Tag Archive | X Japan

Yoshiki Classical Special at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall
Yoshiki Hayashi Performs at Carnegie Hall (All Photos Courtesy of MSOPR, Los Angeles)

Drummer, Pianist, Composer, Record, Producer, Entrepreneur: there is not much at which Japan’s most famous Rock Star, Yoshiki Hayashi does not excel. On January 12 and 13, 2017, Yoshiki added one more impressive accomplishment to his extensive resume, when he made New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall feel like an intimate venue. Accompanied by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Yoshiki performed for two sold-out nights at the famous concert hall’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage as part of his Yoshiki Classical Special World Tour, and what a fantastic evening it was!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

While Yoshiki is not exactly a household name stateside, his level of renown continues to grow thanks to the recently released, award-winning documentary film, We Are X, which tells the amazing true story of X, the groundbreaking heavy metal band Yoshiki founded in the 1980s, which continues to perform today, including a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in October of 2014, which I was fortunate to attend.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

The evening’s two-hour program featured many original compositions including modern classical pieces, themes for TV and film (including the Yoshiki-penned Golden Globes Theme) and songs he has preformed with X, such as “Hero” and “Endless Rain,” which were presented here with alternate, classical arrangements. Also included were popular pieces by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, which have special, personal meaning for the pianist.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Despite playing for such a large crowd, Yoshiki kept fans engaged by taking frequent breaks (between nearly every piece), to chat with the audience, sharing fun anecdotes about his life and his career. Adele does this same kind of thing at her shows, and it makes the concert so much more personal and memorable. Plus, Yoshiki is so charming and adorable, he was stealing hearts right and left.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Clips from We Are X occasionally appeared on the stage as a backdrop, as a means to illustrate a song’s importance, or as a way for Yoshiki to pay homage to departed loved ones. Above, you can see Yoshiko performing in X with former bandmate, Hide, who took his own life in 1988. The song “Without You” was dedicated to Hide’s memory as well as that of Yoshiki’s father, and another bandmate, Taiji, who died under mysterious circumstances in 2011. Yoshiki talked about how he still feels inspired by all of these people today.

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Here is the complete set list:

Yoshiki Hayashi Classical Special at Carnegie Hall
January 12 & 13, 2017
Musical Selections

1st Set
1. I’ll Be Your Love (Theme for the World Expo Japan)
2. The Last Song
3. Forever Love (Theme for the animation film X)
4. Golden Globe Theme (Theme for the Golden Globes®)
5. Hero (Theme for the animation film Saint Seiya)
6. La Venus (Theme for the film We Are X)
7. Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)
8. Anniversary (Theme for the Emperor of Japan 10 Year Anniversary)

2nd Set
9. Tears (Theme for the TV drama Nikushimi ni Hohoende)
10. Miracle
** extra song: Star-Spangled Banner – new arrangement by Yoshiki Hayashi
11. Bloom Like A Rose (Theme for the TV drama Seisei Suru Hodo Aishiteru)
12. Say Anything (Theme for the TV drama Lullaby Keiji)
13. River of the Light
14. Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky)
15. Without You
16. Kurenai
17. Transition
18. Art of Life
19. Endless Rain (Theme for the film Zipang)

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall Orchestra
Members of the Orchestra cross their arms to indicate “We Are X” — a gesture of solidarity!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Yoshiki next performs with X Japan at London’s Wembley Arena on March 4th, 2017. Visit This Link for tickets and more information!

Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall

Advertisements

Recommended Viewing: We Are X, The Death and Life of X Japan

We Are X Movie Poster
Above Image Courtesy of We Are X Film Dot Com. All Other Photos By Gail

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.

X Japan Concert Ad

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 at MSG
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
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 at MSG
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 X is a true life Rock & Roll story that really has everything.

Yoshiki and Toshi
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.

Grade: A+

X at MSG
X Japan On Stage at Madison Square Garden, October 2014

Save

Exclusive Video: Yoshiki of X Japan Plays Swan Lake

Yoshki Plays Swan Lake
Yoshiki at the Crosby Street Hotel in NYC (All Photos and Video By Gail)

A couple of weeks ago, I attended an intimate press screening and party for the upcoming theatrical release of the award-winning documentary, We Are X, which explores the amazing history of Japanese rock band X (known as X Japan in the US), focusing on the group’s charismatic drummer and founder, Yoshiki Hayashi. The documentary is just fantastic, and you can read my review on this site closer to the film’s release date in late October!

Yoshiki was present at the screening, and sat with director Stephen Kijak (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) for a Q and A about the film before treating press and fans in attendance to a brief piano performance, featuring both original compositions and some of his favorite classical pieces.

In the above video, Yoshiki is concluding one of his own compositions before segueing into a passage from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Please Enjoy!

Yoshki of X Japan

Yoshiki will be playing two nights with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in January 2017. Visit This Link for tickets and more information!

X Japan at Madison Square Garden: Best Concert Ever!

X Japan Billboard
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.

X Japan Stage Logo
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.

Toshi Lead Vocals

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.

