Event Reviews

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.

I'm on the Airport Express which is just passing through Tsing Yi. Outside, dusk is, er "dawning" if you like. The sky is a swirl of black and blue, reminiscent of a rare rainless night in Blade Runner World. The landscape is studded with large indistinct blobs that can only be industrial factories. They're dotted with orange halogen pinpricks which seem smeary to me like Van Gogh's Sunflowers. The horizon looks like it would if you were, say, 20 miles high. It's stark, doomy, gothic, even. Just the right visual cue to set the mood for A Night With The Cure. (Monday 30/6/07) 

About 3000 people, ranging in style from just-left-the-office to near full-blown gothpunk, have gathered at the AsiaWorld-Arena for this debut show by the "Godfather of Goth", Robert Smith. The other 3 members of the quartet are Porl Thompson, who's Smith's brother-in-law, on lead guitar. Then, there's bassist  Simon Gallup and long-time drummer Jason Cooper. The stage is at the top of a large "U" with seats ranged around the other 3 sides and a dancing/standing room only area within the "U". The word is out that the Cure will probably do a 3-hour set. I've managed to spot Lamma acquaintances, Ciaran and Elinor, Chi, the drummer with local band The Sinister Left and Teddy. All say they're expecting a good show. The warm up tunes include "Einstein a Go-Go" by Landscape and "Run, Run, Run" by the Velvet Underground. Another track seems quite indie-baggie, with samples from the film "Performance" layered throughout. Quite an eclectic mix and a harbinger of glories to come. 

The lights shift at about 2015 and a loud space bass erupts from the stage along with some noodly guitar and atmospheric FX. Could almost be an ambient track on a Buddha Bar CD. It carries on for several minutes as the crowd round me desert their seats and rush towards the stage. The lyrics are obscure, but there's some mention of "House of Love" which draws cheers from the more aware fans. I've known of The Cure since their 70's inception, but am not fanatical about collecting everything. I'd say about 80% of this show is unknown songs to me plus a healthy dollop of "Bloody hell, I didn't know they did this song" at frequent intervals. I'm just hoping to hear "A Forest" and everything else is a double-plus bonus.  The 4th tune features some wonderful flamenco-style guitar and big thumpy drums over a snatch of vocals proclaiming "I'm paralysed by the thought (later blood) of Christ". The band seem to have caught the fine balance between a rock gig and a mega-rave, especially when I close my eyes.

The hits and big beats all come in quick succession. Basically the show veers from space-dub frenzy with guitars on stun to the quirky love ballads to gothpunkfunk. There seems to be about a 20-minute cycle of ups and downs, noise and quiet, rock and pop. Sometimes, Robert is playing guitar, sometimes he's striding to the sides of the stage to engage the fans while Porl and Simon bounce around energetically. Jason is sensational on drums. At times he recalls the late Pete deFreitas (of The Bunnymen) with ripples and rolls weaving through the song structure. Sometimes, there a Bonzo influence or a bit of Keith Moon whimsy as well. The light show is mainly the full spectrum of spotlights jabbing at the audience, winking in and out of existence. The big regret for me is that there are no video screens like there were for Muse and Roger Waters. 

A high point of the show has been reached. The band have done 14 numbers including "Without You" and Robert announces "Wrong day, wrong time" and everyone is promptly singing along to "Friday, I'm In Love". Triple horripilatory tingles all around and still the hits keep coming. Another snatch of lyric "...show me how you do it, I'll run away from you" sounds like vintage House of Love. Other tracks blend Bauhaus and the Mission while one tune descends through Eastern modalities and snarling guitars chasing their tails like a Siamese-twin-cat fight. Another track with the refrain "Never enough" could almost have been done by Aerosmith in their heavy druggy daze. There's Sabbath-style riffing and massive prog drums as Robert chants "don't let it ever rain" No, wait, now it's shivery Tinkerbell shimmers of guitar, straight out of the Flaming Lips. No, now it's gone all space Celticfolk, like the late lamented Horslips. The FX pedals are getting a major work out tonight folks. 

Another massive cheer as the refrain "wave after wave after wave" crashes round the hall. The band veers from some Primal Scream touches to glamrock goth as the strobes  flurry and fluster and disorientate.Robert is ranting about "...white, green and tangerine and I'm sick of orange" It's coming up to 2235 and Robert tells us "this is the longest set we've ever played in our fucking lives". By my (probably faulty) count, the band have played about 29-30 songs by the time they leave the stage at 2240. They return after 5 minutes to a greedy and unsatiated audience and Robert says "right, ready for another 3 hours?" Obviously a rhetorical question. There's another 6 songs to go, split over 3 encores. They include "A Forest" (finally!) and "Why Can't I be You?" (because there ain't no vacancies mate I think abstractly). The final encore includes "Boy's Don't Cry" and a chimy 80's style guitar track that sounds like an outtake from the "Pretty in Pink"  soundtrack. "And That Is It. Thank You Very Much" says Robert. The lights go on and The Cure have finished a stunning 3-hour show that touches all bases and firmly enhances their reputation. They're #2 in my Best Gigs of 2007. Roger Waters has still set the standard and Muse have dropped to #3 in the list. Now bring on Nine Inch Nails (and possibly Napalm Death!)

Review by Nick L.

It's Friday the 20th, but it feels like a re-run of one week earlier One of those house moves you feel lucky to survive, never mind want to do again. Still, there's brass in pocket and a ticket to see Paolo Mojo on The Renaissance Digital Asia Tour 2007. Our hosts are Magnetic Soul who recently provided Fabio with his HK debut. New Wanchai "superclub" Heat is the venue  It should be crowded tonight...

