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X Japan Plays The Riviera On October 6th

X Japan remains the biggest name in heavy metal across the Asian continent. Despite major setbacks including the death of a lead guitarist and a decade long-hiatus, X Japan is still capable of selling out the Tokyo Dome in the band's home country and appearing on the soundtracks for major motion pictures. Finally, North American audiences have been able to witness a phenomenon that they've missed out on since the 1980s.

For those not familiar with X Japan it, along with Helloween, pioneered power metal in the late 1980s as well as a new style of dress known as visual kei, which is entirely an image and has nothing to do with a band's sound. Visual kei bands range from noise to pop and are defined by their use of "Medusa" hairstyles, colorful costumes, and heavy stage makeup. It's a style that emphasizes live performance and theatrics much like black metal, but with a much lighter and less grim approach. Moreover, visual kei has has a profound impact on everything in Japan from anime to video games, with things like Code Geass and the Final Fantasy series taking a heavy influence from visual kei for their art direction.

Finally, after missing the band's Chicago debut at Lollapalooza, I was finally able to witness the legends in person during X Japan's full tour. For one thing, it was inspiring for me to see so many fans follow X Japan to North America from the band's home continent. About 1/3 of the crowd were metalheads decked out in shirts for bands like Helloween and Dark Tranquillity, 1/3 were American weaboos interested in Japan's biggest metal phenomenon, and 1/3 were overseas fans who followed X Japan all the way across the world to see a performance on the group's first ever (and long overdue) North American tour. After every show that I've been to, I've never seen a fan base devoted enough to follow their favorite band overseas. Then again, this is the band that is able to sell out a show at the Tokyo Dome with no opener and have managed to sell thirty million albums with absolutely no touring in North America.

Having missed Vampires Everywhere due to me feeling the need to buy some X Japan merch and then chatting up the merch chick for Vampires Everywhere, I entered the Riviera's auditorium as a computerized voice introduced the band. Opening up with "Jade," the newest single and probable track for an upcoming album, the song had a slower, heavier sound to it than most tracks by X Japan. It was an odd choice for an opener due to it not appearing on any albums beforehand, and a song that I'd only heard before by watching the youtube promo video.

Next up was by far my favorite song by the band, "Rusty Nail." After recognizing the song by the distinctive keyboard intro, I realized that I wasn't the only one in the crowd cheering as the crowd gave unanimous applause to X Japan breaking out an old track. And I have to say that Toshi's voice is like a fine wine in the sense that it only gets better with age. After my elation at the band playing "Rusty Nail" was over, X Japan broke out the piano and performed "Silent Jealousy" from the band's third full length. And of course after the seven minute opus was over, X Japan turned on the drum machines and played "Drain," the last song ever written by the late legendary guitarist, Hideto Matsumoto. After the end of "Drain," any hard feelings that I had towards Sugizo for replacing Hide were laid to rest as he pulled off a sick violin solo that was the best instrumental solo that I've seen pulled off since Inferno of Behemoth pounded his skins back in January.

Then came an old track. And by that I mean debuting on the third demo tape "Endless Dream" old. Apparently "Kurenai" was enough of a live staple that it ended upon X Japan's first two full lengths and hasn't ever left the group's live set. And of course, that was followed by a song by the band that I'd never heard before in my life before Yoshiki pulled off an absolutely sick drum solo. After the solo was completed, X Japan decided to pull out the theme from Saw IV, which was most American fans' introduction to the band followed by fan favorite "X," during the chorus of which horns were raised into the air with arms crossed in an X shape as the band ended it's main set.

As the band entered the encore, it began on a softer note, playing "Endless Rain" while the crowd sung the chorus along with them followed by the midsection of "Art of Life." While I may not have gotten the chance to hear the song in it's entirety, I was at least able to witness Yoshiki reenact his infamous collapse on stage. And as all good things must come to an end, so did this show as Toshi sat at the edge of the stage singing "Forever Love" while the band one by one exited the stage, eventually leaving only the song played over the speaker system while the crowd exited.

Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.

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