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.

Neil Young...No Rust Here in Hong Kong. Neil Young promised to play a jamming "greatest hits" set and certainly delivered Thursday night at the Hong Kong Harbourfest.  During a mere fifteen song show that lasted over two hours, Young and backing band Crazy Horse delivered a frills free performance that made the audience realize they'd just witnessed one of the best concerts ever to have taken place in the city.

When the opening chords of "Love To Burn" rang out across the open aired Tamar site, it immediately answered any questions the audience might have had about what Young would play.  "Greendale" would be saved for another day.  Instead, fifteen minutes in, Young and Crazy Horse were still jamming like they were in their garage.. 
Once finished, Young announced "I'm very happy to be here in this great city of Hong Kong...this time playing for brothers and sisters in China."  And so it went with more barn storming, as the set passed the hour mark after only five songs.  A blistering "F-----n Up" was followed by a transcendent "Hey Hey My My(Into The Black)" which made many fans in the three quarter full open stadium go into a state of sheer bliss.
Once Crazy Horse exited, the folky Neil Young emerged.  Acoustic guitar in hand, he proceeded to completely change the tone with "The Needle And The Damage Done,", "Heart Of Gold", "Harvest Moon" and a faithful version of "Sugar Mountain" that had a pleased crowd singing along.
Young raised the bar even more when Crazy Horse returned.  Every note of "Like A Hurricane" left the audience in awe of a rock artist many never expected to see in the city.  And even though the encores of "Mother Earth" and "Keep On (Rocking In The Free World)" were predictable, few fans wanted to leave when Young took his grinning curtain call, arms entwined with Crazy Horse.  The thrilled crowd reaction surely must have made Young wonder why he'd never made the Asian stop earlier in his career.   This was a rare concert where the performer, in this case Neil Young, could have played for another couple hours without any complaints from the audience.  The Stones, the Hong Kong Harbourfest closing act, will have to be on peak form to top this show.
When Neil Young ventures down to Australia for his first shows in over a decade, fans are definitely in for a treat:  an energized performer who is clearly pleased to be playing his extensive catalog for fans half a world away.
Opening for Neil Young was Michelle Branch, who proudly proclaimed that one of his songs "was the second song I ever learned on guitar".  The twenty year old Branch showcased her brand of breezy guitar pop to an attentive, but largely indifferent crowd. 
With a pleasant forty minute performance that certainly would have held it's own on a bill with peers in her age bracket, Branch's lightweight angst had little emotional impact against the legend most of the crowd had come to see.
Review by: Scott Murphy

Umoja–The Spirit of Togetherness is the direct translation. I first met dancers from the group outside the City Super in town where they danced to promote their show.

There they were: exotic and amazingly clad in furs and colourful beads, whirling around the bemused and curious shoppers to the exciting beat of African drums. One could not help but stop and watch, enthralled.

After having seen them at close quarters, the performance itself came as no surprise. The dancing and the beautiful songs, together with drums and band music, was an event so unique that even the most introvert person would begin to feel his or her feet twitching and tapping. The pure joy of the performers in their own song and dance shone through all their acts and scenes, which were set in a time sequence of life in Africa over the last century. Umoja succeeded in showing the Hong Kong audience the most beautiful and interesting aspects of life on the big continent . Many of us have not visited Africa and have little personal experience of its people.

This showed us what an immense wealth of kindness, goodness and happiness its men and women have to give and share. A true promotion of the African people and their togetherness.

Review by: Christiane W.

Air Supply in Hong Kong. The evening began with the performance of  two canto-pop stars, Eason Chan and Ronald Cheng . They set the scene – and the mood – with several catchy songs which the audience loved.

They were well received and are well liked by the local population.

After a pause filled with thunder and lightning effects, the stars of the evening appeared , Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell. Their dramatic costume and make-up only diverted the attention momentarily from their excellent and professional performance and their marvellous love songs. They brought the audience to their feet; this is what people had come to hear, songs like “Even the nights are better” and “Here I am”.

From the moment they began singing their first song, they held everyone spellbound throughout the night. At one point, Hitchcock left the stage and walked around the arena to meet the fans – and they just loved it.

Air Supply clearly has a large following in Hong Kong where they have performed live several times. A most enjoyable evening with old favourites – old, but still phantastic!