I've arrived at Heat about 2330 and bump into Manek who says old mate/clubber Karina is on the way. It's cool upstairs. Walk down a long corridor and there's the top of the T, comprising a small(ish) dance floor and elevated DJ booth. Reminds me a bit of the Technoir Club in Terminator. Can't see what magic is being performed, but I guess laptops and CD's are more likely than than clunky-chunky vinyl bags

The support DJ is weaving his magic early on. Lots of darkprog-cum-techhouse. What sounds like slurry Klingon vox samples are layered over humming organs, pulsing beats and the odd burst of clatterdrums. The sound changes to Herbie Hancock style retrosynths meet Yello-inspired cartoon keyboards. There are a lot of subliminal samples, waxing and waning. I always find these 'subs" fascinating to listen to. They seem to be pitched at the midway point where voice meets music.  Where 'tronic tones mutate into noisy notes. I have a brief debate with Karina on whether the vox sample is saying "think" or "freak". Another one later seems to change from "I've been banned" to "I'm in the band". Other punters may have their own favourite translations.

In a nutshell, Synecal's set veers from some of Sasha's spacy excursions to Eddie Halliwell's "Bosh"-era rapid-fire editing. The vocals are warped, pitchshifted, growling, keening, rising in frequency. Great whooshes of sound emerge like audio-fog, swamping the sparse audience. (There seem to be about 60 people here for most of the night. Pity, this is a stunning gig so far) There's whibblysynth-whispers, nice cut-n-paste changes in style, lots of emotional high-end kepyboard melodies. Drums, echo and fade over throbbing bass. Hints of "Funky Town" or "Come Together" (by the Beatles) twirl into Giorgio Morodor electro. Is this U2 remixed by Above and Beyond? Yes? No? Maybe? Writing these reviews sometimes, I'm reminded of Frank Zappa's maxim: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture"

It's about 0230 and Sinycal is winding down. Karina's bobbing and bopping in and out of focus. Ditto Manek. The crowd isn't getting any larger. Let's start a new War On Audience Apathy!  He finishes with an explosion of Tonto's Expanding Headband-style of Moog mayhem. Liquid gurgling monophones in pleasing harmony die away... (If you're curious, TEH's debut LP "Zero Time can be downloaded. Do a Google search and enjoy the weirdness of 1971 electronic entertainment. That they later worked extensively with Stevie Wonder in his mid-70's fallow period shouldn't be held against them.)

There's a brief silence before Paolo starts. This is his 3rd trip to HK. He did a well-received set at Volar last year and I think I was the only gwai loh who saw his 2001 debut with Tom Stephan in a murky little 7th floor club in Causeway Bay. His set begins quietly (like these go to 6 instead of 11) but he soon kicks in. The digital sound is impressive at times. Great sunbursts of sound fill the room. It's the aural equivalent of eating Tingles (those sweets that crackle and fizzpop in your mouth). Sasha is evident again in the mix (the two of them have toured together). However, the DJ he recalls most is BLIM in all his eclectadelic majesty. There's ambient sound of birds twittering and little kid's voices fusing into electro-bleeps. The New Romantics of the mid-80's come to mind with the keyboards. At one point, a tune comes on that's a kissing cousin to the soundtrack from Zombie Flesh Eaters. It's complete with horrorvox, fleeing in all directions Sometimes, I feel that I'm hearing a full Technicolour performance after years of listening to music in black and white. The red and green swirly lasers add to the potential menace. They look like broken fluorescent worms at one point. No they're rectangles. No they're perforation lines slicing and dicing the dancers. (And NO smoke machines to choke up the floor) The only melody I recognise in his 3-hour set  is a sample from "Life In A Northern Town" by Dream Academy. Just one of many blissbreaks studded throughout the set.

Someone tells me that Paolo has lost his edge a little. "He was much better 2 years ago" If so, he must have been awesome.  I know he's better than 2001 and I'm enjoying tonight along with the other 60  or so hardy souls. The "techno-hobbit" as Karina's sister, Christian refers to him is playing in Singapore after HK. I'll bet he pulled in over a thousand fans there. They seem to do the big parties better there somehow. Thanks, Nick W. and Magnetic Soul for the ticket. And to keep the candy metaphors going, you put the Quality in the (Lockhart) Street tonight! See you at the Next Big One.

Review by Nick L.

Well, well well...it's been 10 years since we all turned Communist! Time for a Party eh? The Beijing Big Boys are Back in Town and it's pissing with rain (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Darren Emerson was in the frame for a Handover Party, but it never happened (what went wrong?) So, Derek and boys at Lotion put their heads together and came up with Takkyu Ishino from Japan, Ricky Stone (fresh from the fleshpots of Shenzhen) and local hero Jason. The venue is Western Market, where DJ Dan and Daft Punk provided a thrilling night out recently.

As I enter the building, I spot Manek chatting with a friend - "this is Tag" - a fan who's here to hear Ricky do his thing. Tag says he knows Ricky "from when we lived in HK". He's hoping Ricky isn't on too late as "I'm off to see Sao Paulo play Bayern tomorrow in the Reunification Cup and I need an early(ish) night". Almost right on cue, Ricky arrives with Dennis aka Turkish and Melinda. He beckons us to follow him upstairs and inside where Jason is behind the CD wheels of steel. My knee is aching so I grab a seat near the door and watch the Grand Parade go passing by. The ladies for the most part are dressed up although stylish caps, vests and jeans are on display. The guys are more baggy/crumpled in appearance. The DJ set up replicates the DJ Dan experience. Big dance area and the VIP's are in the minstrel gallery's to the left and right. I recognise some people from the previous show (hi, Alex from Canada and pals).

Jason seems to have tailored his set again. There's some nice whibblewhibble 'tronics overlaying a blend of future-retro 80's synth-cum-New Romantic background melodies. At times, it's like Sasha at Space versus the worst of Judge Jules and his fabulous homage to all things fromage (ie Cheese!) The vocals are slurry, sliding up and down the scales and shifting in pitch while hints of Ultravox, New Order, some proggy Yes or Barclay James Harvest unfold under the beats. Hell, there's even some sexy saxaphone at one point. The crowd is expanding rapidly - over 300 at this point - and seems in fine fettle although there are several severely overmedicated punters in my vicinity. These people seem to be approaching an Iggy Pop state of mind where they're having No Fun. Meanwhile Jason appears to be channeling Eddie Halliwell entertaining a Hawkwind audience. The music squirms and shapeshifts through prog/goth/symphonic/cosmic stylings and it's a far-out groovy fucker of a gig, man.

