I doubt there were many people more surprised than me when one of the companies handling the promotion of Yoshiki’s current world tour contacted us regarding advertising and potential review of the recital. After some back and forth emails, Mission Start Podcast was invited to attend the Costa Mesa show near Anaheim and Westminster on Friday, April 25, 2014.
I arrived at the Sergerstrom Center for the Arts about an hour before the concert. This is a very aesthetically pleasing building. It has at least four levels to it, and although the color scheme is full of beiges, cream colors, and whites, there’s something about the architecture that makes me think of water almost constantly. The staff was very helpful, if a bit soft-spoken.
The actual hall can be a bit intimidating. Around the main floor is three floors of upper tier seating. They aren’t deep boxes, but every seat up there is a rail seat to be envious of. The main stage isn’t raised very high compared to the first couple of rows of seating, but behind the stage is an impressive pipe organ that can seem rather intimidating. The sounds of it could probably deafen someone if played with fervor. However, the pipes were obscured by an LED screen and, of course, Yoshiki’s own black piano.
A bit after the scheduled start time, the house lights dimmed and the LED screen sparked to life with a few minutes of Yoshiki being interviewed at the Southern California Grammy Museum asking about his influences, where he remarked on his father buying him classical albums every week, and how he loved rock, but classical was his soul. The video then moved to a montage of Yoshiki during X-Japan concerts across the globe and his interactions with fans, as well as his apparent passion for his music.
After the video, six women walked out to waiting chairs. They were the accompanying strings for the show. They played a striking preamble, and after it was done, the star and host of the evening appeared on stage in garb that could be well-described as gothic. He was in dark slacks and a white button down shirt. Over it he wore a long black jacket covered in strands that made it look reinforced by spider webs. Yoshiki sat down and began playing the first song of the evening.
That’s when I noted the lights. Surrounding the players in a shallow semi-circle were a host of moving stage lights projecting shapes and colors on the walls, along with other lights projecting more colors on the back curtain framing the stage. The LED screen lit up with different backgrounds depending on the song; roses petals falling in a light rain, sparking stardust, an iridescent light flare, and so on.
There was an interesting surprise as Yoshiki and his accompaniment went into the fourth song, an unplugged version of X-Japan’s I.V., a lean man with dark hair, clothes, and sunglasses walked onto stage and plugged in an electric violin. Suddenly, we were treated to Yoshiki being joined by Sugizo of X-Japan to finish the song. After they finished, Yoshiki took a microphone and asked jokingly, “What are you doing here?”
Sugizo said flatly, “I missed you.”
After some back and forth, Sugizo and Yoshiki asked fans what they wanted to hear and the people in the room started naming a bevy of X-Japan songs. In the end, Yoshiki interrupted and said, “Well, those songs aren’t on the schedule, so we’re going to play what we want,” drawing laughter from the room. Sugizo only stayed for the next song, Tears, but it was a fun surprise.
Not long afterwards, Yoshiki took another break before the intermission and said that during the next week, there will be an announcement about plans for X-Japan, drawing more cheers from those in attendance.
I could go on and on about the details of the piano concert, but what you want to hear is it worth going. As a person who doesn’t listen to a lot of classical music in his spare time, I would say it is. Ignore Yoshiki’s reputation as a rock star and internationally known musician. What surprised me is that where a lot of classical recitals starring individuals tends to be somewhat bland visually; they are often the star in a spotlight with their chosen instrument and unless you are very into the chosen pieces of music, it can be very repetitive. Yoshiki was very careful to not only pick songs that weren’t terribly similar to each other, but the lights and screen added a strong visual dimension to the presentation. They’re striking enough to invoke imagery, but vague enough to leave it up to personal interpretation, giving you the ability to take a journey with the audience while leaving the specific road up to each person. My only sorrow from the show is that the performance was only about two hours long. I could have easily sat for another hour of such a stirring show.
Even more surprising is how soft-spoken Yoshiki himself is. For someone with such a reputation as a multi-genre star, you never get the feeling that he is overly confident or demands absolute control of the show. He seems, to me, at least, to be a man who communicates primarily through his passion for music and tries his best to connect with the heart of his audience. It’s a very different feeling than other classical recitals where people often try to show you their vision of music.
As of the date of this writing, Yoshiki’s only other U.S. date, April 28, 2014 in San Francisco will be happening this evening. After that, he leaves for the majority of his tour from now until the last date of June 17, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. Tickets can be purchased by following this link: Yoshiki Classical Piano Tour.
Treat yourself. It’s a show very much unlike many out there.