“Rock is in my blood” X-Japan drummer YOSHIKI is quoted, “but classical music is in my bones”, and it is these two genres that combine to create one unique artist. As befits the opulent Royal Albert Hall, tonight’s gig mainly concerns the classical portion of YOSHIKI’s genetic make-up, and as part of his Requiem World Tour he reinterprets and arranges tracks from his illustrious past and presents them with full orchestra on what promises to be an enchanting and magical event.
The perceived wisdom is that heavy metal was born from the blues, and while that might be true for pioneers such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, bands like Iron Maiden and X-Japan have more in common with Richard Wagner than Robert Johnson. If ever proof were required to the connection between classical music and heavy metal, then YOSHIKI is the living embodiment. Having studied music from an early age, there’s perhaps no artist more qualified to highlight this link, but when YOSHIKI appears and takes his seat at a jet-black grand piano he’s the very epitome of cool looks every inch the rock star in a flowing red tunic and ice white shirt. Accompanied by a full orchestra, almost every song performed tonight is written and arranged by YOSHIKI, and you get the feeling that his whole career has been leading up to this very moment. In this environment his songs take on a more emotional guise, and the respectful silence that surrounds us ensures that each note hangs in the air like icicles glistening in winter sun.
A star he might be, but YOSHIKI becomes part of the orchestra; he plays from within and is an integral part of the whole, rather than being the sum itself. It’s a very humble approach, and the collaboration between artist and orchestra lets each song blossom and grow. However, after the interval YOSHIKI returns and takes centre stage for a drum solo of monolithic proportions. In a life that’s been full of adversity, one of the greatest obstacles placed in YOSHIKI’s path was being told he would never be able to play again. So, when he sits behind his famous opaque kit and beats an impeccable rhythm, it feels as if he’s not only beating the skins, but also an invisible enemy. After rapturous applause he returns to his piano for ‘Say Anything’, with the lush string sections bringing the song to life, as do the ballerinas dancing to ‘RED SWAN’. One of several guest appearances, St. Vincent has flown in especially to sing on her massive hit ‘New York’ with YOSHIKI’s piano playing counterpointing her crystalline vocals perfectly before he adds the same magic to Ellie Goulding who arrives with a magical version of ‘Love Me Like You Do’.
A unique rendition of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ stands testament not only to YOSHIKI’s arrangement skills, but it doesn’t seem out of place amongst his own compositions like ‘Requiem’. ‘Endless Rain’, another X-Japan song is an epic closer in the truest sense; hundreds of mobile lights shine like stars as the crowd sing along with every word, making this huge venue seem like a small club which means that this performance will live long in the memory.
- Tears (X-Japan song)
- Forever Love (X-Japan song)
- Kiss The Sky (X-Japan song)
- Angel (X-Japan song)
- Drum Solo (Tchaikovsky Serenade For Strings, Henryk Gorecki Symphony No. 3)
- Say Anything (X-Japan song)
- Swan Lake (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky cover)
- RED SWAN
- Without You (X-Japan song)
- OPUS 13 In A Minor
- Art Of Life (X-Japan song)
- Endless Rain (X-Japan song)