X Japan at London's Wembley Arena - live review

Visual kei pioneers hit the road to Wembley

X Japan live at Wembley

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It’s finally here. Thirty-five years since the band formed, 10 years since they reunited, and a year on from their cancelled date, X Japan are about to realise a dream: headlining the prestigious Wembley Arena. But before that, they have a documentary to screen. The arena has been reconfigured so seats line the standing area, and a projector screen hangs from the ceiling. Tonight there’s a shortened, 60-minute directors’ cut of We Are X, which tells the story of the rise, fall and resurrection of the band. Without warning, the film suddenly stops, the screen drops, and X Japan appear from the wings to a rousing Rusty Nail. Clad all in black leather and silver studs, singer Toshi shimmers in the light, as fireworks erupt and green lasers cut the air around him.

A few songs in, there’s another surprise. The band have been teasing their first album since the reunion, and Yoshiki announces that they’re going to record the audience’s voices for it, before Toshi demonstrates how to sing the ‘Whoa’ section of Kiss The Sky. The high-pitched cries of “Yoshiki!” and the unified moshing, with people pumping their arm in time to the music, indicate that tonight’s crowd are already diehead fans, many having have travelled from Japan and elsewhere. The show is everything they’ve come to expect from the band: confetti cannons, streamers, tributes to late members Taiji and Hide, and a bit of lighthearted onstage chat. Some of the best moments come when they switch it up. Guitarist Sugizo appears in a Union Jack coat to play Bowie’s Life On Mars? on the violin, blowing a kiss to the heavens when he finishes. The other moment of insane musicianship is when Yoshiki climbs behind the drumkit for a lengthy solo, at one point maintaining a fast double-kick drum beat while simultaneously playing a song on the keyboard. It is eye-poppingly captivating.After three hours and two encores, Yoshiki climbs down to the barrier to throw out red roses and a fan hands him a homemade flag bearing the words ‘X Japan Wembley 2017’. He hangs it onstage. Symbolically, X Japan have absolutely planted a flag and claimed their territory in the UK. Whether anyone here will recognise it is unclear, but one thing is for sure: they’re not like any other band.

Eleanor Goodman
Editor, Metal Hammer

Eleanor was promoted to the role of Editor at Metal Hammer magazine after over seven years with the company, having previously served as Deputy Editor and Features Editor. Prior to joining Metal Hammer, El spent three years as Production Editor at Kerrang! and four years as Production Editor and Deputy Editor at Bizarre. She has also written for the likes of Classic Rock, Prog, Rock Sound and Visit London amongst others, and was a regular presenter on the Metal Hammer Podcast.