Ricky's on about 0100 and he maintains the twisted pace with a few more rock voxbites. Great sample from the Red Hot Chili Peppers comes and goes in a mutated frenzy. Or was it Annie Lennox? Maybe she's later in the set. Maybe I imagined it? No, my medication seems to be working fine. There's some serious stutter-drums worthy of John Creamer in full flight. There's the insistent nagging bass riff from Patricia Never Leaves The House which wanders in and out of several tracks for about 10 minutes or 2 months or whatever. Squeaky bleeps from middle space blend in and out of Vangelis meets Therion keyboard klatter. Jason and Ricky are now going back2back? Is that the term when they play about 15-20 minutes and interrupt each other's sets with the best of intentions? Whatever, it's working. Turkish is struggling through the crowd, but doesn't look like he's filming very much with his enormo-cam. Ricky whacks on a great sample of Iggy doing "I Wanna Be Your Dog" which he tells me later is a new bootleg of his. He's already played "Rapture" by IIO to -well- rapturous acclaim. My brain's on fast flashback to 2001. It's heavier than the original mix or the Paul Van Dyk remix with some muffled thunder drums reminiscent of Gary Glitter (when he was famous for his music and not his pervy lifestyle) The crowd is nudging 1000 or so and it's nearly time for Takkyo But first it,s a big hi to newfound friends Janine, Nikki, HaiGunn, Chris, Tak Wai and Jamie who've been wondering just what the fuck I'm writing for the past 40 minutes.
I'm next to Rob from Japan who informs me that Takkyu is "a bit old and middling" these days. He says there are younger DJ's in Tokyo who are much better, but don't get the exposure. Despite this tepid tribute, Takkyu revs it up a notch more. A "fuckfuckfuckfuck" sample, almost like techno-Moby, pounds out and his set is starting to veer towards the hard-edged beats of Westbam  and a more Berlin Love Parade Experience. The crowd is getting bigger and I'm  thinking of moving when Janek (who I haven't seen since the Carl Cox gig last December) finds me and escorts me upstairs. The VIP's do things in style. Bottles of Red Bull and Moet Chandon are everywhere. Everything is going great with Takkyu until 0425 and then The Shithammer Descends...

The music abruptly stops, the lights go on and it's another recurring episode of Pigs in Space. Yes, it's the well-timed Official License Check. I mean, what the fuck is going on. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a legal gig. The DJ's have legal contracts. They're in HK legally. The Police are the one's who granted the license in the first place. Don't they know if their own licenses are in order? And if not, all it needs is one PC Plod to check it in the afternoon or before the show starts. Was it a noise complaint as some people were heard to mutter. If so, talk to the promoter quietly and say keep it down a bit. The noise isn't always that loud these days anyway. Possibly 80-90 decibels so as not to impair heari(pardon! What you say?)ng. I mean, this isn't a vintage Slayer gig where the volume is 140 decibels or more. Once the show has started this gig is legally no different from Opening Night of the HK Arts Festival! When was the last (first actually) time you saw that busted? The front 10 rows hauled away and breathalysed? Yeah, dream on. No, this is simple harassment by the police Because They Can. Perhaps they're trying to provoke a reaction to stop all future disco/rave/dance nights.

Full credit to all the fans inside who submitted to the silence with no small measure of dignity. Other places in the world, the Boys in Blue would have been slow roasted barbecue if they tried pulling this shit, but here everyone just sat patiently and waited them out. Maybe the simple answer is that they were just trying to make ends meet, Double or triple dibs for working over the holiday period. A chance to impress the Head Hogs during their brief grip-n-grin with our The Donald. The police left after an hour or so. No arrests were apparent, The fans won out and Takkyu played out the rest of his truncated set. Everyone went home sort of happy, except for Laura Norder who probably had to do a lot of paperwork. Tough shit. Overall, another fun night. Thanks Lotion and keep 'em coming. 

(Review by Nick L.)

Underground 46
9th June 2007
Venue: The Cavern
Bands:
Jane Eliz
Fantastic Day
The Yours
Spodac
 
I hurried to the bar as the weekends rain decided to start pelting down again and soon realized that when the advertisement for the nights gig said starting at 8, it really meant 8… so sorry Jane Eliz, I only caught your last song. I couldn't even concentrate on that as I was in dire need of alcohol and was having a hard time distracting the bar tender from chatting to the bar maid. FYI: the bar staff at The Cavern are shit. Most of the crowd started to drift into the bar throughout the second act: Fantastic Day. As only being exposed to local Hong Kong bands over the past 2 weeks I still didn't have much of an idea what to expect… I was hoping for a little more than this. They sounded like a band stuck for knowing what sound exactly they're trying to accomplish. I can only describe it as drab eighties rock with a weird psychedelic edge to it… and not in a good way. I think the peculiar psychedelic accent simply came from trying to play an improvisational keyboard, to make up for not being able to play it properly. They're strumming along harmonies got abruptly overtaken by the lead singers out of tune whining. His vocal chords actually reminded me of Daniel Johnston, just without the unique painful overtone that made Johnston's childish cries bearable. To some it up it sounded like a 13 year old discovering his dads Smiths records and creating his own adaptation of the depressed Brit rockers.
 
