Li Ronghao concert explores concept of time

Chinese singer-songwriter Li Ronghao lets his music speak for itself.
Chinese singer-songwriter Li Ronghao lets his music speak for itself.PHOTO: G.H.Y CULTURE & MEDIA (SINGAPORE)

Time plods on relentlessly, never looking back. Its unwavering march seems clear at Chinese singer-songwriter Li Ronghao's concert last Saturday.

The 34-year-old is known for his reflective lyrics and letting the music speak for itself, sans theatrics.

His music often dwells on themes of the past - parent-child relationships (Mama & Papa), the feel of familiar places (Lao Jie) and writing one's past sadness into songs (Popular Songs).

During the show, these songs explored not only various aspects of the past, but also their lingering effects on the present.

Time, it seems, can improve things. After Li catapulted to fame on the back of his 2013 debut album Model, success has continued to bless his career and personal life.

This year, he married Taiwanese actress-singer Rainie Yang and had a wax statue of himself unveiled at Madame Tussauds Beijing.

He also became the youngest mentor on reality competition show Sing! China and, earlier this month, his mentee Xing Hanming won its fourth season.




    Singapore Indoor

    Stadium Last Saturday

With time, his fans have also become more enthusiastic.

He said at last Saturday's show: "At my last concert here in 2017, a few men in the first row kept playing with their phones. This time, nobody played.

"My Singapore friends, you have changed," he added. "The last time I was here, you were not so wild."

Since his last show, he has released two studio albums and last Saturday's set-list showed his maturing as an artist.

He sang his earlier hits such as Model, Composer and Li Bai, and showcased his newer songs, with seven tracks from last year's album Ear, and six from 2017's En, such as the melancholic Quit Smoking and the simple, folksy Teenager.

The show opened with the high-energy electro-pop number En, with Li in a neon lime-green outfit and sporting a longer, side-parted haircut, playing the guitar.

He said he had a bit of a cold, but this did not affect his mildy husky vocals, which were warm and resonant.

Entering the higher registers of Ah! and Merit, he closed his eyes and immersed in the heady emotion of the lyrics.

At many points during the show, animation effects helped convey his conceptual ideas of time. For example, while performing The Weight Of Life, an hourglass with running sand was superimposed over him, suggesting time's continued passage.

As he sang "The sweat and tears left yesterday/has led me now to be more unbending and braver", multimedia projections of Chinese characters depicting qualities such as stubbornness and bravery crumbled around him, hinting at the inevitable decay of the past, no matter how glorious or sordid.

When he sang If I Were Young, his musings might have been tinged with regret, but they also hinted at how one can move forward and make the future better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'Li Ronghao concert explores concept of time'. Print Edition | Subscribe