Songs from the Heart and Mind – Straits Times’ review of Chet Lam (林一峰)’s Huayi 华艺 concert
February 7, 2011, 2:45 am
Filed under: Chet Lam, concerts, 林一峰 | Tags: , , ,

Feb 7, 2011

Songs from the heart and mind

By boon chan


review concert


Esplanade Recital Studio/Last Saturday

Hong Kong singer-songwriter Chet Lam has clear, clean-cut vocals to go with his boy-next-door looks but he has no interest in being a cookie-cutter pop product.

The ‘LYFE’ in the title of the gig in fact refers to the record label he set up from the get-go in order to maintain creative control over the music he puts out.

The 34-year-old sang in Cantonese, Mandarin and English at his two sold-out Huayi sessions, which were divided into sections titled Love, Lust, Heart, Home and Road Again. Affairs of the heart, home and travel were predominant themes in his songs.

Despite the onset of a bout of flu, he gamely put on a one-man show with his guitars and looper pedal for close to two hours, kicking things off with a spirited rendition of Suddenly Single from his first album Pillow Songs (2003), which is in Cantonese.

Unlike much of Chinese pop which is scrubbed clean of lust and desire, the English chorus here goes: ‘Can have a one night stand, if you got a chance/Back to the wonderland, see some good old friends.’

And on numbers such as Victoria – ‘Victoria, you are whose home, who is your home’ – he probed the idea of belonging and identity.

He even took on politics in Two Brothers, which alludes to Hong Kong and Taiwan and their relationship to mainland China, and joked that Singapore was a cousin.

Just as he does not mince his words in interviews, he is pretty outspoken at his concerts as well.

He shared that he loved movies and vampires and used to be a fan of the Twilight flicks until the vampire Edward took off his shirt – and did not burn in the sunlight. He then added a reference to a more adult-oriented vampire TV series: ‘F*** Twilight, give me True Blood. Give me some violence and sex.’

He also flirted with a male audience member, improvising the line ‘You’re really cute’ into a number.

At points, his banter was stinging. Asking whether there was anyone who did not understand when he spoke in Mandarin, he answered himself saying that since this was Singapore, no one would say anything contrary even if he did not get it.

For the most part, though, the audience seemed to enjoy his candour and were happy to snap their fingers to the breezy Me & Instant Noodles and clap along at his request.

The set closed with one of his best-known songs, the yearning The Best Is Yet To Come, first sung by his younger sister Eman as part of the female duo at 17.

The encore ended on a familiar note when he performed By My Side, the English version of the hit he wrote for Stefanie Sun, Yu Jian (To Meet).

Lam has proven that he can pen hits but, more importantly, he has shown that he has something to say, whether withering or wistful. And I, for one, am glad to see him breaking the mould.


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