The X JAPAN concert in Wembley was scheduled for the 12th of March 2016. Unfortunately, on the 15th of January, guitarist PATA was admitted to the ICU in Japan, which set back the date a whole year. For the record, I’m very happy that PATA made a full recovery.
Since January 2016 I had been trying to arrange one of the VIP packs that were being offered and which included transportation, but the promoter ONTOURS had been skittish. The postponement did not come as a surprise. In the end these packages blew up and there was a different kind of VIP upgrade arranged, that my friend C***** and I chose to buy. This included half of the merchandise and access to the sound-check. Later on, it was announced that the band would be signing copies of the “We are X” album at hmv in Oxford street. My friend C***** and I also managed to get tickets for that one, so we were elated.
Friday, 3rd of March 2017: We Nailed It
We met at the airport on the 3rd of March, Friday, for an early afternoon flight, and everything went smoothly. The only minor bump was that she was carrying a trolley and the lady at the gate decided that there were already more than fifty trolleys being loaded as carry-on – there were not, I counted them and that she had to check in. She tried to protest (literally, the attendant started tagging the line when she saw us) to no avail. As we walked past the boarding pass check, I ripped off the “check at gate” tag and produced a copy of the boarding pass, so we were allowed in without problem.
We arrived in London, went through customs without any impertinent agent bugging us, and we took the train, then changed into the underground. It was all smooth. We reached the queue and she stayed, I went in to buy the CDs for the signature. I also bought a bottle of water, and the cashier actually got a chuckle out of my face when they gave me a new £5 note, which are sort of plastic-y, and have a transparent part. After this, we settled to wait, sneaking glances at the phone of the Japanese girls in front of us that had Yoshiki channel and were checking where the band was. It took a long time to finally get to the signing area. We were also very lucky with the weather, too.
You could take pictures on the approach, but as you pulled up in front of them you had to leave all your things. As you approached someone (one of Yoshiki’s assistants) took the booklet from you and handed it over to Sugizo, who was the first and did not look too awake. Then ToshI who was smiling all the time. Yoshiki was happy as he tends to be when he is the centre of attention. Pata tried to look like nothing had to do with him. Finally Heath handed your (supposedly) booklet back to you.
All in all you might be seeing them for 3 or 4 minutes top as the hmv staff kept yelling at you to hurry up. But it was worth every second (sharing the only picture of the five of them together I managed, by the way. It’s not the best one but it’s the five of them together).
And here is my not-so-little secret: I froze. I had practised so much what I wanted to tell each and every one of them, but I just froze and I couldn’t get the words out except a mumbled thank you to Heath when he gave me my booklet back. I remember looking at Sugizo and Yoshiki thinking “they’re real, they’re here, it’s happening…”
We knew that there would be a crowd after the event, and we wanted to avoid that, as C***** has a bad back, so we decided against waiting for them after the fact. Instead, we headed off for the hotel we had booked just next to Wembley Arena. On the way, we stopped at a Salisbury supermarket to get some stuff that we might need – aka some drinks and snacks for the following day – we needn’t have worried though as when we turned the corner we found a whole shopping centre with restaurants.
We checked in, left our things, had a shower, and headed off for dinner. She had never been in a Wagamama before, so I thought it was a great idea to try it for dinner. I think she enjoyed it – and so did I, I might have eaten a bit too much.
Saturday, 4th of March 2017: The Actual #XDAY
On Saturday morning, the actual #XDAY, the fourth of March 2017, we had breakfast at a Costa Coffee – I have to say that I really enjoyed introducing her to a bunch of “my favourite British things”.
We hung out at the outside of the venue all morning until we could get our VIP accreditations and be admitted. Before everything started, though, we had some burgers for lunch.
After lunch, we went to the VIP line. I saved up the space while my friend made a run to the merchandise booth to check if they had the We are X soundtrack CDs – yes, exactly the same one that we had bought the day before, except that this time they had a special cover – blue, red, or purple. And with each CD you got a set of “trading cards”. We were not lucky at this time.
The whole experience once within the venue started with watching the rehearsal, at least what we were allowed to – to this day I don’t understand why we were let in late and escorted out early so we only caught about 50% of it. Highlights of this are Yoshiki in pink sweatpants, and ToshI waving his hand at us whenever “nobody” was looking.
We were chased out to wait in the halls and I used the time to slither towards the merch booth, where I got the CDs – all three colours (twice, actually, for both myself and C***** as she kept the spot). Eventually, the doors opened again and we took the picture on the stage – unfortunately without the band – as the arena started filling up with people. After this we found our seats. I made a run to the ticket booth again because I had won an extra set of tickets and we needed to check whether by any chance they were better than what we had. Through this process, I ended up having a riff-raff with the security staff at Wembley that lead me to file a complaint letter. Of course, I had to run into my least favourite things about British people.
Late, of course, everything started. First, we were shown the documentary “We are X”, and it hurt every bit as much as the first time in Barcelona. And as the documentary was coming to an end, the music rose up and we got started with the chords of Rusty Nail. The concert was fantastic – we had had to wait for over a year but we were finally there. This was my first real X Japan concert, and my heart was soaring all through the event. Everything was magnificent: all the members, the music, the crowd… It was so amazing I wished it never ended.
Unfortunately, though, everything comes to an end, and so did the concert, though I hope the memories never fade away.
Sunday, 5th of March 2017: Excitement Hangover
The next morning, we woke up and went to find the Costa again, because Costa is amazing. It was raining, cold, and I was not feeling too well as I had hit a wall, but coffee revived me a little. We got into the underground to go to the commuting point to the train and kept an eye out for any We Are X posters that we could find (we decided against trying to find the billboards because that would mean a big detour and we did not feel comfortable with the flights timing).
We eventually found some posters at Baker Street and… after a quick Instagram check we realised that we had stumbled upon the very same poster in front of which ToshI had taken his pictures, and we had a laughing flash.
When we reached the airport we had some hot food at the Stansted Itsu – not the best but it was warm and it helped me feel a bit better.
We separated at the airport because C***** had a better connection to her town to return than she had for arriving in London. All in all, this was one of the best weekends of my life and it all worked almost perfectly – all the important things anyway.
Also, I made a promise to myself after this – that I would not freeze again in front of a star. I hope I can keep it.
Note: You can read an in-depth comment over at SemiRandom: autographs, concert and underground hunt.