Check out the latest event reviews here from some of the best and worst nights we have had! If you would like to submit any news to this section please get in touch.
Tom Jones Concert 23rd March 2010
The audience was as mixed as the impressively wide range of songs offered at Tom Jones’ concert: Young people who cherished his new songs from his 24hours album, middle –aged fan clubs with glittering bows on their heads and pompoms in their hands who danced in the isles to each and every song, members of the Welsh choir, white haired and bearded like Tom Jones himself, expats and locals holding up flags picturing the Welsh dragon – the Exhibition Centre was sold out.
For enthusiasts of martial arts, this was an exciting event – the rare combination of Tae Kwon Do and Tak Kyun enveloped in a light- hearted comedy setting which appealed to any age of spectator.
The performance began with an old “grandfather” hobbling around on a stick amongst the audience, delighting young and old by mixing up spectators –placing young women next to strange men and handing out sweets to those who were willing to play the game.
On a hot Saturday night in Hong Kong’s popular live music venue The Cavern; Rustic impressed the panel of 12 judges with their pure entertainment style that won them the title of best band in China 2009. Judges included respected music industry figures such as Christine Samson (vocal coach to Joey Yung 容祖儿, G.E.M. 鄧紫棋, Fong Lik Sun 方力申), Davy Chan (Aroom studios, LMF), Silvester See (Ace Hero Films, veteran rocker) and Soler. Each band played 8 minutes consisting of two original songs.
The climax of the 2008 Global Battle Of The Band competition - the world final, was successfully concluded in London over 2 days in December, featuring the national winners from 26 countries performing to an enthusiastic live audience at the Scala (located in King's Cross and one of England's premier venues)
Great Performers Series 2008
Swedish Pianist Peter Jablonski Solo Recital
29th September, 2008.
Hong Kong City Hall – Theatre
Piano recital is the best way to start with the week.
The repertoire selection was brilliant ranging from music by Haydn to the Romantic composers, Liszt and Chopin, and to the late-Romantic Nordic composer Grieg. All the repertoires are masterpieces that require high technique, and Jablonski was handling all well in different genres particularly with his smooth rendering of Chopin and Liszt.
As the concert begins, Haydn's Sonata in D Major serves up a beautiful warm up for both audiences and the pianist. The first movement is undoubtedly very expressivo, though a firmer pace is generally a more common approach for works by Haydn. The Vivace assai is vigorous and pleasant, but one would ask for even more energy and life in his playing as is required for the main substance of this light-hearted Sonata.
The second part of the programme continues to bring more excitement to the piano lovers.
"En Reve", Nocturne S.207 by Liszt was a supreme performance with Jablonski’s eye-flashing fingering and cross-handed techniques, and his ability to deliver a full range of complex vocal lines filled all around and mixed with the striking of chords and octaves. Under the hands and some great pedalling of Jablonski, this music is not even slightly messy. Perfect articulation and intonation were all through the music. He has expressed his repertoire in its most natural nuance.
Next up, the Mazurkas were all neatly played and were steadily building up the intensity to heighten the night. To end the extraordinary night, before the encores, Jablonski plays Chopin’s splendid Scherzo No.1 in b minor. Jablonski's magical touch creates a wonderful atmosphere. Chopin is truly an amazing composer, one who will always provide the pianists with the broadest spectrum to showcase their techniques and musical touch.
And Jablonski is definitely one of the youngest pianists and the most respected pianists today, alive and reign supreme.
(Review by Celina Ho)
Magnet, Luke Chow and Hungry Ghost and Red Star Rising. Nice Oriental connection with the names - "Rice", "Hungry Ghost" and "Red Star". Good sort of interconnecting vibe. I've arrived early at The Wanch. About 20 people inside. It's not as frisky as Session # 1, when the US Navy showed up to support their shipmate in his set of scintillating strummage, but I' ve got a good seat by the door where I can mumble inanities and scrawl irrelevancies. All part of the job. Young Bjorn from Beijing is opposite me. He's a rock scribe there,on a brief holiday in Hong Kong. I wonder how his review will turn out. We seem to be writing at different times about different things... Meanwhile, "Life Is A Bitch" by The Bastards is on the jukebox. Cool!!!
