Art of Life. Memories of a moving weekk-end to London. The song is so long that it proved tricky, but what’s coming next is even longer. Grab a tea, sit down comfortably, I say you’ll be reading for about an hour. I hope you will like it: it was good for me to write it.
Sometimes a sentence gets stuck in my head. It’s like those earworm-songs, when you only know one line of their lyrics and it goes round round round and remains.
“I live only for this moment”.
This sentence goes round my head since the first of March and I still haven’t found out where it comes from. Is it a sentence I wrote long, long ago? Or is it a sentence written by someone else, an Internet anon that marked me for who-knows-which-reason, or one of my favourite books that I might have forgotten?
I tend to forget too fast, but this sentence came back to my mind and it stays, although unclear.
Shouldn’t it be “I exist only for this instant?”
I live my life full-speed, full-emotions. No wonder such a sentence comes back to me when my heart starts beating faster and my emotions get so entwined that I can’t exactly figure out what I am feeling anymore.
And it’s especially no wonder that this sentence comes back to me at that moment.
End of 2003 – the precise archives have been lost for long.
It’s her final year of junior high. 13-year-old Lia discovers lots of things at once.
First, she discovers metal, going through a transition that was rather common at that time (old school hard rock that parents listen to – numetal that radios play – Rammstein? Sounds good enough, let’s give it a try).
Then she discovers what could be called Otaku culture, as someone unexpectedly lent her a few anime DVDs. This makes her go through another transition (also perfectly coherent at that time): Harry Potter – the Lord of the Rings – All kinds of mangas.
Finally, she discovers Emptiness. Capital E. It’s the hole in her chest, that her then-mentor calls “The Unnamed Feeling” when she tries to describe it. Anxiety, depression, hypersensitivity: all those things she had inside her since the beginning or close, but she had never really realized their presence until now.
Lia spends a lot of time on the Internet. That’s great: her family just had access to the DSL line and her PC finally left the living-room to get inside her own room. That day, roaming around a forum, or reading a fanfiction, or through a conversation, she discovers the name X Japan.
Lia is a curious girl. Lia has always been curious and Internet is a wonderful place for curious people. It doesn’t take much time for her to find websites using X Japan as background music. Back then, it was rather easy to find mp3 in direct download, although it could take some time.
She finds four songs. Miscast, Silent Jealousy, X.
And by double-clicking on the first of the list, Drain, she discovers X Japan
March 4, 2017. London.
For the whole week I’ve been telling everyone I met that I AM GOING TO ATTEND AN X JAPAN CONCERT, in a hysterical voice, because it’s so fun. IT’S GOING TO BE SO AWESOMELY AWFUL.
I can’t help but establish a parallel with Europe, which was one of my cornerstone-bands, and that I could finally see live back in November 2016. The concert had been so utterly bad that I almost left the venue before the end. In a way, I’m not expecting any better from X Japan. I may be protecting myself from being disappointed, but isn’t that rather normal? I’m one of those who were dubious about the band getting back together, I was a victim of repeated cancellations and lost promises. I gave up on the latest updates. Yoshiki’s crimped face in all his video interviews and his selfies makes me sad. Seeing the other band members growing old makes me sad. This is not my X.
But I do owe an X Japan concert to my 15-year-old self. When you’re offered to make a dream come true, you can’t refuse. Even though it’s ten years too late, and never mind the potential disappointment.
I’m not the only one following this reasoning. In the end, we’ll be three of my crew attending this concert for the sake of good old times. My wife (and faithful traveling companion) Hime, and M. who will join us in London.
Hime and I are so dubious about it all that we wait for the last minute to plan everything. We are expecting yet another cancellation. In the end, the bus tickets are taken, the hostel is booked.
We spend the evening before getting up-to-date with X Japan’s latest songs, since we gave up around 2009, as well as remembering the good old songs. Celebration’s MV is still the best for a good laugh. Then we turn to discovering Stupeflip’s newest album (out just that day, spoiler alert: it’s great), so as to change the mood and not get fed up with X Japan before even seeing them.
Our adventure gets a good start when we almost miss our bus.
Never mind the pain in the chest and the lungs wheezing with asthma: we still manage to catch our Megabus in extremis and we leave France at around 1 in the morning, for a long travel night.
Past midnight, here we are: X-Day has started…
We get to London one hour and a half earlier than we were meant to. That was rather unexpected. It’s not even 6 in the morning, we have plenty of time. We take the chance to go visit our hostel (turns out it’s quite a hellhole, but it will be fine for one night), take a nice breakfast, and sleep on the couch at the hostel since it’s too early to check-in
As we enjoy those hours of catching up on late sleep, my phone one-sidedly decides that charging is too mainstream for it. It had been moody for weeks, I knew there was a short-circuit in the charging port, but this time is the one when it doesn’t want to hear anything about it anymore. When my battery goes low, the phone will switch off, not to be switched on again.
No need to panic. Everything will be fine. Hime and M. both know each other’s phone numbers. We’re not lost. I turn on plane mode on my phone, just to be sure that I can take one or two photos.
M. sends us a message at the time when she was meant to take off. In France, the storm Zeus is blowing hard. The wind is strong and her plane can’t take off just yet. All flights are delayed, she doesn’t know when she’ll manage to join us.
In the end, we get back to sleep just to be sure we’ll have our energy-gauges filled for tonight. Then, at around 11, it’s time to visit. We jump in the first bus we find, taking the chance: “Let’s see where it goes!”
Turns out we were lucky: the last stop was just by King’s Cross and it’s Platform 9 ¾. Success. Then we walk, we get to enjoy the sight of a huge protest demonstration (March 4, march for… hashtag Every day is punday) before getting lost in Soho when trying to find a place to eat. M. is only two hours late when she finally joins us. It’s 14:30.
We find a burger place and take the time to eat, talk, eat more, talk more (we haven’t met for AGES. Lots of things to catch up on!), then we look for a café, get lost, find a café, realize that we’re too short on time, we drive the waiter mad, leave in a rush (but we DID pay for the coffee though) and it’s time for us to ride the more-than-famous London tube.
As we walk through the long corridors, I come to an halt: I saw a We Are X notice on the wall. There is a notice for X Japan. Inside. The. London. Tube.
Well, considering the circumstances, it’s rather obvious I guess. And yet it seems so unbelievable. I would have never even dreamt of that only ten years ago.
But there’s no time to lose on such details: we’re already late.
My legendary public-transportation-misfortune strikes and we have to struggle to reach Wembley Stadium, almost on time. Inside the metro, I try to guess who will be attending the concert along with us –I always do it, before every concert, and usually it works, but this time I keep on being totally wrong. It’s not a problem: there’s a long line of people going out of the metro and to the Arena and we can easily follow without getting lost.
It’s crowded in front of the Arena when we reach the place. The queue line is huge. It takes some time for us to understand that this line is only for those who wish to buy merch. “The entrance is right there”.
Oh. We follow the others, get through the checking of our bags, and we are in.
Cosplays everywhere are amazing, and I’m so happy to see them. I’m so happy to see all the people around, actually. They seem to come from everywhere, some Japanese girls even travelled all the way from Japan to London only for 24 hours, for the concert. It’s amazing, people around speak all sorts of languages, I notice there are Swedish people behind us.
Shouts of “We are X!” can be heard through the hall. We quickly check the merch stand inside just to confirm what we already thought: everything is awfully expensive. Forget about the goodies. How about we just get to our seats?
Until now everything happens just like any regular concert, one more among all the ones that I have attended. And yet the atmosphere already seems a little different.
X fans are a strange lot. You can feel how devoted they are to the band. And anyone who likes X is their friends, so it’s easy to chat with other people while waiting. We talk, take pictures, answer to the shouts of “We are…”
Behind the door, we can hear the soundchecks, the low rumble of the bass, and yet I am still not really understanding what’s happening.
It’s so strange. There was a time when I almost had a radar for this bass. If I had heard it then…
Beginning of 2006. The precise archives are lost.
If you already know Lia, you know she’s definitely not a visual person. She needs sounds, words, emotions. Images seem cold, she hates movies, she never really thinks of looking for photos or videos.
Most of the time she’s not interested in knowing the people behind the music and words she enjoys. Sometimes she draws mental pictures that turn out to be rather interesting and especially mistaken (for example, she spent ten years thinking that Freddie Mercury was a tall, long-blonde-haired and blue-eyed man. It seemed to stick with the voice. Close enough, Lia.) Most of the time she doesn’t have any image in mind, save for the colours and shapes that each song draws inside her, and she doesn’t want to spoil those with fixed images.
How ironical to be a fan of a “visual rock” band when you have to be the least visual person ever.
She’s been listening to X Japan for three years, discovering new songs every now and then. It wasn’t an easy task to find X providers at that time!
It takes the words of one of her best friends then, her “little sister” to whom she had introduced X Japan and who went further to learn the story, for Lia to try and understand all the things behind the band.
This is how Lia makes a wonderful and ridiculous discovery: music is not only a bunch of lights, colours, shapes and emotions inside her. Music is done by real people; there are instruments. It is obvious, she had always known about it, but she had never really understood what it implied.
With X Japan, for the first time, she gets interested in a band and discovers that there is more than just the entity “band”. There are people in there. A drummer, a singer, two guitarists, a bassist. Different instruments with each their musical colour, musical taste, and different people with different experiences, backstories, characters.
It has to be the most obvious and stupidest epiphany ever!
Along with all of this, Lia discovers the bass. It’s amazing, this instrument is insanely awesome, why hadn’t she heard about it before? (Now that’s bad faith. Her “little sister” is a bassist. Lia just never understood anything.) It’s so amazing how round the sound of a bass can be, and soft too, and metallic, and thwarting. It shakes her, it’s the best sound in the world and it makes her heart warm.
Lia may fall a little in love with Heath, X Japan’s second bassist. Maybe he’s not the best bassist in the world, but he’s quite a good one and most of all he is the one who allowed her to discover the bass, the same way X made her understand that there were people inside a band, and that’s what’s important.
Now she feels like she maybe could do some music with her friends. Maybe.
It doesn’t take more for Lia to get engrossed in the band’s backstory. She wants to see everything, to know everything, to learn everything. She will know everything, titles, lyrics, names, dates, characters. And she’ll have her own band. And she’ll try to learn the bass too. Why not?
Lia is not sixteen yet but she needs a reason to live. This one is as good as any.
Soundchecks are over and we can get into the concert hall. I have a nice surprise: contrary to what I feared, our seats are actually not so bad. We’re really far from the stage, but we’re facing it perfectly and we will be able to stand without bothering the people behind us. We’re going to be amazed.
“I can’t realize.”
“Neither can I. They still have some time to cancel. It won’t believe it until I see them for real.”
I feel cynical. I don’t want to trust too much. They are famous for being late, for last minute cancellations… I am so afraid of being disappointed that I pretty much don’t want to expect anything.
And yet I feel I am more and more excited about it all. If for any reason we can’t see the band, I really feel like seeing the film We Are X, that is meant to open for the band. I’ve been following news about it on Yoshiki’s and X Japan’s feeds and the backstory of the band has always been a source of fascination for me.