Damn, I said I was only going to try and write positively about HK's music scene, but to counterbalance that brutal commentary, the 3 rd band of the night is my vindication. When I saw these guys get on stage wearing what can only be described as attire so colorful and baggy MC Hammer wouldn't take you seriously, I was thinking… Shit I dunno what I was thinking except "these guys look f**ked!". They are The Yours, and they have some of the best on stage presence from a local band I have seen. They seem to be a parody of themselves, and they are not afraid to experiment which is great, and what I would say more bands need to do in an age where a new genre of music is developing every week. Essentially their music is punk rock with this electronic edge to it brought by the synthesizer taken in turns to work with by the bands two singers. The crowd clearly enjoying the music, and I get the impression The Yours are the reason for them attending the night. They're sound; especially what I assume to be they're hit track Tasteless is, to an extent, reminiscent of The Pixies. They have only been together a couple of years, which at times shows, but if these guys keep at it, keep pushing the experimental edge, they could be pretty interesting in another couple of years time. I recommend checking them out.
 
From experimentation to: heard it / been there / done that / please shoot me now music. Spodac , which maybe if your into eighties bland American rock you may like it. I personally would rather have a slow and painful death… Ok sorry I'm being too harsh, positive criticism: They're musicians are not untalented, so maybe they would make a good cover band but if they insist on performing they're own material maybe they should also try to develop they've own sound, because for me there was nothing that stood out, at all. It made me have images in my head of American truckers enthusiastically playing they're stereos at full blast, knowing all the lyrics, and singing it even worse than this guy in front of me now. Or maybe I was just getting irritable from having to stand all night. I left (fled) through they're last track and went to Yum La to get drunk… that mission was extremely successful.
 
Review by Robin J

Advance buzz about #34 suggests it could be one of the best yet. There are 5 bands on the bill at The Edge this Friday night 10-11-06. I've arrived early, but there are already plenty of people inside. The fans appear to be split along fashion/tribal lines. I can't get my usual seat, near the door, so am ensconced on the plush sofa just left of the dancefloor. Not such a good choice as I'm obscured by crowds as Bereavement finish sound-checking. I'm wondering who is going to be the MC tonight. Yan's band Hard Candy is supposed to be playing at The Fringe. Will they start late so she can finish off here first? The B. is asent tonight and Manek is busy doing other things.

Opening act is Kissing On The Dance Floor, a quartet who play a quirky strain of poppy indie-rock. The vocals are down in the mix, but seem to get louder mid-set after some exhortations from Alex, the guitarist/singer. The opening song has a Pulpish feel, overlaid by some stretchy wah wah guitar. The second tne combines elements of the Kinks meets The Magnetic Fields with some sparkly 'tronix scattered like fairy dust amid the mix. Later songs mine a harder Gothic edge. A Bunnymen-like long intro cascades with chiming guitar reminiscent of vintage House Of Love while the next song whirls and swooshes like a demented dervish spacing out to Hawkwind. Tony, the bassist, and drummer Lung mesh well, providing the basic groove while JT soars above on lead guitar. The crowd must be over 200 by now and the vibes are excellent. Yan is being a most capable MC tonight. 

Bereavement are a Gothic quartet who describe their music as Doom Metal. Songs are given room to breathe and grow and the pacing is more stoner-dub than thrash metal. There's a touch of the Teutonic in the gruntvox while the guitars are dark Spaghetti Western meets Philip Glass minimalism. Even when they speed up in places, it still sounds spacy, slow and chilled out. Sort of like expecting "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly and getting "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" by Pink Floyd. The second long tune is the closest I've heard to vintage UFO with its  pulsing, echo guitars soaring to infinity and beyond. This a view shared by Steve and Mark - two Lamma acquantances who are here on a works outing with their students. The final track recalls the wiry intensity and hypnotic/Hendrixian groove of mid-80's UK band Dr, Phibes, who crashed and burned after one excellent CD. Bereavement are the first band to really capture my attention since the local psych/prog/metal band Orthon. Hope to see you guys again soon.

 Willem is here as usual, hopping around like a man on a mission impossible to get every possible shot of everything happening tonight (and not failing by much) Meanwhile, a small screen has been erected and Snoblind get ready to take us into the Twilight Zone where all is possible and nothing forbidden. I think they are the first laptop band to play this event. They plough a slightly more funkrock path than say the ambient electronica of FourTet or the mashed-up dance grooves of Kid 666 or the acid-dubtronix of Sandoz. The films are sped-up jerky journeys on tram and car around Hong Kong and add a pleasing hint of HK paranoia to the mix. One mid section sounds rather like the breakdown in Pink Floyd's "Bike" (with Syd on lead vox) and there are hints of the stoner dub riffs employed by Bereavement in the 4th tune. Another tune marries surly synthwhispers to film footage of the Nevada A-bomb tests in the 50's (the same film is also used in the remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes") The samples and beats recall mad Swedish Moogsters EHIF jamming with The Flaming Lips as (over) recorded by Phil Spector. There's also a nod to Frank Zappa's "Jazz From Hell". Regina and Vincent are two former "cubicle jockeys" who bonded over the limitless possibilities of the laptop and have been wowing audiences around Asia since 2002. The future's looking bright for them Qiu Hong are making their debut. You know the story. Won Battle of the Bands 2005, played Rock-It twice, were featured on a film soundtrack and generally make a fine fucking racket. The big oil drum is present which Janvox bangs on with uninhibited glee. The sound is crisp hardrock with shades of metal and they still use a megaphone on some numbers. Very effective piece of agitprop musical theatre. The crowd are going bonkers up front and Jan and Hala, the bass player, indulge in some nifty crowdsurfing. They get about 5 feet from the stage. I'm thinking that if I were Michael Schenker (who's making his HK debut on 23-11-06) I would consider Bereavement as UFO and Qiu Hong as The Scorpions. They don't do too badly when they play a couple of canto-ballads either coming over like Pat Benatar meets Rammstein via Blue Oyster Cult. Another winning performance as the crowd reaches 300 or so and the police arrive for a safety check. They depart, ignored by almost everyone except Clifton who's on the door and is heard asking later if "anyone saw the police?"

