X Japan: 6 October 2010 – Chicago

X Japan, one of the most successful Japanese metal acts, became a band in 1982, however have never played on our shores until this year. Following a set of appearances a few months ago, including a slot on the main stage of Lollapalooza, the band recently wrapped up their first North American tour. It’s not unusual for them to play for crowds in excess of 50,000 back in Japan, so despite scaling back with audience numbers for their Chicago visit at the Riviera Theatre, the band still brought their all for the two-hour-long rock spectacle.

Leaving behind much of their elaborate stage setups that usually surround them, they simplified things up a bit with video projected visuals in the back of the stage and occasional smoke plumes up front. With lead singer Toshi clad in all black and donning sunglasses, the band started up with a short buildup intro before jumping into “Jade”, their most recent single. The band’s setlist combined heavier speedy and pulse-pounding tracks such as “Kurenai” and “Silent Jealousy”, as well as ballads like “Endless Rain”, which brought on much audience participation.

To finish off the evening, Yoshiki, songwriter/drummer/pianist of the band, took over the piano to head into the ominous repeating solo of “Art of Life”, considered by some to be the band’s opus magnum. The track, coming in at a lengthy 29 minutes on the album version, was shortened considerably for its live performance, though translates far better live in that format.

With the repeated chanting of “We are! X!”, a promise to return to Chicago as they have not tried our pizza yet, and a stage dive from Yoshiki, X Japan was gone as quickly as they had arrived on our scene. If this is what we have been missing out on, the quick taste of X Japan certainly can’t be the last. With the band setting aim for breaking through the American market, and a new album release planned for 2011, we should be seeing more of them soon enough, perhaps even in our own arenas. And at least it won’t take another 20 years this time.