Here I am, among a crowd of X Japan lovers, people who can understand, and it’s all so magical for me. I spent most of my life having people laugh at me when I said X was one of my favourite bands. We are sitting beside two Asian girls: the first one, right at my left, is called C.. She’s from Taiwan. Her friend is J., from China. I am so happy to get a chance to speak Chinese again, though I forgot most of my vocabulary. It’s been more than five years!
I feel more and more enthusiastic as I go on chatting with them. They are so happy to be here! C. tells me all about her love for the band and listening to her is delightful. I think it does me some good to be able to talk with X Japan fans.
I find back my old passion. I draw back some links with old things… that have been burried so deep within.
2007. November. Precise archives are lost.
High school is over, her group of friends is over. It took only one year to lose two “little sisters” and a first love. But her passion is still here, no matter how isolated she feels in her new apartment.
Becoming independent when you’re not even 17 is not an easy task. Lia writes boredom away. Lots and lots and lots of words and stories and archives. Her memories of X, along with the more painful memories that are linked to them, have been enfouis. It’s always the same: every change in her life, every transition, she destroys everything in her mind, and events that happened only months earlier are like a dream, like they happened to someone else.
And yet she goes on writing.
And every time she gets the chance, she tells X Japaan’s story. Because it’s an amazing story. Because their music is so important. Because she has to share, share before she forgets.
Lia will always end up forgetting.
I sent this long PM on a forum to a friend back in 2007. She didn’t know anything about the band, I summed up the story the best I could. I’m not translating it here, but if you don’t know anything about X Japan, I’ll be more than happy to give you a « brief » overview.
M. gives me a tissue. “You’ll need this”. I know she’s right.
We go on chatting with our new neighbours, taking pictures, freezing this moment in our minds.
Are we X yet?
I’m really happy with meeting them. J. and I start a really interesting conversation about our respective jobs, it’s 18:20 and they are twenty minutes late.
X Japan is always late. They’re even worse than I am.
We remark the technicians that will deal with the lights get to their seats, and cameramen walk around the room. We’re lost in our conversation when the lights are switched off and the huge screen goes down.
Cheers and applauds.
We Are X, X Japan’s movie that I didn’t even hope to see only a few months ago is playing before my eyes and I forget about everything else. They are not here, not yet, but their story is being narrated on the screen.
I know this story all too well. The dramas, the slices of life, the pangs in the heart.
I find back lots of things that I already knew. I discover a few points that I had never heard about. Some images, some sentences writhe my guts. Photos of them when they were young, memories they talk about, the testimony of Toshi about the psychological and physical abuse in the sect… My heart breaks. I knew most of it, I had pictured it, but now I get confirmations and it’s a whole new level of pain.
One image strikes me as a small epiphany would.
“[Yoshiki] was only in his twenties, but all his body emanated death.”
This sentence is followed by a video of the leader, still young and in his times of Great Capillary Madness, running through the streets and laughing his head off. The music feels so nostalgic. It strikes a match in my head.
Yes. That’s it. “It” what? I’m not really sure. But that’s it. This passionate relationship, tightrope-waltzing over the precipice down under. Life on the edge of a knife, you cut yourself, you fall down.
“Exacerbated consciousness of death” told my therapist a few times. I wasn’t sure I understood really well. Now I understand. That’s it. Live to the full because we know, we know we are going to die.
On the screen Yoshiki is still laughing, and then new images come up, the story unrolls.
It’s so easy to identify with those people on the screen. Those people who were the age I am now, who live fast and will die young.
They all talk about this almost sickly need to break the walls that have been forced upon us. The need to be understood. So Yoshiki explains and explains again, and sometimes it’s hard, words don’t come up easily.
Mere inconvenience for some can be traumas for others, and vice versa. Those “some” and “others” can’t understand each other. Those who see us crying can’t understand our tears.
These people are dead, some physically, other metaphorically as their lives have changed so much, and I realize now that I maybe understand. The images go before my eyes, testimonies follow, and I can’t help but feel this scary psychological closeness. Everything seems so logical. I understand and realize that some things can’t be healed, and even with learning how to live with it…
These people are dead and I will die too. Maybe not the same way. I don’t live the same way either.
But some issues are so close it’s uncanny.
“To create some kind of art, I don’t think you should be in a normal state of mind. It’s a war”, says Yoshiki. This strikes a bell too. I get my notebook out and quickly scribble the sentence down in the dark, hoping I’ll be able to read it back. I find it always extrememly comforting to listen to a creator telling about their methods of creation. I find this war I’ve been fighting too, the one you have to lead against you own self so as to get things out and turn them into something beautiful.
Then the band comes to an end. I’ve kept the tissue tight in my hand for forty minutes, feeling my mood go up and down, up and down… When we are shown footage of the fans before their last live, my barriers break.
“Their music saved me.”
Before I know it, before I get a chance to understand, tears overflow. It’s only one sentence, a mere sentence that you often hear people say about their favourite band. Heck, I even said it once or twice to various artists because it is true. And yet never before did I feel it so intensely. Here I am crying in silence: I feel the echo of this sentence inside me. Everything comes back. My self from ten years ago is knocking at the door of my heart and reminding me about her screams, her cries, the pain she inflicted to herself, all the things she wrote while listening to their music, all the things she hung onto.
The CD case flies throughout the room and crashes against the desk. There. This time it’s broken for good. The CD is still being played in the massive CD reader in the middle of the room.
Why is it that all the people and things she loves are the ones who hurt her the most?
Why is it that everything become huge in her mind? She shouldn’t feel that bad, why does she always overreact?
Lia cries. It’s a real, physical pain, straight in the middle of her chest, a pike, a sort of black hole that prevents her from breathing. She has been calling it Emptiness, capital E, for years now, without being able to understand what it is or where it comes from, and it’s driving her crazy. Sometimes she manages to fill it up. Music helps.
Then she remembers that those who played this music disappeared, and she howls.
She tries to forget people, so as to drown even more into the music. “All existence you see before you must be wiped out: Dreams, Reality, Memories, and Yourself.”
For sure, she’ll never see them, but they remain in her head, and in this song, its violence, its rage, its painful lyrics… everything is catharsis for her.
It comes back to me. All those hours researching, how upset I felt, all the things I deduced that seemed so logical. The long written interpretations of Art of Life and The Last Song, that carry such a heavy meaning. The nights I fell asleep, crying, because that was so important and I would never see them. Because they had died ten years earlier.
I’ve been angry at X for a long time, because even though they are linked with some of my best memories, they also bring back the worst things I experienced. That was a rough time in my life. And yet… “Their music saved me”. I need to hear it from someone else to realize that it’s true, it has never been that true for any other artist. No other band made me fall that much into my own self, no other band helped me hold on for so many years. For a while I lived only for and through them, and it allowed me to create links with those that would later become my Family of Heart –those who would later save my life too, quite a few times.
In a blur, I almost can see the branches of the tree of decisions in my life and I realize how close this band is to the trunk. So many things come back to X. I had never noticed it was so important, and it makes me cry.
And I keep on crying as the images goes on flashing before my eyes.
hide died. More than fifty thousand attend the burial.
The movie unrolls and I still am crying.
It takes the final sentence for my tears to calm down.
“Those who carry their scars, they lean on our music, to move through life with us. That’s our sound. In spite of those wounds, those who won’t give up on the future and keep on living -our music speaks to those souls.”
I am one of these souls. And among the grieving I had to go through, there was the fact that I would never meet this band, the band who probably shook me more than any other, the band who wrote an important part of the soundtrack of my life.
I feel like I had completed this grieving. I was over it. You can’t prevent people from leaving, from disappearing. But you take them within yourself. You always keep them, a little, deep inside. It can be an annoying habit, a sentence you never said before, a song that comes back to you, a few memories. It’s true for everything that disappears in our lives: the death of a close one, the moments we lived and that are gone, the things we have done… It’s also true for everything that inspired us. In a way, X is a part of me now. It’s a small part of my identity, along with so many other things, lost in the mass of everything that makes my self and at the same time a huge part of me. How amazing, the way some elements can be a cornerstone of a life… How amazing the way a simple movie can throw everything back to me. I sure didn’t expect this.
The movie already comes to an end.
Through flashes, each member appears, one by one. Those who are gone, those who are left. And the voice of an introduction I’ve already heard so many times resonate through the hall.
“Introducing… X – Japan, Japan, Japan…”
I’m counting, as usual. No Amethyst, no “We will show you the place where dreams and life become one”, it doesn’t matter, I know what happens next. Thirty times will the word “Japan” be repeated, resounding through the venue, along with my heartbeats…
…no. The voice doesn’t say “Japan” thirty times. It doesn’t last that long. I am not inside the Last Live. We’re not talking about this X. I am easily unsettled.
With the twenty-first “Japan”, the screen becomes black.
People cheer. My heart stops. I almost expected Rusty Nail to starts immediately… shouldn’t it?
With the movie ending this way, I feel like they can only start the concert now. It’s 19:30, the show was meant to start at 20:30. But they just can’t leave us on this. Not now. Not after such an end.
But there were only 21 “Japan”. Maybe the film does end this way. And yet it would be a nice transition, wouldn’t it?
A moment of hesitation.
Sure it would.
The keyboard notes of the introduction of Rusty Nail fill the venue. Lights go crazy, the screen is folding up. I am so stunned that I forget to applaud or shout. I quickly stand up from my seat, and everyone around me seem to do the same. The stage is drowned in blue light, white lights are dancing to the rhythm of the introduction that repeats itself over and over, and we can see four small silhouettes, very far away from us (the stage seems so small from our seats!). Maybe this time, this is it. Maybe I am here for real. Maybe they won’t cancel this time. Maybe… Maybe they’re here too.
Maybe they’re here.
I recognize the voice of Prologue~World Anthem. Or a close enough voice. I know this speech by heart… Except this time the voice is addressing us. It’s not addressing an audience I see through a screen.
“Let me hear you scream!”
I wish I could scream, but no sound gets past my lips. My voice remains strangled in my throat.
One by one, the voice calls the names. The list is longer than the one I’m used to.
“On vocals, Toshi… TOSHI!”
People around me start shouting and clapping, my legs are shaking and the lights are hurting my eyes.
“On bass, Heath… HEATH!”
Oh gods. It’s true. They are here. He is here. My time has come. I come back to my senses and shout too. “HEAAAAAAATTTHHHHH!”. I hear I’m not the only one. For twelve years I had been dreaming to do this.
“On guitar, Pata… PATA!”
Every shouted name is echoed by the audience that is slowly awakened from the slumber the movie had laid upon them. Every name is applauded. They are here.
“On guitar, Sugizo… SUGIZO!”
I jump, not really sure about what I heard. The introduction I know by heart is the one from twenty years ago… I was expecting another name. A name that won’t come.
“On bass, Taiji… TAIJI!”
The audience is still shouting and I am lost. They called Taiji. I could almost picture him, raising an arm with his disillusioned look. But he won’t. We saw his grave in the movie…
I know who comes after.
“On guitar, hide… HIDE!”
The audience is louder than for all the other members. Sugizo raise his hand to the sky. Hide had always been the audience favourite. Hide remains in everyone’s hearts. Hide is still a full-time member of the band.
