Otakon 2014 – Yoshiki in Concert

Baltimore was the final leg of Yoshiki’s classical tour, a rare performance apart from X Japan. The concert opened with the Miracle video showcasing moments from X Japan concerts and clips from his classical tour. Truly, the video is a wonderful intro into the depth, the heart and the man that is Yoshiki. Scenes of high energy drumming with the band juxtaposed against melodies on the piano. At first glance, they may seem different, but truly, the music is connected as the same soul composed both. As Yoshiki mentioned in the press conference, the melodies came first and whether or not the lyrics are there, the meaning behind the piece will flow through. That is what everyone is waiting to experience. Yoshiki’s music in it’s purest form.

The video also highlighted words that Yoshiki wants to share with his fans, that they are connected in heart by their passion for music. That he knows his fans feel just as strongly as he does on the stage. And in this moment, we’re of the same mind.

    “All of the pain, all the anger, all the sadness, I screamed out of my lungs…’til we see the end, we’ll breathe through the music. Along with my fans, I feel life.”

One can’t deny Yoshiki’s passion. It is felt in every piece that he plays, in his movements and his expressions. He stepped on stage without a word, stepped towards the Shigeru Kawai piano and opened with ‘Forever Love’, accompanied by a string quartet. That was the beginning. The gentle melodies filled the entire room and our minds as we were drawn into the world of music which only Yoshiki could create.

As is the usual pattern of Yoshiki’s concerts, he spoke between most pieces, sharing insight, thoughts and feelings. The feel of his concerts is not just him performing, but experiencing together. Speaking to the audience as if we’re family. He admitted that he was always nervous when he played ‘Anniversary’, a piece he composed for the 10th year anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s enthronement. But for us to hear it live, it was an honor. For ‘Hero’, the ending song to the new Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary movie, Yoshiki introduced singer Katie Fitzgerald to the stage. They actually met at Otakon 2006, the first time Yoshiki came. She shared a tidbit that Yoshiki was “excited about the crabcakes” which bought laughter from the audience. Her alto voice paired wonderfully with the piano, even more beautiful to me without the background vocals that are heard on the soundtrack. For pieces like this, simplicity is better.

Yoshiki asked for audience suggestions for the next piece. Someone called out ‘Tears’ immediately which he chose to play but interestingly, it was the next song on the setlist anyway. Set up or coincidence? Could we have gotten Yoshiki to play something else? Either way, ‘Tears’ is beautiful so I’m glad he chose to play it. Yoshiki asked Katie if she can sing it and after a bit of playacting and teasing on stage, he pulled out the sheet music. (As if he needed it!) “I wrote this song but-” *audience laughs* To hear it sung in English and NOT sung by Toshi is an interesting experience, but Katie met the challenge wonderfully. A shorter version, making us long for more.

Yoshiki spoke of the future of X Japan-the upcoming concert at Madison Square Garden-as well as the past, the creation of X Japan with Toshi, playing music with everyone…and ultimately the death of Hide. “I want to go back to the time when we played….” So much has happened even than, the reunification with Toshi, the reunion concerts and more recently, Taiji’s death in 2011. To see Yoshiki speak with such emotion even after all this time, really shows that the scars are always there. Music is the only healing element. The next song was ‘Without You’ dedicated to Hide, Taiji and his father.

Personally, I thought he wasn’t going to play this piece as it’s very long and he wouldn’t be able to play it without becoming emotional. I can’t even listen to this piece without tears because of all the feeling that is behind it, emotions being expressed, not to mention Yoshiki’s ties with the music and what it means to him. But he did it. He stopped playing halfway through and the strings continued for a long while before he transitioned the piece into ‘Kurenai’ with a beautiful violin solo.

Using electronic recording, he recorded a piano part on keyboard and played it back on repeat after synthesizing it. Using the recording as background, he played ‘Art of Life’ on the piano for awhile before being joined on stage by Pata on guitar and Heath on bass. With cheers from the audience, Yoshiki engaged the fans in shouting ‘X’. (I must add that this was the only time the audience actually made any noise during the concert as they were thankfully quiet during the performances. But now it was appropriate to scream. ^_^)

Yoshiki introduced Pata and Heath…by asking “What are you doing here?” XD Heath said “I’ll be waiting for you at Madison Square Garden. Thank you for having me!” to which Yoshiki interpreted, “He said you better come to Madison Square Garden…actually he said please come.” *audience laughs* Pata spoke in English, “Hello, everybody! You’re a fan? He is good?” *points at Yoshiki* “Alright!” *thumbs up* Yoshiki asked “Are you already drunk? It’s still the afternoon!” to more laughter. “Yeah, they came all the way from Tokyo to support my concert.” Yoshiki asked them to speak about their thoughts about the upcoming Madison Square Garden concert. Pata said “I’ll do my best!” Heath said something like “Let’s continue X Japan’s legacy at Madison Square Garden together. Thank you for having me!” to which Yoshiki interpreted, “He said you better come to Madison Square Garden…actually he said Madison Square fucking garden. He didn’t say that actually.” *audience laughs*

Yoshiki thanked Otakon for inviting him three times, as well as thanked his string quartet which is part of his ensemble that accompanied him on the classical tour. Usually it’s 7 members, but Yoshiki likes to call them the Yoshiki Sextet…since ‘sextet’ sounds better. Upon announcing the last song, there were awws from the audience. Truly, we didn’t want it to end….. But cheers went up for ‘Endless Rain’ A mirror ball lit up the room bathing the room in little lights. Everyone sang along softly and I know that my eyes weren’t the only ones that weren’t dry. *grabs tissues*

The audience refused to leave even when Yoshiki said goodbye, cheering and calling. Yoshiki and the others came on stage for a final bow and wave before leaving again. No encore unfortunately. Since the fans still didn’t leave, Yoshiki came out one last time and fans joined in for calls of X! X! X!

    Forever Love
    Without You
    Art of Life
    Endless Rain

According to the printed setlist, Yoshiki was suppose to play Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ in between ‘Tears’ and ‘Without You’. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear it live, but there is always the Yoshiki Classical dvds that are sure to have it….

Many have compared Kanno Yoko’s concert from last year, but they are vastly different. Kanno-san’s melodies are beautiful in a peaceful way, touching the heart gently as it wraps around you. Bringing you to tears with it’s melodies that seem simple yet deep all the same. Yoshiki’s piano is more passionate, like a wave that rushes over you. There is so much emotion there that can easily be felt in everything that he is trying to express through his fingers alone. A torrent that knocks you over, a strength that is felt. It is useless to compare the two, but one can’t help it as they’re both classical concerts based around the piano. But the style is different even though the emotions felt in both are undeniably strong. Each experience is unique and the memories of the music even more so.

(Photos were taken by I-hsiu Lin and Lily Wong from Anime Diet.)