X Japan Give Vancouver Best Show Of The Year

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X JapanX Japan
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Vancouver, BC
October 3, 2010

There are only a few times in one’s life when we have the opportunity to witness something so compelling and amazing that it will be embedded in our minds forever.  This happened to me the other night when I attended an intimate concert by one of the largest bands in the world. It wasn’t Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones or even a member of The Beatles – and I bet you wouldn’t know any of their songs unless you were already a fan.

Japanese superstars X Japan set foot on Canadian soil for the first time in their 28 year career on Sunday night when they performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver to a sold out and enthusiastic crowd, which was about 80% Asian and 20% music aficionados. The venue, which holds about 2,500, is quite small compared to the 50-60,000 seat stadiums they normally play in Japan.

Much like when The Beatles hit the US, this was a huge deal to the thousands there because it was the first time they could experience a real Japanese pop-culture phenomenon in a small and intimate setting on our home turf.  They wanted to see vocalist Toshi, drummer/pianist Yoshiki, guitarist Pata, guitarist/violinist Sugizo, and bassist Heath in the flesh. The complete North American tour is only 7 days, so this was truly a unique experience.

Having seen X Japan in music documentaries and briefly mentioned in old rock magazines, they were not unfamiliar to me, but for the most part, their music, which is mostly sung in Japanese, doesn’t really fit in my CD and mp3 collection. However, after watching the incredible talent of the band, which can perform extreme metal, hard rock, pop and classical symphonic pieces all in the same show, left me wanting to see what iTunes had to offer.

Toshi, much like Freddie Mercury or even Geoff Tate of Queensryche, is one of the most amazing singers you’ll ever get to hear live. His voice is so powerful, it was vibrating my eardrums without any musical accompaniment. And it became evident when Yoshiki and Toshi were trading the mic for chants of “We are?” during the song X and at the end of the show.

The real stars of X Japan are Toshi, who wore  jackets glistening with crosses and artwork, and Sugizo, who brought out an electric violin for some amazing choreographed classical work. But both of them lack the ultimate star power of Yoshiki, who bounced between drums and piano. He has the charisma of Tommy Lee, but his piano playing is far superior to that of the Motley Crue drummer.

The 14 song concert was a good sample of the band’s music and played much like a Greatest Hits album for the fans, who sang, danced and chanted throughout the whole show. They knew when it was time to cross your arms in the shape of an X and pound it in the air, they knew when to jump up and scream X and they knew when to give Toshi a break and take over the vocals for songs like Forever Love.

When the show was over, I was satisfied with my first Jrock experience. I was watching the real fans act in two ways as they left the building. Some hung at the main doors conversing amongst friends and fellow fans, while others walked away with their heads drooped. I was fascinated by the ones who seemed either disappointed or depressed. After studying one girl for a few minutes I realized that, with her X Japan shirt, glowing keychain and Anime doll, she wasn’t depressed or disappointed at all. It was like this was the one moment she had been waiting for all her life. It was a feeling of exhausted satisfaction.

Photo credit:  Micah Smith