All the bands will play about 45 minutes. Up first are Rice Magnet, a power trio comprising Dave Ma on vox/gtr, Ken Ling on lead guitar and Eric Ng on drums. I'm wondering where Simon is. Not like him to miss his own magazine's showcase. I'm writing this down as he walks through the door. Co-Incidence? Cause and Effect? Wishful Thinking? Instant Gratification? "You've missed about 10 seconds of the show, mate"!" Dave has a deep, sonorous voice. I'm thinking a little bit Nick Cave, some Pete Murphy (Bauhaus), but the style is more nu-gothfolkdelic with a touch of Southern rock in the guitar solos, bit of Allman Brothers Band perhaps. Meanwhile, Steve Cray sidles up and remarks on the singer's sort of similarity to Elvis. Whatever, it works. Steve also likes the way Dave treats his vocals, using effects and overdubs of sorts to create a choir sound. Something like that, I was kind of drifting off in an ethereal bliss at the time. A shorthand review of the set would be in a similar style and mood to Reign Lee, albeit more macho and muscular. Songs include "End of the Affair" (the opening song), "Mood", "Losing" and "The End" from their debut CD "Never Let Go". There's a Chris Isaak cover, "King without a Castle" and a new tune called "Forget".
It's been a good start,but not entirely adhering to the Unplugged Concept. I'm thinking that this could turn into the Bruce Springsteen type of Unplugged Session (where "un" is XXXX'd out) as Hungry Ghost amble up, turn on, tune in and slowly get an improv groove growing. This is the first time I've seen Luke play since his laid-back set at Clockenflap. Certainly, it's the first time with Hungry Ghost, minus their drummer. Luke and Paul Lam on guitars. Tiffany L. on bass It's a 60's sort of mellow glide, part Grateful Dead noodling and part Kevin Ayres/Roy Harper shades of whimsy folk. It conjures up images of a vivid floral field, scampering kids entwined within. Picnic hampers and pipes. Boats punting on a river. Day-glow flashes. Riots of pulsing colours. Sounds merge. Notes coalesce. Long camera pullback over a field and river, across a road, over a wall, across a quad, up to a window and within. Fade to grey and a shot of a little boy in school, KNOWING the grass is definitely greener and greater out there. That's sort of how Hungry Ghost sounded. Provided an evocative dreamscape with pale echoes of what once was. A very pleasant chill out set. "Songs" included "This noise", "Internally External", "Chinese Families" and "Man Waltz". Not having their drummer did allow the remaining three to experiment. I've been told that when the mood is upon them, they're capable of dislodging your genitals, so to speak. Looking forward to hearing that sometime, but this was a great expectations deleter of a set.
Haven't seen too many recent Red Star Rising or Steve's solo shows, because he will be a gentleman and let all the other acts precede him. So, it's usually "...twang-g-g-g..." (fade out). "So long Steve. We're off to catch the ferry..." (usually yelled out of a taxi window). Tonight, though, there's time. It's also the first time I've had a chance to see Drummer Neil handling the twigs. Steve says welcome to "the semi-plugged night. We've got such a good crowd so rock it, let's fuck". The band crashes into a mighty rendition of "Megaphone Man". Alex and Drummer Neil lay down a solid drum/bass foundation and Steve goes all fingerblurry on the opening solos. "It's Stevie Cray Vaughn" (Nice One, Luke! I was momentarily miffed that I didn't think of that, but credit where it's due!). Steve, Alex and Neil have been playing together since January and they are tight. Drummer Neil is more 4-to the floor precision rock beats, with occasional flurries. Hugh the former drummer was more whimsical, shall I say? In and out of styles and tempos like a gifted amateur, while Drummer Neil is professional. Think of Ten Years After doing "I'm Coming Home" at Woodstock '69. Alvin Lee is in full on why-play-5-notes-when-37-will do-mode. Leo Lyons on bass and Ric Lee on drums are tweaking new extracts out of minimalist performance. Doing hardly anything that shows while maintaining a relentless beat throughout the 9+ minute performance (on film. They played about 40 minutes on the night)