“And on drums and piano… YOSHIKI! YOSHIKI!”
The shouting gets even louder. From the very beginning Yoshiki claims his role of leader. The movie made it rather clear: X Japan is Yoshiki. The stage lights tell so too: a ray of white light falls upon the maestro facing the audience, his arms X-crossed. The other members remain in the dark.
The audience is fully awaken now.
“WE… ARE… XXXXXX!”
An army of X-crossed arms are raised in the audience while Yoshiki sits. Four cymbal hits, and Rusty Nail finally starts for real. Chaos in my head. So much information to process at once. C., beside me, is filming the stage, filming us.
It’s time to party.
The audience is singing.
X Japan is playing before us. For real. Not on a screen. Not in the living-room with a projector. We had good speakers but they come nothing close to those guitar riffs that strum and resound through myself, nor to the 12 000 people shouting around me.
We have been waiting for this for so long, we didn’t even dare wait anymore. I’d given up hoping, believing, but fate made it so I’m standing here, more than ten years later…
“Dore dake namida o nagaseba…”
Dear X-Japan, this bet has been won: all the audience is singing these Japanese lyrics. Sure, it took time. But it’s working. Don’t stop singing in Japanese. That’s what we want too.
I get lost in the lyrics, the lights, the lasers, the visuals on the screen behind the band. The song comes to an end and I feel like my batteries are fully charged.
“WHAT’S UP, LONDOOOOONNN?”
The audience is ecstatic. Toshi is talking to us. Toshi is facing us. Without adding anything, they start playing Hero.
I don’t know Hero –rather, I only know the classical version. Let’s be honest, I’m rather lost in all the side projects Yoshiki is dealing with. I feel like there is no limit between Yoshiki and X Japan anymore. Identities overlap now, even more than in the 90s.
I catch the lyrics during the song: Toshi gives them so we can answer him. The audience sings. We may not be fifty thousand, but we sing with all our heart.
I notice that Toshi’s voice is as strained as ever when it goes too high, but I feel like he is a lot more comfortable with it than before. Vocal training? That wouldn’t be surprising, but it gives a pleasant feel to the songs.
He still crouches when he sings though. Some things will never change.
At the end of the song, Toshi talks with us some more.
“Finally, we are here: WEMBLEYYYY! We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long, long time!”
C., with whom I had discussed Toshi’s progress in English before the show, turns to me: “See? He’s like a native!”
I wouldn’t go as far as saying “native” but I have to admit that I am impressed. The painful introduction of Kurenai on Blue Blood seems really far indeed.
Toshi then hands the microphone to Yoshiki who reminds us “Today, we’re playing with TAIJI and HIDE!”
The audience screams. X Japan is counting seven members now.
July 23, 2011.
After having spent 10 months in China and one week in the East and the North of India, Lia reaches Delhi. This trip has already been too long, she’s exhausted, India is a new trauma for her. She hates being here, she wants to get home, she wants to have news from her people, those who understand her and that she understands too, she wants to forget about the oppression she feels in this country. She borrows the computer of the hotel she’s staying at to check her e-mail for the first time in ten days. And then she sees it, posted two days earlier, someone sent her the info. Taiji’s dead.
She doesn’t know how to react. At that moment she’s far away from everything, away from herself, away from the passions she had years before. Taiji’s dead not long after his 45 if she counted well. She’s surprised she still knows his birth date. Back then she knew all their birth dates. She knew everything. But she had muffled everything down, she had erased everything. X seems so far now.
And yet… And yet Taiji’s dead. Her throat is dry. Not that far. X always remain close to her heart.
Lia reaches for her mp3 player. Lost in the middle of Delhi, exhausted, she feels like she needs to listen to Endless Rain.
Yoshiki then launches the first round of “We are…”, followed by Toshi. We had already done quite a few while waiting for the show to begin, but doing it while answering the calls of the members on stage makes it even more magical.
The show goes on with Jade. I elected this song “musical frustration of the band”. The introduction is amazing, flames and lights go crazy on stage, red fire creates Xs in the back, I allow myself to headbang for the first time. The first verse leaves room for the bass and I’m not one to complain about it. But the chorus falls flat. I had already heard the studio version of this song, but I feel like the contrast is even more blatant when played live. The bridge and the guitar solo (although very different from X’s good old melodic solos that I love) catch back the energy of the intro, and… then the chorus falls flat again.
Thankfully Toshi allows us to sing along, holding the microphone towards us. I have no idea what the lyrics are, but they’re easy to guess. It’s good that X’s English lyrics are not hard to memorize. A bit like power metal.
I guess X is a bit like power metal sometimes.
Jade ends, along with more fire and more catchy riffs (catchy but deceiving: the musical frustration goes on until the end). Cheers and applauds, then Toshi offers us to listen to Yoshiki’s voice, who then calls for Pata and tries to fill up while waiting for the guitarist to come back on stage. I don’t know if they have problems with their monitor but I feel like they have communication problems.
Pata gets back on stage and we cheer. “He finally got well”, says Yoshiki, and we all warmly welcome the news. He apologizes again for the delaying of the concert before giving the microphone to a clearly uncomfortable Pata. “I’m back in London”, says the guitarist before handing back the microphone, giving a short salute then fleeing from stage. Some things will never change: Pata apparently still hasn’t grown to love the spotlights.
Yoshiki then takes some time to apologize for the lateness of the new album (frank laughs in the audience). “But we wouldn’t have had this new song called La Venus! Believe me, we’re at 99% now… I know, nobody believes me anymore.”
As we had been told in 2015 that the album was 90% done, I guess it is an improvement, but Yoshiki’s right: nobody believes him anymore. The leader seems to be the same as all great creative minds I know (be they famous or not): he gets lost between his various projects. We will get the album when we get the album, and that’s what matters. But seeing Yoshiki getting lost in his own explanations is, I admit, rather comical.
“But since we can still do it, we will add a final touch to this album by recording your voices.”
The audience cheers.
“Toshi will teach you.”
“I’m your teacher”, claims Toshi. We laugh. Seems like he’s taking this role very seriously. “Kiss the Sky”, he introduces the song, but Yoshiki doesn’t seem to hear him. He starts playing the piano, before stopping and picking the microphone up.
“This song’s called Kiss the Sky.”
“I told them!”, outcries Toshi.
It’s a true comedy, these troubles in communicating. And it’s only the first time it happens. I see them constantly fidgeting the plugs in their ears, so I keep on wondering if there is a problem with their monitor.
Yoshiki then plays the chorus for Kiss the Sky, and the audience starts singing. It’s not the first time they play it and some already know the tune (especially since it’s not a really complex one). As Yoshiki sees Toshi is not singing, he picks the microphone up again: second time false start.
“They knew!”, Toshi explains. “Oh really? Alright let’s do it directly then. Toshi will sing and you repeat with wowowo.”
As Toshi wants to remain a dutiful teacher he makes us repeat “wowowo”, detaching each syllable. A very elaborate lesson that makes me laugh again.
Finally they start the song for real and we repeat “wowowo”s. It seems a little chaotic, I’m not sure everyone knows what to sing, chances are we are all mistaken but our arms are still dancing to the slow rhythm of the song. It’s a beautiful moment. We all share the same experience and our voices mix up together. I love it when an audience sings as a choir, it’s one of my soft spots in a song… especially when there is a modulation, as Toshi makes us raise our voices in the end.
“Thank you! Thanks to you, we will finally complete this album! Wowowo!”
We laugh again. Geez, Toshi and Yoshiki are funny!
Yoshiki then plays a piano introduction I don’t recognize. I have actually never heard the song that comes after, but it seems like she also suffers from that “sounds badass but actually isn’t” aspect that I already found in Jade. Doesn’t matter, still headbanging. (I’ll learn later on that this song is called Beneath the Skin and was written for super-band S.K.I.N. Once more: I don’t get anything about X Japan’s newest songs. It seems like they are all coming from different projects. If they end up in the album the CD’s going to be quite the patchwork. Even worse than my way of writing.)
The song style is different, but I can’t say I dislike it, and…
“Hey! Heath is not using a pick! He’s playing with FINGERS!! HE’S SLAPPING!!!”
OK. This song is my new favourite song.
…Right, right, maybe it isn’t. But I love the bass part. I share my contentment by jumping and partying more, but Hime calms me down: my hair is lashing at her face. I find a new headbanging method and get back to the song. I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of twin guitars during the solo. I hope it won’t be the same for all their new songs, because nothing claimed X Japan more than twin guitars for me.
I feel my head spinning a little at the end of the song and decide to calm down a bit. Nice timing: the show gets quieter as Pata starts his solo. It’s great to see him under the main lights. He teases the audience by playing the introduction for Standing Sex, but doesn’t go further in the song (mean, mean Pata) and Heath arrives on stage to play his own solo.
Mixed feelings. It’s Heath. He’s here, in front of me (although he’s quite far, he has never been that close anyway), all flesh bones, and legs, with his usual way of walking that is so characteristic of him, as if still constantly surprised to be that tall. It is Heath, no doubt about it, and it makes me so happy, and yet… Yet the sound of the bass is awful, too much distortion (I really don’t like distortion on a bass), I’m really puzzled by what he’s playing (with a pick. Why?), especially after the previous song, and…
“Why the hell is he playing chords on a bass?”
Pata and Heath play together for a while, instruments crackle and I feel almost relieved when the end of their solo comes. I know how good they both are and I can’t help but feel a bit bitter…
…A bitterness quickly averted, thankfully, as a beatbox starts filling the venue. It’s the introduction for Drain. It takes only one beat to drive me literally hysterical.
January 1st, 2007 (let’s say around 1 in the morning).
“What about you? What’s your favourite song?”
“Oh. I don’t like it that much. I prefer Kurenai.”
“Well… I still think Kurenai is X Japan’s best song, but my favourite remains Drain.”
“So your favourite is not their best?”
It seems obvious to Lia, but it’s not for everyone, and she doesn’t know how to explain.
It’s the first New Year they spend together, the first one of a long series. They are linked through Fate and common passions, especially one, X. Two cousins, three other friends, one bass, one guitar, one keyboard, one drums set, one microphone. They play music together, and they really are not good at it, but they still have fun. And they are happy to gather together, not knowing that this New Year will be a decisive one -the birth of a Blue House.
“Was Drain the song I woke you up with?”
“No, that was Miscast.”
The story goes back to 2004, when she really didn’t want to wake up during the holidays, and her cousin had discreetly turned her mp3 player on, pushed volume to max (she had fallen asleep with her earplugs) and had started the first song he had found.
Lia can’t listen to Miscast anymore now. She kind of hates it. Kind of.
Drain is different. She spent afternoons listening to it. She managed to scream out all the things that were pulling her down thanks to Drain. Hide’s music, Toshi’s lyrics, it’s her garde fou, her rage, a track in the OST of her autobiography (with Art of Life but Art of Life doesn’t count).
Looking back, it seems rather logical: she has always preferred industrial metal, and chances are that Drain was her first experience of the genre.
They still talk a bit before falling asleep one by one. 2007 will be a year filled with surprises and emotions. And what to say of the ten years that will come after…
Toshi (wearing a tee-shirt, which easily makes him look twenty years younger. How is he doing this? Are you sure those people are fifty?) joins Heath and Pata on stage and announces: “DRAIN!”
