Tomorrow 32 : Xinyao reunion concert
The Star Theatre/Last Saturday
We the audience were called tong xue (classmates) and the concert was likened to a school reunion.
As such reunions go, you feel warm and nostalgic at first and are glad to see the people you are fond of. But you also see the people you are not very fond of or even know of. As it drags on - for four hours, you wonder when you can go.
It started well.
Six students sat in a row to reprise classics such as Sitting In Rows (Pai Pai Zuo), a nod to the campus roots of xinyao, the Singaporean Chinese folk song movement first christened as such in 1982.
By the time the kids sang Our Class (Wo Men Zhe Yi Ban), the 5,000-strong crowd was chirping along with some gusto. And out came heart-shaped, red and white glow sticks in the first few rows.
Thicker-waisted adults then took the stage as the words "Thirty-two years later..." flashed overhead, prompting laughter from the mainly 40- and 50-year- olds in the full house.
Loud applause was given to the five men of singing group Tides (Chaoxi Xiaozu), who sang lines such as "Young heart, full of vigour", as they pranced around in T-shirts embossed with a shiny heart.
That was the only dance act of the night - xinyao is full of poetry but it does not seem to have many nifty moves.
The audience did not move much, either: the seats were cushy and the proceedings placid at times. The only time we stood was when we were asked at the finale.
Part of the problem was that the concert felt like a variety show. Its line-up of about 20 acts, from Dawn Gan to Hong Shaoxuan to Pan Ying, did not build on one another's segments to create momentum.
For example, the high spirits of the unplugged segment featuring wise-cracking artistes Cavin Soh and Chua Lee Lian could have fed well into a rousing ending featuring the three cool guys of xinyao: Roy Loi, Jiang Hu and Eric Moo.
But the insertion of Taiwanese singer Wan Fang felt like a non-sequitur.
It was past 11.30pm when Moo came on and he seemed to rush through two songs, Young (Zou Guo Nian Shao) and In Those Days (Na Yi Duan Ri Zi).
Still, there were nice touches.
Like Wu Jiaming, best known for singing Voices From The Heart (Xiao Ren Wu De Xin Sheng), being "sabo-ed" into singing the song when he was initially just playing bass guitar on stage.
Or seeing 1990s singer Jimmy Ye, in fine voice and even finer shape in a silver suit as he sang a medley of love songs.
Then there is seeing the hunky Jiang Hu, known for singing the theme song of On The Fringe, the 1987 drama starring Li Nanxing. He looked and sounded low-key as he sang Gan Qing Hao Lei, literally Relationships Are So Tiring, in specs, jeans and a hoodie.
And hearing Jim Lim, from singing trio Dreamz FM, hit the high notes gracefully on The Autumn Heart (Qiu Xin Fu), a mesmerising song by the poet of xinyao Liang Wenfu.
Liang did not sing but his songs featured throughout. He was in the audience and stood up at least twice to acknowledge tributes from singers.
Like school reunions, this gathering was not always enjoyable. But it was still good to catch up with familiar faces, familiar voices.
This article was published on Sept 1 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.