Before the LUNATIC FEST. timetable was released, the question on everyone’s minds was “Who will headline on Day 1?” The answer should be obvious considering the festival was put on by, and for, LUNA SEA, but when the band that gave the sponsoring band their break appears, no one can be sure. X JAPAN didn’t play last, but they might have played to the biggest crowd: they’ve been credited as being the reason that Day 1 tickets sold out.
X JAPAN (which began simply as X) debuted when childhood friends Toshi and Yoshiki appeared on stage at their school festival in the second grade of high school with other original members, in 1982. After graduating and moving to Tokyo, they released their first single in 1985, I’LL KILL YOU. Legendary members hide, Pata, and Taiji joined, and before long the band was well on its way to the top.
They lived like true rockstars and were notorious for causing trouble at hotels when on tour and drinking more than their fill between shows. Their reckless behavior matched their wild style: sky-high hair and plentiful makeup. Unlike the visual scene today, a good number of X JAPAN’s fans were working age men and others who were simply tired of the monotony of fitting in to society. X JAPAN was a symbol of rebellion.
Aside from the extraordinary careers of its members, X JAPAN’s most well-known contribution to the visual kei scene is the term “visual kei” itself. Their 1989 major debut album BLUE BLOOD featured cover text “PSYCHEDELIC VIOLENCE / CRIME OF VISUAL SHOCK,” and the story goes that the genre name was, in one way or another, derived from this text. By 1993 the term became synonymous not just for any band in makeup, but for bands which were featured in the shock-rock periodical “SHOXX,” which had launched in 1991.
X JAPAN disbanded in 1997 due to Toshi’s decision to leave — for personal and musical reasons. Though the band had plans to reform around 2000 with hopes of finding a new vocalist by then, tragedy struck with hide’s death in 1998 and this dream would never be realized. In recent years, X JAPAN has been in and out of the studio and on and off of the stage through bouts of reformation and reunion. They embarked on an extraordinary world tour in 2010 and continue to captivate audiences worldwide.
LUNATIC FEST.’s attendees flew into a frenzy when the Moon Stage screen announced the band. But the members didn’t enter right away. Instead, the hall was treated to footage from each show of the world tour along with the dates, showing fans around the world head banging, crying, and singing along to songs many may never have expected to hear live in their lifetime. It was an emotional, dramatic beginning before Jade took us straight into the set, pyrotechnics and all.
Sugizo propped himself back against Toshi as they geared up for Rusty Nail to the crowd’s delight, with an explosion of pyrotechnics cued with the beginning of the song. A short MC followed, leaving Sugizo and Toshi only on stage, with Yoshiki at the piano, and before long the familiar opening of Kurenai was tapped out on ivory keys. The moment the fans realized what they were about to hear the hall erupted with screams, and grew so loud singing along during the song that they could even be heard over Toshi’s shrill voice.
A longer MC from Yoshiki and Toshi revealed that X JAPAN is working on a new album — their first in 20 years — and that they were about to debut a new song from it. KISS THE SKY thus began with the audience singing “Woah, woah, woah” on Toshi’s cue. The emotional song included beautiful piano lines, and at its conclusion and emotional Yoshiki spoke of the long relationship between LUNA SEA and X JAPAN members. Power ballad Endless Rain followed with members sitting along the risers on the back of the stage to play, and newer Born To Be Free brought the crowd back up from the short streak of mellow numbers.
Of course, there’s only one way an X JAPAN set can end, and perhaps even before the song began, the crowd knew what was coming. X spurred audience members to fish out their glowsticks in preparation of the famous “X Jump.” GEORGE of LADIES ROOM joined the band on stage dressed as Taiji, and the member introductions shouted out by Toshi included all five members on stage, as well as late members Taiji and hide. The side screens showed “In memory of Taiji 1966 – 2011 / In memory of hide 1964 – 1998,” and hide even joined the festivities in spirit on the center screen in footage shouting “Tell me tell me tell me tellmetellmetellme!”
The closing, famed “WE ARE X!” calls reverberated for a good, long while as X JAPAN began to reluctantly leave the stage — but not before Yoshiki dragged part of his drum set away and threw one of the cymbals, still on its stand.
Tags: X Japan