The pace doesn't relent until Steve breaks a string during "Footsteps" and takes a little longer to replace it than he usually does, because he's enjoying the inter-riffery between the other two. The set is a stripped down Greatest Hits. Tunes include "Red Claw", the grinder blues-rock of "Walking With The Devil" and the quirkiness (somewhat overused word at times, but it still fits) of "Escalator Girls". "Dollar Arcade" and especially "Shopping Malls". These three songs form a triptych of cultural, fiscal and sociological observations of the increasing importance of Mall Culture. (And they rock, dude...) I've always heard "Shopping Malls" as their "Dark Star". Their Grateful Dead moment to stretch out for 20-30 minutes, segue into other material, mash up other hits, give everyone a solo etc. Perhaps, I should tell him this one day. You know, be discreet and obsequious and see what he thinks. Or on the oth..., hey, wait a minute, where is everyone? Oh, Drummer Neil's still here. "Great show. Very enjoyable. First time, I've..." Isn't your ferry leaving about now?" "What's the time?" "12:28!" "G'bye" Taxi, Tardis, whatever. Get me to the ferry in 25 seconds. The digital clock in the taxi reads 12:23. It's accurate. "Made it, Ma!" (That gig was) "Top Of The World" And as the California Governator once said when asked which classical musician he would like to play in a film. "I'll be Bach" See you next month.
Review by Nick The Bookman
Well, this is it. A hat trick of head trips with the Hed Kandi Experience. I missed the first 3 shows. My first gig was Andy Warburton. Great night out. Reviewed elsewhere. The second show was Andy Norman. Turned up at JJ's after Underground # 55 and watching England beat Ireland in the rugby. Am in a good mood. Arrive. No ticket, It was misplaced.
The lovely Lisa gets me in anyway. Upstairs, DJ Andy Norman is laying down the beats and Shena has just started her second set. She reminds me of a scaled down Jennifer Hudson (from "Dreamgirls"). She sings well, but it's not what I want to hear. Andy Norman is good. He has a radio show tending more to the smooth and sophisticated (I think). He can mix, except when he changes to a pre-mixed backing CD for Shena's brief outings. The reactions I overheard ranged from "chilled" to "boring" and "too damn sweet". I found him a bit "vanilla" in the DVD sense. No special features or interesting extras. Straightforward r n' b vocals overlaid by soulful easy beats. I was hoping for an "I Am The Walrus" digi-delic overload type of evening. Instead it was more like being in the presence of The Walrus of Love. Fine if you like the Barry White/ Al Green/warbling divas etc.
Wrapped up in user friendly layers of house beats and rhythms. Spiced with little hints of 70's disco and 80's poptronics. Not that they're bad at what they do. It just ain't me, babe...
Review by Nick The Bookman
So, it's 21/6/08 and David Dunne is touching down at JJ's with a twisted bag of Kandi-land krackers. He's accompanied by the mighty Ian C. on Roland electronic drums and more traditional percussion. They've been playing about 20 minutes by the time I get inside. The place is rammed. Same old Hed Kandi visuals from the previous show. Volar has vibier visuals. There's some nice proggy bits going on underneath while mutant disco and New Romantic melodies are layered on top. The bass is twangy elastic at times and there are bouncy bubble beats here and there. On top is Ian's frenetic drumming. He's a veteran of many live gigs and has played on some of the top mixes. He and David are meshing very well. Sometimes, Ian forces the pace. Explodes into flurry-bursts of percussive action while David selects the next choice number. Other times Ian chills out. Leaves the stage on occasion while David lets the mixes play out. Some are played nearly straight for about 7-8 minutes. Others are layered into long segues. Even the vocals, which are the most Andy Norman part of his set, don't grate on me tonight.
