X Japan – Massey Hall, Toronto – October 7th, 2010
Review & Photos by Mike Bax
After seeing footage of X Japan on the Banger Films documentary Global Metal, I have been an intrigued fan. X Japan played their first US show at Lollapalooza this past August in Chicago to a very warm response, and a short run of seven North American dates were booked afterwards for September and October.
X Japan are the biggest metal band in Japan. Their story is not unlike some of the metal stories over here - early success, a public break–up, a band member dying tragically, a reformation, and new material recorded. After more than 25 years, X Japan are finally delivering some live shows to a rabid North American fan-base. What is surprising is that the band really had to downscale their performance for our marketplace. If you take some time to Google foreign concert footage of X Japan, you will see a band that pulls out all of the stops. Lasers, pyrotechnics, fireworks and excess grandeur are all synonymous with X Japan abroad.
Even before entering the venue it was obvious that this evening's show was going to be an experience. Asian fans were posing in front of the Massey Hall signage to get their photos in front of the venue with X Japan spelled out in view behind them on the marquee. Fans were giddy with excitement, and had shown up with Yoshiki Hello Kitty dolls that had been purchased online to hold up throughout the bands performance.
Once inside the venue, it was like being in a foreign country. I don’t mean this simply because I was one of a handful of Caucasian fans inside Massey Hall, but more in the different energy coming off of the crowd. Some of the fans in this venue had waited DECADES for this night to happen. There were numerous fans holding neon glow sticks in their hands in order to cross them into a glowing X symbol as the band played. There was a real feeling of androgyny in a lot of the outfits in attendance, something the band has been famous for over the years. And there were fans in attendance who screamed at the top of their lungs for the ENTIRE show (that's right orange haired girl from the back right... I'm talking to YOU). It was a total ear-plugs-are-mandatory Toronto experience.
Even with a scaled back stage set-up, the evening was impressive. Yoshiki’s drum kit and piano were set up on a riser behind the band. Large LED monitors were set up behind the band to display video footage, and during two songs, columns of billowing smoke were blasted to the rafters of Massey Hall to dramatic effect.
Yoshiki came out draped in a Canadian flag for the band's encore, which didn’t happen until after 15 minutes of deafening screams from the audience of “We Are X” over and over.
Yoshiki told the crowd that they had been trying very hard to come over to play in our country and that they were so very happy to finally to get to do so. He talked a bit about the band and their journey to North America, before being visibly moved… finishing with “You guys fucking ROCK”, and the band then played ‘Endless Rain’, one of the best songs of the evening.
If a song was played that wasn’t particularly popular, I wouldn’t be able to tell for every track X Japan delivered was met with rabid enthusiasm from the Toronto crowd. Toshi, X Japan’s lead vocalist doused the band with bottles of water throughout the evening. As energetic as the fans were, I felt the band was the obvious winner in the who is having more fun category, a point driven home as they all posed for multiple photos for themselves at the end of their performance, on the front of the stage
with the Massey Hall crowd in the background
Throughout the evening, X Japan showcased their ability to rock along with their musical abilities as both performers and composers. The show was peppered with multiple classical piano interludes and violin solos. It was a set of music unlike anything I have ever seen before in my life, and it was bloody good! Next year X Japan will release an album entirely in English for a North American marketing push. It will definitely be one to keep your eyes open for.
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