Last but not least it's Elf Fatima. This enigmatic and exotic quintet have been following their own postrock/noisenik muse for nigh on ten years. They appear to be the My Bloody Valentine group of the night with a stoner-jazz approach to freestyle jamming. In a way, it's a bit more Can and (restrained) Gong rather than the full-on weird shit of Faust or Einstadzhe Neubaten. Frontwoman Elf is easy on the eye while commanding my full attention. My increasingly garbled notes babble of unhinged Sonic Youth versus a postpsychedelic Gong. There's hints a-plenty of The Dirty Three (who played an inspired show here last October 28th) in the construction of the tunes. At one point the bassist seems to go into "Interstellar Overdrive, while the guitars go all Frippertronic. Later Elf uses an E-bow on her guitar, invoking the vision of Jimmy Page in his heyday. The rest of the band mash-up bits of The Banshees with Frank Black and then morphs into what sounds like The Velvet Underground doing "Black Angel's Death Song" Spooky-intense and I like it, although a good third of the audience has voted with its feet and muttered comments of disdain are overheard. Perhaps they are a bit ponderous in places, but take the time to listen and the tunes unfold like budding blooms. Overall, an entertaining and challenging evening and probably the most financially successful to date. The next gig is on 8-12-06. Catch you there.

Review by Nick The Bookman

This is gonna be a Blast From The Past. I've been a big fan of UFO for over 30 years and to find out that The Michael Schenker Group is making it's Hong Kong debut on 23-11-06 is too fucking much man. Michael was the lead guitar with UFO for a good part of their mega-successful years, having been plucked from obscurity in German head-bangers The Scorpions. Or he was pinched from them when Scorpions supported UFO. Pick your own fable as the Truth is vague and variable and usually written by the victors. Anyway, its 1940 and I'm on the 3rd floor of HITEC with about 200 or so fellow fans. A big hi to Eric, who writes and promotes a cool Chinese site on rock groups. It's www.hk-band.com His buddy Wolf is a fellow muso and tells me his band will play an upcoming Under Ground in March. I fail to get the all important band name as the doos open and everyone ambles in and straight to the front.

Some very pleasant acoustic guitar is playing. Tight, focused and melodic. The nearest approximation I can think of is Jorma Kaukkonen (ex-Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna) who now dabbles in acoustic blues/cum/bluegrass picking. I'm not surprised to discover that the unknown minstrel is Michael Schenker. The CD is called Thank You 4. I've been talking to Julian (from Taipei) who is an assistant mixer tonight. He joined the tour in Taipei, came here, and will return there with the MSG for the final gig of their Asian tour. I chat with Olivier, the band's soundman, who lets me copy down (most) of the set list. My fault, the band start before I finish.

The Michael Schenker Group is MS on lead guitars. Rev Jones on bass. Pete Holmes on drums. Wayne Findley on keyboards and rhythm guitar. Jorri (?) Tiura is the vocalist. They're on stage, blasting through an instrumental short called "Assault Attack" which segues into "Ready To Rock" with nary a break. Michael. in black cap and MSG t-shirt, black leather trews, looks more like Harry Nilsson these days than the young Teuton rock god of yore. I'm not saying he's a world class pisshead like HN. Just that I see a resemblence/memory of HN from photos of John Lennon's Lost Weekend. Jorri, the singer, looks like a young MS, crossed with a bit of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth). Wayne reminds me of Hurley (from Lost)'s cooler older (imaginary) brother crossed with Rob Zombie. Pete recalls Ricky Gervais crossed with Ginger Baker's ferocity of action and Rev is totally eye-catching. A shaved head, with what looks like a segmented brain tattoo and a long braid which he whirls like a propellor while rocking and exhorting the audience.

The 3rd tune is the first UFO classic of the night. "Let It Roll" is a near carbon copy version which gets the audience lustily singing along. I'm chuffed to find there are a lot of UFO fans here tonight. I thought I was indulging in a solitary pleasure. Having been listening to lots of really old UFO (like "Star Storm", which pre-dates MS arrival in the band) I'd forgotten how they rock like a horde of horny hippos in heat. I was expecting more celestial, spacy guitars. I get rifftastic beats, tight, fast drums, throbbing bass that recalls the finer moments of Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Humble Pie at The Fillmore, early Budgie and even some vintage Groundhops. This is a primal, rocking, sweaty show especially on the epic "Tales of Rock N Roll" where Michael channels, sifts and distils the essence of 70's hardrock exuberance in fine style. 

The 2nd UFO song is "Light's Out" with it's all purpose chorus of "lights out, lights out in..." (fill in the name of tonight's city. Jorri and Michael are jammed together belting out "lights out in Hong Kong" (twice) before singing the proper chorus, namechecking London. Rev is in fine form, tiptoeing behind Michael like a panto villain at one point to try and disrupt his solo. It fails, cheeky grin to the audience and away he goes. His long duet with Pete on a bass/drums solo/combo is a highlight. He sounds almost dub techno at one point, playing and slapping his bass like the late Jaco Pastorious. Pete tosses a stick to the ceiling. First time, he catches it in time, The next time, he waits a beat or three and whacks holy shit out of his kit. At one point, Rev brings him a drink and a towel. He stops playing, aside from a rapid and insistent bass drum while he wipes himself down and swigs some water. A great solo, constructed in about 5 parts finishes and he collapses in (semi)mock exhaustion over his kit. He milks the applause and starts again with twice the energy. Jorri traverses the crowd up front, moves around the stage, takes control while Wayne throws his shaggy mane back and almost bellows in delight while riffing rapaciously. 

