Live review from 15th Anniversary Party
1. Winter Song
3. Missing Grass
5. Wander Across The …
Why should the acoustic guys go on first? Where are we, The Wanch? That was rhetoric question, actually – they shouldn’t have to. Not in a perfect world, anyway. But do we live in a perfect world? That was rhetoric as well, pop kids. So while absolutely, the acoustic guys have every right to a later slot if they deserve it, the simple truth is they’ll often suffer sonically after going on after a full band. Whose fault? No one’s, just a fact of rock ‘n’ roll life I’m afraid, dear reader.
So it was to The Underground’s credit that the talented, brilliant Per Se went on when they did. And if their studied, joyful, life-affirming music went largely lost on the booze brigade, their loss!
Anyway, to the music! Stephen Mok on guitar and Sandy Ip on keyboards/piano make for an unassuming if attractive onstage act. Their music is equally unassuming – initially. But then it hits you, like a jealous ex-girlfriend hiding outside your place for when you come back late one night, even if what happened was totally not your fault, and you’re still kind of into her anyway (that was just a random example of stuff that can hit you. Please call me, Karen).
I thought the first two acts tonight were brilliant, really. But these guys are something else. I’m not even sure quite I have the words to define it, which is unusual for me. They may look like they just walked up from busking at Star Ferry, but they just have this je ne sais quoi.
It’s actually kind of difficult to differentiate the songs, such is the way they all wash deliciously over you, like a wave of redemption. “Winter Song” features a lovely, delicate vocal melody from Stephen, who has such a great voice, with Sandy coming in effectively on backing vocals and with a plaintive little piano figure. It’s uplifting and heart-meltingly gorgeous.
Second track “Inphase” is kind of a duet and again lovely, with super piano and guitar interplay, with a heartfelt and anguished plea to it all. I can’t hear the lyrics, but it’s clearly SUPER MEANINGFUL. There’s a little of Bjork or Amy Lee at their most introspective in Sandy’s vocals, and a fabulous, note-perfect jam in the middle, with the duo making the most of their two instruments with smart arrangements.
Track four “Fragments” is slow, almost solemn, with an uplifting spiritual quality, track five is more driving and urgent, while the rest of the set continues until closer “Petals” concludes a stunning set .
Tonight was a brilliant evening both musically and socially, and also shows how The Underground really know their stuff when it comes to picking quality acts for the big occasions. And that’s what Undergrounders value about them – giving opportunities to lesser-known acts when appropriate but understanding the right time to wheel out the big guns. Here’s to the next 15 years!
– Dan Creffield
Live review from Underground 116:
1. Lost, Found & Now?
2. unSWEET, deadbeat
3. The envelope line
Per Se is pop rock band consisting of Stephen Mok on guitar and Sandy Ip on the keyboard. Per Se blew me away with the fullness of their music from the very beginning of their set. I really liked the combination of the keys, guitar and vocals. In their first song, “Lost, Found & Now” Stephen sang while he strummed along with his guitar. His voice sounded similar to Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, not when he is screaming. The whispering kind of singing that is soft and gentle. Sandy’s backing vocals complimented Stephen quite well. It was evident the crowd liked them as there was a big applause at the end of the song.
“unSWEET, deadBEAT” started with some impressive guitar picking and was soon followed by the keys. I started to think this was going to be an instrumental song as it took awhile before I heard anyone sang. When Stephen did start singing again a friend told me that his voice sounded more like Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins. This guy has good taste. It was whiney, yet sweet.
In the third song, “The envelope line” Sandy was the lead vocalist and then Stephen started to sing while playing their instruments. They began to have what was like a sung dialogue. I couldn’t work out exactly what they were talking about, but I really liked how the duet sang together. The chorus was even better when their two voices melded into one to create a perfect harmony that was pleasing to the ear.
The fourth and fifth song were “Wonderline” and “Petals” which seemed to meld into one after the previous song put me into a state of complete relaxation. So, I am not sure what song I am referring to, because at the end of their performance I really thought they only played five songs, not six. Ha… ohwell. So, this song was much slower than the others. There was no chugging guitar in the song. Their momentum was lost by this stage, it had started so well and then we had reached a ‘lull’ in the performance. I was happy when the tempo increased again, but was this the start of the fifth song? No idea. It was the start of the night and I hadn’t drank much yet. <Play mysterious music>
So the last song, “Moments” was the first song that I could hear Stephen introduce. No wonder
I am lost. He said his thanks to the Underground as he introduced their final song. The dynamics of the keys to guitar in this song were really good. It was also another song where the duo traded verses with each other. The song finished with a wonderful crescendo and they left the stage, setting the bar really high for the remaining bands. The night was only just starting.
– Cain McInerney