Live review from Underground 106:
1. Come Together (Beatles Cover)
The night began with the Canto-pop-rock of NuPage, which they chose to do with a Beatles cover. And, pleasantly, they chose to make the song their own, adding a Latin-Jazz, almost dancey, feel to it, combined with touches of some spiky, very alt rock guitars. Despite the fact that I, personally, very nearly hate the song, I found myself enjoying the novelty of it. 16月6日晴 started off a bit like Green Day’s Basket Case – fast and fun with a pop-punk feel – and moved into a chugging hard rock number, almost sounding like Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen, but with the tones that guitarists often have used from the 90s. The song’s lyrics also had a percussive, rhythmic quality, seemingly having been written in consonance with the articulated drum beats. All this and it was a fast peppy number, that got even jaded listeners rocking along. The singer’s voice helped in spades with this; with his made-for-radio voice and his non-melodramatic style, he added to the polish of the songs, which were already fairly cleanly composed.
However, it seems that they flattered to deceive with their opening, because the energy, and the quality of the songwriting, seemed to dip for the rest of their set. They largely stuck to midtempo pop-rockers, with the requisite alternations between the ‘rocking’ feel and the single-note-emotional appeal feel. 問號 sounded a bit like the Police’s Message in a Bottle, while 抽離 was a more glam-metal song, complete with squealing solo, and they were both heavier songs than the ones before. 難得 was a very Maroon 5-esque song, with a similar property of being lightly funky in a way that takes the fun out of pop and the oomph out of funk. However, I could countenance that if their energy was winsome, or it sounded like an effort by the whole band. As I have said, the energy did dip as they moved into increasingly vanilla-rock territory. What was worse, in my opinion, however was that they stopped sounding like one unit, and much more like a singer with a backing band. The oneness of composition that had made their first two songs endearing was gone, replaced by vocal highlights supplemented by mellow and unmemorable backing music. I understand that they are a Cantonese-style rock band, in which the focus being on the singer is not uncommon, but I don’t that that should automatically exonerate them (and any band that does this, of which there are many) from having to play as a band. Quite a few local bands manage to sing in styles of Canto-rock and still maintain the significance of there being musicians playing instruments on stage – Senseless, Airtub, Milkshake7, Amino Shower, Killer Soap, The Merriweather Deer come to (my) mind.
To be very clear, the singing was quality all the way through, and the musicians (their drummer in particular) do appear to be skilled. I also understand that bands tend to be part-time, with their members having day-jobs and things, so time is at a premium. However, if I were to point out one area that they could improve in, it would be investing time in composing for the whole band, as opposed to just the singer. I do hope that the band takes this in the spirit it was intended in.
– Shashwati Kala