We were just arriving for a fun press event at The Pennsy Food Hall in Penn Plaza, just out front of Madison Square Garden, when I spotted this fantastic, towering public art work by Jonathan Borofsky. Entitled Human Structures, the sculpture sits where Roy Lichtenstein’sBrushstroke Group sculpture previously stood. Human Structures closely resembles a tower of colorful, interlocking paper dolls. I like it.
Aside from its obvious purpose as selfie-magnet, Human Structures is part of Plaza33 Inc’s efforts to turn the no-man’s land outside of Penn Station into a welcoming pedestrian plaza hosting seasonal live music and performances.
Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures can be found at Plaza 33, on the East side of 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, in NYC.
When the most popular heavy metal band in Japan came to New York in October of 2014 to play a show at Madison Square Garden, they managed to sell out the legendary arena, despite being virtually unknown in America. X (known stateside as X Japan), got their start in the 1980s as a glam metal band, doing their best to shock audiences with their outrageous stage show and equally over-the-top, gender-bending physical appearances that included flamboyant rock fashions, wildly theatrical hairstyles and Kabuki-esque make-up. But what critics who initially dismissed the band as all style and no substance didn’t realize was that these guys could play their asses off, and were selling the type of rebellious image that repressed Japanese audiences couldn’t wait to buy. Now, an award-winning documentary, We Are X, aims to bring the myth and enigma that is X Japan into your consciousness.
Critics say that the mark of a good documentary is when its story is accessible to, and can be fully enjoyed by, audiences who are completely unfamiliar with its subject matter. Using the career-milestone Madison Square Garden concert as a jumping off point, and circling back to that show (which I attended) at the film’s end, Director Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) has succeeded wildly at crafting a career-spanning Rock & Roll fable that will surely hook those who’ve never even heard of X Japan right from its opening credits.
Yoshiki on Stage at MSG
Told primarily from the viewpoint of founding member Yoshiki; X Japan’s drummer, composer and charismatic leader, We Are X is both the story of the band’s groundbreaking 30-year career, and also the life story of Yoshiki, who turned to music as a child as a means to cope with the suicide of his father. Forming X as a teenager with school friend Toshi, who became the band’s lead singer, Yoshiki was driven to succeed by existential questions that haunted him from his father’s death; namely “What is my purpose?” and “why am I here?”
Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak Discuss the Film at a Post-Screening Q&A Here in NYC
Embracing a ‘Do or Die’ sensibility, X Japan became not just an innovative and successful rock band, but a cultural force as powerfully influential as that created by The Beatles decades before them. Not only have they achieved phenomenal record sales and concert attendances, but band members’ personal brands are associated with products as diverse as credit cards, wine, comic book superhero alter egos, and dolls made in their own likenesses. X Japan is also credited with spearheading the uniquely Japanese Visual Kei movement.
X Japan on Stage at MSG
The band’s great successes, however, were tempered with equally great tragedies. As a counterpoint to the celebratory moments, the film carefully explores the suicides of two seminal band members, Hide (in 1998) and Taiji (in 2011), which shattered the lives of both X Japan’s surviving members, and devastated their fans, one of whom was driven to suicide because of the news. We Are Xis a true life Rock & Roll story that really has everything.
Yoshiki and Toshi Rocking It Back in the Day!
Despite the intense personal/personnel drama, career challenges and many heart-rending moments, We Are X is also good fun, and thoroughly entertaining. One of my favorite parts happens towards the film’s end, when Yoshiki and Toshi are reunited in 2007, ten years after the singer abandoned X Japan to join a mind-controlling cult. Yoshiki recalls hanging out at the Palladium in Hollywood, where the friends were approached by two guys looking to buy drugs. One of the men asked the duo if they knew where they could score some X (meaning the psychedelic drug, Ecstasy). Yoshiki, whose grasp of the English language is obviously much better now than it was back then, laughs when he recalls replying to the guy, with complete sincerity, “We are X!” Hilarious.
We Are X opens in theaters nationwide on Friday October 21st, 2016.
