We Are X Concert Footage is Worth Price of Admission But There's So Much More

The high-definition segments that open and close Stephen Kijak’s rockumentary We Are X are the most stunning concert visuals I have ever seen, on screen or in person.

As ferociously hard rock music blares, a camera that has to be on an Olympic-sized track slides back and forth and side to side to capture band members’ unsynchronized gyrations, a laserium-like light spectacle and explosions and flames punctuated by loud bass drum thuds. It’s as if a KISS show had a baby with From Dusk Till Dawn’s Titty Twister bar.

These scenes bookend meaty—and, often, heart wrenching—archival, interview and rehearsal footage that drives home Kijak’s thesis that X Japan is more than a human karaoke machine aping western music, that this truly unique band deserves a spot on any serious list of great bands that just fucking rock.

This is presented mostly through the words, images and tortured life of Yoshiki, the X Japan drummer/pianist/composer/producer/co-founder, who blows through so many different looks over the years that David Bowie would be inclined to say, “Dude, enough.”

Beyond fashion, Yoshiki is a musical prodigy who, like many gifted artists, has created masterpieces from personal tragedy and physical pain. Classically trained as a child, he can now, at 50, put tears in your eyes with sweet ballads, sways to your hips with instrumental wizardry and walls to your balls with speed metal driven by his much abused drum kit.

Before we go any further, I must confess to not having seen or heard much X Japan before watching the documentary, and I knew nothing of Yoshiki’s backstory. Had that been different, I likely would not be so cynical about the shots of him wrestling with debilitating pain as every show winds down. We Are X would have you believe Yoshiki may, at best, be crippled or, at worst, die should he keep pushing himself like he does.

Whatever works; X Japan has sold more than 30 million singles and albums combined, and while they are … wait for it … big in Japan, they actually have fans all over the world and count among their admirers everyone from Sir George Martin to the Japanese emperor, and from Gene Simmons to Stan Lee (who made Yoshiki a comic book hero).

Kijak’s resume includes the highly praised documentaries Jaco, about bass player Jaco Pastorius, and Stones in Exile, about the making of a seminal album by the world’s greatest band. We Are X has his cameras checking in and out of the buildup to a Madison Square Garden concert two Octobers ago as a “present day” device to move his story along. Hail the conquering rock gods and all that, but I’m not convinced this was as effective as most of those scenes are listless.

But the ones that show the band actually rocking to stunning visual effects? Wow! Worth the price of admission.

We Are X was directed by Stephen Kijak and stars Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Heath and Sugizo. Now playing at Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana, and Art Theatre, Long Beach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *