Straits Times Review: The Tao of retro rock (Jan 11, 2010)
January 11, 2010, 12:57 am
Filed under: concerts, David Tao | Tags: ,

The Tao of retro rock

David Tao trots out Western pops, but crowd saves biggest cheers for his Mandarin hits

By boon chan, media correspondent

The crowd lapped up David Tao’s rearrangements of his Mandarin R&B songs and rock detours. — PHOTOS: FLYER ENTERTAINMENT

review concert

Singapore Indoor Stadium
Last Friday

Singer-songwriter David Tao was happy to show his age at his concert.

The video introduction solemnly listed the momentous events of his year of birth, 1969 – the premiere of popular children’s TV show Sesame Street, the seminal music festival Woodstock and man landing on the moon.

The last segued into his appearance on the stage, which was decorated to resemble the cosy living room of his youth, complete with lampshades and a television set from the 1970s.

His first song was David Bowie’s Space Oddity (1969), with the lyrics tweaked to ‘Ground control to major Tao’.

Welcome to the world David Tao grew up in. The American-centric slant of the narrative is a little strange since he was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Taiwan and only attended high school and college in California.

No matter, it gave him the frame to delve into Western pop songs of that era such as Procol Harum’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale (1967), the Commodores’ Easy (1977) and Soft Cell’s Tainted Love (1981).

It was for Tao’s songs, though, that the 5,000-odd audience saved its biggest cheers. He sang his Mandarin R&B hits such as his first single Airport In 10.30, crowd-pleaser Regular Friend and the jangly Rain.

He seldom did just straightforward renditions of his songs, preferring to play around with the arrangements to offer something new for his fans.

So, Small Town had a rock makeover while the bombast of A Big Mess was upped a notch with a backing children’s choir.

While he had no problems with belting it out, the elegiac Seasons Of Loneliness could have done with more delicacy. And perhaps his falsetto was not quite what it used to be and he skirted the highest notes, most noticeably on Regular Friend.

It was also telling that his most popular songs were from his earlier albums rather than from his latest, Opus 69, which provided one of the evening’s high points. RE: DT (Regarding David Tao) worked better in a live setting rather than on disc, where it can sound a little indulgent.

On the clear-eyed number, he rapped about his career, ‘It’s okay even if I’m not number one now’ and added ‘This time I’m really gonna make a movie’, taking a dig at his own oft-stated proclamation to go off and make films.

Between songs, the personable singer shared anecdotes of his youth. He jokingly recalled that he used to be traumatised at home by the clashing strains of Elvis that his father listened to and the Peking opera his mother sang.

He also showed a cheeky side when he urged ‘Come on, Singapore, let me hear you’ when the line ‘We don’t need no thought control’ came up for Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.

While the classic rock detours were mostly welcome, Tao’s Guitar Hero moment with the Eagles’ Hotel California came across overdone.

On the whole, this was a fairly entertaining show that offered some unexpected surprises even if it was not exactly one for the ages.


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