X Japan

Shepherds Bush Empire
28th June 2011
Written by Rachel Yarwood
Photography by Christeeny

New Intro S.E
Rusty Nail
Silent Jealousy
Born To Be Free

Art of Live (2nd Movement)

Forever Love

Nothing could have been more thrilling to fans at the announcement that X Japan would be starting their 2011 Europe tour on British soil. It took just ten minutes for tickets to sell out at the originally planned Islington Academy, over selling in fact, so much so that unsurprisingly X Japan upgraded to Shepherd's Bush Empire.

The sight that greeted people as they arrived was no shock at all. A mass mixture of fans, from all over the world, Japanese, Italian and Spanish crushed together along with the enthusiastic Brits to wait for the doors to open, but it would be near enough an hour and half after doors had opened that the last of the queue made it into the venue.

Once inside, the atmosphere was like that of any other gig. There was a dim hum of excitement, from the bar at the back where people dared to stand shoulder to shoulder with pint in hand, to the floor of those braving to get a closer glimpse, to the three tiers of seated where flags hung proudly over the balconies. A single screen hangs from the back of the stage in place of what would be a backdrop of the band's logo perhaps, illuminating the venue in the bright light of "X" as the house lights are finally dimmed, causing the buzz to become a mass of screams from the crowd.

These screams soon elevated to ear-splitting levels as the orchestral introduction began, and looking towards the stage, Yoshiki stood solo, centre stage by his drums. It seemed an age as he stood alone in front of thousands of fans, who themselves clearly unable to contain their elation, some even shedding unabashed tears of joy, at finally having the chance to see Yoshiki and indeed X Japan perform in this part of the West after so many years.

Following not too far behind, Heath (bass), Pata (guitar), Sugizo (guitar/violin) and Toshi (vocals) soon joined Yoshiki on stage, taking their positions and leading everyone into the first song of the night, "Jade".

The level of energy proves to be impressive both on stage, and in the crowd as well, increasing dramatically as the second song of the night "Rusty Nail" follows almost instantaneously, cries of delight from many who are eager to hear the finest of X Japan. Toshi was definitely on top form tonight. Not just his voice, but his entire person seemed to be in such high spirits, belting out each song with tremendous passion and beaming out at the crowd in between, clearly enjoying the experience just as much as the fans were, was simply wonderful to witness in the flesh.

However, something that is always problematic, especially for those who regrettably end up standing behind someone taller than them, is not being able to see much of the stage. Tonight, it seems that the stage floor is lower than usual, making it near impossible for many on ground level to see anything but perhaps the top of Yoshiki's head, otherwise you were lucky to catch a glimpse of any of the other members. 

On the other hand, you do not always need to witness in vision something that began as inspiration to your ears. The incredible power behind X Japan's compositions, and also the guitar solo's, are something which leaves you awe struck. If you were lucky enough to glance over the heads at the right moment, it was something close to momentous during "Silent Jealousy", as Pata and Sugizo united front centre of the stage to play such a sensational piece from one of their classics. 

Sugizo's time to shine came towards the half way mark of the first half of the gig. Standing prominent, yet remaining at all times on the left side of the stage, he wowed the crowd with his skill on the violin. It was one of eerie elegance, each tiny break earned him a louder cheer, or a slight laugh as he slipped in part of the theme to "The Godfather". It was also one that surprised a few who recognised the opening to "Providence".

We were, of course, not entertained with just the one solo. Yoshiki himself joining Sugizo and taking the lead on the instrumental before "Kurenai" and then mesmerizing us again with a piano and drum solo, very much the same epic, passion filled moments as witnessed on their live DVD's. The amount of energy Yoshiki threw into these moments was so intense that it was actually no surprise at all when the neck brace that is almost as infamous as the man himself appeared.

There was a few minutes to recover energy lost whilst the band themselves took a breather, allowing Yoshiki to have a moment to speak before the encore. If emotions were not already peaking, it took just one short sentence from him to cause a chain reaction, the entire crowd erupted, chanting one simple word... but one that held a deep connection. “hide.”

Once again, things hit breaking point as Yoshiki, himself also crying by this point, and Toshi began the first of the encore set, "Endless Rain". The entire crowd, singing in unison with Toshi from beginning to end, with one line standing out after such an emotional display, "Let me forget, all of the hate, all of the sadness" which echoed on even after the band themselves had stopped playing.

X Japan's performance tonight was one of wonderment and the end to the long awaited anticipation.

There was nothing elaborate but the sheer presence of them on stage, and the songs they performed were altogether phenomenal, still as strong and still as determined to show the world just exactly what they have to give.

This wasn't a barrier broken, but an open door that had finally been discovered. Hopefully the success of this tour so far will mean positive things for the future and this will not just become one of those once in a life time opportunities.