Where the music is

A manipulatively sad bear, which the concert was not

A manipulatively sad bear, which the concert was not

My first Mayday 五月天 concert was part of the last tour they had before momentarily disbanding for the army — it was my first Chinese rock concert, and I wasn’t very familiar with their few albums at the time, so there were some lulls and dulls (and wishing I were tall enough not to have to keep jumping to see anything), but the highs were enough to get me hooked and sign up for their comeback concert two years later.

That one was a bit of a downer as they were still getting their groove back; the two things I remember were their request for fans to wave blue glow sticks and fold paper aeroplanes to throw at them, and the mesmerising staging and rendition of “Rainbow” 彩虹 by guest singer Fish Leong 梁靜茹.

So tonight was my third Mayday concert — I went in having done some quick but shoddy catch-up with their many (increasingly skilled and impressive) albums since then, and with the knowledge that their HK concerts have the reputation of being exceptionally exhilarating (wonder if the worshipful attitude of Chinese singers towards the HK Coliseum 紅磡 have anything to do with it). They did not disappoint, though I was caught off-guard by how hard they made the audience work — that resulted in something special though, which I will relay shortly.

This is stagecraft

True, that

It was a highly polished production, with possibly the best stage set-up I’ve ever witnessed, and a movie-quality video story running throughout (a bit too worshipful of John Lennon, with nods to Gandhi, Che Guevara and Einstein). The adrenalin inducement hardly let up, and neither did the grin on my face — oh boy, did I let down my tresses tonight. The lyrics on some of the screens definitely helped with the singalongs. Yes, this is and has always been a message-driven outfit, for whom the storms never quite manage to defeat the sunshine, but I have no quibble with that.

Staying on message

Staying on message

A digression — I have a theory about the staging for “Gentleness” 溫柔 (spoiler alert?) — the first, riotous blast of confetti was set against pure white light, and represented the singer’s earnest conviction that he will set his love free; a sudden switch to raw red light turned the confetti into the million pieces of a broken heart, which was the price of letting his love go. But then the light soon changes back to white, now tinged with the certainty of sorrow, but the gift of “gentleness” is also all the more precious, with the knowledge of its price.

Illustratively tight bonds between the band and its fans

Illustratively tight bonds between the band and its fans

Every member of the band has developed truly mad skills now — even the already massive songwriting has matured well — and the band as a unit is locked tight. Worthy enough to rival Mr Chou (you know which one), and that’s saying something for me. Masters of the universe, like. And their mastery of the audience was unlike anything I’ve ever seen — they made us work so hard for the encores! — and you’ve really got to watch for yoursef how they “orchestrate” screaming. But the crowd were willing and also certifiably unhinged — *real* fans were out in force (the ones who know the band’s preference for blue glow sticks — let’s just say the venue was arrayed with the face of heaven tonight), though of course not everyone was as … committed to letting loose as I (and Jumpin’ JH!) was.

The face of heaven so fine that all the world was in love with night

The face of heaven so fine that all the world was in love with night

This is how I know the audience (including I) was nutty:

  • the majority stayed put long after the house lights came on
  • they continued singing the refrain from the last song for about five minutes, drowning out the house announcement that the concert was over
  • then they started doing the mexican wave for another five minutes
  • and chanted for encores for about ten minutes after that, rising to a roar every time the house announcement was broadcast
  • oh, and also screamed whenever the roadies popped their heads to check if we were leaving yet

Terrific and somewhat terrifying stuff — there was a moment where I thought we could easily sing through the night. I suspect that if the band hadn’t feinted leaving for one of the encores, this might not have happened, but it was a marvel to behold and made for a remarkable night indeed.

"We're not going home!"

"We're not going home!"

So if you have the opportunity, grab a ticket for Mayday’s D.N.A. concert (pretty cool and non-dodgy reason for the name … I’ll let you find out for yourself). I retire now to nurse my wrecked knees and dampened eardrums, and leave you with the loudest, clearest, surest word from the night:

Making us lay down our lives for our friends

They made us lay down our lives for our friends

L-O-V-E!

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