I’m lost, I’m not here anymore, I’m jumping, I’m headbanging, I’m screaming the lyrics to the top of my lungs.
I turn to Hime: “hide’s singing the back vocals!”
She doesn’t seem to hear me, never mind, I’m already back in the song.
Bass is amazing. Guitar is amazing. At that precise moment, Toshi’s voice is like home. Yoshiki is missing but that’s okay if he’s not under the spotlights for once, it’s not his song, he’s here for the whole rest of the show, and I’m seeing my favourite song live, and I didn’t expect this, and I am so, so, so happy. C. turns to me: seeing me about to fly makes her laugh.
I don’t stop once to jump, scream, shout, dance, headbang. Toshi shouts “HIDE CHAAAAAAAAN” and we can hear hide do the back vocals again, this time more clearly.
“Let me drain – my feelings out – lough like a drain – my emotions scream… LET ME DRAIIIIN!”
Toshi’s final scream reverbate deep inside me. I feel my fifteen-year-old-self opening the back door of my mind, more and more. So many things in my head, in my furiously beating heart, I feel every vibration, it’s amazing to live this. My body is shaken and I have to catch my seat not to fall down.
Toshi, Heath and Pata leave the stage and we loudly cheer. Then the atmosphere changes: blue, planets on the screen, and a silhouette enters the stage from the right. We are too far, we can’t see well, we can distinguish… a long… coat? Dress? And clear hair?
“Is that Yoshiki in a dress?”
It’s not. When the silhouette picks a violin up, I understand.
“It’s Sugizo’s solo!”
Of course. Sugizo plays the violin… I discovered him thanks to that. Back then, my “little sister” had started taking violin lesson thanks to him.
We sit back to enjoy the show. With these lights and colours I am really traveling to another planet. I wonder for a while why Sugizo would play a song by Hervé Vilard, before he gets to the chorus and everything then seems obvious and I feel stupid. Bowie. Life on Mars. It’s not a dress, it’s a long coat with the Union Jack.
I feel like I’m floating, carried to different universes. I fully enjoy this moment of surreal serenity.
I take some time to have a look at Sugizo, X Japan’s newest member that I don’t really know that well in the end. I never really listened to Luna Sea (I never really listened to J Rock or Visual Kei, save for X Japan), I know his fame and some of his violin pieces but that’s about all.
Sugizo has a fascinating grace, elfin features crossed with mimics and grimaces, and a very, very soft face. This brings an hypnotical charisma that I had never noticed. Of all the guitarists they could have found for the band, he probably was the best choice they could have ever made. Especially with his violin. A violin player in X Japan was pure genius.
Up until now I thought Sugizo a “session member”. Now I rallied his cause: he is a full time member. Maybe one of my favourites. I blame the violin.
Sugizo completes Life on Mars, playing the final note slowly as if to leave a trail before saluting Heavens (and supposedly Bowie, I guess), before Yoshiki joins him for another song. Piano and violin. Soft, beautiful, I feel like I’m flying again. I love how they go from a heavy song that shakes me to a very peaceful and sweet song. A really good rhythm for a show.
We all cheer as Yoshiki and Sugizo play the final notes, and then comes the introduction of a song Hime and I heard quite a few times yesterday when getting up-to-date on X’s latest releases: La Venus. This time I know the lyrics. Easy: it talks about rain, and roses, and grief, and love (in short: this song has been written by Yoshiki).
I had found the song cute and a bit mellow when we heard it yesterday, but I have to admit it is rather filled with a different strength on stage. Not enough for the people sitting around me to get back on their feet, but way enough for me to feel my chest burst with emotions at the moment guitars, drums and bass all enter the stage. It’s a rather simple song, probably too simple for X, but no one can argue that it indeed sounds like X Japan. It’s only missing a few Japanese lyrics and a guitar solo for it to become Endless Rain’s little sister. There won’t be any guitar solo, but sparkles and fireworks suddenly erupt on stage, as if to perfect this atmospheric feel.
“See, see the roses of love…”
I shiver as Toshi starts singing a capella, followed by organ chords, while Yoshiki gets back to the piano to end the song in a mood that feels almost religious.
I wasn’t too sure about this song but the magic worked. Technically, it isn’t and it will never be their best song, but that’s fine: I really enjoy La Venus.
Yoshiki seems moved by our cheering. Emotional Yoshiki… He takes a moment to chat with us and a detail strikes me. “Hime. Yoshiki. He is smiling. With a true smile!”
Hime is glowing with happiness too. He’s not having a crimpled face like the interviews we saw yesterday. He’s just… Yoshiki, the Yoshiki who’s here to have fun and enjoy the evening.
It’s so great and amazing to finally be able to meet this Yoshiki.
He thanks us and tells us: “As you know, X Japan had so much sad story, but because of you, we are still here.”
My ex-English-teacher-self cringes. Lessons I gave about much/many/such/any come back… And there’s this sentence that so many English people say, “because of” when it should be “thanks to”. Is it our fault, is it because of us, really? If it’s a pain we’d stop… (No, we wouldn’t. X fans are about as stubborn as the leader of the band. That’s what makes it all so beautiful.)
Someday I’ll write Yoshiki to tell “thanks to”. Someday. Probably never.
He goes on promoting the soundtrack for We Are X and the Wembley special edition, in red, purple and blue, and Toshi acts as if he was discovering them.
Either they can’t hear each other when they are speaking, either they are really bad actors, either both, but the conversation ends up really funny. The audience laughs whole-heartedly.
Yoshiki explains that they had to take a break from recording the new album to record a few more songs for the soundtrack. “We try to come up with any excuse now.” We snicker.
Yoshiki then tells us more about the new album. Even Toshi seems not to believe him. Once more a pretty fun conversation.
“Toshi’s part is done”, Yoshiki says.
“Yes… I think so.”
“…I hope so.” Toshi’s fearful face leaves no doubt: if we hadn’t understood that already, Yoshiki’s a dictator in the studio.
The leader then goes on telling us about the album: “It’s piece of cake, actually”.
We laugh again. He must realize that he’s getting worse and worse because he starts laughing along.
“Alright let’s move on.”
He tells us about the previous show in London in 2011. They had also gone to Paris, but I was in China at that time… and I’m not even sure I would have gone to the concert back then, due to all the disappointment and cancellations and my distrusting this rebanding.
A posteriori, I guess I would have really enjoyed the show, but it doesn’t matter anymore: I am seeing them now.
While Yoshiki heads for the piano, a fanboy in the audience shouts that he loves him. Yoshiki thus answers very spontaneously “Love you too”. The audience grows hysterical.
Once he’s sitting, Yoshiki takes the time to explain that none of X Japan members has seen the Wembley version of We Are X, that we are the only one who have seen it. Then he goes on explaining that there is a message that X wants to convey.
“The message is: nothing is impossible.”
He then plays a few notes, then turns towards Toshi. “Toshi, do you want to say something?”
He waits for an answer.
“Toshi? Do you want to say something?”
The theory I have that they may be encountering technical difficulties with their sound grows more accurate to me. They really have a hard time hearing, understanding each other. Still, that repetition of “Say something” has me jump on my sit, and I’m not the only one.
Toshi seems to wake up: “Say something? Say anything?”
Yoshiki laughs: “No, no!”, but begins to play Say Anything.
Toshi then encourages the audience, but there’s no need for that. Everyone sings along, the moment is magical. Yoshiki seems to think so too: after the first chorus, he stops, turns and explains that this was not planned at all. “We’d do anything for our London audience… That song isn’t even on the setlist.”
We cheer. It was only part of the song, but I am so happy that this unexpected surprise happened. Unexpectedness is the most beautiful thing in a concert. Especially when the whole audience follows. Surely they might have been a bit surprised.
Yoshiki then announces that we are back to the planned setlist and tries one more time: “Toshi, do you want to say something?”
I’m an easy audience, especially when it comes to comedy of repetition. I’m not the only one: most of us laugh whole-heartedly. Yoshiki then plays a few notes and Toshi claims:
“One more message. Life… Life is BEAUTIFUUUUUL!!!”
The piano becomes crazy and that sentence strikes me straight to the heart. I think of the X Japan from… twenty years ago? Is that twenty years already? I remember the painful lyrics, the tears during the Last Live. Knowing all their stories, the things they’ve been through, this message might well be even more precious than “nothing is impossible”. Even going to Hell and coming back is not impossible.
Life is beautiful. They came back. They are playing together, having fun together.
And in this great momentum of positivity, Yoshiki starts playing the introduction for Born To Be Free.
I know this song. It might be my favorite one out of all their latest releases. Maybe it doesn’t sound exactly like good old X Japan, but it becomes incredibly meaningful when played live. It’s not time to rest anymore, I’m back on my feet, jumping, headbanging, the stage is drowned in flashes, green lasers, red lights and flames. The drums play on that song is insane. The energy is insane. The audience grows insaner. We answer as loud as we can.
When comes the spoken part, Yoshiki leaves the drums set and runs to the piano. That’s how it works with X. I love this.
“But I won’t run. I will rule.”
The whole audience sings along a softer chorus, then Yoshiki starts angrily hitting the notes of the piano before rushing back to the drumkit for a final chorus. Everything explodes. Lights, instruments, audience, I’m drowning in flashes and life. I howl my own lyrics and it makes me feel so good.
“Born to be free, nobody can fucking steal my life away!”
It’s my own and I am going to have a beautiful life.
When the song ends, I feel my head spinning, but X Japan won’t let me rest. My heart stops suddenly. The lights have become totally red. A string ensemble starts playing an introduction I know all too well.
“Oh my God”, I hear C. beside me. She gets her phone out. “This is so important”, she says, preparing to film us.
So important. We’ve been waiting for this for so, so long. No. We didn’t even hope to wait for it for so long, back at that time.
We get ready.
The stage is red, screens are showing the image of hide playing the introduction. The audience cheers even louder for him than for any other member. He’s here with us, twenty years later, for this song.
2007, conference call.
“Holy shit Sam would you please PUT THAT GUITAR DOWN and tell us what you think!”
These conference calls are a life-saving element for Lia. In order to counter her everyday solitude, Lia meets her faraway friends once a week on the phone. They talk about the band, the things that happen in their teenage lives, the latest things they discovered… And it’s something that soothes her. They are not here, but they are here.
And yet, every call it’s the same thing. Every rehearsal it’s the same too. And it’s the same for ALL THE GUITARISTS SHE KNOWS. Lia hates guitarists. They never listen. As soon as they have a guitar in hand, they can’t prevent themselves from playing. Noise pollution. They can’t count when they’re asked for a solo. They always have to fill the sound space when there’s a conversation going on.
And most of all, they are always-always-always playing the introduction for Kurenai. It’s as if her whole group of friends (even those not playing the guitar!) had decided to learn Kurenai.
If at least they could learn the rest of the song!
Lia hates the guitar and she hates guitar players.
But she still loves Kurenai.
“I couldn’t look back, you’d gone away from me…”
We sing along with Toshi, C. is still filming.
