Nothing fancy, just good music

Li Ronghao treated concertgoers to his radio hits as well as renditions of songs by Hong Kong's Four Heavenly Kings and Singapore's JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.
Li Ronghao treated concertgoers to his radio hits as well as renditions of songs by Hong Kong's Four Heavenly Kings and Singapore's JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.PHOTO: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT

REVIEW / CONCERT

RONGHAO LI AN IDEAL WORLD TOUR CONCERT

The Max Pavilion

Last Saturday

A sea of hands wave languidly to the gentle humming during the song Aiya as soft lights wash over us.

You close your eyes and feel yourself dissolving into the moment.

In an ideal world, all concerts should be like Chinese singer-songwriter Li Ronghao's debut show in Singapore - an intimate night of pure aural pleasure.

No fancy costumes, dancers, special guests or pyrotechnics. Just a simple stage, a man who can sing and a band who backs him up.

And what sweet sounds were made by Li and his band - which included Singaporean keyboardist Ruth Ling - whom he thanked later by flashing each of their faces and names onstage.

At some concerts, the band can drown out the vocals. But both were in fine form last Saturday night. The acoustics at The Max Pavilion were fabulous - save for a glitch, when Li could not be heard singing at the beginning of the song Composer.

Li's compositions were as much the attraction as the singing - they tend not to be cookie-cutter love ballads, but songs that ask searching questions about the pursuit of meaning and happiness in the big city, such as Wild Animals.

For about two hours, some 4,000 of us were treated to 23 songs, including radio hits penned by Li and renditions of songs by Hong Kong's Four Heavenly Kings and Singapore's JJ Lin and Stefanie Sun.

Li appeared onstage just 15 minutes past the start time of 7pm, kicking things off with an upbeat and breezy song called An Ideal.

He got the crowd bopping by his third song - Li Bai, a snappy number named after the Tang Dynasty poet.

A deft guitarist, he picked up the guitar as a boy from Bengbu, in China's central Anhui province.

Li, who turns 32 in July, is no Johnny-come-lately. He had produced and written songs for others many years before he released Model, his first album, in 2013. For this, he received Best Newcomer at Taiwan's Golden Melody Awards in 2014 and he followed it up with two albums: Ronghao Li (2014) and An Ideal (2016).

Some say Li sounds like Hong Kong's Eason Chan with his low drawl of a voice and looks like Taiwan's Jay Chou with his small eyes.

Li certainly showed he can play the piano as well as Chou, in a refreshing take on Heavenly King Aaron Kwok's classic hit Loving You Forever. It got the reserved man next to me clapping to the beat.

Near the end, Li said he was going to sing a song which he always sings at concerts. "Ai Mei (My Intuition)" someone shouted, a nod to a hit of Taiwanese singer Rainie Yang, who is said to be dating Li.

No, he was talking about Model, a hit from his debut album and a soulful rumination on existence.

Li, who admitted he is not much of a talker, tried to engage the audience. At one point, he walked in the aisles to shake hands (including mine) like a diligent politician.

Give him brownie points for the effort to reach out to the audience. But good music is all that is needed. And Li delivered.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline 'Nothing fancy, just good music'. Print Edition | Subscribe