X JAPAN live in Paris

It is said that patience is a virtue. In 2008, one of Japan’s most famous bands promised to come to the Old World to play a show in the City of Love. Yet, due to multiple factors, the band had to postpone their Paris show three times in a row. After four years of waiting, X JAPAN finally gave their very first concert at the “Zénith de Paris”, in the heart of the French capital.

Quite a few hardcore fans had been camping at the venue to get places as close to the stage as possible. Some hundred fans were already waiting at the hall around noon, while the sound of drums could be heard from within. From time to time one could also hear bass and guitars as well as the opening song of the concert.

While the queue grew with each hour passing by, X JAPAN’s staff came around to interview some chosen fans, asking questions like where they came from, when they had got into the band, what their favorite song was and if they had a message for the band. Apparently the footage might be used for an upcoming DVD. Let’s wait and see, till we learn more about this!

Sooner than expected the venue’s doors opened for fans who had already stoked themselves up with the infamous “We are X” scream. Within an hour, the 6,500 seats Zénith filled with fans, wearing tour shirts, which you could buy at the merchandise booth, or cosplaying their favorite band member.

Only 10 minutes or so after the announced beginning, the lights went out and X JAPAN’s new opening song, which seems reminiscent of famous, old operas and even has Italian lyrics, started playing. Had many been sitting beforehand in their seats talking or listening to the background music – a rocking mixture of among others Rammstein and Limp Bizkit – everyone got up now and made the signature X sign with their arms or glow sticks to welcome the band at their very fist concert in Paris.

Under loud cheers, leader YOSHIKI was the first one to enter the stage, followed by his members HEATH (Bass), PATA, (Guitar), SUGIZO (Guitar and Violin) and ToshI (Singer). Even though the venue was not entirely sold out, it turned into a bubbling cauldron as soon as the first sounds of X JAPAN’s first single released worldwide.

JADE had only come out a few days earlier on June 28, when the band had their very first show in Europe altogether at the sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. Fans jumped and pumped their fists into the air, while ToshI was his usual bubbly self, running and jumping around on stage.

Behind the drums on whose bass drums the singer had tried to climb several times, YOSHIKI gave his all, while SUGIZO, HEATH and PATA played their instruments, seemingly enjoying the crowd’s reactions. Throughout the whole show they continually changed places, giving everyone an opportunity to better see each member.

The next two songs were “Rusty Nail” and “Silent Jealousy”, whereas the latter one had its infamous piano intro, which was played by YOSHIKI on a KAWAI CR-30 Crystal Piano. Even though only three songs had been played so far, many in the audience were already drenched in sweat due to all the jumping and excitement. Yet, this did not seem to stop the crowd. It seemed Paris wanted to enjoy the show it had been waiting for so long, to its fullest. When “Drain” started, only ToshI, HEATH and PATA remained on the stage, though from time to time you could get a glimpse of SUGIZO who was getting his violin ready backstage.

When this galvanizing song had ended, everyone else left the stage, too, but only minutes later you could make out SUGIZOs figure on stage with his violin in his hand. His several minutes long solo was the first time that fans actually calmed down and silently listened to the melody, this versatile musician charmed out of his violin. In the background you could hear sounds that gave you the slight impression of being in a submarine, deep in the ocean. Over and over again SUGIZOs violin cried out, only to be reduced to sounds very similar to a whale song seconds later.

Soon, however, the audience became all edgy all over again, when they could make out YOSHIKI’s figure in the dark, while SUGIZO played the last notes of his solo, which then led to the intro of “Kurenai”, which was played by YOSHIKI on piano and SUGIZO on violin. One after another the other band members reappeared onstage and the actual song started with the crowd singing along to ToshIs English lyrics.

Quite a few people had brought along red things like scarves, shirts, glow sticks, etc. turning the Zénith partially red – quite fitting for a song whose name means “bloody red” in English. While HEATH, PATA and SUGIZO were rocking out near the front of the stage, ToshI climbed the stairs to YOSHIKIs platform, where the piano and the drums were situated. Together with the drummer he had his fun rocking out behind the crystal drum set.

Once “Kurenai” was finished, the two of them were the only ones to remain on stage and YOSHIKI took a hold of the microphone to ask the crowd in French how they were doing. During his short chat, ToshI started playing around on YOSHIKIs drum set, which in turn led to YOSHIKI playing the one or other classical piece like the famous “Rondo alla Turca”, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A rather cute moment was, when YOSHIKI was clueless about how to continue the song and just shrugged sheepishly with his shoulders.

Still with ToshI on drums, YOSHIKI started playing the piano intro of the song that was next on the setlist: “Born to be free”. HEATH, PATA and SUGIZO returned to the scene and together, with the fans singing passionately along they headed right into the next song of the night. “Born to be free” was followed by a drum solo as well as a piano solo by YOSHIKI, who played among others classical pieces like the theme of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet “Swan Lake” or Beethoven’s “Fuer Elise”.

His solo ended with the piano part of the next song to come, “I.V.”. The other members joined him on stage and ToshI started to do a little call and response game with the fans, by singing one line of the refrain, which the audience had to repeat. Over and over he screamed that the crowd had to scream “fucking” louder and only when he was finally satisfied did the actual song start.

Afterwards, the last song of the evening – the bands hymn “X” – was to be played. Paris is not exactly known for having earthquakes, but with thousands of people jumping at the same time, crossing their arms high over their head, the City of Love might have experienced a minor one, this night.

Again and again, ToshI screamed “We are” and “You are”, only to be having his microphone stolen by YOSHIKI, who continued with heating up the atmosphere in the Zénith de Paris. Passionately the fans answered his cries, while he was rolling around on the floor. Once “X” was finished, the whole band left under the screams of the fans the stage and apart from a few lights, it was pitch-dark.

With X JAPAN gone, the crowd entertained itself by continuing screaming “We Are X” and making endless waves in the crowd. It seemed like a small eternity, till YOSHIKI, dressed in a red kimono, and ToshI returned to talk to the fans. They apologized for taking so long to finally come to Paris and under tears YOSHIKI promised to come back.

X JAPAN came back strong after a separation of ten years and will now rock the world. And even though only five members could be seen on stage, X JAPANs leader declared that late guitarist hide had been playing with them and demanded from the screaming fans to cry even louder because hide could not hear them in Heaven.

After a very emotional MC in Japanese, English and French, the band gave their first encore with playing “Endless Rain”, which ToshI announced in French as “Une pluie sans fin”. When YOSHIKI and ToshI visited Japan Expo in Paris last year, they performed a French version of said song though that night, they now played the English version. While the singer stuck close to the pianist, HEATH, PATA and SUGIZO were sitting on the stairs, playing their instruments. At one point, all five of them stopped playing, and all that was heard in the Zénith was thousands of people singing “Endless Rain” in unison.

When this emotional song ended, everyone left the stage, but SUGIZO returned only minutes later to play a second solo which led into the piano part of the epic 30 minutes long “Art of Life”, from which a shortened version was to be performed. With the piano being heard throughout the venue, the violinist disappeared and finally pianist YOSHIKI made his entrance seating himself at his crystal piano and started playing the second piano part.

Watching him perform made it once again clear that he does not only play his instrument with his fingers, but that he put his soul, his whole being into those 88 black and white keys. Slowly, the harmonically disharmonic piano part turned into the heavier part of the song, with HEATH, PATA, SUGIZO and ToshI reappearing on stage and YOSHIKI changing back to his drums.

The end of the song also marked the end of this two and a half hour long show and while “Forever Love” could be heard in the background, the band took some memorial pictures and YOSHIKI jumped into the heated crowd. Finally they all lined up near the edge of the stage, bowed several times and then jumped into the air as high as they could.

When leaving the stage, ToshI called one last “A bientôt” into his microphone – a promise to come back soon. Let’s hope it won’t take them another four years to return to Paris to play such a memorable concert again that will touch the fans’ hearts and even make them cry, because they cannot actually realize that this show had really just happened.

On that note: WE ARE X!

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