The styles vary from deep tech salsa at one point to disco snippets and Chembros style big beats. Some nice grungy noise, meets tinkly Italian house piano. There are freaky synth squalls, bursts of what sounds like Viv Stanshall's Bonzo's on bad acid. There's some technoir Scorsese movie music and some delightful displays of darting digidelix. Um, me likey. Hell, I think The Sixties would have loved the set. The Fillmore/Avalon/UFO/Round House trips updated, remixed and remastered in full on swirly sensurround. One ringing anthem chant of "Freedom: rings out over the syndrums while another tune "Rock the DJ", washes in and out of the mix. Jaw-dropping aural fun. David does the same trick later with a long tease using part of "Sweet Dreams" before playing the remix. There's echochords bouuncing round the room and other progtastic trickery. Back to soulful stuff with "Music is the Answer". His set seems to peak and alter about every 20 minutes or so. Much like Andy Warburton. I'm Having A Good Time Now.
All too soon, (about 3 hours), it's over, Tai Pan Dan is rounding down the night and it;s time to go. DD is on my list to see again. He's shown a lot of tricks and styles. He says that Lamma-based DJ Nipper taught him to mix and they hosted a radio show together. Nipper sends his regrds. Thanks Nick W. and Manek for turning me on. See you at the next one.
Review by Nick The Bookman
Thursday 19/6/08 and I've arrived at The Wanch for what promises to be the start of an exciting new musical event. It's the first Raw and Unplugged Sessions to be organised by bc magazine and features four diverse local acts. I didn't know anything about this gig until Steve Cray told me about it - mainly because he's one of the four acts on display. I've always had a soft spot for acoustic/unplugged shows. A taste that was acquired during 14 years of attending the late lamented Hong Kong Folk Festivals. The HKFF is in indefinite limbo because the last Festival Executive Committee basically drank up all the profits. Or spent them on sex. Fast food perhaps. Or just simply wasted the money.
Steve has given me a copy of bc magazine with brief pieces on all the performers. It sounds intriguing enough and I'm captivated by a quote from Scarlett Lewis who says "come and support us. Acoustic performers are the most neglected in the world and...the most talented" A viewpoint she shares with The World's (formerly) Most Elegantly Wasted Person - Keith Richards. He once said if you want to hear how good a guitarist is, listen to him play acoustic. You're in good company, Scarlett (aside from the massive wealth and luxuries and top class draw that is!). So the line-up reads: Scarlett Lewis and Ash Pritchard. Lani Giro. Reigh Lee. Steve Cray. It's meant to start about 2100 and end about 0015, Friday. Just enough time to get the last ferry home. If everything goes according to schedule...
I've arrived outside The Wanch about 2000 hours. The plan is to get a good front-row seat where I can scribble and scrawl to my heart's content. Soak up the vibes. Let the medication kick in and not jump around too much on my never-ending dodgy knee. It's often said that no battle plan ever lasts beyond first contact with the enemy. And so it proves to be (except the battle bit of course). I can't get a seat. The place is packed. Not rammed as full as the reunion gigs by The Bastards. Where you might have gained entrance if a cannibal giant ate you completely and generously farted you out again. (Apparently some readers were put off by my previous chainsaw/highpressure hose interface metaphor in the Bastards review. Yes? No?)
There's about 15-20 sailors from the Good Ship U.S.S. (DELETED). They're here to support their good buddy John Bryant who is an unexpected opening act. He contacted The Underground about possibly playing. Chris B. referred him to Simon Durrant, the editor/publisher of bc Magazine. A few months later, all is sorted out. The first Unplugged Sessions is taking place and John is the opening opening act. He plays a storming set of originals and one cover which is "I Mind" by The Mystics. His set is greeted with whoops of near drunken approval and cries of "John, I love You" (and that's his fellow swabbies). He's a strong strummer, rather than a fine fingerpicker. His voice and style remind me of a neat cross between Badly Drawn Boy, John Sebastian and John Gorka. One song is actually called "Badly Drawn Boy" As a side trip, Uncut Magazine recently put out a Springsteen tribute/covers CD. Badly Drawn Boy plays the most haunting version of "Thunder Road" I have ever heard. I'm getting all horripilatory, just writing this sentence and thinking about it. It should be available for down load somewhere on the InterWeb. Or just ask Uncut. Or me. It's easily worth your time to find it.
John tells me he's a big fan of Dylan. And various hellbilly rock n' rollers like The Cramps, Misfits etc. John, it was a pleasure to meet you (and Julian the semi-Norseman). Hope you liked my CD's and looking forward to hearing you again.