Review By: Christiane W.

t.A.T.u. in Hong Kong. This is the first time for these Russian ladies to come to Asia, and most specifically to Hong Kong. Not like Westlife, t.A.T.u. were only here for mostly the concert, not for the media, but them being so controversy has kept them on the press, pretty much, everyday!

This was the only show of the Harbour Fest which was a full house! Everyone had their free-ticket on hand, expecting a family time at Tamar Site. Twins did a pretty good job at that, but then, we started to worry, how would the 6-year-olds feel when they see two lesbians kissing??

Starting with their worldwide number one single ‘All The Things She Said’, t.A.T.u. came out with their simple outfit, white top, jeans, looking casual. After just a couple of songs, ‘How Soon Is Now’ and ‘Show Me Love’, Julia brought it up with her Russian accent, “Ok Ok, we’re going to do… the KISS!” Both her and Lena had their camera, while the big screen shows what they see from the cameras. Asking the crowd toe kiss before they do, it took a bit too long for Hong Kong to get as crazy as they are, then it became a little cheesy… After all, they kissed, twice!

Performing songs from ‘200km/hr On The Wrong Lane’ such as ‘Malchik Gay’, ‘Clowns’ and ’30 minutes’, it’s a surprise to see the girls singing live, since their pitch were so high that it was almost impossible to reach!

Closing the original set with the splendid ‘Not Gonna Get Us’, t.A.T.u. took the crowd  to their remix set. Switching ‘Not Gonna Get Us’ to the trancy mix, followed by a reggae version of ‘All The Things She Said’, you can tell that, yeah, everybody loves dance music, even families here in town! If the CD didn’t jump, it would have been a perfect show. But overall, it was quite a wild night for Hong Kong, and a success for Harbour Fest.

Review By: Alyson Hau

Westlife in Hong Kong:</b> Westlife have always had this love for Hong Kong, while it’s definitely lucky for us, Hong Kong-ers down here. Can’t even count how many times they’ve been here, or how many times have I talked to them… but concert-wise, this is just their second!

Opening Acts Energy and Evonne Hsu, both from Taiwan, and both did some covered versions of Korean songs, certainly got the crowd wanting Westlife even more!

Now, spotlights on, five members of Westlife all stepped on the stage with their leather pants, looking tight, singing ‘When You’re Looking Like That’; if you compare this look to how they used to be when they release ‘Swear It Again’, you’ll see what kind of a progress these lads have made. Followed by their greatest hits ‘If I Let You Go’, ‘Flying Without Wings’ and more, it’s been truly a sing-along show, which most of the audience enjoyed.

Lights out, props up, you would have seen sofa and some very comfy chairs being brought up to the stage, leading to an acoustic set. Kian and Bryan playing the guitars with their percussionists, cooling it down for the fans, and for themselves too, of course! But it’s always good to see the other side of Westlife, the side that shows more talents than just image.

Then comes the surprise, five songs in the row, COVER VERSIONS! Would you ever imagine Westlife singing Beach Boys and Prince songs?

Also performing songs as world premieres, such as songs from their upcoming album ‘Turnaround’, that would be, like I said, the reason why Hong Kong-ers are lucky to see Westlife.

Finishing with the smash hit ‘World Of Our Own’, it’s been a relaxing, feel-good, enjoyable night, so in return to Westlife saying ‘We love Hong Kong’ all the time, we’d like to thank you guys for bringing us your Greatest Tour!

Review by: Alyson Hau

David Bowie's Screening in Hong Kong:</b> Upon the release of his 26th studio album Reality, <b>David Bowie</b> announced on NBC's morning Today show that he'll be playing some new places during his first world tour in a decade.

Just what does this trailblazer mean by that? Try Hong Kong and Singapore, though no specific dates were mentioned.

The current Reality world tour, which began this month with a sold out show in Copenhagen, is just one of several initiatives Bowie has been involved in as of late.  One would expect little else of the artist, who has created headlines by allowing the public to invest in BowieBonds, became one of the first singers to offer widespread downloads and was an early proponent of communication via email with the media. As a testament to his renewed creative passion, Bowie has once again reunited with producer Tony Visconti, which is good news for those who enjoyed their classic collaborations on Scary Monsters and Heroes over two decades ago. That's not all. The week of the album's release, Bowie became the first artist aside from heavy metal act Korn to digitally simulcast a live performance of his new album around the world.

