X JAPAN live in Berlin

In spring 2011, one of Japan’s most influential bands announced their very first Europe tour, with stops in London (UK), Paris (France), Utrecht (Netherlands) and Berlin (Germany). The last was to take place on July 4 at Columbiahalle, where already other Japanese bands like The GazettE or Dir en Grey had played. Alas, the sun was not exactly shining that day upon the thousands of fans who had come from all over Germany and some even from as far away as Japan to watch X JAPAN’s tour finale. “Endless Rain”, one of the band’s older songs, would actually be the best title to describe the weather. Yet, neither rain nor thunderstorms stopped these very dedicated fans from camping in front of the C-Halle.

The venue doors opened on time and once fans passed security and entered the actual hall, they were greeted by the intimate stage illuminated in blue. As usual, drummer and pianist YOSHIKI’s instruments were situated on a platform and vocalist ToshI’s microphone stood in the middle of the stage.

More and more fans of every age entered the hall, searching for the perfect place to have a good view of the concert. In the hour before the scheduled start, music could be faintly heard in the background.

With a delay of about 10 minutes, the final concert began, with the lights going out and the opening song starting. An opera-like tune with Italian lyrics composed by X JAPAN’s leader was resounding throughout the hall, giving the audience goose bumps.

Close to the song’s end, YOSHIKI entered the stage, first ascending the platform’s steps and then to his crystal-like drum set. Standing on his stool and bass drums, he looked into the madding crowd who greeted him with screams and arms crossed above their heads. Then, HEATH, PATA, ToshI and SUGIZO came on stage and the first song of the evening, “Jade” began. Raging drums and bass, searing guitars and the singer’s clear voice made the venue quake.

Once the song finished, they headed directly to “Rusty Nail”, with fans singing along enthusiastically, pumping their fists into the air. When ToshI went to YOSHIKI, guitarists PATA and SUGIZO met in the middle of the stage only to change their places, so that people on all sides had the chance to see them.

The next song of the night was “Silent Jealousy”, which started out with YOSHIKI playing the intro on his piano, only to return to his drums, when the main part began. ToshI held his microphone towards the audience at times to sing along enthusiastically.

Next was “Drain”, which featured ToshI, PATA and HEATH only. HEATH had taken SUGIZO’s side, so that the fans on the right side had also the chance to see him play. Something he did in his usual laid back manner, though obviously enjoying the whole spectacle. Once the song finished, everyone left the stage.

The band’s newest addition, LUNA SEA’s guitarist and violinist SUGIZO, who had become the sixth member in 2009, returned to the scene with his violin in his hand. He took his place on the platform next to YOSHIKI’s Kawai grand piano and started playing a gentle melody to which the fans listened devoutly. From time to time they cheered for him but otherwise it was stock-still in the Columbiahalle.

Close to the end of SUGIZO’s solo, band leader YOSHIKI snuck back onto the stage, causing fans to scream his name, and sat down on his piano bench, listening to the final notes of the other musician. Smoothly, they started playing the intro of “Kurenai” on piano and violin, while the other band members slowly returned, too. With the stage bathed in red, they headed into this melodic song while fans passionately sang along. ToshI performed the English version, while the refrain remained in Japanese. Though it was clear that the singer had his fun, crying the chorus in his native tongue into his microphone and had the audience accompany him.

When “Kurenai” finished, YOSHIKI got a hold of ToshI’s microphone and started to fire up the crowd with “We are” and “You are” screams, which the fans passionately answered with crying “X” at the top of their lungs, while crossing their arms over their heads, thus forming an “X”. In the meantime, the singer enjoyed his temporary position as drummer.

Eventually, YOSHIKI made himself comfortable on his piano and directed a few words in English to fans, whereas ToshI had earlier even talked a bit in German – very much to the fans’ surprise, his pronunciation had been very good. Apparently someone was celebrating his birthday on the very same day as the Berlin concert was taking place and held up a poster on which that person thanked X JAPAN for this present. YOSHIKI noticed the sign and congratulated, only to start playing “Happy Birthday” on his piano seconds later. A rather entertaining moment was, when he forgot how to continue the song and shrugged quite sheepishly with his shoulders. After trying out several keys, he remembered the tune and finished the song. His short “Happy Birthday” intermezzo soon turned into the piano intro of “Born to be free”, which also meant the return of HEATH, PATA, ToshI and SUGIZO.

“Born to be free” is still a rather new song which was first performed live last year, yet the audience knew the lyrics by heart and sang passionately along, especially during the refrain. In the middle of the song, YOSHIKI returned to his Kawai CR-30 to play the bridge, only to get back to his drums once he was finished.