X Japan On Stage at Madison Square Garden, October 2014
X Japan Billboard, Corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue (All Photos By Gail)
Here in New York City, it is no secret that you can have a magical adventure if you are just willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown. This is what happened to me when I accepted an invitation to see Japan’s most famous heavy metal band X – known here in America as X Japan, owing to another band in Los Angeles that happens to also have that name. Prior to this past weekend’s concert at Madison Square Garden the only things I knew about X was that their drummer, Yoshiki had been immortalized in a comic book by Stan Lee, and one song, “Jade” – which, prior to Googling the lyrics, I thought was called “You Are Beautiful” due to its only discernible English lyrics.
As You Can See, Their Stage had a Catwalk, Which Every Rock Stage Should Have.
Since I had no previous familiarity with X Japan’s music, this review will be based on my experience as someone who was seeing and hearing the band for the first time. I would say that X Japan is going to appeal to your musical taste if you like any of the following: Big Arena Rock, Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, Dream Theater, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and any 80s Metal Band. It’s probably due to my affinity for that latter, much maligned genre that X Japan resonated with me right away, and I would (probably) still rather listen to the cheesiest ’80s Metal for 100 million billion years than to any charting modern band for 15 minutes. Just being serious.
Please enjoy my pictures and commentary!
First, let’s meet the members of X Japan.
This is Toshi, lead singer and founding member. He and Yoshiki have known each other since they were four years old (45 years ago), and started their first band together when they were eleven.
This is Yoshiki, X Japan’s drummer, pianist, and resident Sex God.
When his hands aren’t busy playing an instrument, Yoshiki touches his hair 60 or 70 times a minute.
Here we have Guitarist Pata, who has been with the band the longest next to Toshi and Yoshiki.
This is Heath, on Bass Guitar.
Sugizo plays the Violin.
A female string quartet added to the atmosphere of their sometimes symphonic metal songs.
Sometimes, life will surprise you. Van Halen is currently on an extensive US tour with original and wildly iconic front man David Lee Roth back on vocals and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on Bass. As an aside, I’ve attended maybe half a dozen David Lee Roth solo shows in the past decade – thanks to a friend of mine having been employed as DLR’s long-time drummer prior to him joining Korn. Dave was always in top form: leaping in the air and roundhouse kicking invisible foes all while hitting those illusive high notes, including the signature, primal yelps he practically trademarked. Because of Roth’s self-evident skill, I easily convinced myself that seeing the DLR Band cover Van Halen songs was essentially the same as seeing Van Halen live. Yes, I just typed that.
Fast forward a couple of years. When I got tickets to the first of Van Halen’s two sold-out shows at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, I seriously wasn’t expecting much. Certainly, I was not considering the possibility of there being any real “wow” factor involved, as I am rock and roll curmudgeon who basically thinks sentimentality is for shit when it comes to a legendary band reuniting with “most of its original members” and blah blah blah. Plus, did you read any of Sammy Hagar’s Heavy-on-the-Eddie-Van-Halen-bashing biography? Yeesh, what hot mess he makes Eddie out to be. And yet, I agreed to get on board for the show, along with a couple of friends, if only for nostalgia’s sake and the promise of an excuse to leave my house on a weeknight. Plus, maybe they would do “Everybody Wants Some,” and that song is just insane.
Well, last night I had a true Come to Jesus moment when Van Halen took the stage for a nearly 2 hour aural assault and reminded me why they are the legends that they are, and why DLR is phoning it in without his on again off again band mates. Because without Eddie Van Halen’s incomparble guitar chops, without Alex the drummer god pounding out the heavy metal thunder and – most importantly – without the Van Halen family’s backing vocals and distinctive harmonies, Roth can’t possibly do a Van Halen song justice. Jesus god, what a great show.
If you weren’t inside Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, this is what you missed.
You Really Got Me Running with the Devil She’s The Woman Romeo Delight Tattoo Everybody Wants Some (!!) Somebody Get Me A Doctor China Town Hear About It Later Oh, Pretty Woman Drum Solo Unchained The Trouble With Never Dance The Night Away I’ll Wait Hot For Teacher Women in Love Girls Gone Bad Beautiful Girls Ice Cream Man Panama Eruption (Guitar Solo) Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love Jump
Van Halen Tour Dates for 2012 are available at This Link. Get tickets while you can!