But then comes the end of the introduction, when the guitar slowly shatter its arpeggios, it’s like I’m on one of those roller coasters. The ones in which your wagon gets higher, and higher, and higher, and once you’re up there, you can enjoy the view for a very short time before falling down head first.
The arpeggios are over. I’m up, up there, enjoying the view. My heart beats so hard it could fall off my chest. It’s about to burst.
And then Toshi shouts.
I shout along with the whole audience when guitar riffs violently fill the air, when pyro fills the stage, when streams of red ribbons fall upon the front row. As I start jumping, I feel my knees letting go. I fall down on the floor, I catch the seat behind me. Nothing wrong, nothing dangerous, a brief moment when I just don’t really understand why my legs can’t carry me anymore.
There might be exhaustion, due to the trip, due to all the previous song. There might be thirst, too.
There might be everything else.
It’s not just any song. Kurenai da. It’s Kurenai.
Guitars are singing, people around me are shouting, and I don’t understand anything, I lose grasp on everything. Everything except this “It’s Kurenai” in my head, the echo of Toshi’s word.
It is a rather strange experience to see me literally on the floor, wondering why my knees won’t work. C. and Hime seem a bit worried but I know I will get back on my feet. It’s not the first time a concert has me weak and I always get back on my feet.
In the end Toshi’s voice is the trigger to have me stand again. I must not miss one line in the lyrics. Not one word, not one syllable, I have to sing them all. It’s Kurenai. It’s Kurenai, and this is so important.
Their sound is here, so brutally melodic, so brutally honest, so violently present. The lyrics of the song naturally come back, their meaning too, twelve years later everything is just as fresh. It’s like I never stopped singing it. In our row, we are all standing, jumping, singing, shouting.
“KURENAI NI SOMATTA KONO ORE WO NAGUSAMERU YATSU WO MOU INAI…”
In We Are X, Gene Simmons (whose band KISS was one of X’s greatest inspiration, take that symbolism) says: “If those guys were either born in America or England and sang in English, they might be the biggest band in the world.”
And yet, Kurenai is sung in Japanese, and when Toshi leaves us to sing, we are 12 000 people shouting the lyrics of Kurenai as if our lives were at stake. And these lyrics I’d never want to hear in English for anything in the world.
Dear Yoshiki, dear members of X Japan who might write lyrics, please, please never stop writing lyrics in Japanese. The sounds of your mother tongue are the ones that go so well with your songs.
“OH CRY IN DEEP RED!”
The song ends but I would have wanted her never to stop. I’m exhausted but I feel like I’m floating, X Japan is salue before leaving the stage.
I fall back on my seat, stunned. It can’t be over. The lights are still on and they haven’t played X yet. So we call them. The audience calls “We are…X!”
After five minutes spent doing the X-jump along with others, I suddenly realise. “Oh… it’s the entr’acte!”
An entr’acte. Just like any big X Japan concert. Does it mean there’s almost as much time left? I feel so happy, so relieved, I don’t want this concert to end, there are so many more songs I want to see, I don’t want them to leave just yet.
While “We are X!” still echo through the venue, we take the chance of chatting about what we just saw. We all have stars in our eyes.
It seems like we all agree on the fact that “it’s so weird”. It’s so weird, because even though they’re here in front of us, we still can’t come to terms with this reality. Even with my having Drain and Kurenai quite literally thrown at my face, I don’t realize who’s playing in front of me. They’re a bit far, maybe? I don’t recognize them? Or my mind refuses. Because “it’s so weird”. I feel relieved not to be the only one feeling this way.
We talk about hide’s absence and it’s a heavy topic. It’s so weird, to see this band without hide, to realize what it means for him not to be here with us.
When we fell in love with X Japan, the band had died a few years before… and hide too. Sure, it didn’t seem so real. It was just like all those artists you listen to knowing perfectly that you’ll never see them for real anyway. With that in mind, it seems rather normal that “it’s so weird” and that we can’t really understand what’s happening. We were done grieving. We had cried for so long.
Seeing them now, after everything… It would be a miracle. It can’t be real.
We share memories of “the good old times”. Our pink forum, our bad puns, our stories, the stories of my band…
“Do you remember you had given him a demo CD of UtopiA by PurpYnk?”, M. suddenly asks.
The question has me taken aback. I feel the color being drained from my face. My mind gets heavy, misty. Yes. No. Not at all. I…
Yes, of course I do. Summer 2007. I remember that week when we had struggled against the little time we had so we could do (terrible) recordings of our (not so good but not too awful) songs we had written during the year. Suddenly it makes sense, why we had to do that so quickly, why I had given up on everything else at that time to focus on this CD and this CD only, why I had had so many arguments with other people because I had pretty much “given up on anything else”.
The week after there had been Japan Expo, with Yoshiki, an Expo I wouldn’t attend but when the rest of the band would give him our demo CD. And, I guess, a booklet with lyrics. And probably a letter. Probably.
I don’t remember. I can’t remember what we gave. I didn’t even remember…
THE thing that looked really good in our band at that time was the logo. So I have to show it off. It’s filled with meanings, I swear!
UtopiA. Ten years ago. I love our faces.
I remembered that week thanks to photos and recordings. I remembered this Japan Expo event thanks to my Art of Life CD, first item signed by Yoshiki in the long line for the signing session my friends had managed to attend.
I couldn’t remember why we did all this.
Why is it M. who reminds me of this all now? Why? She wasn’t even there when we recorded.
March 2017, second week
“Say, do you remember we had given Yoshiki a CD by pYnk?”
A: Sure thing! I even remember that at that time we thought “I hope he will listen to it.” Thinking back of it now, I think “Oh please make it so he never listened to it!”
S: Oh yeah! I remember pretty well. We had been in such a rush so it would be ready for Japan Expo. It’s really weird that you can’t remember.
P: Now you’re saying this, indeed…
Lia can’t remember. Lia is looking for memories, but there’s no feeling attached to the information. The only thing she remembers is a huge argument she had with her mother, who thought her priorities wrong, because Lia wanted to do music and music only at that time, because it was an emergency, a once in a lifetime. The only thing left of that time period is this argument and the photos she found back on her hard drive. That’s all. Nothing more inside her.
How could she have forgotten something that was so important? Why is M. the one who reminds her, while she wasn’t even there during the rushing time? The sudden decision of completing the album, the emergency of doing so, the struggle, the strength of dreaming youths thinking that love and motivation could compensate their lack of technique.
It’s even further than far in her memory; it has been erased.
How many more things that disappeared, that she now has to find back?
Lia remembers her therapist, saying she had to “reactivate memories to find back emotions”. Lia has been struggling against dissociation for so long that it is now a part of herself, and this kind of things makes her realize how long the path to recovery is.
Some parts of her life is missing, and she doesn’t understand, and she’s fed up with this constant struggle.
The CD of Art of Life repeats itself in her CD player. Round and round and round it goes. And she indeed reactivate.
There are so many things that Lia forgot in there. She only has to dig, and dig deeper…
Memories of my old self come back to me, stronger even than during Drain. I am lost in my memories, I am shaken. The various Japan Expo, hugging Pata, how I met my wife…
I owe so many memories, so many meetings of amazing people to X Japan. That’s strange. I feel like I’m opening Pandora’s Box, only instead of jumping to my face, demons run away and I have to run after them to try and identify them.
A few “We are X!” later, lights come back on stage and an orchestral track starts playing. We cheer, ready for what’s coming next. Everything turns to blue, the back screen shows stars, I feel the flights of string instruments growing on me. We’re all expecting.
Finally, Yoshiki appears on stage, clothed in white, and goes sit in front of the piano without saying anything. He plays a beautiful Moonlight Sonata, bristling with emotions that only grow larger as galaxies are displayed on the screen.
Let’s be honest: from where we are we can’t see much, only a white spot under the lights in the middle of the stage. But who cares? I know where this melody comes from and the atmosphere is close to perfect. I like the piano, I love the piano, I’m always carried away by beautifully-played piano pieces, and it only gets better if I’m bathed in the colours that go along with the piece. I feel like I’m floating for these few minutes, until the maestro plays his final arpeggios. He slams a few lower keys before leaving the piano and reaching for the drumset.
“He’s grown”, says Hime. “Now he doesn’t get too carried on the piano, he goes and plays the drums instead of slamming the piano.”
On the screen behind, a true storm begins. Wind and thunder, lightning bolts and apocalypse. I feel the sound vibrating within me, reaching my very guts.
A classical track is playing. It’s the same as the one played during the drums solo from the Last Live… Yoshiki is standing in front of us, straight as the screen gives him wings (swan wings?), the ones we could see in the movie We Are X.
Cliché, drama, no doubt here: that’s Yoshiki, in all his glorious modesty.
Modesty: a definition.
After posing for a while, for photographs and cameramen, he sits down.
The show really starts now.
Let’s be honest:
– After guitarists (the WORST instrument ever in a band, let’s keep this in mind), there’s nothing worse than a drummer doing some fill-up drums (SAM WE SAID TO PLAY A BREAK EVERY EIGHT TIMES, NOT TO PLAY AN EIGHT-TIME BREAK EVERYTIME GODDAMIT)
– The drums may not be the most melodious instrument ever, so what to think of a whole song?
– De facto, we all at least once skipped the drums solo during the Last Live, because it could be kind of boring (okay, a guy is banging the drums before crashing his drumkit and falling down. Woohoo.)
That is to say, I was kinda dubious.
And yet there’s more than a simple gap between watching the drums solo on DVD and watching it in real life: at this rate, it’s not a gap, it’s the Great Canyon.
Yoshiki hits and bangs and every sound resonates within me. The crashes of the snare drum are as many gunshots through my skin, and when the bass drum finally enters the rhythm, it feels like Yoshiki invites our hearts to beat as fast as his. Collective tachycardia.
I burst into tears. I bawl without any control of myself, not even understanding what is happening really. All of this goes so deep within me, and finally, finally I realize, I guess I needed those heavy booms on the two bass drums to finally get who’s in front of me. It doesn’t feel weird anymore, it’s just the truth. I hide, I go away for a while, leaving my sit to the one who had remained rather discrete so far, the one who deserves this concert more than I do: my 2005-self. The one who shakes and cries along.
Yoshiki has a keyboard near him, and the proximity allows him to “rest his arm” from the drumming… Soon the double bass is joined by a very familiar tune. Yoshiki is playing a one-handed Forever Love.
Very well. Perfect. It’s not as if I was already covered in tears. With all my dignity gone, I make use of the tissue M. gave me at the beginning of the concert. It’s dead by now.
My phone indicates that there’s 0% battery left but I try anyway: I take a picture of the stage. The phone directly dies on me not to be switched on again. I don’t know if it managed to save the picture on the memory card but I don’t really care. Yoshiki is still hitting the drums.
In the end it worked. This is the last picture my phone took before dying.
Yoshiki hits, I cry. He stops, I cry some more. He starts again, I keep on crying. It feels like the flow of my tears is neverending. I feel like I’m crying all the tears I didn’t cry when I was fifteen (and yet the gods know I did cry a lot!)
Alright Yoshiki. You win this round. Drummers may be annoying but you managed to be different from the others. Again. Now you drum set has become the most moving instrument I have ever heard.
