X JAPAN at Tivoli Oudegracht, Utrecht

live report - 07.13.2011 20:01

After a bad start, legendary X JAPAN rocked Utrecht hard!

Major Japanese bands tend to perform in only a few, major European cities during their tours, and so it came as a surprise when a Dutch concert for X JAPAN was announced. The venue they had chosen was an even bigger surprise. The day before, they had performed in Paris in a venue with a capacity of 6000 people, but tonight they would perform in front of ‘only’ 1000 attendees in the sold-out, crowded venue in Utrecht.

In addition to fans from the Netherlands, there are also many foreign fans including a large group of Japanese followers, but also people from other European countries such as Germany, Spain and England. The doors open half an hour later than planned and unfortunately this is not the only delay of the evening. Around 9:30, an hour and a half later than scheduled, the lights are turned down and background music starts to play.

The background music sounds like a classical orchestra which slowly starts to wake the audience. After a few minutes, band leader and drummer YOSHIKI’s silhouette can be seen, walking to the drum kit. The Tivoli stage has been rebuilt specially for X JAPAN, with a high stage partition at the back where YOSHIKI’s drum kit and even a grand piano have been placed. A female voice announces: “Introducing…. X JAPAN!” which is a sign for YOSHIKI to fling away his white shirt and throw himself at his drums, starting on the heavy intro for their newest song Jade.

Usually the drummer is the band member that gets the least attention because of their position at the back of the stage and restricted space to move in, but tonight it’s the other way around. With a spotlight focused on YOSHIKI and the other four men left in the twilight, only the drummer can be seen clearly, drumming energetically. Unfortunately the four men at the front of the stage don’t really seem to be in the greatest mood. They’re playing their instruments calmly without encouraging the fans to sing along or applaud. Therefore, it takes some time for the crowd to get into the mood. Only after the third song people seem to be really getting into it, which probably has to do with the long wait before the concert.

YOSHIKI plays the grand piano for the song Silent Jealousy, playing scales up and down at a fast pace while he bends over the keyboard. TOSHI, who wears a pair of big black sunglasses and a black and white suit with so much glitter Elvis might have been envious, joins in with his vocals. His voice is clear, with incredibly high and long notes that seem nearly impossible to reach for any human voice. When the other band members join in and YOSHIKI drums again, his voice is unfortunately overwhelmed by the hard guitars. HEATH’s pounding bass is rumbling loudly through the venue. The bassist has a solo in the song and the fans cheer enthusiastically when he shows himself. TOSHI screams YOSHIKI’s name a few times, almost as if he has forgotten the band has other members, too.

After Silent Jealousy, SUGIZO and YOSHIKI disappear from the stage and then it’s up to TOSHI, PATA and HEATH to play the song Drain. Without a live drummer, they play with a drum-track. Even though it’s quite a heavy song, all three men stand calmly on stage. Especially PATA, dressed in a slightly hippie-like outfit and with a mustache and beard, doesn’t seem to care much about his surroundings.

The three men leave the stage and SUGIZO returns soon after, this time with his violin. The fans show their appreciation for his violin with deafening screams, and he takes his position on the right side of the stage. Electronic music starts to play on the background and he starts on a series of impressive violin phrases. Although what he is playing isn’t quite a song but rather loose pieces strung together, no one seems to mind this as the audience listens enthralled. With his electric, transparent violin, immaculate white suit and dramatic movements, SUGIZO is quite a sight. Every single time he pauses he receives a thunderous applause from the fans.

YOSHIKI soon joins him again on piano and together they start on the next song. Starting out quite sweetly, it turns heavier and YOSHIKI abuses the piano by trashing on the keyboard with his elbow. He soon sits down on his drum stool again to work out his aggression on the drums with the ‘good ol’’ Kurenai and after that the newer songs Born To Be Free and I.V. Both the band and the fans are finally rocking out. ToshI joins YOSHIKI behind his drum kit and SUGIZO climbs onto the back partition of the stage. For Born To Be Free PATA moves to the front of the stage to play a solo, but observant viewers might have noticed that the solo that is heard is being played by SUGIZO instead. Fortunately this is not always the case and the two guitarists show some excellent teamwork with their characteristic twin guitar solos.

Between songs TOSHI and especially YOSHIKI talk to the audience. Most of it is unfortunately not very audible, but the ‘thank you’s and ‘I love you’s are received well by the audience and met with loud cheers in response. While the two band members stand at the front of the stage, two Spanish flags and one Dutch one are thrown on the stage. The Dutch flag is used by YOSHIKI as a cape and he throws the other flags over TOSHI’s head. Unfazed, TOSHI simply continues to scream into his microphone, amusing the fans.

The song X is of course indispensable in the set list. Exactly at the right moment all fans jump with their arms showing an ‘x’, and head bang to the music. “We are?!” the band members yell and inexhaustible, the fans yell “X!” in return. Just like at the other European concerts, YOSHIKI chooses this moment to stage dive into the audience, which doesn’t seem to be a great decision. The screaming girls try to pull him down, which results in several people being stuck under and around him, and the barriers give way. When YOSHIKI finally crawls back on the stage after yelling to the fans from the shoulder of a body guard, their staff stops the concert to ask the fans to push less. Shortly after, the band finishes the song and leaves the stage.

Except for two girls, everyone manages to come out unharmed but the venue staff decides to take precautions. While the fans scream for an encore, the staff enters the stage once again to ask everyone to stop pushing. The barriers are propped up with pieces of wood and the space at the front is filled with venue staff to keep the fans at a distance.

The first song of the encore is a ballad, Endless Rain. A few of the band members have changed their outfits, SUGIZO now sporting a black outfit with an open back, HEATH has neglected to put on any shirt at all and YOSHIKI wears a red, kimono-like robe that doesn’t stay on for long either. The song is excellent for singing along to, and the fans do this devotedly. TOSHI lets the fans sing the chorus several times, which sounds surprisingly good coming from so many people.

SUGIZO plays his violin again for the last song of the night, Art of Life. He and YOSHIKI on piano start on the song while YOSHIKI wrings himself into the most impossible, dramatic positions on his piano stool. Shortly after, the other three members join them on stage again, and the fans rock out for the last time.

Then, the band says their goodbyes to the audience. With linked hands they jump a few times and throw all their guitar picks, water bottles and drum sticks into the audience. Unfortunately they don’t remain on stage for a long time to enjoy their applause, but disappear backstage soon after.

X JAPAN is undoubtedly the most legendary Japanese rock band and it was surely a performance fans will never forget. Still, it was a pity that the long wait darkened the mood, and also the focus on YOSHIKI with the other band members often left literally in the dark was rather strange. Even though Tivoli Oudegracht might not have been the best location, the small venue gave fans the opportunity to see their idols up close. YOSHIKI promised to come back to the Netherlands, so we’re waiting to see how they will surprise us again in the future!


Set list

1. Jade
2. Rusty Nail
3. Silent Jealousy
4. Drain
5. Kurenai
6. Born To Be Free
7. I.V
8. X

Encore:
9. Endless Rain
10. Art of Life
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