I have said it many times before – and I am saying it again right now – that I would rather listen to Motley Crue songs like “Dr. Feelgood” or “Shout at the Devil” one hundred million billion times than be forced to listen to the majority of today’s shitty, modern alternative trash rock for fifteen seconds. Because, here’s the thing, Motley Crue – undeniable walking punch lines that they are – are nevertheless a bonafide gang of dangerous, ex-drug addict rock stars from an old school of Rock with a Capital R that, really, does not exist anymore. And for this, I worship them openly.
Watching Motley Crue play live is like driving a Ferrari at 100 miles an hour or having endlessly orgasmic sex with the hottest partner imaginable (me: Gael Garcia Bernal). NONE of these emo/screamo “Mommy didn’t love me” bullshit bands get me off at all. None of them have the balls of a Rock God like Nikki Sixx, who is one of the most original, charismatic figures in rock music since John Lennon. None of these new “excuses for musicians” have any rock star cache. And man, I miss that more than you could even imagine.
Today’s pop music sounds like it came from a can, and 90% of these young bands are just a bunch of whiney brats with guitars who aspire to sound like The All American Rejects (worst band ever) because that’s what the little emo kids are downloading from iTunes. Geesus god, when did rock music get so fucking lame? You can keep Panic at the Disco and The Academy Is and I’ll just curl up with Girls Girls Girls and my copy of The Dirt and be just fine, thank you.
I had a fucking blast last night and so did my plus one, Geoffrey, who I brought along with me since he had never seen The Crue before. I figured he’d appreciate their deal, as he is the only gay guy I have ever met whose favorite band is The Doors. Geoffrey knows his shit when it comes to what rocks and what does not rock. I have very few issues with Motley Crue as people, their showmanship or their set list. They played all the hits you could want to hear as a 20-year fan and very few songs from their new CD, which I do not know. Their stage set was awesome. They had so many explosions and bright lights and shiny visual distractions that I’m still deaf and seeing trails. Mick Mars can play his ass off despite being practically turned into a living statue from ankylosing spondylitis (look it up) and both Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee have life-long “Get Out of Jail Free” cards as far as I’m concerned. But…I have an issue with Vince Neil. Please allow me to share.
Vince, Nikki & Mick
Before their set even started (and remember that we had to sit through three opening acts, all of which – thank Christ – were at least pretty decent in the “ability to rock” department), Geoffrey and I were taking bets about whether or not Vince Neil would be fat. “I bet he’s fat,” said Geoffrey. “I bet he’s fat, too,” I admitted. So you can see there was no real betting going on there, since neither one of us had any faith in Neil’s ability to stay away from the pork rinds. But – surprise – Vince is not only slender-ish, but looking quite fit these days. He was full of energy as he danced and pranced about the stage in a manner that immediately brought to mind Billy Squire’s performance in the video for “Rock Me Tonight.”
But the gigantic bone I have to pick with Vince concerns his unwillingness/inability to sing any Motley Crue song all the way through from beginning to end without taking a hundred breaks in between. Basically, he sings about every third or forth word and leaves it up to the audience to fill in the gaps. WTF? He has been doing this for about ten years and it makes me want to smash him in the face. Vince, dude, get a little bit friendly with reality here: nobody in Madison Square Garden last night paid $90 for their ticket so they could hear the drunk guy next to them sing the chorus to “Kick start my heart.” I mean, that’s the pay off! If you just sing every other word to the verses and then hand off the mike to the audience to sing the chorus – like a lame, douche bag jagoff – that’s completely unacceptable! I refuse to pretend that we should not call shenanigans on you for this heinous, repeated transgression! I would rather have Vince LIP SYNC the fucking songs then just not sing. Nikki Sixx must agonize over a desire to kick your not-that-fat ass out of the band for how you butcher his music. Fuck you, Vince Neil for not singing the songs!
Thank you for reading, and please continue to rock.