Concert review: Khalil Fong's soulful concert is so much more than a singalong session


The Star Theatre/Saturday

Soul Boy, the name of Khalil Fong's 2005 debut album, is a most apt moniker for the Hawaii-born Hong Kong-based singer-songwriter.

Soul music is a key influence in his unique musical brew, which also mixes in R&B, jazz, funk, pop, rock and hip-hop. You also get the sense that he pours his heart - and, yes, soul - into his songs about love and making the world a better place.

When it comes to music, he is completely in his element. He is less smooth when it comes to chitchat between songs, but that kind of adds to his geekish charm. Unlike most R&B singers, he does not come across as a sweet-talking Lothario, instead conveying endearing earnestness in his love songs.

He made his entrance wearing shades and looking sharp in an all-black ensemble from the suit to the bowtie. As red lights flashed, he launched into the title dance track of his latest album, Dangerous World.

Despite sounding as though he had a touch of the flu when he spoke, it did not affect his singing at all over the two-hour-long gig, his first major concert here.

Fong flitted easily from genre to genre, from the disco-tinged English track Lights Up to emotive ballad Love Me Please. Often, he would be strumming the guitar as well, and for a few numbers, he played the piano.

During My Only Girl, he picked a fan to go up on stage and serenaded her. Was it a cute coincidence that he had chosen someone wearing a pair of his trademark large black-rimmed glasses for the occasion?

The concert really hit its stride when Fong had most of the 2,500 fans up on their feet for the uptempo Fun.

Among the tracks given a makeover, the hit Love Song was slowed down to good effect. In other displays of his excellent live-performing musicianship, he easily made his covers of other artists' songs his own. He did an unexpected mash-up of Brian McKnight's Back At One with Jay Chou's Quiet and also left his mark on Eason Chan's Love Is Suspicion and Chang Chen-yue's First Experience Of Love.

He came on stage with local group MICappella for the encore and they had a blast with Fong's own Spring Wind Blows as well as with the crowd-pleasing Pharrell Williams hit, Happy.

The gig ended rather abruptly though after the ballad Not That Easy. Fans clamouring for more were dismissed by a terse announcement to disperse as the show was over.

That was the only off-note in an enjoyable concert, in which the star was not present to conduct a mere singalong session of his hits, but to share with his fans an evening of soulful musicality.

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