Yoshiki, Pata and Heath of X Japan perform at Baltimore Otakon. Image courtesy of Yoshiki
MUSIC: X Japan leader thrills audience at Baltimore Otakon with exhilarating performance
BALTIMORE— What a performance! That is the best way to describe Yoshiki’s performance at the Baltimore Convention Center on Sunday. The Sunday Concert which was part of Otakon 2014 lived up to expectation. Yoshiki’s fans and lovers of X Japan began to lineup for the performance as early as 9: 00 AM. From Sharp Street to the performance hall, the line was endless. As fans waited to get into the hall, many took photographs and selfies with their phones. While some did the “We Are X” pose, others pretended to be Yoshiki in performance. Dressed like famous perfomer, they acted as if they were playing the piano or guitar.
By 10: 30 AM, the hall was packed full and many were still waiting to get in. Those that could not find seats leaned against the wall. With every passing minute, anticipation grew and excitement filled the hall. Lovers of the anime, manga, video games, and music from the Far East were absolutely ecstatic and ready for this performance based on Yoshiki Classical World Tour.
At about 11: 00 AM, the lights dimmed and the show began. On stage, a screen came alive and a video highlighting Yoshiki‘s music career began to play. Fans could not control their excitement as they embarked on a journey of the compelling music career of this young performer. From the wildly successful X Japan Reunion World Tour, to the anniversary of the Japanese Emperor’s enthronement, and the captivating 69th Golden Globes composition, it was a spectacular experience watching the progress of the artist though the years. Crowning the video voyage was Yoshiki’s memorable drumming performance at the Tokyo Dome. It was breathtaking!
When Yoshiki got on stage, the crowd went wild. Screaming and shouting, they yelled “We love you”. Yoshiki was ready. He began the performance with Miracle VTR and soon transitioned to Forever Love, a song the audience knew too well. With so much dexterity and passion, Yoshiki navigated the piano keys, stroking up and down like one possessed by music demons. It was soon clear why Yoshiki is one of Asia’s most celebrated musical artists and the biggest rock icon.
Yoshiki, with Forever Love, took the audience to a crescendo before gradually giving them a breather. In his usual tradition of thanking his fans, the celebrated musician reached for the microphone to thank his already ecstatic fans. The sound of his voice could not calm them down as they responded with a thunderous applause. It was absolute bliss when Yoshiki performed Anniversary.
After Anniversary Yoshiki introduced Kate Fitzgerald, the female vocalist for Yoshiki’s music project, Violet UK. The introduction was funny as well as revealing. Who knew Yoshiki could be so funny. Yes, he loves crab cakes, too. The interaction between Yoshiki and Katie led to the next performance. Fitzgerald with Yoshiki performed the Classical Version of Hero, the theme song from the most recent Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary animated film. Saint Seiya was followed by an arranged version of X Japans famous song Tears. Yoshiki wrote Tears in memory of his late father.
Yoshiki is very passionate about his father and his death continues to have major impact on his career. Tears was an opportunity for Yoshiki to talk about his late father, who he remembers with the fondest memories. In a passionate interaction with the audience, Yoshiki recalled how the death of his father shaped his musical persona. He also recalled the formation of X Japan, breakup of the group and the death of band mate and close friend, Hide. It was like reliving those very painful moments all over again. Yoshiki’s emotional narrative about the loss of his father and treasured friends brought tears to his eyes. The fans also shared his pains and there was sobbing and tears in the hall. This is the side of Yoshiki that many had never seen before. It was clear that although a celebrity, Yoshiki is also a human being. Narration about X Japan’s reunion brought glum smile to Yoshiki’s face and led to his next song.
Yoshiki’s next performances reflected his mood. Without You, a tribute song was solemn and sober. As he played, a video paying tribute to his father and friends played on the screen behind him. From their tours to music concerts and playful moments, it was clear from the video that theirs was a perfect friendship. Without You, was followed by Kurenai. Although it was brief, it was sweet. Yoshiki Sextet, the string section of Yoshiki group took over from where he stopped. Although the Sextet was missing two of its members, they gave a rousing performance. Violinists Michelle Hassler and Desiree Hazley combined with Kiara Ana Perico on viola and Leah Metzler on Cello, to give an emotional performance that transcended love and lost to reflect Yoshiki’s music and life.
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Art of Life brought spirit back to the hall. Soon after Yoshiki’s rendition of Art of Life, Pata and Heath, both members of X Japan, came on stage to give some support to their friend. Together, they sent the audience on the fun path with short but electrifying performances. Pata and Heath had some fun with Yoshiki as the audience cheered. The moment was an opportunity for them to remind the audience of X Japan’s coming show at Madison Square Garden in New York this October. Yoshiki also announced the winner of a ticket to watch the Madison Square Garden show. The lucky winner was Sandra V., whose winning ticket includes an airfare to New York.
Yoshiki ended the night with an amazing performance of Endless Rain. The beautiful arrangement of the X Japan classic left the audience asking for more. When Yoshiki left the stage, he could not stay away for too long. The unending applause brought him and other members of the X Japan back to the stage. Back on stage, he took out is phone from his pocket and recorded the cheering audience. It was fun galore. This was followed by the chanting of “We Are X”. Yoshiki led the chanting by showing off the X sign with his hands crossed. Soon the audience joined in and the chant of “We Are X” reverberated through the hall. As the audience left, a classical rendition of Endless Rain saw them off.