This meant that a theater full of Bowie fans at Wan Chai's Convention and Exhibition Center got to interact with likeminded folk in Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and Singapore at the same time. After watching Bowie perform the entire album in its entirety at a London studio, he then solicited questions from audiences in each city. Hong Kong's query Would you like to collaborate with Kraftwerk?  was lost on most of the assembled audience (It would be delightful to work with them. It's never been proposed. was the polite response) but there were other gems. What part of your life would you live over if you could? asked one audience member from Singapore. The year 2000 to now but back in 1967 was Bowie's witty comeback, which prompted further laughter from the man himself.

If the pre-screened Q&A session wasn't quite as revealing as one would have hoped (predictable queries about tour visits and current CD favorites were the order of the day), what was electrifying was the concept of an audience interacting with a musician somewhere else in real time. Effectively promoted, this could eliminate the current junket scenario where artists get subjected to thirty or more lengthy interviews in one day. It would also provide the opportunity for avid fans to interact with a star they would never get the chance to meet otherwise. Representatives from the regional office of Sony Music, who spent a rumored six figures for the promotion, agree. We've been working on this for weeks and while it's logistically complicated, it's a very effective way to promote the new album, says William Yu, a Regional Marketing Representative from Sony Music. Sony Music is the first company to do such a live showcase. I'm sure there will be more to come, he added.

So what makes such an event different from a pre-recorded program showing the same content? Everything and nothing at the same time. Bowie's showcase was shot using digitial widescreen cameras and recorded in DTS digital 5.1 surround sound. Then it was delivered digitally to theaters around the world. Visually, it puts fans right in the same room as those who are experiencing the event in person, complete with the same sound quality. Time zones permitting, it can also reach many more people around the world simultaneously. Never mind Bowie, the audible excitement emanating from the Tokyo audience was one of the most exciting moments of the entire event.

With such technology now in place, it paves the way for the possibility that some theater owners have been rhapsodizing about for years. The idea that a mega artist, say U2 for example, could be playing live at New York's Madison Square Garden, while broadcasting to theaters in Moscow, Jakarta and Sao Paolo at the same time. This would give fans access to artists they never see and artists access to places where they never perform, all at a price everyone can theoretically afford.

But back to Bowie. That promotion may or not have been the catalyst for Reality debuting at number one in half a dozen countries. Yet it's garnered a considerable amount of publicity for the new album (which is by no means his best, but at the age of 56 his effort is certainly more respectable than what many artists come up with at half his age).

Thankfully for fans and likeminded innovators everywhere, he shows no sign of stopping either. EMI Music Asia, with full and enthusiastic approval from Bowie, will be releasing new locally commissioned remixes of the eighties classic China Girl for inclusion on an upcoming Greatest Hits album. And who knows? If what Bowie says is really true, we'll be seeing him sometime early on in 2004 in Hong Kong. The real live variety, in person. Wouldn't that be something...

Review By: Scott Murphy

For lovers of classical music, this was an exciting event – two of the world’s greatest voices combined in a symphony of sound.

Despite the fact that only half the seats were filled, it could not have taken place in a more perfect setting: The surrounding skyscrapers glittering below a dark blue sky, the low hum of the harbour traffic in the distance and, occasionally,  the silhouette of a plane passing overhead.

The audience was charmed by Charlotte Church in the first part of the concert. She sang songs ranging from Bernstein to Gershwin but also included “Fields of Gold” by Sting. As an encore, we listened to “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. She was accompanied by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Arnie Roth. Charlotte Church’s voice covers an incredible range of music and one marvels at the unique talent displayed – each song executed with memorable precision and timbre.

The second part of the concert featured José Carreras, one of the “Three Tenors” and a world famous singer in his own right. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by David Giménez. José Carreras sang in Italian – songs by Costa, Gastaldon and Strauss amongst others. The audience was plainly mesmerized by his brilliant voice and the heart-rendering music. They did not  allow him to go at the end of his performance – four encores followed, notably “Santa Lucia”, “Granada” and a Neapolitan folksong, “Winter”, one of his personal favourites. He received a standing ovation by the enthusiastic audience – which returned home having enjoyed a very special evening.

Review By Christiane W.

Unlike any other local concerts, he didn’t need to change his costumes constantly, he didn’t need to cover himself up in jewelry, it’s just his presence and his silky smooth voice, which was already enough to take the crowd to the highest.

