Photos and Writing by Ericka Puyat
On February 10, THE LAST ROCKSTARS made their highly anticipated live debut at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, CA. The band consists of four of Japan’s legendary musicians: YOSHIKI (classical composer, drummer, and leader of X Japan), HYDE (soloist and vocalist of L’Arc-en-Ciel and VAMPS), SUGIZO (composer, guitarist, and violinist of Luna Sea and X Japan), and MIYAVI (singer-songwriter, “samurai guitarist”). They may not be household names in the States, but they are some of the most recognized music icons in the history of Japan’s music scene. They each have broken countless records over their decades-long careers and amassed fiercely loyal fanbases that span across generations, both domestically and globally. Brought together by their desire to “make the world rock,” the supergroup plans to shake up the industry with new, highly anticipated music.
Despite being formed just last November with only one released single under their name, THE LAST ROCKSTARS embarked on their sold-out ‘Live Debut 2023’ world tour that began in Tokyo, Japan, followed by two shows in New York and their finale show in Los Angeles, CA. For the last stop, the band catered to their global fans — the concert was broadcast live in theatres in Japan as well as live-streamed globally via the Veeps streaming platform. Whether they were in the venue or tuning in, their fans became part of this historic moment, and none were disappointed.
The night began with an opening performance of the all-female rock band Band-Maid. Formed in 2013, the five-member band branded themselves around their maid cafe-inspired attire juxtaposed by their heavy metal sound. They delivered a short but powerful five-song set consisting of their hits: “From Now On,” “No God,” “Endless Story,” Domination,” and “Choose Me.” Following the end of THE LAST ROCKSTARS’ tour, the girls will embark on their 10th-anniversary tour that begins in Japan next month, followed by their U.S. shows in May and August.
Technical issues delayed THE LAST ROCKSTARS’ performance for about 40 minutes. Despite this, the crowd seemed relatively content, some even brushing off the delay as the norm in Japan. As soon as the disembodied voice of the group’s opening VCR echoed throughout the venue, everyone immediately turned their attention to the stage as the band made their grand entrance. They set the bar high with their debut track, “THE LAST ROCKSTARS (Paris Mix).” Heavy bursts of pyrotechnics in conjunction with the song’s screamo chorus amplified the energy onstage, even leading HYDE to thrash his mic stand around his body like nunchucks. The song was aptly named after the city where YOSHIKI completed the final mix. Because he was constantly traveling the world, he finished the song in Paris while working remotely with his colleagues who were in the U.S. and Japan. During the song, YOSHIKI effortlessly transitioned between his drum set to his crystal grand piano, an action that he would continuously execute with ease and grace.
Throughout the show, THE LAST ROCKSTARS displayed tight musical chemistry. In spite of having only publicly released one song thus far while under their newfound group, the band filled the night with original songs like “Up and Down,” “Red Swan” and“Psycho Love,” as well as covers of each member’s iconic group and solo projects. Diehard fans of each artist were treated to live renditions of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s “Honey,” MIYAVI’s “BANG,” SUGIZO’s “Messiah” and “Folly,” and X Japan’s “Born To Be Free.” My most memorable moment of the night was when the crowd serenaded YOSHIKI during his solo piano rendition of X Japan’s “Endless Rain,” the song that I first heard live in 2010 when the band filmed the live performance on a glass stage that hung over the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. To hear the song live again 13 years later was an amazing, full-circle moment.
In between performances, YOSHIKI could often be found perched atop his piano candidly talking with the audience. To everyone’s surprise, YOSHIKI was proud to share that his dear friend, Gene Simmons from the legendary American rock band KISS, was in attendance and that Simmons’ daughter, Sophie, had just gotten married earlier that day.
Fans also found moments in between sets to fling everything from bunny ears and plushies to bras on stage. As HYDE proudly arranged his bra collection on his mic stand and YOSHIKI was bestowed bunny ears to wear, the latter couldn’t help but jokingly let out a “The fuck is going on?” and “Who the fuck are we?” slip out amidst the playful chaos.
As the show was coming to an end, YOSHIKI reflected on his time in Los Angeles, his second home for decades, in his pursuit of his own American Dream. Looking out into their crowd he said, “If there is a wall between East and West, I think the wall is getting thinner and lower.” Later on in the night, he taught everyone the lyrics to “Shine,” an English ballad he wrote just weeks prior in dedication to those suffering around the world. The moment was surreal as everyone turned their phone lights on and waved them in the air as they sang in unison with the band.
THE LAST ROCKSTARS closed the show with an encore performance of “THE LAST ROCKSTARS (Paris Remix),” sending the crowd home with ringing ears and hoarse voices from their nonstop cheers and screams. The show was living proof that Japanese rock is a force to be reckoned with. Within a two-hour set, THE LAST ROCKSTARS proved that they lived up to their reputation and performed with a tenacity born of decades of experience and accolades. It was a true pleasure and honor to have attended their first tour and we look forward to their future, groundbreaking releases.