Live review from Sub-Terra #5:
1. She’s The Devil
2. Dark Early
4. The Miracle
5 Red Light
6. Ear Poison
Local Underground hero Jon Lee shocks the room by stepping away from the sound mixing desk and taking up a seat behind the drums for Operator. We welcome these stalwarts of the Hong Kong to the warm sanctuary of the Underground tonight. On opening song She’s The Devil the drum sound is super tight. I know basically nothing about time signatures but this one sounds a bit unusual and out there, and he is nailing it. Ben reminds me of a sort of handsome Thom Yorke, with glasses. He’s got effortless vocals and he’s totally at home up there. Sitting in the front seat, getting the Operator engine warm on this chilly Hong Kong night.
He seems to have his lyrics on an iPad in front of him and I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m sure there’s a good reason why he’s not got them all well tattooed on his brain. Perhaps it’s a bunch of new songs tonight. Their next song Dark Early is true to its name with a real melancholic theme. I’m not sure I’d call these guys Brit rock. Alternative rock is pretty broad but fits them better. Placebo seem to be a real presence in this band, only a bit cheerier and bit more guitar based.
On Home, Operator are just loving what they’re doing. Their musicianship is effortless and their obvious pleasure in playing for the Underground crowd is clear to see. Jon is so comfortable on stage, like he’s playing a gig in his own back yard.
Jon and Ben’s vocal harmonies on Red Light are a real pleasure, as is Vix’s filthy solo down the fret board. Ear poison has got to be one of the best names for a rock song I’ve heard in a long time. A real high energy song with echoes of the Chili Peppers and Damon Albarn. I love the intensity of the two guitars working together on the solo. One high speed strumming down the frets dancing with the other guitar’s riffs. On final song Evergreen there’s a sweetness and fragility to Ben’s vocal which I hadn’t noticed until now. It’s a beautiful contrast to the thumping of the rest of the band.
I love seeing bands having a good time and feeding off that energy from the crowd. With these guys it’s almost like they’re letting us in on their little secret. Thanks for sharing that secret tonight Operator.
– Simon Donald Jones
Live review from The Underground “Back to its Roots” Festival Part 2:
1. She’s the Devil
2. Dark Early
3. Two Way Mirror
4. Ear Poison
The band is a group of fine musicians. The real strength and critical difference in Operator that sets them apart from other bands is their song composition. Their song styles are very consistent, filled with emotion, both musically and lyrically. The thing I especially enjoyed about them and made them unique, was their sound, it is a mixture 80’s – 90’s rock, fused together with a taste of 1960’s psychedelic overtones. And if that weren’t enough, the song compositions sometimes felt like Bob Dylan.
(1) SHE’S THE DEVIL
They opened the set with the song She’s the Devil which really was a strong mixture of 1960’s psychedelic with the feel of British rock from the 2000’s. Really got the point across that she’s really a devil.
(2) DARK EARLY
Dark Early had a haunting underlying dark feel that clearly expressed the subject matter of the song. I really this song.
(3) TWO WAY MIRROR
Two Way Mirror had some nice hooks reminiscent of Tears for Fears, again with a very Brit feel.
(4) EAR POISON
Ear Poison came across as a more rocking, loud song than all the others. Heavier guitars, drums and bass. Enter smoke machines.
Miracle was a really wonderful composition that really felt like the early days of Bob Dylan. More of a folk feel than the other songs, it really was a nice piece of work.
Home again had a really strong mixture of 1960’s psychedelic with the feel of British rock from the 2000’s, with very personalized subject matter exposing the composer’s inner feelings.
Neon was not only the best, but my favourite song off their set. What a cool, great, wonderful feel. This should be the first single from their album. Or if they have already did a CD release, RE-RELEASE this one as a single.
Evergreen had a very happy, peppy, poppy feel. Something akin to the theme song from the American TV sitcom “Friends”. Good song to finish the set very upbeat.
In closing, the most important thing that I can say about OPERATOR is that they are very true to their art. Consistent style that has a message and statement with style. Thank you OPERATOR for a great set, and for all the times you played at ROCKSCHOOL.
