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X JAPAN "WE ARE X Acoustic Special Miracle 6 Days" in Osaka
Date: 2017.08.05
 Concert 
Artist:   X Japan   SUGIZO   Yoshiki  
Date of Concert: 2017.07.11
This 6-stop tour is being called a miracle, and there is a very good reason for that. Only a few weeks ago, the pianist, drummer, and leader of X JAPAN, Yoshiki, underwent emergency surgery in the US in an attempt to relieve some of his chronic pain due to complications related to a disc herniation in the column of his neck. The surgery was a success, but whether or not the show would go on remained uncertain. X JAPAN had a tour lined up. In the end, the tour was retooled; no headbanging required. The shows would be acoustic sets, and the recovering 51-year-old musician would be able to take the stage with a band more and more people are beginning to feel the magnetism of.

The main drive behind X JAPAN becoming more and more known across the globe over the past year is, of course, the stunning and intimate documentary for which the tour is partially named. "We Are X" hit theatres and film festivals last year, winning a Best Editing award at Sundance. The film is already out in multiple digital and physical formats in the United States, but a special blu-ray and DVD box set of the film is set to be released in October in Japan.

A special 60-minute recut of "We are X" was screened for the Osaka Jo Hall audience on July 11th. It was a very intense primer for what was already bound to be an emotional roller coaster of a concert. Fans will undoubtedly already be acquainted with most of the band's complicated and often tragic past, but the film puts all of that to celluloid, weaving the story of the band from inception, to breakup, to reformation through interviews of the band members, their friends, family, and fellow colleagues in music. Notable inclusions include Marilyn Manson, Gene Simmons, and Yoshiki's own mother lend their perspectives to the film. Also worth mentioning is that the documentary dives deep into some dark places in X JAPAN's past. Namely, the reasons behind lead singer ToshI's abrupt departure from the band, and Yoshiki's thoughts on what happened the night their guitarist, hide, died in his L.A. apartment in 1998.

"We are X" really drove home how lucky the 12,000 fans in the arena that night were to be able to see the band perform. With such a tumultuous history behind X JAPAN and its members, it wasn't just Yoshiki's precarious health condition that made the 6-night tour a miracle. That was the mood the audience was in when the film ended, and the show finally began.

The first song of the night was "Forever Love", which beautifully showcased the 17-member cello and violin string section that was backing the band that night. It was a gorgeous rendition of the song, and ToshI absolutely nailed it. After the song ended there was some playfully drawn-out gesturing back and forth between where ToshI stood at the front of the stage and where Yoshiki sat on an elevated platform behind his crystal-clear acrylic Kawai grand piano.

Finally, Yoshiki addressed the audience, asking them, "Everybody good?" to uproarious applause. "Thank you all so much for coming together here for us. I didn't know if I could do this… but because of you I was able to, even if there's no drum set up here." There was a bit of laughter, and then the two moved into the next song, "Hero". This is a newer song, and ToshI's diction of the English lyrics was surprisingly clear. It brought to mind when Gene Simmons spoke in the documentary; how he felt that if X JAPAN were a band from an English-speaking country they might be the biggest band in the world.

After the song ended, Yoshiki asked the audience who there lived in Osaka, who didn't and had come from someplace else in Japan, and who had come from entirely outside of Japan, all to varying levels of cheers from the audience. Yoshiki was particularly surprised when he received cheers from those who had journeyed from outside of Japan to see the show, but not that they were there so much as they were able to understand his question. "Oh, wow, you guys can speak some Japanese. That's really interesting!" he commented in English before slipping back into Japanese. The back and forth between Yoshiki and the audience made for a shockingly intimate atmosphere for such a huge venue, as he also commented on hearing that some folks had come from Ehime, asking if they had any oranges with them as the region was known for them. He went on to add: "I'm not at 100% tonight… but you guys are all giving me strength." Yoshiki did seem to be in some discomfort, and kept pressing his hand to the center of his large black neck brace the entire night.

The other band members - Heath, Pata, and Sugizo - finally joined the two onstage as a near-flawless string arrangement of the next song, "Tears", began. Yoshiki's classical training really shown through with this rendition of the ballad. Next came "Kiss the Sky", another newer song, with a lovely violin solo intro from Sugizo. The entire crowd was singing the chorus before ToshI even got a chance to begin. X JAPAN is famous for their ballads, but this addition to their repertoire still manages to remain unique. The atmosphere was honestly almost haunting; the audience was so keyed into the performance the the house lights went up a little, and it was very much like the fans were performing along with the band in that moment.

Most of the band left the stage to give Heath the spotlight for a noise-heavy bass solo, which he performed most of with his pick between his lips as he plucked at his bass with his bare fingers. His solo segued into a playful guitar solo from Pata, who took to playing just the smallest snippets of classic X JAPAN songs to tease the audience before faking that he couldn't remember the rest. It was a welcome reprieve from the heavy atmosphere of the earlier songs, and the liveliness picked up as he rest of the band came back onstage for "Drain". Everybody stood up for this one, and ToshI cried, "Let's do this one with hide!" to which he was probably referring to the late guitarist's backup vocals and guitar that were played on a prerecorded track for the song instead of someone else doing them in his place. It was a nice nod to the man who had written the song.

