Astronauts dance next to an orange dinosaur, while Gene Simmons hammers away on his axe bass guitar. It’s the encore to tonight’s X Japan show, but it feels like a fever dream.
Last time we saw the band was at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where founder/drummer Yoshiki was living out his childhood fantasy of playing the US. This evening they’re back on home turf, for three consecutive nights, headlining Chiba’s Visual Japan Summit, a showcase of visual kei bands from across the generations.
And it’s a spectacle to behold. There are lasers, confetti cannons, fireworks, fire jets and CO2, and singer Toshi cries during their emotional tribute to fallen bandmembers. Yoshiki drums like an Energiser Bunny, and shoves a gong down some stairs in a moment of amusing and dramatic excess. But the fans are part of the atmosphere, too, falling silent when the band talk, fist-pumping in formation and jumping devotedly during band anthem X. X Japan have made no secret of their ambition to conquer the West, and even their intro video is a roundup of the places they’ve played outside Japan. When the day’s acts appear for a group encore, and Gene walks on to lead Rock And Roll All Nite, Yoshiki’s face bursts with pride for his hero. It’s still unclear if their earnest, bombastic vision will translate to global stardom, but tonight marks another dazzling achievement unlocked.