X Japan at Madison Square Garden / by Tony Chung

X Japan in concert at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, 10.11.2014

Earlier this year, I heard the best news EVER: X Japan is going to play Madison Square Garden.   Five years ago they played in Taipei (when I was living there) and I missed their concert.  Not this time!

A little background: during my high school years, my cousin introduced me to X Japan and I became instantly obsessed.  During that time, I was deep into songwriting and recording music. Hearing X Japan's music was inspiring and life changing.  What's to love about this band you ask?  I could go on for hours, but for the sake of brevity, I'm going to summarize in a few points:

  1. X Japan is the only band to my knowledge that plays at extreme ends of the music spectrum.  That is, their heavy songs are rich with distorted guitar solos and double bass drums, yet their ballads are incredibly soft and touching tear jerkers.  What makes this impressive is that both types of songs are equally powerful in their own way.
  2. Yoshiki, main songwriter/drummer/pianist and the backbone and leader of the band, performs with incredible charisma.  It's magnetic and entertaining to watch him perform.  He truly gives it all onstage.  So much that he's required to wear a neck brace when playing due to excessive head-banging.  I believe he wears a cast on his arm when he's offstage to protect his wrists as well.
  3. They've sold out the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome (the Japan equivalent of Madison Square Garden) 18 times.  18 TIMES.    
  4. The band has gone through much drama through the years, yet they were able to overcome all the obstacles and push forward to today.  Yoshiki's father took his own life when Yoshiki was 10 years old.  Their legendary guitarist, Hide, took his own life at the height of their stardom.  Then the bassist, Taiji, also took his own life years later.  The band even broke up for many years during their prime.  Their vocalist, Toshi, went through a 12 year period of following a cult leader who ended up taking all his money (for 10 years Toshi and Yoshiki did not speak to each other).  Whew.  

The concert was absolutely breathtaking.  I cried several times during the concert.  The experience was similar to watching a great movie, one that touches you on many emotional nerves.  Banging out during the hard rock songs and weeping during the soft ballads.  Yoshiki and Toshi spoke to the audience so many times, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and Yoshiki even performed his signature 15 minute drum solo where he was elevated above the audience.  Amazing. Breathtaking.  An experience I won't forget.  Photos and videos from the concert below.  Special thanks to Jon for being first in line to get tickets when they went on sale.

Yoshiki playing his signature custom Kawai Yoshiki transparent grand piano.  He even played the Star Spangled Banner at one point!

Look at that gigantic 'X'!  About halfway into the concert, the two sides of the X slowly moved towards the center and connected.  Then it lit up.  Imagine how much that alone costs to execute...

Every attendee was given one of these wristbands when entering the concert.  No one knew what the purpose was.  Then about 45 minutes into the concert, they lit up!  What a sight it was to see everyone's wristbands flashing in the sea of people in MSG.  

Yoshiki's drum solo.  Notice how he is in the middle of the audience.  That platform moved all the way from the stage (on the right) down the aisle to the middle of the audience.  Then it ELEVATED.  Oh and notice all the wristbands lit up in the crowd too.

Yoshiki transitioning from the piano to drums during 'Silent Jealousy'

Yoshiki's drum solo on a platform moving across the stage.

[UPDATE] Just to give you an idea of the complexity of rhythms that Yoshiki composes and performs on the drums, here's a fan on YouTube playing the drums for the song 'X' .  Notice the 'double bass' bass drum kicking at 0:14 and again at 1:22.