John and his buddies leave slowly. The intermission tunes include "Sweet Child" and "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns and Roses. Also "You Give Love A Bad Name" and "Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi. It kicks the happy tension up a notch or three while Scarlett and Ash set up. They have a more English bucolic folk story-telling style. Scarlett does the lead vox and Ash backs her up. Scarlett told bc Magazine that her set is "original material" dealing with Hong Kong's financial and social divides. I work with refugees and asylum seekers and they inspire me". I'm buggered if I can think off hand who they remind me of. Partly The Trees. Also some early Fairport Convention and a bit of Pentangle. Martin Carthy and Norma Waterston who were the headliners at the penultimate HKFF. All that's missing is a bit of fiddle. Scarlett says she's also a big fan of John Martyn. I'm happy because I've nabbed a seat at last. The medication kicks in and completely screws up my hearing. The fifth song I hear as "Iron or Leather" Scarlett very kindly corrects my notes later and says the track is actually "I Will Never". (Actually, I liked my title better. Overtones of folky s and m? A new level of protest song?) A very pleasant 40 minutes has elapsed. Scarlett precedes her last song "Perfect" with a plug for a refugee welfare gig on the coming Saturday (21/6/08) organised by her "closest friend" Danielle Spencer. It took place at The Cavern and I hope it went off well. For more details and upcoming gigs, you can contact them both on email@example.com. Here's to the next gig.
Lani Giro is the third act of this increasingly enjoyable night. Born in Michigan, he's been a resident in HK for several years. He plays a Gibson Blues King acoustic/electric guitar having downsized most of his equipment because in HK he "seems to have (to) walk miles up and down concrete paths and through corridors" Lani looks like the fifth member of The Wild Hogs - the recent biker comedy with John Travolta, William Macy, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence. I'm expecting a gruff grizzled voice to go with the appearance, but his singing is quiet, almost conversational and rather sweet. More of a folky-blues picker with some delicate touches of Leo Kottke or Jorma Kaukonnen in the mix. There seems to be some airy Kevin Ayers (mid-60's) coming through as well. His original songs include "Modern Lady", "Can You" and "Earth" which was timely some 20 years ago, but is more urgent now in the dying days of Bushreich and his complete indifference to global environmental isues. Steve Cray has arrived by now and I'm wondering if I'm going to be able to stay for his set. Sue Sharman is here. She tells me she'll be duetting with Reign Lee who is on next. Rei, who recently guested on flute with Hamada's new world fusion-funk band, berates me for missing that show. I'll try and make the next one and do a review.
For us (mostly) unsozzled hippie reprobates and survivors, the phrase "For one brief shining moment, there was Camelot" is a gestalt experience. It's shorthand for the what if memories that accrued from the JFK Presidency. If he hadn't been murdered by the Mafia/CIA, how might history be changed? What bittersweet yearnings were trampled underfoot by his death and the slow realisation that The Light At The End Of The Tunnel was the crazy swerving trainwreck that is the Great Dubyahoo and his treasonous Cabal. Another song, Don Henley's "The Boys Of Summer" affects me the same way. The original "Boys" were the 1960-61 New York Yankees. Don Henley uses it to say you can never go back. All that remains are wistful memories,sawdust dreams, barren skies and empty trees. The past is a painful place to re-live in. And the point of all this nostalgic gibberish? It's summed up, again for me, by Reign Lee's opening song "Summer Faded".
Reign and Sue amble on stage after 2300 hours. It's looking more evident that I'll not hear a lot of Steve's set. Reign is playing a plugged in acoustic. Sue is full electric. Three little FX boxes by her feet marked, Smallstone, Overload and Acoustic Simulator. Reign was born in Ontario and is now a "Hong Kong-based alternative rock diva" (Chris B. has some serious competition now. Does she know I wonder?) Sue is HK-born and has just moved back to Lamma from the fleshpits of Central. Reign tells the audience helpfully that Sue spells her name "S-i-o-u-x". Whether that's t-r-i-o-u-x, I d-o-i-u-x not know. I'll stick with Sue for ezyar spelin. She's made 2 CD's called "Broken Skylines" and a new EP entitled "Holding Back The Beast" . In her interview with bc, Reign says that one fan has commented on a "recurring theme in my music: a constant wrestling with demons" I hear it as a haunted nostalgia, the pain from wrong choices, wrong times. Not all bad though, but certainly plenty of Dr. Van Helsing's "bitter waters" must be waded through before we "reach the sweet".
