NEW YORK — X Japan, one of the most popular bands from Japan of all time, played an historic one-off concert at Madison Square Garden Saturday, Oct. 11 as part of New York Super Week. Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Heath and Sugizo rocked the venue with a pyrotechnic-heavy concert that lasted three hours and featured classic tunes and a couple of new songs. The members of X Japan are back and hopefully here to stay.
As fans filed into MSG, they were given free light-up bracelets and cardboard cutouts of an animated Toshi, sometimes credited as Toshl, who recently celebrated a birthday. The show started promptly at 8 p.m. with much of the general-admission floor filled with diehard fans and the lower bowl packed with adorers offering their characteristic “X” (two forearms folded to form the letter). The stage was enormous, stretching out into the audience with a fashionable runway. The staging was only eclipsed by the lighting, which featured a disco ball and plenty of spotlights circulating in a dizzying fashion.
Yoshiki was the first to appear, followed by his bandmates. Yoshiki, who plays piano and drums for the band, is as iconic a musician as there can be. Playing shirtless with his long locks of hair bouncing to the beats, he fully embraces the totality of X Japan’s concert, offering a performance that’s a cross between heavy metal, classical and pure rock. Although he didn’t sing the vocals, he often took to the microphone to rally the crowd.
Toshi fronts the quintet down front, and his voice still booms with a mighty power. From “Rusty Nail” to “Silent Jealousy” to “Drain,” his screech is both melodic and without question one of the best voices in the rock ‘n’ roll business today. He still sounds like the original X Japan records.
Pata, Heath and Sugizo provided the amped-up action of the guitar section. Their electric output was pulsating but never distracting. Pata, in particular, seems to fit the George Harrison type for the band — quietly effective and the opposite of self-serving.
The band promised the crowd a new album soon, and they offered a couple of tracks, including a sing-a-long “Hero” and “Beneath the Skin”. Both should be welcome additions to a future release.
“Forever Love,” one of their best known songs, was a highlight. Plus there was “I.V.” and the ferocity of “X,” which is a natural fit for a large crowd setting. Yoshiki also offered some percussion solos, taking to the piano and banging on the drums to give the other bandmates a break.
The theatricality and intensity of the historic performance were evident. Roses were thrown into the crowd, in addition to copious amounts of water. At one point, Yoshiki ditched the roses and dove into the general-admission section. A large, lit-up “X” emerged upstage, and plenty of balls of fire were produced.
Touching tributes were paid to X Japan’s deceased original members, Hide and Taiji. The concert finished with “Art of Life” and a goodbye to the crowd that lasted several minutes. Yoshiki came to tears when speaking to the assembled fans, promising to return to New York City and thanking them for decades of support. It seemed quite genuine when he hugged Toshi, a friend he first met when they were 4 years old. Their dream has been to leave a mark on the music business, and now they have conquered the Garden.
As the highlight of New York Super Week, the historic concert at MSG was an event that only comes around once in a lifetime. Luckily, for those fans unable to attend, a forthcoming live DVD will be available. Remember the date: Oct. 11, 2014. It will go down in history as the night X Japan rocked the most famous arena in the world.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com