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Generation X: X Japan

Your average Westerner couldn’t name one song, yet they’ve sold 30 million albums, spawned their own subculture and fill the world’s most iconic arenas. Meet X Japan: rock’s biggest cult band.

Madison Square Garden is one of the world’s most famous entertainment venues. Opened in 1968 as a boxing arena, the 18,000-capacity hall in Manhattan now stages ice hockey, basketball and pro wrestling in addition to live gigs and comedy. Each April, the Garden plays host to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a gloriously extravagant production which is introduced by the magnificent sight of elephants walking down packed New York streets. But this most storied of venues has never seen anything quite like this.

Yoshiki Hayashi runs along the stage throwing red roses into the audience. He then wipes down a grand piano with a white scarf, and begins playing a dramatic classical music theme. As sounds of apocalyptic storms crash around the room, he leaps behind his drumkit, which detaches itself from the main stage and begins slowly moving down an extended platform into the audience.

As it does so, LED lights on the crowd’s wristbands are activated, illuminating the arena in flickering blue, red and green lights. A string quartet materialises onstage, and as the music swells, the drum riser ascends into the air and the Japanese musician collapses behing it, seemingly in tears. It’s part Disney’s Fantasia, part Black Swan and for those of us who’re initiates to the X Japan live experience, an undeniable ‘What. The. Fuck?’ moment.

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