The rising anticipation was hard to miss at the Paramount Theater as fans filed through the doors, crowding the merchandise table and gathering at the doors leading to their respective aisles. It was impossible to look anywhere and not see scores of X Japan shirts, whether purchased on the spot or acquired elsewhere over the years, and if one looked hard enough, they might even have spotted the occasional cosplay amongst the masses.
As the doors to the aisles opened it was clear that this would not be like the Jrock concerts that Seattle had in the past. With the endless rows of seats, the front row right up against the pit rail, it was a promise for breathing room as much as it was a promise for having your own space to rock out with no one packed in around you to slow you down. Seattle was used to the crushing throngs from past concerts but this was X Japan and that in itself was indication that this concert would be nothing like the rest.
Though seated for the entirety of Vampires Everywhere’s set—aside from a few enthusiastic girls in the walkway—no one hesitated when X hit the stage. In a split second, everyone was on their feet and as energized as if they had been this way all along. From that first song, “Jade”, and onward, there was no end to the movement amongst the fans, no end to the palpable excitement of finally seeing X Japan on stage. Pata was the first to abandon his spot, crossing the stage to join Sugizo on his end while Heath seemed content to rock out in front of his own mic.
Yoshiki gave the fans “Silent Jealousy” next by moving to his piano, earning delighted cheers from the crowd as it would every other time throughout the night. His response was a bright smile as he continued to play his intro before the rest of the band joined in. Silent Jealousy was followed by “Drain”, though it was at this point that Yoshiki and Sugizo vanished from the stage and let Pata, Heath and Toshi have the song for themselves, Heath claiming the right side of the stage for the time being and filling the empty space where Sugizo had been.
As “Drain” ended, the trio left the stage and Sugizo made himself at home near Yoshiki’s piano. When the light hit him and he began to play, the response was the same as it had been when Yoshiki had first taken up his piano bench. After playing a small piece from “Synchronicity”, Sugizo slipped into playing “Star-Spangled Banner”, gaining encouraging cheers from the audience. It was undeniably endearing to hear the anthem played on the violin in a style that is distinctly Sugizo’s.
As Sugizo finished playing, Yoshiki joined him at his piano. At this point, Sugizo turned his back to the crowd, resting a hand on his hip and simply watching Yoshiki begin to play. When the time came again for him to join in, Sugizo faced the front of the stage and readied himself, glancing every so often at Yoshiki, waiting for just the right moment to let that first note out. The duet was as beautiful as could be expected of such a combination.
The change that came after this shattered the brief tranquility but no one amongst the fans had any reason to complain. The energy in the theater was unleashed again at Toshi’s familiar cry of “Kurenai da!” At one point during the song, Sugizo couldn’t seem to resist batting at Pata’s hair and one can’t blame him for it. As with several other songs during the live, it was hard to miss the way that Sugizo and Pata would turn their backs to the crowd when not playing, stepping out of the light and into the shadows while Heath remained in place. At the moment that it was time to play again, they would simultaneously turn, step into the light and jump right back into the music.
“Born To Be Free” and “I.V.” followed in much the same fashion, everyone as involved in it as they had been from the very start. However, it was apparent that there was more in the audience than they had shown thus far. The moment “X” began, the energy hit the roof and there was no turning it down. The crowd never wavered, jumping on cue and in sync every time. The steam that they had shooting up from the stage obscured the view of Yoshiki and as it fell, coming down to the stage rather gracefully, it sent a cool wave of air over the audience.
At one point during “X”, Toshi joined Yoshiki at his drums, hijacking one of his spare drumsticks and repeatedly striking a cymbal. At this time, Pata, Heath and Sugizo took center stage together to play up close to those who clung to the pit rail. Though Toshi was the one to initiate the expected cried of “We are X”, after riling up the crowd to his tastes he handed the mic off to Yoshiki, who had taken to sitting on top of his piano. Grinning, Yoshiki didn’t miss a beat in picking up where Toshi left off as the vocalist seated himself at the drums. During this, Sugizo took to throwing water bottles, one of which he managed to hurl all the way up into the balcony from his place at the middle of the stage.
When the band left and the lights cut out, there was little to no hesitation from the fans, who began immediately encouraging an encore in a way that can only be done for X Japan. It started with a few calls of “We are” somewhere further back and no one needed any more prompting than that. A steady chant of “We are X” picked up and lasted for quite some time before it eventually petered out. At that point, some attempted to begin a traditional encore chant that lasted only a few rounds before turning into a steady rise in stomping throughout the audience. In the end, it was a brief combination of stomping and renewed chants of “We are X” that summoned them back to the stage.
“Endless Rain” opened with Yoshiki on the piano while Pata, Heath and Sugizo sat on the staircase. Toshi, of course, would not seat himself and instead took to drawing the crowd in to sing with him. It took very little coaxing and once he had them started, they didn’t stop and could be heard over him every time he joined in. It was “Art of Life” that closed everything off for the night, though it was noticeably shorter as could only be expected.
As the final song ended, a fan came forward and handed off a bouquet of flowers to Toshi at which point Sugizo appeared with a camera to take pictures as Toshi held them. Sugizo then proceeded to take pictures of the crowd and the stage, with Yoshiki peering over his shoulder at the camera screen. As the professional photographers joined them to get their photos of the band in front of the crowd, the X arms among the fans came up and dutifully waited for the photos to be finished. It was only after showering the crowd with water from various bottles—Toshi seemed to enjoy treating his like water guns—that the band took their bows and left the stage.