Again, everyone except for the band leader, who played a short drums and piano solo, left the stage, once the song finished. Where fans cheered during his powerful play on the drums, they were silently listening to him playing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” as well as the theme of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake”. X JAPAN is probably one of the few bands that can even make people who never enjoyed classical music before, listen to such tunes often thought of as outmoded music.

Eventually, YOSHIKI started playing the by now infamous refrain of “I.V.”, while the other band members returned and took their places. ToshI had his sheer joy, teaching the fans the lyrics they had to sing and both he and the singer enjoyed teasing the crowd to sing even louder. Once they were satisfied, the actual song began, with the audience as ToshI’s choir. The final chord still resounded throughout the hall, when he announced the last song of the show: the band’s hymn “X”.

The atmosphere within the C-Halle can only be described has fired up and electrified, as X JAPAN gave their all on stage, while fans sang and screamed as well as jumped as high as they could, crossing their arms high above their heads. YOSHIKI had Twittered that they were going to “X” Berlin, but in this moment it seemed like, the fans wanted to do the very same to the band just as much. On the screen behind the drum set you could read the words “WE ARE X” and at one point the band leader even hit the gong next to his drum set, with one of the cymbals resulting in it falling off the stage.

When the sound had faded away, the five members left the stage, while the fans were crying out their names in the dark concert hall. Over and over they initiated the famous “We are X” call, as if they wanted to draw out the band once again. Soon the entire crowd began chanting “Encore!”, clapping their hands in time.

This went on for quite some time, til ToshI and YOSHIKI finally reappeared. The latter one sat down on his piano bench with a microphone in his hand and started talking to the fans who cheered for him. In German he told them that they were the best and that he loved them. He further continued that the band was very energetic, today, as they all had eaten currywurst the night before – a typical Berlinese specialty.

Much to the amusement of the people attending the concert, he started screaming “currywurst” as well as “curry-fucking-wurst” in the same manner he usually cries “We are X”. Once he had calmed down, he explained in a quiet voice that playing in Europe had been a dream for them coming true. They had performed in London, Paris and Utrecht, but Berlin had been the best. He also thanked everyone for their support, because without the fans they would had never been able to reunite in the first place.

Eventually, he also talked about the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which hit Japan on March 11. All of X JAPAN had been in Japan at that time, thus experiencing the natural disaster first hand. On that day they had to realize all over again, how fragile human live is and how easily it can be wiped out in one single moment. Shakily, he thanked the fans for all the supporting messages the whole band had received during that time and promised that they would continue to rock the world.

YOSHIKI’s quite emotional MC led to him playing a short part of “Forever Love”, which ToshI accompanied. He looked rather surprised at the pianist, when the entire audience started to sing along. In the meanwhile, HEATH, PATA and SUGIZO returned, too and soon “Endless Rain” began. As usual, fans sang along, but at one point the whole band had stopped playing and listened devoutly to their followers going on, while waving their arms. Finally, they started again and finished the song, only to disappear backstage soon after.

For now, SUGIZO was the only one to return to the scene with his violin in his hand. He played a short solo which led to the very last song of the night: “Art of Life”. It started with the piano part and on the very right sight almost invisible for the audience you could see a second piano on which another pianist played one part of the duet. Soon, YOSHIKI came back on stage, with people screaming his name. He sat down on his bench and started playing the other part. At one point, he stood up, continuing to perform while standing, only to kneel down a bit later. When the piano part ended, the other band members returned to finish this epic song.

Afterwards everyone said their goodbyes, with SUGIZO taking pictures and ToshI filming the audience. YOSHIKI insisted on jumping into the heated crowd and once he was back on stage, all five of them lined up near the edge of the stage, bowed and jumped while holding hands. Under the screams of the audience they left the stage waving. One last time ToshI took the microphone and cried “Bis bald”, a promise to come back, before he was finally gone with everyone else.

“Forever Love” played in the background, while fans only slowly got away from the stage, as if they did not want this two and a half hour long concert to end. Again and again you could hear people crying “We are X”, even though the staff had already started to disassemble the stage. It was like everyone was slowly awakening from the dream this show had been, still trying to realize that this had really just happened and hoping at the same time that it would not take X JAPAN too long to come back to fulfill their promise.

Let’s wait and see, when they will return to Europe to X the Old World once again…

On that note: WE ARE X!

Live Report by: Tamara M.
Edited by: Ali W.