Yoshiki on the Kit

This is Yoshiki, X Japan’s drummer, pianist, and resident Sex God.

Yoshiki Hair

When his hands aren’t busy playing an instrument, Yoshiki touches his hair 60 or 70 times a minute.

Pata Guitarist

Here we have Guitarist Pata, who has been with the band the longest next to Toshi and Yoshiki.

Heath Bassist

This is Heath, on Bass Guitar.

Sugizo Violin

Sugizo plays the Violin.

X Band on Stage

A female string quartet added to the atmosphere of their sometimes symphonic metal songs.

Besides the band sounding and playing great, there was a ton of visuals to keep your eyes entertained and your brain engaged, such as:

Skulls Stage Shot

Crazy Visual Projections!

Fire Background Stage Shot

X Red Fire wirh Prop

Giant Stage Props! In the above photo you can see the two halves of the letter “X” coming together from across the stage.

X Prop Stage shot

Here it is again!

X Japan Stage Prop Pink Fire

P1050663

Laser Lights and Fire Bombs!

Confetti Bazooka

Confetti Bazookas!

X Japan Wrist Band

When we first entered the arena, ushers gave everyone this wrist band thing. We wondered what it could be for, but a couple of fans told us it was probably something that was going to factor into the show, and that we should be sure to wear it. That was excellent advice because look what happened with those wrist bands about an hour into the nearly-three-hour show:

Lit Up Wrist Bands

Lit Up Wrist Bands

It was amazing!

Yoshiki on Drums

At one point during the show, Yoshiki’s drum riser actually moved down the Cat Walk and then rose up into the air over the crowd!

Yoshiki Rising Drum Riser

It was just insane!

Yoshiki at Piano

Yoshiki steps away from his massive kit to play piano many, many times during X Japan’s set. He even played a bit of Swan Lake! Here, he prays for everyone to have fun at the show. Prayers answered!

X Japan have been together off and on for 30 years. Here are some photos of what they looked like back in the day:

X Japan Old School

X Japan Old School

Two former members (not necessarily pictured above) have passed on. RIP!

Lyrics to Hero

They did a new song called “Hero” with the lyrics projected on the screen so fans could sing along.

Lyrics to Hero

“Hero” managed to be both uplifting and sad simultaneously.

X Band on Stage with Banner

Finally, it was time to say goodbye, as the members of X Japan gathered at the edge of the Catwalk and pulled this banner from the a fan in the audience. Yoshiki proceeded to wrap himself in it. Cute!

X Band on Stage Farewell

Goodbye X Japan and thanks for the crazy fun show!

THE SET LIST

MIRACLE   (INTRO)

JADE

RUSTY  NAIL

SILENT  JEALOUSY

BENEATH  THE SKIN

PATA   +   HEATH  SOLO

DRAIN

SUGIZO  VIOLIN  SOLO

KURENAI

HERO

BORN TO  BE FREE
·∙

ENCORE 1

PIANO  SOLO

DRUM  SOLO

FOREVER  LOVE

I.V.

X
·∙

ENCORE  2

ENDLESS RAIN

ART OF LIFE  (PIANO)

Stan Lee to Speak About Blood Red Dragon at San Diego Comic-Con Panel

Blood Red Dragon Sketch Progression
Blood Red Dragon Sketch Progression

The legendary Stan Lee has created a brand new super-hero, Blood Red Dragon, based on rock icon Yoshiki, leader of the Japanese heavy metal band X Japan. The Blood Red Dragon comic book series will feature a surprise, first-of-its kind publishing innovation. The series debut issue will premiere at Comic-Con 2011 in San Diego, which runs from July 21 – 24 and is already completely sold out. As part of Comic-Con, Lee, world-renowned comic book artist Todd McFarlane (whose Todd McFarlane Productions is publishing BRD) Yoshiki and book writer Jon Goff will take part in a panel discussion about the comic, scheduled to take place on Thursday, July 21, 2011 from 1:00 – 2:00 PM. If you’re already registered to attend Comic-Con, you should add this panel to your daily agenda, because it sounds awesome.

Stan Lee and Yoshiki
Yoshiki of X Japan With Stan Lee

Blood Red Dragon focuses on the origin of an ancient and benevolent force, locked in an epic battle with the dark armies of Oblivion. Creative expression and destiny collide, as once in a generation, an individual is born with the potential to unlock the awesome might of the Blood Red Dragon, thus channeling a power beyond comprehension and assuming the mantel of Earth’s protector. When agents of Oblivion discover that the key to accessing the Blood Red Dragon’s energy lays in music – the melodic heart of the human spirit – they launch a series of violent attacks on musicians across the globe. As he performs in front of a large crowd during the opening show of a massive world tour, drummer and keyboardist Yoshiki comes face-to-face with his destiny, experiencing a transformation that will forever change his life – and possibly the face of the world.

The Los Angeles Times has a cool article on Blood Red Dragon at This Link.

The Blood Red Dragon Panel takes place at The Hilton San Jose Bayfront Hotel, Located at 1 Park Boulevard, San Jose, California.