It's been over an hour and the UFO hits continue. There's "Too Hot To Handle", "Only You Can Rock Me" and "Doctor Doctor". Again the crowd, hoot and holler and roar their devotion. Jorri is almost spot on with his Phil Mogg vocals - there's just a slight hint of Mittel European in the articulation. He also summons up some early Ian Gillan for some of the higher notes. There's a fine version of "Armed and Ready" which precedes "Doctor Doctor" which in turn segues into the mighty "Rock Bottom" This is the 6th UFO tune of the night and the showpiece for Michael's dexterity. It begins with some haunting keyboards, coupled with some choral vocal effects (I think) The band rumble along underneath the cascade of notes and guitar runs, getting stronger and heavier and more intense. Think the gradual crescendo of "Walk On Gilded Splinters" by Humble Pie (live Fillmore) until it all comes together in a hellzapoppin', crashlandin' final verse and - it's over. People realise they've forgotten to breathe and are cheering lustily. Wayne shouts "doh jer" to everyone and walks the front line pressing the flesh. We exchange a brief grip n' grin and "awesome, dude". I mention to Rev I wish they'd play "Love To Love" and he says they're trying to get Michael to re-learn it. We exchange compliments and I receive a splintered and slightly fractured drum stick for my pains. Along with Strativarius last January and the Dirty Three at Caritas Hall on 28-10-06, this was one of the gigs of 2006. Too bad, the advertising was only in HMV, but that's the breaks eh! This MSG is a tasty additive to the Hong Kong music menu. Missing you already guys and haste ye back.. 

Review by Nick The Bookman

I hadn't paid much attention to the DJ Dan gig until I read his interview in the SCMP 3-5-07. He's the top American DJ - ranked #5 in the world by DJ Magazine - and is happy to meet his fans. DJ Falcon (from the Daft Punk Crew) and Jason are supporting. Looks like another good night from Lotion, but there's some trouble brewing.

The venue has been changed from Harbour Road to Western Market in Sheung Wan with only hours to go. This is apparently because the Wan Chai police don't like "raves" on their manor and have threatened to disrupt it. Another gig, featuring the cream of Lamma's DJ's + Christian, has also been forced to relocate from the Galaxy to the Yellow Devil in Soho. The True Path for the "mad-for-it" raver is littered with misdirection.

I've arrived at Western Market shortly before 0100 to find a mixed crowd of locals and French Daft Punk fans. There's a steady stream of clients to and from the nearby 7-11. Western Market hosted last year's gig by DJ Shadow and it's the first time I've returned to the site since working in a thrift store there in 1993. The DJ booth is on the 4th floor, looking down on the escalators. The 500 + people inside are crowded opposite in an inverted "U" shape. Other fans are dancing along what could be two minstrel's galleries on the same level as the DJ booth.

Jason is working his magic and the crowd is approving. A fine blend of prog-electro, some pitch shifting, phased frequencies, lots of drums, and plenty of false starts and stops. Don't recognise much of the set until he drops the remix of "Another Brick In The Wall" which has been getting plenty of airplay this past 6 months. He's winding down. It's almost 0200 and Falcon is in place.

His set is fast-paced with a lot of mashups within it.There's low-freqency growling synths, twisted and fractured melodies spinning around. There's dub-electro drum patterns against lilting vocals, churning insistent basslines, white noise interludes and high keyboard patterns. It's all rumbling out at about 120-130 bpm. Lamma mate, John Murphy, tells me there seems to be lot of Daft Punk bits within the mixes along with some Sasha inspired space breaks. Again, I don't recognise many tunes until late in the set. A fine mashup occures with Blondie's "Heart Of Glass" over a thumping insistent driven rhythm. The only sour note occurs when :Born Slippy" by Underworld is dropped. Some people near me don't like it that much. Maybe the tune is too old. I don't know, it sounds great to me  The closest example of Falcon's style I can think of is Soulwax in their alter-ego of Two Many DJ's. People are having a fine time tonight. Erik Hakkens tells me, he's tried to see Falcon before and it appears to be 3rd time lucky tonight. He says Daft Punk (overall) and Falcon "will not succumb to commercialisation. The guys in the masks are here to stay!"  A lovely Korean lady called Jun tells me this is "my first gig in HK" and she is loving it. Ditto for  Caroline and Cynthia who are unstinting in their praise of Western Market as a venue. "The place is good and big enough and the sound system is very good" Nick W. has been and gone, doing his nightly rounds and Manek makes a late appearance in time for DJ Dan.

There seems to be some confusion as Falcon finishes, applauds the acclaim and returns to the booth as Dan isn't quite ready. Eventually, the headliner is ensconced behind the CD decks of steel and some fine sounds are emanating. He starts of mostly electro-noise, lots of bass and drums and very few vocals, before veering in and out of some old house-style tunes. Dan is not quite as eclectic as Falcon, but he's capable and confident up there, taking time to chat to fans in between mixes, Again, I haven't a clue who most of the artistes are, but I think I recognise the drum pattern from "Blue Monday" at one point. Paul, a Canadian raver, is telling me of early daze in Toronto, seeing Dan do his thing. "He was the man who turned about 10 of us onto funky breaks". DJ Dan is well worth his top 5 billing. The mixing is crisp and clean. He manipulates his FX box of tricks with casual aplomb. Beats are slowed down, twisted through the register, overlaid with femvox galore. Whereas Falcon could be likened more to Soulwax, DJ Dan is invoking the spirit of Timo Maas at his most recent HK gig. Overall, a splendidly compact and complementary set of performances by the 3 DJ's. Honours satisfied all around. Thanks Derek and the guys at Lotion for another fine, friendly and tuneful night.

Review by Nick L.

ImageMuse first attracted my attention on the Live-8 broadcast, 2005. I thought they'll be worth seeing if they ever come to Hong Kong. So here we are, further along the eternal present and they've come to Hong Kong from Taipei where thy played the Spring Festival. This is my first trip to the AsiaWorld-Expo Hall, which has already hosted Oasis, Coldplay, The Black Eyed Peas (2006) and Eric Clapton (2007). Not all of those shows were stunning successes, according to friends of mine who attended. Most of the complaints were about the shoddy sound. Extra demerits for Oasis for being arrogant cock rockers living high off their 90's rep.

The advance word on the Roger Waters live show of Dark Side Of The Moon suggests this is going to be one of The Events Of The Year. Indeed, you'd have to be around the dark side of the bend or living on the back side of Luna to miss it. The concert is meant to start at 2000 hours, Thursday 15th of February at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. Major road works outside the building, coupled with a half mile stroll inside the CEC to reach Hall 3, means that it won't get underway any earlier than 2030. There appear to be about 8,000 people cramming inside at once, while a few souls besiege the box office downstairs for last minute tickets. 

