On Thursday 17th November there was a special occasion in Amsterdam. The IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) will be held from 16th till 27th November and will be showing variating and interesting screenings of documentaries, one of these documentaries is called We Are X and it’s about the most famous band of Japan, X Japan. What made that Thursday 17th November so special was that the bandleader, drummer and pianist Yoshiki of the band appeared on stage to perform a live classical performance and a Q&A session for the audience. A real opportunity that could not be missed by the real X Japan fans.
The documentary We Are X is being told throughout the eyes of Yoshiki and shows how the band grew from something small to the top, what kind of good but also difficult moments they experienced and what kind of tragedies and problems they had to go through behind the scenes. X Japan stopped activities in 1997, at that time there wasn’t a clear reason why vocalist Toshi wanted to leave the band. But in the documentary there is being told by both Yoshiki and Toshi that there was a lot more going on besides different opinions and meanings. It appeared that Toshi was dragged into a cult and got brainwashed. Quickly after the break-up of the band lead guitarist hide passed away and it seemed like X Japan would never get back together. But after 10 years of not talking to each other Toshi contacted Yoshiki and slowly the band started to get together again and they prepared to take over the world with their music. Right at the moment everything seemed to be going fine again with X Japan another tragedy happened. After the first performance in 18 years of the band bassist Taiji committed suicide approximately after a year of this performance.
What really catches the eye in the documentary is the fact that there is a very well made balance of the good and bad moments of the band. For example, at one moment you can see how much happiness and success the men are having but with a smack in the face it changes to something sad. Because they edited it in this way that you really get a smack in the face back to reality it really wakes you up and shows the emotions that come with this very well. Emotion could be seen very well at some points in the documentary, like seeing Yoshiki and Toshi together at the grave of Taiji, or that moment when you see the car carrying hide’s lifeless body passing the streets and you see these streets full of thousands and thousands of fans. Especially the last named example shows very well what kind of impact X Japan’s band members made and still make on their fans and Japan. You can almost not imagine how much success X Japan has made throughout the years and the success they’re still making. According to Gene Simmons (KISS) X Japan could’ve been the world’s greatest rock band of the world if they were born in the USA. Also Marty Friedman names the band as most unique band of the world. Especially Japanese bands today see X Japan as a big influence and the basic as they are style which is now well known as Visual Kei.
If we take a look of what is in the documentary itself you will notice quickly that it’s more about Yoshiki himself than about the whole band. The other band members are named of course and sometimes they’re being seen in the documentary and they’re telling quite interesting and informative things, but the focus was mostly at Yoshiki, which isn’t that weird if you remember that the whole documentary is being told from his point of view. Still it would be a thumbs up if there would be more variation between the speakers and members in the documentary and there could be some more depth about the background of the other members of the band. At certain subjects they went deeper into the subject but mostly the view and things that were told were quite globally told and then the subject would change. Because of this the viewers get a wide range of many different but globally subjects which is interesting but still it would be great if there would be more depth in the documentary at multiple subjects, which was kind of sad to not see this. Something else that was very great on the other side, were the unique footages that were shown to the viewers like backstage video fragments, fragments of their first performance ever and more.
When the creator of We Are X, film producer Stephen Kijak started to work together with Yoshiki he didn’t know anything about X Japan nor the band members, he literally started with 0 knowledge about the band. Very soon afterwards he went to Japan and started to learn more about the band and a lot has been improvised. This is something very interesting to know after seeing the documentary. If you think about the fact that almost the whole documentary has been improvised then you could say the documentary has been very well made. Stephen Kijaki said that it was very easy to get old fragments and footages during the production of the documentary because Yoshiki almost literally recorded his whole life on video. He has a very large archive and likes to record every special occasion possible, the screening on the 17th of November was also recorded that day.
In short, the documentary was very well made, a lot of emotion was put in in it and there was a very good balance made and the extra unique footages made the whole thing even more interesting. Also they used beautiful music pieces during certain fragments and the information that has been told was very interesting. The only thing that was missing was going more deep into certain subjects and the focus of the other band members kind of missed. We Are X was is a very unique documentary that drags it’s viewer inside the life of X Japan and it’s really something you cannot miss, no matter if you are a huge fan of the band or not.
After the screening of We Are X in the Melkweg Amsterdam it was time for a short Q&A session with film producer Stephen Kijak who was joining the screening that day. During the Q&A Stephen took the time to answer the questions of the audience, maybe he took a little bit too much time because sadly after two questions it was already time for the short live performance of Yoshiki! The piano was made ready, the violists and cellist were ready to play and the moment were all the fans were waiting for began. Yoshiki came onto the stage and talked shortly to the audience, after that he took place at the piano and played a wonderfull, self made music piece. In total Yoshiki played four different songs with songs such as the well known Art of Life. During Art of Life you could almost feel the emotions that were put in this song and Yoshiki really played it wonderful. After a big applause it was time for the last song of that night, the famous song Endless Rain. Before performing Endless Rain Yoshiki asked his audience to sing along if you knew the lyrics. During the performance the audience did what they got asked to do and they sang along for for a big part.
After the performance Yoshiki left the stage temporarily and Stephen Kijak returned on stage to continue the Q&A, this time with more time available and a little bit later Yoshiki himself also returned back on stage for the Q&A. They audience asked very interesting questions about the collaboration between Stephen Kijak and X Japan, but also questions that were more directly asked to Yoshiki. At the end it was time to say goodbye and there was the opportunity to get a sign from Yoshiki or to take a photo with him.
The night of 17th november 2016 in the Melkweg Amsterdam is truly a night to never forget. This unique experience, the documentary We Are X in combination with the Q&A with the film director and Yoshiki himself were just amazing. The short classical performance of Yoshiki was just the finishing touch of the night. Yoshiki hopes to return to the Netherlands very soon. If it’s not possible as X Japan, maybe he can return with his Yoshiki Classical tour.
Photography liveshow and Q&A: Francisca Hagen