– Gregory Tancer
Live review from Underground 116:
1. Ear Poison
2. She’s the Devil
4. Fire in a Sweet Shop
5. The Miracle
6. Red Light
7. I Had a Name
Operator are no strangers to Hong Kong gig-goers but it’s been a case of long time, no see. Tonight, the demin-and-black-clad rockers stepped out into the spotlight for the first time this year, reprising their Observatory Road set and blowing out a few cobwebs in the process.
They still come packing ready-made hits – always bringing their A-game for “Fire in a Sweet Shop” – and Ben up front and Jon down back supply the energy, a la Foo Fighters’ Grohl and Hawkins. The sound isn’t a million miles from there, either, with “I Had a Name” sounding like a holy union of Nirvana and Superjesus. But they’re versatile, too, plucking “She’s the Devil” from a garage closer to home – sounding not unlike local buddies The Sleeves with appreciably thicker guitars – and then there’s the U2-esque “Miracle”.
There was a hint of rust about proceedings tonight, especially around “Red Light” and “Evergreen”. And when all four members enter concentration mode, as in “Terrarium”, the vibe can shift to shoegaze. Certainly one of the city’s most accomplished internationally-orientated bands, but perhaps looking for some fresh spark.
– Brendan Clift
Live review from Fairchild Live in Hong Kong
- Red Light
- Fire in a Sweet Shop
- She’s the Devil
- I Had a Name
- The Miracle
- Ear Poison
It’s rare that the location of a show is as pretty to look at as it was this night at the Peak. Nor are they usually as delicious-smelling (and there definitely aren’t cookies available). Good as that was, it doesn’t exactly fit well with the sort of harder rock that a band like Operator, plays – the ideal ambience for them would be darker, more beer pub-like. Still, this was only a peripheral concern; the main issue was much more important to the band, which was that singer Ben was down with the flu. This threatened to be portentous of not-so-great things, as Operator’s songs actually require good singing; combine that with a clashing atmosphere, and that would be no way to begin the show. However, despite the apparent problem, it barely showed in the songs, and aside from a couple of parts in some songs that went unsung (wisely, I think; it’s demoralising to hear a good singer try to hit a note and fail), the singing was not bad at all. Kudos to Ben and the band for actually playing the set and not backing out; it was a brave move, and dare I say, it paid off.
In the few years Operator have been around, as I have said before, they have progressed by leaps and bounds in the quality of their live shows. Now on the verge of releasing their first album, they’re in good form. The band is remarkably tight, and while their usually infectious energy was a little abated on this night, they were still good to watch. The Jet-like riffs are still there as the main riff for She’s the Devil, with Zeppelin-influenced solos interlaced with U2-like guitars to give depth to their music. The rhythm section is propulsive and was solid as ever. There were a couple of new songs I hadn’t heard before, which had a more Killers-y sound. The broody I Had a Name was had some Weezer-like punch, although it felt a little raw because the music and the vocals were playing different styles at the same time and pulling in different, incompatible direction. Evergreen was the new grand-sounding song during which the band really shined, although I thought it went on a bit long. The only thing that truly put a damper on their set was the tinny sound from the tiled room, which undercut the rhythm a bit, but not enough to make them less enjoyable. A commendable job indeed, and I wish them the best of luck with their CD release.
— Shashwati Kala
當晚演出先有獨立樂隊Operator現身支持Fairchild，共演繹了9首作品。開首的Red Light 及Hurricane風格相近，明朗充滿活力，但主音因嚴重感冒幾乎喪失聲線，令歌曲完整度大打 折扣。接著的Fire in a Sweet Shop依然明朗，但感覺相對輕盈，電結他的effect運用增加了歌 曲的空間感。She’s the Devil則利用結他作一個穩定節拍推進全曲，伴奏以一個簡短的主題作中心營造了搶耳的效果。到了I Had a Name時曲風一轉，變得柔和，主歌部份以和弦堆砌起來，懶慵中帶少許dreamy感覺。這裏結他部份出現了少許聲音上與整體不協調的情況，令代入感 大打折扣，但表達歌曲感覺方面則不太受影響。The Miracle比前者來得更加溫暖；Evergreen感性開朗，是當晚演出的9首曲目中最富畫面感。總體而言當晚演出主音受聲線困繞而未能 發揮水準，雖有其他樂器部份補足，但完整度始終稍有折扣。
– Becky Wong
Live Review from CD 5 Launch Party B:
1. Ear Poison
2. She’s the Devil
3. Red Light
4. The Miracle
5. Fire in a Sweet Shop
Operator finished up the evening. Confident, disciplined and tight, they could well have been the teachers (yep, older too) of ReOrientate at the International School of Rock. A little over-wrought for my personal taste, but very well executed from start to finish.