You played your solo from your guts, and that managed to bring back more in me than my latest therapist appointments.
Yoshiki falls down. Toshi comes on stage. As if I wasn’t already down enough, he begins singing Without You a capella.
C. turns to me. “Aaaaaw”, she says while seeing my face basking in tears, and softly brushes my shoulder as a sign of comfort. I try the best I can not to drown.
A few musical times later, Yoshiki who seems to have recovered from his drum solo, joins him by sitting in from of his piano.
“Oh, how should I love you, how could I feel you?’
The song tears me down. The kind of tune that feels like clawing your heart out and throwing it away, because it’s so tough, so strong. Toshi’s voice is strained, piercing when he hits the high notes, and makes it all the more violent on my mood. It is haunting.
And yet no matter how sad it is, the victory behind this song! Back then we would have never dared hope to hear it. I remember a piano version, three notes and a half played on a video, and then we discovered it had lyrics “that only Toshi could sing”. Back then they were still not talking to each other. I remember the orchestral version that had me cry a few times. But no sung version.
And here we are. Ten years later, here they are. The voice of Toshi, over the song written by Yoshiki.
Beyond the grief expressed through the song, it is by itself a symbol of hope. After all, everything happens. “Nothing is impossible”, as says our leader. Beyond the pain, beyond the scars, they are still standing, so far away from where they come, and they are playing together.
And gods is it beautiful.
1998 – 2007 – 2017. Almost 20 years later, hide is still missing, and still inspiring.Drawings by Watou, who couldn’t be there with us.
There’s a religious silence in the audience. Everyone’s eyes are shining. I still haven’t stopped crying.
Toshi lets his voice die on us, and the song ends with a final strum of piano, that melody that haunted me for so many years.
Not a word is said. Once more, there’s no transition: Yoshiki starts to play the chords for I.V.
Since 2007, I haven’t known what to think of I.V. First, the title and the lyrics are referencing one of my worst phobia, intravenous injections. Second, it was their first “comeback song”, “new X song”, and…I certainly wasn’t expecting this. In the end, it made me listen very few to it, I don’t know it so much, and I’m not sure I’m really liking it.
Thankfully, before the song starts, Toshi takes a few minutes to teach us the chorus sentence by sentence. “In the rain… find the way…”. Sugizo sings along (gotta love Sugizo’s English accent! “In ze waaaaiiin”…)
The audience repeats, and everyone singing together is just so magical. When Toshi thinks we’re ready, he turns to Yoshiki, sings the final line of the chorus… And I.V. starts for real.
This song is actually filled with energy. I finally stopped crying and I even started headbanging again. Once more, I love the bass. And we all sing the chorus, and Toshi answers us, and it turns the painful I.V. to a wonderful live song.
Okay. Maybe -maybe- I will think differently of this song. Maybe it’s a super awesome song and I can’t wait to see it live again.
…see it live again? But I’m still in the middle of the concert…
The song ends in a musical blur, but no one stops playing. Toshi goes on, finally addressing us again.
“Are you okay?!”
“It’s going to be the last song!”
“We’re gonna ROCK YOU. We’re gonna X YOU!”
There’s no need for more. Those who were still sitting now stand up. We all know what is going to happen and my heart beats so fast it’s going to explode. Three “We are!” later (we all answer, always with more enthusiasm, never mind the concert has already lasted almost one hour and a half), Toshi finally announces:
A forest of crossed arms is raising before my eyes. And then chaos.
Lights everywhere. Lasers everywhere. Smoke on the stage. The instruments explode. I’m jumping everywhere. Was I talking about hysteria on Drain? Forget it. What is happening right now is a thousand times more powerful.
It’s amazing. I’m happy to be in the back of the venue, because even though I can’t see the stage very well, I can see the wave created by thousands of X-jumps in the crowd.
The energy of this song is amazing. Everybody is having fun. Toshi claims the name of the musicians. I scream when Heath’s name comes up. Good old times… back when it was only a screen and not for real. I applaud every members, I shout the chorus along, no one can stop me. Once more hide’s name is the one people shout the loudest.
Everyone jumps, everyone sings, everyone dances, on stage they are all having fun… Everyone is so HAPPY and POSITIVE. We were talking about intravenous earlier: I want this song through my veins, as if it were my own unstoppable source of energy.
But it has to stop. It always has to stop. Follows a long, very long stream of:
We keep our arms up in the air, we never stop to shout, Toshi and Yoshiki share the microphone, so many things happen on stage that I don’t get everything, papers are falling from the sky, Yoshiki walks, Toshi sits to the drum kit, we keep on shouting, and here I am crying again.
Yoshiki asks us to raise our voices for Taiji and hide, and their names are written on the screens beside the stage. We shout even louder.
I am here, I am X, I feel, I shout, I let out all those things I kept inside, I empty my heart through my screams. I am X and so are the 12 000 people around me. And those on stage, who look so happy together at that time, are more X than ever, no matter the pain and grieving.
At that precise moment, I feel like I’m exactly who I’m meant to be, exactly where I’m meant to be. And I believe this is the magic of X.
I’m exhausted, my body can’t jump or headbang anymore, but I hold my ground, I will go to the end of the song, and I will raise my arms as many times as they invite us to do so. Beside me, Hime’s arms hurt.
Yoshiki breaks his voice in his mike, shouting again and again, then he breaks a gong, then he goes back to the drum kit and gives the mike back to Toshi.
“Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock.”
It’s a real plan. Not only did they follow it, but they made it popular, and it even reached us.
Toshi finally concludes:
“WE ARE XXXXXXXXXXX!”
I thought the song would start again, but we have a final surprise: hide appears on the screen and shouts those famous words I am not able to translate. Cheers and emotion… before we get back to it.
“X! KANJITE MIRO
X! SAKENDE MIRO
X! SUBETE NUGISUTERO
X! KANJITE MIRO
X! SAKENDE MIRO
X! KOKORO MOYASEEEE”
And as I keep on jumping with my arms crossed above my head, I can’t help but think back of my hide tee-shirt bought in 2005 and of the things my mother told me. « You’ll grow tired of this fashion. »
Fig.44 : Lia who just succeeded in her final high school exam. Archive picture from 2007.
“There. I washed you tee shirt with the witch on it. Don’t you think you’re too old for these things now?”
I’m 27 now and I awfully miss my hide tee-shirt.
But it doesn’t prevent me from jumping along each “X”, along with the crowd, as if my life depended on it.
Maybe my life didn’t depend on it. But 15-year-old Lia’s life did.
I’ve never grown tired.
Dear Lia from 2005,
If this letter doesn’t ring a bell, it sadly is the proof that time travel won’t be mastered while you’re alive.
It doesn’t really matter now. Your emotions will have you travel through time. You’ll see.
Dear 15-year-old Lia, I know it’s hard to believe, but only twelve years from now, you’ll see X Japan live. You’ll see Yoshiki and Toshi smile and laugh together again. You’ll see a huge crowd calling hide’s name as if he was here. He was here in a way, her among us.
12 years is a long time. You’ll have to struggle. You’ll have to survive depression, understand what happens, put words on things. There will be physical destruction, psychological destruction, hits, lies, rapes, manipulation, burns, deceptions, co-dependency, blindness, self-harm. And even with all of this behind, there will be much more to fight against. But there will also be good things, lots of them, even though it will be harder for you to realise at that time.
Dear 15-year-old Lia, today you’re crying because nobody sees how bad you feel, and it will take yet even more time. You also cry because you can’t deal with your social life, so you need imaginary friends, and you take artists you will never meet for real as models. You cry because they’re dead, because you’re assertive that you are going to die before your 18, 20, 25. You cry because you don’t understand why you hurt, and you cry because for the next 10 years to come, each trauma will only be covered by even greater traumas. But twelve years later they’ll be here – alive. And so will you.
Dear Lia from 2005, keep faith. 12 years is a long time, but it’s worth it. In 2017, you’ll be in the middle of a crowd, and your heart will stop beating on Kurenai, then you’ll sing Endless Rain along with all the audience of the Arena crying your heart out. For real, you’ll call Heath’s name, and he’ll be as charismatic as ever no matter the years. For real, Yoshiki’s drums will resonate in your heart. For real you’ll make peace with Toshi, for real you’ll see Pata again, for real you’ll meet Sugizo.
And you won’t remember, but others will remind you, and the feelings, the emotions will come back. You lived these moments, no matter how hard your memory tried to erase them, even though they seem to be memories from someone else. The e-mails you tried to send Heath. The horrible CD of PurpYnk, so much stressing out and so much laughing out. Drawings, costumes, stories, bad puns, shouts, tears. Despairing quests on eBay to try and find authentic X Japan CDs and not Hong Kong bootlegs. Dyed hair, sleepless night to chat, to write on the pink forum. All the things you did not try to forget but which are so far now. It will come back. And you’ll find back this fil rouge you lost so many years ago.
You’ll see, dear Lia from 2005, this was not all for nothing. You were alive then, and you are still alive now. Tonight, it is for you that I am doing the X-jump, and I am shouting louder than I ever shouted.
Lia from 2017
Drawings… This one took one whole week of French lessons to 15-year-old Lia. She was so proud of it.
The song ends for real in a huge noise. Toshi shouts that we can be proud of us.
“BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU ARE MARVELLOUS! THANK YOU LONDON!”
Then, with a last shout, while everyone else is bowing down, throwing water bottles in the audience, making faces at us, he says “BYE BYE!”
And then they disappear.
C. and J. leave the venue: they have to catch a bus. Many other people in the audience do the same. I refuse to believe it. They wouldn’t leave this way, the lights on stage are still on. I won’t move from my seat until they are back. I have all my time. They will come back, I know it. I remain standing with my arms crossed before me.
“You can put your arms down, Lia, you know?”
“No… I like to see the stage this way, through my crossed arms. It’s moving. It’s awesome.”
“I don’t know how you can hold it. My arms are killing me.”
It’s doing me good, in a way. This sight, my crossed arms and the stage, it spins my insides because it’s magical, what’s happening is amazing. I am exhausted but I keep on calling them.
About fifteen minutes off “We are X!” follow. The audience calls too. We are clapping, hitting out feet on the ground, the galleries shake. We won’t let them go.
“They’ll be fed up with it and end up pushing Yoshiki on stage telling him to do anything to please us.”
We call. We shout. We claim. Other people in front of us start singing Endless Rain, but I refuse to join them. I don’t feel like singing Endless Rain. It’s from another time, it’s not the same X. I just feel like calling them until they come back.
It’s fun to see so many waves of X-jumps around the venue. If I shouted loud enough, our side would probably follow, but I don’t dare do it, and I regret it. I still follow the other waves: it’s fun to notice the mess we’re making. Until Hime makes me realize: “See that guy with the red glowsticks in the front? I don’t know if he has noticed but he’s giving the rhythm to the whole venue.”
It’s true. In one of the front rows, someone holds proudly two red glowsticks and it allows us to know when to answer “X” without having everyone totally unsynched.
It’s a fun time, but the wait is becoming too long. We are all tired.
Finally, about fifteen minutes later…
“Told you! Told you they’d send Yoshiki!”
