Chicago Sun-Times
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Lollapalooza: X Japan makes U.S. debut, wins converts

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X Japan's Toshi Deyama (left) and Yoshiki Hayashi kept Sunday's Lolla crowd pumped up. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times photos)

The other night, referring to the small crowd for the Strokes and the triumph of Lady Gaga, I quipped that rock is dead. I stand corrected.

Making its U.S. debut -- after forming in 1982 and re-forming in 2007, with massive popularity in its home country -- X Japan took to the Lollapalooza main stage Sunday afternoon and delivered a spectacular, almost operatic performance of big ballads and speed metal.

japan.X.arms.jpgGiven the circumstances of the premiere, a small knot of hardcore fans clustered down front for the show, some of whom traveled from all over the country for this event, dressed to the nines in X Japan's glam-anime style called "visual kei." But by the end of the show, even the mildly curious were won over by the infectious rock drama. Fists were pumping, guys were playing air guitar, people were chuckling at themselves while following suit, making the X Japan sign by crossing forearms in the air. One guy in front of me was so involved in his air guitar, he sloshed beer all over nearby fans.

X Japan only played six songs, but the theater -- on the same stage where 36 hours earlier Lady Gaga had brought her bawdy Broadway peep show -- was captivating. Bursting to life with plumes of pyro, the quintet launched into "Rusty Nail" with a driving rock melody that dissolved into synthesized strings. Such is the duality of X Japan, moving between hard rock and classical structures sometimes within the same measure. A new song, "Jade," opens with a kind of rumbling guitar attack that would make Metallica take notice, then it's a lumbering power ballad, then it's chugging at a breakneck pace, finally erupting into a guitars vs. drums battle. All the while singer Toshi Deyama -- he looks like Roy Orbison and sings with a pinched high tenor like Steve Perry -- wails away unlike a man who'd been virtually out of commission for a decade before the group re-formed.

The band's late guitarist, Hide, was able to make the debut, too, several years after his suspicious death. He appeared on the video screens while Toshi sang a slice of "Kurenai." The heart of the band, composer and drummer Yoshiki Hayashi, pounded and rolled his drums (wearing a neck brace to protect himself following drumming-related back surgery) and occasionally moved to a see-through grand piano for transitional music or to kickstart top-heavy ballads like "I.V."

At the end, Toshi asked, "Are you ready to rock?!" But the question wasn't too late, because the crowd, swept up in the frenzy, finally had an answer. "We are!" band members began shouting. The answer was to cross your forearms, marking the sign of X Japan. Over and over, this call and response continued. Once he realized he'd converted the Lollapalooza throng, Toshi changed the chant to "You are!" And we were.

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Awesome article! Just a small correction, the band played Rusty Nail, not Voiceless Screaming. Voiceless screaming is a really beautiful acoustic ballad; Rusty Nail is one of their faster songs.

I wish I had been there, I'm glad it went well.

Nice review! The first song was Rusty Nail though, they haven't played Voiceless Screaming in ages - it's an acoustic and pretty calm song. :)

Fantastically written review. We are all X!

thanXXXXXX!!!!!!! I am very happy to read this article^^ X-Jmped into the clear sky felt really woderfull eXpeience!!!

Great review, thank you! it was nice to read it ^^
"But by the end of the show, even the mildly curious were won over by the infectious rock drama' - I love this sentence ^___^

X-Japan is AWESOME I am so glad they are back together and in the US! Go X!

Awesone Review!XJapan is the whole reason I went to lollpalooza! They were brilliantly amazing! WE ARE X!!!

She is mi friends! She is from peru XDDDD

Yeah! X Japan is a amazing band !

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on August 9, 2010 12:20 AM.

Lollapalooza: Arcade Fire brings the heat at the end was the previous entry in this blog.

Lollapalooza: Soundgarden powers another year to its close is the next entry in this blog.

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