 Inside, Neil Young is quietly warbling "Heart of Gold" before crashing into an interrupted rendition of "Like a Hurricane". I'm about 100 yards away in the yellow cheap seats feeling the first rush of a trip down the grassy knolls of Memory Lane, coursing through my synapses. I'm also wondering how the fuck did they get a 30 foot bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch, a large tumbler, oversize ashtray, radio/stereo console and massive headphones here as props?. They dwarf the action on stage as techies do last minute sound checks and alignments. There are two large screens stage left and right and a circular screen above the drumkit. Banks of overhead speakers hang from the rafters. Loads of familiar Lamma faces in the crowd so high-fives to Liz and Vicky, Adele and Tom, Sian and Chunny, Eva and Dave and Georgie and Ian. I'm sure I'll spot others as the show progresses 

 Neil fades out as random radio bursts of static mutate into Vera Lynn singing "We'll meet again..." I realise somewhat stupidly that the props are a DVD still image when a large hand starts tuning the radio, pouring a drink and lighting a fag. (Wot! No giant baggie of spliff and Rizla papers?) I wonder if the hand belongs to Roger Waters as the music flits between Jerry Lee Lewis singing "Hound Dog",, fragments of Abba tunes and Kenneth Wolstenhome saying "they think it's all over...." Radio KAOS indeed. The lights dim and the 11-piece band are on stage with Roger singing "So you thought you might like to go to the show..." The circular screen is showing old newsreel clips of Nixon overlaid with MTV migraine inducing cartoon FX.while the opening tune (an overture?) winds down amid fireworks and exploding flare pots.. Roger sets out his stall early with the second tune. "Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb...". Mr. Waters clearly has his agenda for tonight and education is as important as entertainment. 

 I'm thinking I've died and gone to heaven as "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" rises from the fading echoes of "Mother. This is quite a radical re-working. Synth oboes play the melody and a definite Eastern drone is apparent. This is Nu-Space Psychedelia of the finest kind with a monster mid-song jam between the keyboards and Ian Ritchie blowing his heart and mind out on saxes. All punctutated by Graham Broad's  heavy tom-toms. The screen shows extreme solar flare activity overlaid with pyramids, obelisks, monoliths and other geometric shapes tumbling and disappearing in "random precision".. The oldest tune he plays tonight and still a mindfuck.

Speaking of fucked minds, it's Shine On (You Crazy Diamond) next. The band are note-perfect as far as I can tell and Syd's haunted face and Kohl-black eyes are the backdrop to a Liquid Len style light show with a double helping of cosmic nebulae. I think the film is from Syd's first acid trip. Roger doesn't actually mention the late Mr.Barrett at any point, but it's clear this is a heart-felt tribute to the Floyd's Founding Freak. "Have A Cigar" and "Wish You Were Here" mine the same rich vein of bucolic space folk that was the band's mid-70's forte. Most of the audience are on their feet, rushing the front and singing unabashedly throughout. I spot Big Mark and Lucy. He's on his way to the mixing desk because "the sound is centred there" as he puts it. The mixers are the best I've heard, since the Korn concert.. The digital noise  explodes from all around the room, phasing and fading round my brain. "These guys are Old School" says Mark. It's a privilege to hear them. Reminds me of Dan Healy, the sonic sculptor for the Grateful Dead. The way he could play a mixing console.like he was another band member. Also Nigel Godrich and his collaborations with Radiohead. Or Kraftwerk in full 4-D flight. The quad sound is similar but better than that used by Pet Shop Boys at their world debut shows at the Coloseum in the early 90's.

Things turn darker and more political with "The Fletcher Memorial Home" Footage of various tinpot dictators and despots flashes up on the screen. The words dig at Thatcher and Reagan, Begin and Pinochet. This could be a bit self-indulgent of Roger as this song is from his "solo".Floyd LP "The Final Cut". The close up shots make him look like a gleeful, slightly decadent Peter Cook or Leslie Phillips as he puts the boot into the nasty little people who have too much power for our own good. Well, it's always open season on dirty politicians. The next song I don't know the name of, but has voxbites of HAL from 2001 in sync with film clips of space walks and the Big Blue Marble spinning serenely below. Then an Apollo astronaut balloon, possibly representing Frank Poole, tumbles and drifts from the rear of the auditorium to the stage as the crowd's jaws collectively hit the floor.

There's been so much to take in as the first set draws to a close. The gospel-tinged vocals from Katie Kisoon, P.P. Arnold and Carol Kenyon. Each of them has had several chances to strut the solo spotlight and they look fantastic in close up. Someone mumbles something about "Diana Ross's embalmer..."Dave Kilminster on lead guitar and vox has some of the mannerisms of a young David Gilmour. (I wonder if he's related to Lemmy by any chance) Snowy White on lead guitar and Andy Fairweather-Low on accoustic guitar have been with Roger since The Wall Live In Berlin. Jon Carin is quietly flashy on keyboards, while Harry Waters handles piano and Hammond organ duties with aplomb.  Ian Ritchie gets the same amount of solo time that Bruce Springsteen gave/gives Clarence Clemens.  