The maestro is back on stage and goes sit in front of the piano. He checks his sound feedback, then starts playing. It only takes two chords for me to recognize Bohemian Rhapsody, and I’m not the only one. Soon the whole audience sings along.
“Why? Why Bohemian Rhapsody?”
I don’t know what I have with this song. It follows me. It’s always here, every important step of my life –and I don’t even like it! But now I feel like I have a bond with it. Still it was probably the last thing I expected to hear tonight.
It’s amazing to see how everyone seems to know the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s like universal knowledge. It’s also amazing to notice how everyone is destroying it while trying to sing, but it’s part of what makes the song so great. It’s not one of the best karaoke songs ever for nothing.
Yoshiki completes the first part of the song, then plays a final chord and grabs the microphone. It’s only him and the ray of light that falls upon him, and suddenly this huge 12,000-people venue becomes an intimate concert room.
A fanboy shouts “We love youuu!”. Yoshiki uses his softest voice to answer “We love you too”, and even I feel butterflies fluttering in my stomach.
He then proceeds to tell us that Toshi and him were around ten when they were listening to Queen. And also to Kiss, and to Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie… the crowd applauds.
“Oh, you like David Bowie too? Let’s see if I can play…”
Yoshiki puts the microphone down and sits back to his piano to play a part of Space Oddity.
We all sing – well, I try to. I’m not at ease with all great British classics. We applaud his choice of music, and Yoshiki goes on with his story. It seems like, six years ago, when they played in London, they had explained that it was a dream to have a gig in this city. They had promised they’d come back, and here they are now.
Yoshiki speaks with us. Some people answer, he listens to us, he even gets closer to the end of the stage, he answers every love declaration sent his way, and he goes on telling about the beginning of X Japan, back when his father died (…he stops. We try to cheer him up), when Toshi and him started playing together.
“Toshi was guitar player at that time. And believe it or not… I was the vocalist.”
We laugh. Loud laughs.
“Yes, I know! There’s something wrong with my voice. But I wanna sing before I die. But you know, I say in the film: swans sing only one time before they die… so we have to be careful.”
Laughter again. Yoshiki has charisma and good humor.
“We had a different name before… but we formed the band X when we were fourteen or fifteen. At that time we didn’t know what to name us, so we say, let’s just name us X for now. Then later we found out that X meant, like, ‘infinite possibilities’, so we thought ‘Wow, that’s so cool’.”
Yet again, more laughing.
He tells us about their beginnings, when Toshi and him went to Tokyo, when they met Pata, Taiji and hide (the audience applauds each name, and roars when it comes to hide).
“Wait, isn’t he playing us the movie all over again?”
It is the movie, but not only. There are some cute anecdotes.
“At that time, we didn’t have anything. We just had a broken old car. Then, I was the driver, and hide was the driver. Then hide said he cannot drive at night time, he said his eyes
Are not good at night time. Come on! We only drive at night time! So, pretty much, I was the driver. hide was just singing or something, I told him to cheer me up so I don’t fall asleep.”
I can easily picture the scene in my head. And yet, oh. Back then, I had thought that the driver was Toshi.
“Sometimes we didn’t have enough money, so we slept in a park. At that time, you see… Well, moskitoes are our enemies, right?”
Everybody seems to approve of this sentence.
“We were supposed to be a fucking visual rock band but we showed up with moskito bites everywhere!”
Once more I picture the scene and I snicker along with the rest of the audience. Moskitoes are so metal.
He goes on explaining that in the beginnings they played in clubs, then in bigger arenas, then in stadiums. His voice breaks when he confesses:
“But those days, when we were just rocking clubs, that was actually… my best memories.”
Yoshiki cries. We try to cheer him up. It is a very moving, intimate moment. He goes on with his story.
“When we started playing stadiums, we just took things for granted. We didn’t know, I didn’t know, how valuable to have these amazing members… Then eventually, Toshi left. Then, a few months later…hide passed away.”
A deep silence, followed by encouraging cheers. Yoshiki’s breaking down.
I turn to Hime.
“He doesn’t need an audience. He needs a therapist.”
He still goes on despite the tears.
“So when X Japan broke up, I never thought in a million in a million years that we would be back, especially here, without hide. But our fans, you guys, kept supporting us, all those years…”
His voice breaks. We applaud. Then, in the left side of the venue, someone breaks the silence to shout “We are!”. The whole audience answers. Yoshiki stops, looks at us, surprised, then laugh and shouts himself two or three “We are”. Our “X” thunder across the arena. Yoshiki laughs again. “I love you.”
There’s something with Yoshiki Hayashi.
Lia is always first to explain how annoying she finds his drama-queen-character. Yoshiki bothers her, and for a long time, she felt a lot of resentment towards him.
Because he broke his instruments, and that was something she was strongly against (a waste. Give them instead of breaking them!)
Because he overplayed everything, all the time.
Because Yoshikitty and other weird portmanteaux with his own name.
Because the music and lyrics he wrote hurt, hurt so much, they found a painful echo inside her.
Because he never managed to deal with grieving and that found an echo too.
Because failed reformation, weird messages on Facebook and Myspaces, his tired face, his projects he seemed to have given up on.
Yes, she did resent Yoshiki for a long time. This resentment you feel towards those you admire most but always end up disappointing you, because you expect so much from them.
So she had obviously prepared for the worst, for this concert. And now she sees Yoshiki before her, as simple as he can be, addressing directly the audience in front of him… she’d just be willing to forgive anything.
There’s something with Yoshiki Hayashi.
You just can’t hold any grudge against him, because he simply leaves the only way he knows: going straight on, according to his ideas, and who cares if others don’t like it. Maybe a bit megalomaniac, certainly in his own world… But also, mostly, brutally honest, and sensitive to a point where it can become dangerous.
How could you hold a grudge towards someone who is so true to himself?
Lia can’t. That would be hypocritical.
Some say Yoshiki is a god. Lia doesn’t think so. On the contrary, she thinks Yoshiki is amazingly human. And if he wasn’t human, the only thing she could think of to represent him would be a Spirit made of emotions. Because it seems like his emotions are the very first thing that makes him, the thing that allows him to go further.
Sure, that goes deep inside Lia’s core. Sure.
Alright, Yoshiki, two-to-zero, end of game.
I don’t resent you anymore: I want to believe in your dreams too.
After all, I understood in the documentary: X saved my life.
Maybe after this concert I’ll even manage to find back my dreams. And that won’t be “because of”, but certainly “thanks to” what you did.
“That’s why we are here. Because of you, we reunited, we came back to the stage. I think without you guys, I don’t know what I’d do with my life. You guys gave me, gave us a second chance. So we’re gonna keep on FUCKING ROCKING.”
The audience roars. Considering how chaotic that whole reformation was, maybe we left them a fourth or fifth chance even, but we are so happy that they are here, and that we are here too.
“I’d like to dedicate next song to our dear fans, and our friends Taiji and hide.”
He sits in front of the piano and the other members come back on stage to sit on the stairs. The first chords sound and I don’t understand, I don’t recognize. It’s not Crucify my Love at all. It’s not Longing… It takes Toshi to say “Let’s all sing along together” when I finally realize how much I had been lost not to recognize this introduction.
It’s raining on the screen behind the stage.
An endless rain.
“I’m walking in the rain, yuku ate mou naku…”
Blue lights, disco ball that gives an impression of rain drops on the audience, the stage is as intimate as can be, especially after Yoshiki’s speech.
The screen shows old videos of X, with Taiji, hide…
We all sing along and here it goes again, I’m crying again and again.
There’s nothing more beautiful than a crowd sharing the same passion and singing together. We keep repeating the chorus over and over again, even when the guitars stop, even when Toshi stops singing, even when Yoshiki stops playing, we go on, a capella.
Again and again and again, ad lib, until Yoshiki and Toshi come back in the song, to conclude on a long and slow “Endless raiiiiiinnnn…”
I’m still drowning in my tears but thankfully X planned everything so that it only grows worse after that.
Sugizo gets back to the front of the stage with his violin for a new song I can’t recognize but which seems floating out of time. He draws his final note and a piano can then be heard. My heart skips a beat.
I only need one chord, one, to understand.
It’s the piano solo from Art of Life. The one that a lot of people skip because it’s so long. The one I’ve listened to for hours, deciphering, trying to understand the full meaning of the song.
The one I prepared my exams with. The one I wrote my thesis upon. The one I wrote break-up letters along. The one I corrected exams from my students along. The one I cried and cried and cried over. The one I fell asleep crying with so many times.
But it’s not the same version. It’s not the one that leaves the hand bloody after playing. It’s an arpeggiated, softer, more melodic version. Because the time of chaos and thunder has passed. Now the notes blow like the wind, so fast and so meaningful under the hands of the maestro. And as the orchestra plays its final notes in the back, his fingers begin dancing, like mad, the arpeggios are more tortured, even faster than before, until all notes are hit violently. Strange, violent chords. Hits of the elbow on the keyboard.
Chaos is never so far away.
Then Yoshiki runs to the drum set.
Four cymbal hits and then everything bursts. Lights and colours in all directions. It’s the final part of Art of Life. I am mesmerized. I didn’t even have the time to dry my tears. I must have lost at least five litres of salted water tonight. And I’ve jumped everywhere, and I couldn’t drink anything. I am exhausted but I go on. I have to live this song to the full.
Wednesday, March 15 2017
It had to be: since she came back from London, Lia has fallen back into X Japan. Her CD player is obviously playing Art of Life again. But the CD player is a bit old and grumpy: sometimes, it skips some parts. There’s a tiny click, and then the CD goes back between 2 and 10 seconds before. It’s unpredictable. The matter comes from the reading lense, so the CD is still fine. You just have to wait for it to pass. Lia is patient: she knows all things pass.
Yesterday evening, she had played the CD to fall asleep, and the CD player had been stuck on one of the sentence. “If it’s all dreams, now wake me up. If it’s all real… [click] If it’s all dreams, now wake me up, if it’s all real… [click] If it’s all dreams…”
For about fifteen minutes, Lia listened to the CD stuck on this sentence, and feels somewhat amused. She doesn’t really believe in signs anymore, but the whole situation is rather fun. In the end, the CD player managed to go on, Toshi’s voice could be heard singing “If it’s all real, just kill me,” and Lia fell asleep.
Today, Lia starts taking meds as her therapist and her doctor advised. It’s the first time she agrees to do so, after refusing for more than three years. It’s been an hour since she took them, and ever since, she hasn’t stopped crying. First there was a panic attack, and now, she managed to call for help, but her tears keep overflowing. They run, unstopped by anything, and Lia doesn’t even know why, she can only let them go. It’s a strange feeling. Time passes. Lia does other things at the same time, but her eyes keep on crying.
She has dealt with her current problems. Done her best to call the doctor, no matter how hard it was, and the doc said to just let go. She just has to wait. So she turns the CD player on. Once more, Art of Life is with her while her tears are pouring. Once more, her CD player plays a trick on her.
“Like a doll carried by the flow of time, I sacrificed the present moment for the future… [click] sacrificed the present moment for the future… [click] sacrificed the present moment for…”
Lia thought that this song meant already too much for her, but here is a new meaning piling up.