Making his debut concert in Hong Kong, Craig David did a magnificent job. Though the show was late for more than an hour, and the number of people attending was surprisingly insufficient, these factors actually brought the audience to an even more intimate state. Opening the show with the 5 minutes ‘Slicker Than Your Average’, letting the audience recognize that, yes, he can really sing live! The first wake up call would be his number one song in Hong Kong, ‘7 Days’, while you can picture every single person, from 7-year-olds to elderly, all singing along. A pleasant remix would be the rap of ‘Time To Party’, while Craig brought in the ‘it’s your birthday’ line to get the 50 cent’s ‘In Da Club’ in the background, mixing it with his own original rap.

Then, it’s time for a ballad. ‘You Don’t Miss The Water (Till The Well Runs Dry)’ touched the fans so much, and don’t be shocked to see people standing on their chairs with their lighters on, swinging.

The high point of the gig would have to be his UK number one single ‘Fill Me In’, not just taking the crowd to top, but Craig made use of such a familiar tune to thank his band and background vocals. What’s next? You guessed it… Encore! His acoustic guitarist came out with him, did an acoustic version of ‘Rendezvous’, and stopped the song in the middle of it, saying ‘Show me what you can do with that guitar’, breaking it into the fastest rap ever!! The true ending was definitely the best part of all, ‘Re-rewind’. It’s the perfect light effects to make it real for the audience to sing along, helping Craig out on the ‘Selector’ line.

Throughout the whole show, Craig David hit every single note so accurately that’s like, how we call it, ‘CD-Quality’; on the other hand, he could motivate the fans to dance to his music all night, interacting with the crowd. And I must say, if you think adding the two words ‘Hong Kong’ into his lyrics may be cheesy, it worked!
For those people who didn’t turn up, sorry, you missed a great performance, and to be honest, how can you fill up every single seat at the venue when people elbowed down to get a better view?

Review By: Alyson Hau

Despite controversy over funding, artist selection, ticket sales and even the promotion of the event, the Hong Kong Harbourfest successfully opened Friday night when Prince thrilled the near capacity audience with a flawless set.

Dressed in a red dress shit and white suit, the Minneapolis native simply announced "I am Prince and I play guitar" before launching into "Let's Go Crazy", "I Would Die For You" and "When Doves Cry", all off the "Purple Rain" album.  Many attendees applauded this song selection, as it signified that the show would be dominated by the singer's hits instead of  the more obscure jazz influenced selection of  his recent tours. 
But Prince, who often raced from the piano to his guitar with ease, did have to work the crowd, as fans familiar with his hits may have seemed surprised to hear the rarely heard "D.M.S.R" and "Let's Break".  Only later, when a cover of "Soul Man" gave way to "Kiss" and "Take Me With You", did audiences truly let loose.  After twenty plus songs, the audience was treated to a single encore:  a note perfect emotion filled rendition of "Purple Rain".
While the near capacity crowd at the Tamar Site went home, nearly two hundred fans were treated to a private performance by Prince at Hong Kong's small club "The Edge".  There, an hour of hot guitar fuelled funk assured fans that no matter what the venue, when Prince is in top form, he's still a force to be reckoned with.
If Prince opened the Harbourfest with the proverbial bang, Craig David's R&B dominated performance on Saturday was a success as well, according to attendees.
Dressed in a white sweatsuit ensemble, David knew how to work the crowd too, even though that crowd was only estimated at about 3,000 attendees.  Such a sparse turnout has raised questions amongst the local Hong Kong media and politicians about whether the estimated $130 million HK spent for the Harbourfest could have been used more effectively in some other manner.
The near month long Harbourfest, created to announce to the world that Hong Kong has fully bounced back from the SARS virus, will continue this week with performances on Monday night by Jose Carreras and Charlotte Church, as well as t.A.T.U., Atomic Kitten and local phenoms "Twins" on Friday.

Review By: Scott Murphy

An Evening to remember. A rare treat for the people of Hong Kong! Joaquin Cortés presented us with an extraordinary and unique talent as a dancer, music which contained a combination of Spanish, Gipsy and modern elements, outstanding choreography and last but by no means least an accompanying orchestra in which each musician and singer showed individual brilliance.

The performance of the flamenco , perfectly executed, touched the spectator with its celebration and interpretation of life. While Joaquin Cortés’ upper body remained perfectly still, his legs and feet were a flurry of vibration which the eye at times failed to catch . He emphasised his virtuosity with simple, but dramatic slow gestures of his head, hands and arms.

No-one who saw him could fail to be moved by the intensity and sincerity of his performance – and by his genuine pleasure  to be dancing.

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