 Roger debuts a new song "Leaving Beirut" It's  a 30-ish year old  tale about the Pros and  Cons of Hitchhiking around Beirut and how a Lebanese family  helped him out with food and a place to stay. The film shows a Sin City type graphic cartoon with the lyrics in little voxbubbles. He's had a few digs at Dubya the REMF-in-chief, but the lines about "...that Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small" nearly raises the roof. The last song is from "Animals" (I think) Sheeps, baa, dogs bark, people talk and the sound twists and recoils and ricochets sideways round the hall Then an inflatable pink pig  floats out from stage left and over the audience. It's 2 days before the start of the Year of the Fire (or Golden) Pig and very appropriate. The pig has peace signs, Chinese writing, and slogans like "Save Our Bacon", "Habeus Corpus Matters", "Kafka rules OK?" and the CND emblem. Most pertinently, it also has "Impeach Bush Now" written round its curly pink tail and plastic arsehole. This gets the biggest cheer of the night while a galaxy of flashing cameras and mobile phones record the moment. The song ends and Roger announces a short break of "20 minutes and then we'll do Dark Side of the Moon" 

 While the band enjoy a welcome break, the screen shows a slow close up of the full moon that takes about 15 minutes to fade in. It goes blood red as the band kick into a virtual replication of the whole LP. All the songs are there, the mumbled voices and heart beats and pulses echoing from one side to another. No real point trying to describe everything, save to say it sounds way perfect and REALLY LOUD. The track "On The Run" is among the best rave dance moments I've had in years. The synths, churgling with menace, are interrrupted by random white noise freak outs. It almost sounds like bits of "One Of These Days" have been spliced in as well. The screen shows dayglo spaghetti loops and whirls and some Scarfe style animations. The clocks in "Time" are stunning; alarms, bells etc. It's like playing the album with the volume dials at 11-hundred. (Yes, I'm one day closer to deaf!) Graham Broad's tom-tom solo is spot on. Same with the abaci and tills in "Money" against a backdrop of money symbols and Texas oil wells like giant mechano-locusts or Mechagodzillas. "The Great Gig In The Sky" is fraught with anticipation. Can Carol Kenyon outdo Clare Torry and Nail the Wail? All eyes are on here as - deep breath - and.... She doesn't get the hump(back) or lose her bottle(neck). It's a killer wail, an ululation for the ages and the audience is wrung dry with the emotion. Standing ovations all round. This show is precise. The changes between films, vox Fx and the songs doesn't allow for too much spontaneity, but there was almost a moment when Carole and Dave got a little call and response going before the lunatics got on the grass. I think it might have been possible to freeze the film to allow a bit of jamming to take place, but maybe there were time constraints. 

 The second set is over and there are howls for an encore. Roger says, "thank you so much, you mean so much to us, you've been great" and introduces the band to great acclaim. Voices start mumbling about meat and pudding and -bang- it's straignt into "Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" A dance remix of this tune has been getting constant play at the recent big raves, but fuck it, this is The One That Counts! I'm still not sure how to adequately describe the sight and sound of the entire audience singing together the line "we don't need no thought control" New post-modern irony? Brainwashing? Total surrender to the pleasure-id? This song is still relevant. It could possibly refer to what has quaintly been named The New Smart Dumb. These are the Cyberians, the nu-breed who can program, utilise and dominate any piece of technical equipment, but have no grasp of historical perspective and current affairs (unless entertainment-based) Nor can they rede, rite and spel proper..

"Brick" segues into "Vera", the lament for a simpler time from The Wall. It reminds me a lot of "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks in its phrasing and delivery. The final song is "Comfortably Numb" which is how most people's brains probably feel after this stunning display of sound, vision, props, fireworks and the re-birth of a kinder, gentler Roger. He's performing at the peak of his powers, nothing really left to prove. He's acknowledged Syd, reformed Floyd for Live-8 and charmed the audience with his humility. He's also delivered The Show Of The Year (even with Muse waiting to headline the Airport Arena on March 3rd and Youssou N-Dour the same weekend at the Arts Festival.) Everyone I've spoken to is lavish in their expletive-ridden praise. 

The crowd leaves as George Formby begins chirpily singing "When I'm Cleaning Windows". I'm struck by the thought that the show is bookended by two Pre-1945 ditties. The seminal event in Roger's life is the death of his father Eric Fletcher Waters (1913-1944) before the birth of his son. The whole of Roger's career has been one long angst-ridden howl against this injustice coupled with a need to honor the father he never knew. Thus "The Fletcher Memorial Home".  Starting with Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again" (a bittersweet Karmic hope of happier times) and ending with "Windows" (a safer job  than being in the Military), he ensures his father's presence throughout the show. (Are you keeping up at the back there?) 

I hope I've come close to describing how good this show is Too much medication and I just don't have the words, but maybe this will do. Thank you, thank you, thank you...(repeat and fade) .           

Tickets are priced at HK$990, HK$790,  HK$590,  HK$390.
Public sales: 10 am on Dec 7, 2006 at all HK Ticketing and Tom Lee Music outlets
Booking hotline: (852)31-288-288 
Web booking: www.livenationasia.com / www.hkticketing.com

General Enquiries: (852) 2989-9239

www.livenationasia.com

www.roger-waters.com

John Legend Live in Hong Kong,
Saturday January 20th at the Asia World Expo Arena.


With 2 successful albums behind him, 3 time Grammy-winning RnB and soul performer John Legend arrived in Hong Kong with over 1000 fans waiting in anxiety at the Asia World Expo Arena. 

The concert was initiated by a soulful and warm performance by one of his female back-up singers.  After much anticipation, a white spotlight shining over a dark stage illuminated the figure of John Legend, as he graced the crowd with his famous pose in front of the piano.  From this point on, it almost seemed like he had hypnotized the entire audience with the charm, elegance and soul pouring through his voice.  The crowd’s reactions were most enthusiastic when we heard songs from his first album, Get Lifted.  For the simple reason that his crossover sound between Hip Hop and Soul (clearly done with the help and support of Kanye West), he was able to appeal more than just the aged-over 30 audience. 

John Legend is not a new or fresh sound to me, or to other people.  But to hear him live is a somewhat of a rejuvenating experience.  More than his physical and vocal presence, I feel his lyrical talent has to be respected too.  As unaware as a Hong Kong audience often is, Mr Legend took most people on a spiritual journey,  that involved a lot of loving, and a lot of cheating.  But change comes too, and everything is meant to slowly work out ‘Once Again’.  Above all, he kept it smooth.  It was surely done in Legend’s style. 

Review by Arun R

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