Overall, the set is stunning Nu-Goth tinged with Acid Folk. Sue's guitar playing recalls late period Bunnymen, mingled with "Blue Sky Mining"-era Midnight Oil. The vocals are clear and strong. I can hear some Patti Smith colliding with Pat Benatar. Even a bit of Belinda Carlisle when she still fronted The Go-Gos. There are some fine indie/80's gothchick rhythms and some naggingly familiar vocal mannerisms that will wake me up at 0300 saying, yes that's it. That's who she reminds me of. Anyway "Summer Faded" was my top tune of the night and you two lovely ladies stole my heart away with the rest of the set. Songs included a tribute to the mysterious "Helena", "Don't Walk Away", "This Lonely Love" and "In The Rain" All of them taken from the "Broken Skylines" CD, according to my notes. I probably had the best set in the house for this gig, sitting where the drummers usually play, watching the set from behind the performer and you managed to finish just before midnight. If you want to find out more about Reign, go to firstname.lastname@example.org . There's just enough time to watch Steve get set up before Rei and I head for the last ferry. Steve, sorry I missed you. Again! It doesn't always pay to be the headliner. (And, we just wanted to confirm with you Mr. Hendrix that you'll be closing Woodstock at 0700 Monday). Steve told me later, he played until 0130 or so. Reign stayed for his set and he got a beautifully autographed copy of "Broken Skylines" (Thanks for the burn Steve. Reign, the CD is stunning.I'm playing it a lot at home.) Simon, nice to finally met the editor of bc Magazine. It was a great show and here's to the next one ASAP.
Review by nick the bookman.
On the 30th May was the opening celebrations of the global flagship store within Hong Kong’s most prestigious Central shopping district. Arriving at the brand new store, it revealed the epitome of style and class, a delightfully bright and fresh four stories of glass and stainless steel. With Coach’s horse and carriage logo emblazoned throughout, in a shopping haven for the accessible luxury that Coach is renowned for. Coach has become a shopping destination for fashion-minded women and men around the globe, but more excitingly now to us lucky folk in Hong Kong.
Men in black opening doors, and ladies in black assigning fluorescent stamps to the worthy for the celebratory opening night of Coach. Unfortunately it was anything but a coach that transported those from the store to the party location in Kowloon. From arriving at the store and receiving such a welcome, I had expected at the very least some big luxurious buses with a man wearing a top hat escorting those into the bus with an extended hand and a gentle bow, and of course another top hat clad man behind the steering wheel. Perhaps a chandelier hanging from the centre of the Isle while promo adverts for Coach Luxury items silently beckoning on the overhead plasma screens…. Instead it literally was a mini bus, but hey it was the thought that counts.
Arriving at the venue in Kowloon, a huge white tent covered with Coaches silvery logo from floor to ceiling. Inside the who’s who of Hong Kong dressed in their designer ware and proudly displaying their Coach handbags, mingled about sipping on champagne and nibbling on fairy floss and jelly beans.
Then Mr. John Mayer took the stage and with no pomp or prestige. Just walked onto the stage with his accompanying guitarist and started playing. It was all acoustic, simple and oh so effective.
He covered Alicia Keys No One wonderfully and sang No Such Thing, My Body is a Wonderland, (which Mayer stated that he is still so proud of even after all the slack he has received about it), and Waiting on the World o Change. He is such a talented musician, and that was evident by the way that he held the crowd in the palm of his hand while sitting down and singing with only guitar accompaniment.
1. No One – (cover by Alicia Keys)
2. No Such Thing
4. Good Love is on the Way
5. Waiting on the World to Change
6. Your Body is a Wonderland
7. Bigger than my Body
8. Why Georgia
Review by Megan N.