X Japan kicked off its Japan tour on Tuesday night in front of a packed crowd at Yokohama Arena. And the show was a welcome return to form.
After disbanding in 1997 and returning to the stage in 2008, the band has played one-off shows in Japan and a handful of tours overseas, but this is the first time in 20 years the group has embarked on a real domestic tour. It includes four consecutive dates at Yokohama Arena before moving on to Osaka, Fukuoka and Hiroshima. The tour finishes up Dec. 14 and 15 at Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya. The band is also set to perform at London’s SSE Arena in Wembley on March 12.
“X Japan is truly back,” vocalist Toshl said triumphantly from the stage during the group’s encore, echoing a statement he made at a show last year. His words held some weight time though; the band’s set consisted mainly of new tracks from an album scheduled to be released March 11. The selection included “Born To Be Free,” which was released as a digital single last month.
Other songs included the uplifting “Hero,” which was also played at last year’s Yokohama Arena show, and “Angel,” a new ballad chronicling drummer and leader Yoshiki’s dark time away from the band, during which he says he contemplated suicide by jumping off a New York City high-rise. For this performance, X Japan opted for a stripped-down version with only piano and vocals.
Other highlights included Toshl doing a solo, acoustic rendition of the ballad “Say Anything,” as well as the now customary, tug-at-your-heartstrings tribute to late-members Hide and Taiji during a performance of hit “Forever Love.”
The new material largely contained English lyrics and a heavier, modern sound compared to the group’s previous output. Some songs clearly bear the influence of Luna Sea guitarist Sugizo, who has joined X Japan to fill in for the late Hide.
“Some people are doubting we’ll release an album,” Yoshiki jested in between tunes, poking fun at the numerous delays the new record has faced. It will be X Japan’s first since “Dahlia” in 1996.
Indeed, it has been a very long time since we’ve had an X Japan album. But to fans, even the delays are part of the mythos — one full of hardship, success, tragedy and resurrection. This time, however, it looks certain that a comeback is going to happen.
Miracle (Opening SE)
Beneath the Skin
Born To Be Free
World Anthem (SE)
Art of Life
X Japan plays Yokohama Arena on Dec. 3 and 4; Osakajo Hall on Dec. 7; Fukuoka Marine Messe in Hakata Ward, Fukuoka, on Oct. 9; Hiroshima Green Arena in Hiroshima on Dec. 11; and Nippon Gaishi Hall in Nagoya on Dec. 14 and 15. For more information, visit www.xjapanmusic.com.