Big Smog Blog
It seems Jason Mraz just can’t stay away – he’s been in here in 2009 and again in 2010 as part of Music Matters. And now, as part of his just announced new world tour, the singer-songwriter will play Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld Arena on June 24.
His new world tour is called Tour is a Four Letter Word, launching off the back of his new album, Love is a Four Letter Word, to be released on April 17.
The American – along with the likes of James Blunt and John Mayer – have been largely responsible for a huge upsurge in acoustic singer-songwriters in the local music scene, many of whom will no doubt turn out for his return.
Jason Mraz Live in Hong Kong
June 24 at AsiaWorld Arena
What do you get when you bring together the top 30 mixologists in Hong Kong along with the best quality liquor, plus interesting fresh ingredients? Well, apparently you get really drunk. On March 20, the Hong Kong Bartenders Association assembled those aforementioned mixologists to showcase their greatest creations at Harvey Nichols’ Fourth Floor Restaurant at the Landmark, and the result was a delicious and slightly hazy celebration of creativity, conviviality and great booze.
We began our rounds with Joe Wong, winner of the DITA cocktail competition in 2004 and Best Cocktail at the International Cocktail Competition Taiwan in 2006. His whisky cooler perfectly offset a simple glass of Glenmorangie with a touch of lemon juice and ginger beer. An auspicious beginning.
Then onto Shirley Lau, the first runner-up at the Allworld Open Cup 2011, who showcased Bacardi Light Rum to interesting effect in Harry’s cocktail – a mix of rum, sour grapefruit liquor, banana liqueur, Monin rose syrup, a splash of lemon juice and a spray of black sesame seeds on top. It looked like Japanese candy and tasted like Turkish delight. Lau has been bartending for eight years and loves it. “I’m talkative,” she said, “so it’s good for me. Bartenders are really performers, too.”
Ken Ng, winner of the Merit Award at the De Kuyper Cup 2011, agreed. He said: “I love working behind the bar. You can talk, talk, talk. Whoever is making the cocktails can get the girls laughing.” Does he have any advice for aspiring bartenders? “The most important things are passion and patience.” His creation, the tropical paradise, blends Tanqueray No 10 with fresh lime juice, fresh mango and basil, and was one of the most subtle and interesting creations of the night.
But, according to the experts, the ‘Best Cocktail in Asia’ (awarded the Eagle Award in Singapore 2011) is World Champion Vincent Chue’s smoky honey martini, which blends Grey Goose vodka with Dewar’s Single Malt, Bacardi’s 8 Years Rum and a tiny, natural New Zealand honeycomb. Chue waxed poetic about his creation (no pun intended). He said: “The slower you drink the sweeter it gets. It’s changing every moment. It’s like a winemaker’s cocktail – the vodka is the grapes and the whisky is the oak.” Fair enough, but to us it hit like a smack in the mouth.
Lewis Tsang, first runner-up at the Allworld Open Cup 2009 summed it all up: “Bartending is amazing! The best job in the world. You get to be on your stage and shine. It’s the happiest profession.” We were happy and shining too by the end of the night. From what we can remember…
Tokyo's renowned, thri-Michelin-starred restaurant RyuGin opens its first ever overseas branch at the ICC. Menus are season-driven and use only the freshest ingredients imported from Japan. The Hong Kong branch will also offer a 10-course kaiseki menu specially designed by the restaurant's original founder Seiji Yamamoto. 101/F, ICC, 1 Austin Rd, West Kowloon, 2302 0222.
Time Out readers, cover stars and industry tastemakers gathered at the The Pawn on Wednesday March 21st to celebrate a milestone of 100 issues. The Pawn was where it all started nearly four years ago in 2008, so it was only fitting that we came back to the heritage venue again.
We enjoyed some great tunes from DJs Casey Anderson and Re:Flex while sipping on tasty cocktails courtesy of Shanghai White. The Bund Cocktail was a crowd favourite! We were also chuffed to have our Issue 88 cover star Wyman Wong join us for the celebration, decked out in eye-catching orange.
A big thanks to our prize sponsors for offering up some cool giveaways to lucky winners:
Landmark Mandarin Oriental
And an even bigger thanks to all of you who came out to join us. Thanks for your support for the past hundred issues, and we hope to see you again for the next hundred to come!
Keep your eyes on this space for more event photos to come.
