Monday, 17 March 2014

Live Report: Yoshiki at SXSW Festival March 14, 2014

For those of you who have never experienced South by Southwest, it is, for lack of better words, fucking insane. Streets packed with people, air filled with smoke and a myriad of odors from food trucks sporting everything from pizza to kimchee. Doormen like carnival callers shout into the street as music filtered down to just its bass beats pours from the open door behind them.


So, nerves jangling from fighting traffic and negotiating a gauntlet of cat-calls, I finally made it to Qui Restaurant, a small but chic little place that seemed a little out of place on the gritty East side. A small group had already gathered at the front door, chatting casually. At one point, someone pulled out an electric cello and played sonatas from the sidewalk.

The performance was supposed to start at 11:30, but as that time came and went, people began to get nervous. I overhead talk of ‘fire marshall issues’ and began to wonder if the performance would take place at all, but we were finally let in a little after midnight. After a bit more confusion concerning the guest list (I want to hug the poor soul working the door, I really do) I walked in to the strangest mix of people I’ve seen in a long time.

The party was for a fashion magazine called Flaunt, which drew a crowd of fancy people sipping fancy drinks and nibbling on fancy hors d'oeurvres. And then there was the tight little knot of X-Japan fans, with colored hair and black t-shirts, fidgeting around the door that led to the outdoor stage.

About an hour later, those doors opened and we were pushed toward a little stage set with two of Yoshiki’s signature crystal pianos and a vertical pane of glass. A little gasp went through the crowd as Yoshiki materialized on it, looking ethereal in a white kimono. A hologram projected onto the glass. After a polite introduction, the hologram took a seat at one of the pianos and, accompanied by a small string section at the front of the stage, began to play Art of Life.

A few moments later, the actual Yoshiki stepped onto the stage, dressed in an identical white kimono, and took his place opposite the hologram. The two proceeded to bang out a fierce and beautiful duet,

Yoshiki tossing his head and all but getting to his feet as he tried to best his other self. He segwayed smoothly into Silent Jealousy and the battle became a dance.

Next was a song from his classical album (I’ve forgotten the title, sorry!). He was joined on the stage by a female singer. I have to admit, thought the song was beautiful, I wasn’t fond of her voice and by the end I was glad to be rid of her. Next came Endless Rain, a crowd favorite and it showed. Voices from the audience joined in with Yoshiki’s piano. At one point, Yoshiki tossed an annoyed look over his shoulder as the music was polluted by the roar of a motorcycle engine from the street.

The final song seemed to be added on a whim. Yoshiki bent his head over the edge of the stage to check with the string section before he stood to address the crowd. Just a few days before, there was a terrible hit-and-run accident where a drunk driver plowed into a crowd of sxsw attendees, killing two and injuring 23 more. Yoshiki dedicated his last song to the victims of that accident. Forever Love.

In the end, the performance was short but magical and left me feeling honored to have witnessed it. Yoshiki teased an upcoming world tour with X-Japan, so keep an eye out for details on that. Someone in the crowd yelled “Come back to Austin!” to which Yoshiki replied, “Why the fuck not!”

So, bring it on, X! Just…preferably not during SXSW.