One got the feeling that no one was enjoying the performance of the lead singer quite as much as the lead singer. Except perhaps the psycho-fan who was getting down like a thing possessed. A thing with no discernible sense of rhythm, that is. But their last song marshalled the talents of all four band-members best and was far and away song of the night. Again, great drumming anchored a tight performance that easily covered any patchy spots. Amateur bands of the world unite and ditch your amateur drummers!
— Paul Mottram
Live review from Underground 99:
2. Fire in a Sweet Shop
3. The Miracle
5. She’s the Devil
6. Red Light
7. Ear Poison
operator is a band I’ve had a chance to observe for nearly a year, and they’ve shown tremendous growth within that time – be it the songwriting itself, or the ability to find appropriate instrumental space within those songs, they’ve managed to raise the bar for themselves. They’ve got one of the swingin’-est, kickin’-est drummers I’ve heard, a bassist who could pass for musical bedrock, and two guitarists who exchange leads without missing a beat. All this supplements a voice, which although thin and at times uncomfortably nasal, has genuine range and a slight ironic edge (something like Billie Joe Armstrong’s, but better). It all combines to sound like a solid, well-frankensteined Bush+Small Faces+Foo Fighters, with some King Crimson overtones to boot. This particular night, given the combination of space and the feeling of occasion (they’ve been due to play the Underground for a long time), their performances seemed extra-charged and they were fun to watch too. Adding to the mix was their more recent decision to have bassist Marc occasionally take to a strategically placed floor tom to add to the spectacle and sound (which irresistibly pushed my mind in the direction of that Pete Quaife quote about most bassists being frustrated drummers).
I apologise at this point for taking this review in an utterly subjective direction, but I have to confess that despite their significant merits, their music has somehow always left me somewhat cold. The individual elements are empirically good and on paper I should like them combined too. Perhaps the root of my issues is that, like the Foo Fighters in the early Noughties, the particular way in which they chose to combine Bush with Small Faces serves to neuter the ironic-feeling edgy propulsion and the driving R&B feel of one or the other respectively. Or perhaps, they let their melodies occasionally stagnate to Bon Jovi levels of overblown-ness, like towards the end of Sandfly (admittedly, it may just be that the chorus reminds me of a Kylie Minogue song, from which I cannot recover). It’s all pleasing to the ear, but rather empty. Or even that they always sound on verge of beginning a Butthole Surfers kinda song but never do… One non-subjective issue I have is that they’re not always composing songs meant for a voice that’s strongest on higher notes like singer Ben’s is – when they do (like with Red Light and Ear Poison) his voice flourishes and slots very well, but sometimes it can sound like a square-peg-round-hole situation.
But these are issues for nitpickers like me – if you’re not one, their songs are thoroughly enjoyable, which no less than 5 people actually ordered me to write in my notes (happy?). And it’s true that in their best songs they have a certain free-rockin’ flow that reminds one of Pearl Jam since Matt Cameron. Fire In a Sweet Shop was bounded by a deep, swirling current of a riff which particularly underscored the bass’ vital role in their sound. She’s the Devil had a very Strokes-y lopsided riff to start and sustained that zippy feel right through. Hurricane‘s combination of vocals and guitar tones was haunting, as was that on Red Light; the harmonies added a lot here, and the song had plenty of contrast and tension that bubbled over in the ears. Ear Poison was a great closer, with perhaps their strongest hook, wonderfully understated lead guitars that reminded me of early 70s rock, and an excellent vocal performance; and the Shakespeare reference doesn’t hurt either. If you’re reading this review, don’t let my personal niggles throw you; this is a band that should definitely be checked out live.
— Shashwati Kala
Operator是一隊演出British Alternative Rock的樂隊，成員有Jonathan Lee、Ben Robinson、Vix Peña及Marc Greiner，樂隊是全男子的組合，充滿了陽剛的味道。Operator無論在樂隊的風格或是在組織上都是很typical的搖滾樂隊，他們在台上散發的力量，都令人想起那屬於搖滾樂的原始精神—那種永遠年輕不老、充滿幹勁及熱情的精神。
— Eva Leung