Yoshiki, the prolific composer and multi-instrumentalist whose solo Requiem Tour hit the Dolby Theater last month, threw a party at the Ross House in the Hollywood Hills last weekend. The event celebrated the release of a new concert film, his directorial debut, as well as Y by Yoshiki, his custom brand of bubbly from Pommery. The event hit its finest note of elegance and rarity when the star of the evening appeared at the piano in the music room to serenade the audience with a gorgeous rendition of “Swan Lake”, before breaking into the X Japan hits “Endless Rain” and “Forever Love.”
We had just watched the concert film Under The Sky, a collaboration with numerous guest starts including Sarah Brightman, St. Vincent, the Scorpions and the Chainsmokers. The footage centers around a concert on a downtown LA rooftop. His guests sometimes join him physically up there, but more often, perform on their own rooftops, leading to a video mashup of multiple skylines. The most visually effective of these is the collab with boy band Sixtones, who do a choreographed routine to Yoshiki’s “Imitation Rain” in actual rain, with Tokyo illuminated behind them. His collab with X Japan guitarist Sugizo is touching, a partial reunion of a band that has suffered the death by suicide of two members.
He’s a gentle presence on screen, seeming to pour kindness and compassion out of himself like water from a bowl. This is a very tricky style to pull off in rock and roll, any hint of insincerity kills the bit. But Yoshiki pulls it off, through a combination of intimate and grandiose statements, moving between the piano and drum set on his roof top stage. His guests always get the spotlight, but their collective efforts contribute to a unified whole concert with him right in the middle of the action. It should be a satisfying evening’s viewing for every fan.
While I feel underqualified to deliver a proper review of champagne that is expected to sell out instantly at $250 a bottle, his Y by Yoshiki, bottled by Pommery, is absolutely delicious. All the qualities of real champagne that make an occasional Veuve Clicquot or Perrier-Jouet worth the splurge for a guy like me are only magnified here. There is a dry biscuit essence that leads to a suggestion of sweetness, light honey perhaps, but stops short of actually becoming sweet, that is just magnificent.
I was able to say a few words to him at the reception, and I thanked him for the spirit of compassion that was so evident in the music. He thanked me for saying this, and said that in these times when people are terribly divided, he felt it was the job of artists to try and heal this, and bring people together. Moments later, he was speaking to my friend David Arnson, who showed Yoshiki a photo of himself at a Thanksgiving dinner in LA ten years earlier with some friends of ours. He had been in town to perform and a mutual musician friend had brought him along to the holiday celebration. (I’m told most of the people didn’t really know who he was, which is probably a pleasure for an international celeb, but their one other Japanese guest was flabbergasted, like “Is David Bowie also coming over to dinner?”)
Somehow, at this fancy Hollywood Hills home, at the invitation of a publicist, we had discovered a connection to our celebrity host, courtesy of music, which has the power to connect people like nothing else. Minutes later, he sat at the piano and delivered his solo rendition of “Forever Love” for us, once again making us feel part of a magical night.
Photo of Yoshiki and David Arnson by Bob Lee for the LA Beat.