HKCEC Sunday March 18
Four dashing men with superbly gifted voices, hailing from France, Switzerland, Spain and America. One beautiful hall in Wan Chai's HKCEC building. Countless fans of operatic music with a poppy, modern twist. All these heady ingredients made for a stunning concert when Il Divo came to town.
The full-voiced Simon Cowell-masterminded quartet, backed by a full orchestra, were in glowing form in Hong Kong as they raised the roof with perfect renditions of popular and lesser-known operatic tunes from across the world. Highlights included the lads' versions of Barber's Adagio, Don't Cry For Me Argentina, My Way, Hallelujah and Unchained Melody. And, as it was Mother's Day for some people - like the Brits - Mama was timely and There's A Place For Us summed up the vocalists' popera style well too. And, in the encore, after much shouting and clapping from an ecstatic audience, Time To Say Goodbye spoke for itself.
It's great to get acts like Il Divo over to Hong Kong as they suit the city so well. HK is a heady mix of class and refinement juxtaposed with the modern. So acts which effectively merge classic styles like opera with pop tend to go down an absolute treat. And we hope the guys make the trip over here again soon so they can serve up another operatic extravaganza which we won't forget in a hurry.
K-pop outfit 2pm are commonly dubbed as the ‘beastly idols’, which might sound like a rather strange description for those who are not familiar with them. The moniker conjures up images of grotesquely large Korean guys covered in enough body hair to cover a football pitch. But, thankfully, despite the nickname, the truth is quite the opposite. They are actually labelled ‘beasts’ because popular perception sees their bodies as chiselled, defined and envied by most other men. In actuality, from what we could see at 2pm’s Hands Up Asia Tour gig at AsiaWorld Arena on March 10, two of the band members were rather tall and built while the other four, though six-pack friendly, weren’t exactly stacked. Nonetheless the fans cheered when the beastliest of the crew – Taecyeon and Chansung – took off their tank tops, Chansung’s landing in the crowd. Seconds later, it was ravaged by hungry wolves…
The six-member group made Hong Kong the last leg of their tour, with the arena being packed with girls, boys and even a healthy amount of older folk who blushed at the sight of their good-looking idols. A big screen kept track of the on-stage antics throughout the show, with the camera conveniently zooming up to the lads’ bare regions – and there were constant ‘ooo’s’ and ‘ahhh’s’ from the crowd. Not to be confused with a male strip show, this was instead a concert where 2pm sang a repertoire of their catchy hits. I’ll be back, Without You, Heartbeat, and Again and Again were just a few of the dance driven beats that were dropped along with a few ballads like Taecyeon and Nichkhun’s performance of My Valentine – which really allowed the beasts to show their sweet puppy sides. However, the ultimate crowd pleaser was their debut single 10 Points Out of 10 Point – a midtempo 90’s sounding dance hybrid. The crowed repeated ‘Ship Jeom Manjeome Ship Jeom’ (Korean pronunciation) every time the boys threw a 10-fingered hand signal into the air. Again, it’s not a male beauty contest but the guys were all scoring perfect 10s with their fans.
You don’t want to mess with K-pop fans. At least not with the ones that turned up to Super Junior’s Supershow 4 at Macau’s Cotai Arena (March 9-10 – we watched on March 10). The mostly-teenage audience chanted with the fervor of a killer army as they waited for their favourite Korean group to hit the stage. And though only nine out of the original baker’s dozen members made it to the concert (two of them are serving their mandatory military service while another two members are pursuing solo activities), the boys still sang and shimmied with the same energy as 20 Justin Biebers.
The show kicked off pretty much right on time at 8pm with the members rising on to the stage to the hypnotic drumbeat of Superman off their latest album. A couple of dance-fuelled tracks later, including Bonamana, Amber and Sulli from Super Junior’s label-mate girl group f(x) joined the boys onstage for Oops – a fast-paced, cutesy yet satirical song that saw absent member Heechul flash across the screen to deliver a rappish solo, much to the fangirls’ delight.
There were plenty of tweeny-bopper moments of course, like when clean-cut, Chinese-Canadian member Henry (from Super Junior’s Mandarin-spouting sub-group) took to the stage to perform covers of Billionaire and Lazy Song before ending with Lighters (with a thoroughly awesome violin accompaniment). Dance covers of Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger and Ne-Yo’s One in a Million followed but the highlight from the English performances was undoubtedly Kyuhyun’s angel-blessed vocals belting out a head-bopping rendition of Isn’t She Lovely.