Lia spent her life running forward so as not to think of the problems of the past that were spoiling her present. Instead of solving problems or enjoying what she had, she ran in anxiety.
Today it’s already a bit late, some things have been piling up for too long. It’s just like a badly treated disease, one that was not dealt with on time. She won’t be able to find back everything she lost. But it’s not too late to try and learn how to live in the present time. To learn how to live in general, and not only to survive, as her doctor said yesterday.
It takes about ten minutes for the CD player to stop clicking and go on until the end of the song.
Two hours later Lia’s eyes are still crying. It’s been going on for more than three hours now, unstoppingly, she’s exhausted, she didn’t even know she could have so many tears, she doesn’t even know why she cries. But she knows she’s made a huge step forward. She’s working on breaking the walls inside her heart.
Yoshiki, July 2007.
Pata, July 2008.
I never fixed the box. hide will never sign it.
But I don’t lose hope that one day, maybe, I’ll be able to meet Toshi and Heath (!)
“I’m breaking the walls inside my heart, I just wanna let my emotions get out…”
Toshi is tired and seemed in pain as he tries to reach the end of the song, but it’s fine, the audience -and I- know the lyrics by heart for him. Pata, Heath, Sugizo and Yoshiki can all get their parts wrong, I could even voice-dub every instrumental part of the song. I know it all by heart.
I admire the lights on stage and I suddenly realize when seeing the stage bathed in yellow and purple that it’s perfect. From the beginning to the end, the colours were amazing. As I have this synaesthesia that allows me to “see” music and emotions in colours, I have had more than one song spoilt during a concert because the colours were not the right ones for me. But during this concert, it didn’t happen, not even once. Everything fitted, everything went along with how I felt. The colours flew according to the heavy emotions carried by each song.
This concert was visually perfect.
From verses to chorus to solos, Art of Life already comes to an end. In a final crash of the cymbal, Yoshiki stops his playing and lets his body fall down on his back. The others stop too and Toshi does the final note alone, in a shriek, in a breath, with his final strength and it’s so moving.
“In… My… LIIIIIIIIIIFE!’
He falls to the ground, on his knees, then face first.
There’s a short time of complete silence before the standing ovation comes. In the back, soft strings play the beginning of Tears in its English version. It’s only a backtrack: they won’t play anymore. The final word pronounced by Toshi tonight will remain “LIFE” and it is unbelievably moving.
Then, for a long time, every member takes the time to salute, to throw things in the audience, to wave to everyone, to take selfies and pictures of us. They all look so happy and we keep on calling them. “X! X! X!”
Sugizo helps Toshi up. Yoshiki gets up too and leaves backstage, before coming back with a great amount of red roses in his arms. He throws them in the audience. It’s funny: in general, the audience sends roses to the artists… But Yoshiki remains Yoshiki and roses are important to him. He keeps two of them and puts them on each side of the stage. One for Taiji, one for Hide.
After Tears, we can hear an acoustic version of Forever Love, and X-Japan comes back to stand before us and salute one last time. Standing ovation again. We are all here, so happy to have been able to make this dream turn real, to have been able to see them, and we are so, so proud to be X too. We are all X.
The others leave the stage but Yoshiki grabs the microphone one last time to thank us again and again, before saluting again and leaving.
The lights are back in the venue. This time, it really is the end, but everybody keeps on shouting “We are X!” while getting out.
We have two missions now: the first one is to find some water. The second one is to buy the OST of the movie We Are X. We start looking for both while chatting happily about what we’ve just seen. I’m still in a daze, but at least I stopped crying.
“It’s weird,” says Hime. “I don’t feel like I learnt a lot by watching the movie. I felt like I already knew everything. You had told us everything, you had written and said everything.”
And I feel completely moved. I remember each of my researches. I had complete files filled with pieces of information, rumors, theories, a day-by-day chronology, I could determine the date of a picture only looking at the hair, clothes, jewelry. I had built a complete X Japan digital collection, with everything I had managed to fin, gigabytes of date (at that time, that was huge!), even some parts in Japanese that I couldn’t read…
Gosh, I could write a complete thesis about X Japan! Psychology, sociology, musicology, even a literary analysis of the lyrics, there would be everything in there. Profiling the members, profiling the fans, and why such chord is played on such word. There’s nothing left to chance in this band. It’s like even fate does not leave them alone for everything to work together.
I feel my head spinning. Which part were pieces of information I had read somewhere? Which part of these had I deduced? I feel like I haven’t learnt so much either, save for one or two small anecdotes.
« You were right. About everything… save for one thing. Toshi was not the driver, in the end.”
She noticed too.
And it’s not only facts, that I must have read somewhere (some things can’t be found out of nowhere). It’s also feelings, characters. I realize how much watching these people on stage has taught me about them. How much I learnt about them while us occidentals had so little back then.
Groupie, fangirl? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. But I am an aficionada, that’s for sure, and one of a very high level.
I had turned the people into characters, according to what I thought I had deduced of them. Characters that were leaving in my head, in my heart, in my writings. Imaginary friends.
Ten years later I find out that these characters were, actually, quite the same as the people who were their original models.
My head keeps spinning. The queue line to buy CDs gets shorter and shorter, but we are told that they’re out of CDs here and we should try to see the merch stand down the stairs. M. couldn’t find water in the end.
I’m still lost in my thoughts. I share my feelings about the concert and Hime seems to agree.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect.
True, they are fifty years old now and have been marked by the years. But they still held three hours of concert in total energy and it is rather admirable.
Sure, there was no Amethyst.
Of course, Heath didn’t sing the back vocals, and he was a bit forgotten.
Certainly, Sugizo has completely reappropriated the Vulcan salute (although I do not understand why).
True, Toshi did not always sing right.
Sure, Yoshiki … was very Yoshiki.
Right, Pata … no, I can not find fault with Pata, he was very equal to himself.
And of course… hide was missing.
But I came to say farewell.In my mind it was my last chance to realize a dream. And what I saw was anything but a farewell concert.
It was a new beginning, and I feel I trust them again.
When I wake up, I’ll be in the next chapter …
« Who knows, maybe next year the Hellfest will invite X-Japan? » Hime smiled.
It’s even something I could see happen. And if that’s the case, I promise to be there. Because I do not want to miss any more concerts of X Japan if I have the opportunity to attend.
Their concerts are rare experiences, as one has little in their life. Three hours of music that shake the senses and emotions, a show as much as an exchange from one heart to another. This may be the strength of X Japan, which makes their fans so dedicated: in front of them, we are all special. They provide incredible strength – they believe in us as people. It is a strange sensation, especially coming from such a gigantic group. You could think you’re one tiny dot lost in the mass of twelve thousand persons, but this isn’t what happens.
We all matter.
Finally, we get our « special Wembley edition » of the We Are X OST. We each take one colour: M. takes the blue which looks like that shade of blue that is so characteristic that we came to call it the « M. blue ». I take the violet, because violet is the color of my dreams. And Hime takes the red, because Kurenai, and especially because it suits her so well.
We go back to the youth hostel, and my head overflows with things to write. I hate to no longer have a telephone, a writing tool, in the darkness of this room where I can not switch on the light to take quick notes about all that I felt this evening. I need so strongly to keep a record of all that. Everything that has happened is so important.
So I repeat things in my head, trying to remind myself to write them down tomorrow without any memory disappearing.
But tomorrow is still far in my head. It’s another day, when we will have a great brunch at the Breakfast Club, we will meet Hagrid, we will discover Diagon Alley, we will discuss, write and draw … It’s “tomorrow” and for a while I’d like to remain a little “tonight”, A little while when the memories of the colourful lights continue to pass before my eyes and Toshi’s voice remains in my ears.
I stay with 15-year-old Lia a little longer, but she is already starting to fade again. I’m thinking.
I feel like I’ve taken a punch in my life. It’s as if I grew up all of sudden. As if I had found some links that had been lost so long ago. I think I can understand Art of Life yet a little more.
Because X-Japan is the story of a life. The life of Yoshiki, especially, that he has fully poured into this band. But also Toshi’s life, Pata’s life, Taiji’s and hide’s lives, Heath’s life, Sugizo’s life.
But it’s also the story of Life in general. The one that, “with her passing and vain moments, is it anything but a dream? »
These are encounters, exchanges, moments of sharing, moments of tension, youth dreams, hard reality backlash, mourning. Each step is a new step on a path that no one is the master of, but on which we will do everything we can, without regrets.
« When I die, I want to tell myself: at least I tried everything, » Yoshiki told us in the documentary. And if there is one thing that we can’t blame Yoshiki for, indeed, it is to not have tried everything.
And it inspires me so much.
Tonight, in this venue, we were all X. Those present, those who were not there but would have liked to be there, those to whom we spoke, those who listened to their music with us five, ten, fifteen years ago. Those we think of, those who have supported the band, those who have forgotten them, those who have always believed in them, those who do not believe in them anymore, those who trust again.
We are all X.
Dear 30-year-old Lia,
Times are hard and things are changing fast, but I hope you’re still alive. Maybe you even remember this letter, because time travel works towards the future. It just takes longer than what science fiction would like us to believe.
If my calculations and those of the doctor are correct, it must have been a little less than a year since you have stopped taking meds, and depression and unmanageable anxiety must be no more than a bad memory now. If everything has gone well, you have managed to get yourself back together, associating pieces of the past and the present to become a whole person, and I will not be a stranger, a face unknown to you, when you find this letter.
Oh, I trust you to continue being tortured by other little things here and there, there are always some, but I hope you have learned to live with it.
Maybe you have been able to listen to X-Japan’s new album that they would have finally released. Maybe they still found good excuses not to release it. If you have it in your hands, know that I am a little jealous. But I think maybe they’ll have another tour you’ve been following, and I cannot wait to see that.
Maybe you will be jealous of me, from the height of your thirty years. Maybe you’ll have moved again, or changed jobs three more times.
I hope you did not stop writing. It is not because you are healed that you can no longer put words on how you feel and, without the anxiety, I am sure that your colours inside are even more beautiful than before.
Do not forget who you were. Do not forget who I am.
Do not forget everything you learned this month of March 2017, 30-year-old Lia. I hope you have put it to good use.
As for me, from my 27 years old self, I keep on learning. I reconnect with the other Lias, those even younger, much younger than me. And there are unifying threads in my life that help me. There is X, for example, helping me find my 2014-self with Silent Jealousy, my 2005-self with Drain, my 2007-self with Kurenai, my self between 2004 and now with Art of Life.
I reconnect with the other Lias to finally become one and the same Lia, to stop this sensation that all my memories belong to someone else and that I have not existed in the past.
All this is to be able to become a complete person – to be able one day to become you, and in my turn to be able to believe in the madness that is called « now ».
The 27-year-old Lia
PS: the sentence you were looking for at the beginning of your text was a quote from Raistlin Majere in Dragonlance. « I will do this. Nothing in my life matters except this. No moment of my life except this moment. I am born in this moment, and if I fail, I will die in this moment. »
Revisit the classics. It’s never lost.
PPS: If you did not get the new tattoo you thought of in London, I would be very disappointed. But maybe it’s not too late?