Things settled down, and Sugizo took to the stage for his violin solo next. His personal musical style is decidedly more meandering and mournful. He surprised the audience with a violin rendition of "Pink Spider", a song off of one of hide's solo albums. It earned a huge round of applause from the fans, and Sugizo gave up his violin for his guitar as Pata, Heath, and ToshI rejoined him onstage for an amazingly stellar three-guitar arrangement of "Silent Jealousy". Despite being acoustic, it managed to keep up the same momentum of the original even without the driving force of Yoshiki's drums. Everyone was singing along again, the atmosphere was still amazingly intimate, and the song ended with an absolutely huge cheer from the fans that was very well-deserved.

Yoshiki finally retook the stage for an extended piano solo, beginning first with Hendel's "Largo". It was a nuanced and expertly executed performance of the classical piece. Yoshiki conducted the string section from a seated position before he dove into "Miracle". The vocal accompaniment was performed by the phenomenal L.A. and Berlin-based opera singer, Ashley Knight. She absolutely stole the show for those few minutes. She lingered onstage to share some memories with Yoshiki, happily discussing a show in Hong Kong she did two years ago with Yoshiki that had been cancelled and ultimately performed for free. After Ashley gracefully left the stage, Yoshiki teased the audience, asking them what they wanted to hear next. He even went to far as to play a chord or two of a few songs before he finally settled into the opening notes of "Angel"; another new song that remains just as moving as the classics.

The somber mood continued into the next number, "Without You", a song Yoshiki wrote specifically for hide after his passing. A montage of memories of the late guitarist performing with and sharing intimate moments with the other band members was projected behind Yoshiki and ToshI as the song went on, reminding the audience of less complex, happier times in the band's history. It made one wonder if the song hadn't taken on new meaning; that it wasn't just about hide anymore, but about the pain of separation and loss.

The theme of remembrance continued as footage of hide playing the opening bars to "Kurenai" was projected onto all the screens. The fans responded as if he was really there, calling out his name every few moments, before the footage faded away and was replaced by Yoshiki's piano. It was a really heavy moment, and the blending of archived footage with the live performance to make it feel like hide was there was really effective stuff. Normally a really lively rock number, it was turned into a grief-stricken soliloquy, and the house lights went up again as the crowd sang along.

The heaviness of the atmosphere was palpable as the first few notes of "Art of Life" drew sounds of awe from the audience. The arrangement was excellent. Extremely moving. Perfect balance of acoustic guitar and piano, and ToshI really gave singing it his all. The break for the encore was brief, and was ushered in with some goth-as-hell organ coupled with Sugizo's violin for an intro. "Rose of Pain" seemed destined for an acoustic arrangement, to be quite honest. Utterly excellent. It sounded like a tango at points. However, Yoshiki's absence from the stage was unmistakeable. The song felt incomplete without piano.

Everyone took a little time to wish Sugizo a happy birthday at this point, and ToshI lead the arena in a little "Happy Birthday to You", for which Sugizo seemed very thankful, putting his hands together in front of his face to thank the audience afterward. It seemed very fitting that the next song be "Beneath the Skin", a song Sugizo wrote years ago for the short-lived band S.K.I.N. X JAPAN seems to have reclaimed this sexy tune for its own.

Another brief break followed before the second encore began with "I.V." Everybody was singing this one for ToshI, and in a bit of role reversal he seemed to be the one doing the call and repeat rather than the audience. Sugizo had some lovely falsetto pipes on his backup vocals here, and Yoshiki found the strength to come to the front of the stage to belt out his signature "We are!!" a few dozen times as the audience cried in answer "X!!" At this point in the night he honestly seemed to be in a great deal of pain. How he managed through it is anybody's guess. He really soldiered through.

"Voiceless Screaming" was the second-to-last song of the evening. Before it began, however, Yoshiki asked ToshI if he remembered what tomorrow was. ToshI did, but Yoshiki saw fit to clarify it for anyone who didn't. Tomorrow, July 12th, would be Taiji's birthday; another departed X JAPAN member. Yoshiki confessed that the acoustic arrangement for "Voiceless Screaming" was really difficult, but he would do his best to try. ToshI really nailed this one despite the fact that he was clearly feeling emotional about it. His voice cracked in a place or two. It was breathtaking.

Before the final song of the night, "Endless Rain", Yoshiki made a poignant statement. He said that the show was like physical therapy for him. A few fans cried for him to keep going, and Yoshiki really seemed moved by the encouragement. There aren't really any words that can do the ballad any credit. Needless to say it was a flawless finish to one emotional roller coaster of a show.

SET LIST
01 Forever Love
02 Hero
03 Tears
04 Kiss the Sky
05 Heath bass solo
06 Pata guitar solo
07 Drain
08 Sugizo violin solo
09 Silent Jealousy
10 Yoshiki piano solo: Largo
11 Miracle
12 Angel
13 Without You
14 Kurenai
15 Art of Life -radio edit-
Encore 1
16 Rose of Pain -radio edit-
17 Beneath the Skin
Encore 2
17 I.V.
18 Voiceless Screaming
19 Endless Rain
Author: M. Minikhiem
last update: 2017-09-19