But it wasn’t all just about synchronised dancing and looking cool in tailored suits (which the guys pulled off effortlessly). Super Junior threw in a good amount of gag-worthy segments, including Shindong’s disturbingly hilarious spoof of Hyuna’s (ie K-pop’s Miley Cyrus) Bubble Pop and Trouble Maker, done complete with blonde wig, short skirts and club-appropriate grinding. Fans also screamed along to Oppa Oppa – the tongue-in-cheek, disco-inspired single by the group’s top dancers Donghae and Eunhyuk (both clad in highlighter neon suits).
Near the end of the concert, the boys put together a Sound of Music parody video leading into the Do-re-mi song. But not about to end the evening dressed as Maria and the Von Trapps, Super Junior returned for their encore stage with perhaps their most famous song Sorry Sorry. The boys ended their epic evening with their Mandarin song Destiny, closing their four and a half hour concert and establishing themselves as the first Korean act to hold two straight solo concerts at the Cotai Arena.
AsiaWorld Expo Wednesday March 14
If Queen magically reformed and played AsiaWorld Expo you'd expect them to finish with Bohemian Rhapsody. That's a given. Or if Michael Jackson crossed back over from the other side for an epic Hong Kong gig you could bet your bottom dollar Thriller would be in the set.
Even Vanilla Ice wouldn't be cold enough to leave out Ice Ice Baby from his show. But Duran Duran failed to play Save A Prayer at their Expo gig on March 14, leaving many fans gutted and some confused. Why, when you're years on from your best, do you choose to omit your (arguably) greatest hit? Maybe it's because you're just too cool...
True, the concert was superb for fans of the 80s wild boys. They played (almost) all the greats, with some superb renditions of tracks from 2010 album, All You Need Is Now. The set was neon and electric, the energy was high, vocalist Simon Le Bon's voice was in fine form and the packed-out crowd was up and dancing from the intro. But it was strange to see Save A Prayer omitted. Wild Boys, Ordinary World, Girls On Film, Rio, The Reflex, A View To A Kill and Hungry Like The Wolf were all there - and played as if we were back in the 80s - but there was no prayer saved for arguably the biggest and best of the lot over the year. Still, we'd love the lads to come back again. Just bring your full set next time, guys...
Teaming up with Shop des Createur's Designer Fashion Night at The Space, Tangram's Spring/Summer collection was displayed with the work of four other designers including S. Nine, NIIN, Magnan & Tse, and Tara Moor. Tangram's designer, Paola Sinisterra is officially releasing her first collection which was designed in Hong Kong and previously featured in Time Out. The night saw near 400 guests, including sartorially savvy hipsters and socialites, as well as buyers and friends of the designers. At The Space there was certainly a buzz about the room - an excitement for local talent and an event well-curated event.
Photos by Michal Garcia
Backstage Live, Friday March 9
Craft Spells played a late but packed show at Backstage Live to an audience very familiar and enthusiastic about their music. The night began with a unique support set from Ninemo, led by their vocalist Tedman Lee and his cleverly paired Elvis microphone and Kaoss Pad. His bassist, with an iconic name of Andy Lau, also pulled double-duty as a violinist. Their percussion heavy, moderately pre-programmed songs were well-received, but the singer's banter between songs was booed twice. They later received roaring applause to their newest composition and highlight of the evening We Are Dogs, their protest song against the Beijing professor who insulted Hong Kong people in his recent interview with CCTV.
The second set saw an extra fifty audience members enter an already full house. Craft Spells finally hit the stage to an ecstatic crowd and when Justin Vallesteros appeared, girls were screaming. Watching them live is comparable to listening to the record, the only big surprise was their impromptu between songs when an amplifier went silent. They are very capable musicians, less produced live, and on Scandinavian Crush, they even serve up an irresistible secret sauce - a nostalgic guitar ostinato, Vallesteros vocals and an unexpected, juxtaposed Afrobeat rhythm. Sneaky as it sounds, it's catchy and fun, appealing strongly to the instagram aesthetic of the crowd, particularly the girl in the front row documenting the best moments with her lomo camera. After playing a couple of similar but newer songs from their upcoming EP, they strategically played After the Moment to a happy crowd who sang along with the lyrics. They ended their set well with a single encore and hearty applause.