break out in "YOSHIKI" and "We are X" exclamation again, though there are also some laughing comments from people wondering why YOSHIKI, being Japanese, in Tokyo, Japan, talking to an almost 100% Japanese audience, uses English to make the announcement of "next spring we will perform in Tokyo." Most, like myself, too, I believe just add it to the amazingly long and now again pleasantly growing "well, that’s just X" list of things to smile about even while at times shaking one’s head.
For Tomomi and me, the evening ends with paying our parting respects again to our contact person at X JAPAN management, as YOSHIKI, TOSHI, PATA and HEATH are back in their wardrobe tents, possibly preparing to leave themselves, but more likely mobbed by the Japanese rock magazine writers and cameramen. Then shortly after that we are on the Yurikamome monorail line back out from Odaiba to Shinbashi. Our train, more than half full of fans on the trip to the event at noon, is now almost completely X JAPAN fan filled.
From Shinbashi, we eventually make it home to our respective home locations, but we just barely manage to catch our last trains from Shinbashi, after some talk still in a bar there. Neither of us is able to just walk away from the hours before, without first once more reliving them together. It was, really, too unbelievable, too amazing, too emotionally impressive a night to just go home from, like from any other event.
The one thing that’s for sure is that, regardless what time next spring it will be that that live happens (in X JAPAN timing, it could be summer or autumn or maybe next New Year’s Night at Tokyo Dome?), if humanly possible, we’ll be there. If it’s going to be at Tokyo Dome, I suppose someone had better warn the Tokyo Bunkyo City authorities in advance, because if they’ll play "X" — can anyone imagine they will not? — there will be another localized earthquake, with thousands of fans jumping, screaming, shouting.
That one shout.
"We are X."
P.S.: October 22, the day of this shoot, is my birthday. This year, I got the best birthday present of my life. Thank you, YOSHIKI, TOSHI, PATA, HEATH and everybody else who made it possible.
Written by Rika
Edited by Misha
Photos provided exclusively to Jrock Revolution by X JAPAN PROJECT
Member names spelled according to current official style