IT WAS not a typical concert but the spectators who gathered for the final rehearsal of “Chaliang Phenomenon” on September 16 had plenty to enjoy with storytelling, art and even a mock comedy talk show adding to the familiar tunes.
Chaliang, a band of six well-known singers and musicians from the ’80s and ’90s, were rehearsing for their first full concert in more than a decade, which was staged last Saturday and Sunday at Royal Paragon Hall.
It marked the first time the six – Nitipong “Dee” Hornak, Watchara “Jeab” Pan-iam, Kiattisak “Kiang” Wethewutthajarn, Pusit “Taeng” Laithong, Su “Jui” Boonliang and Chatchai “Nok” Duriyapraneet – had been all on stage together (other than at a fundraiser for their alma mater Chulalongkorn back in 2007) since their “farewell” concert at Thammasat University’s Main Auditorium back in 2000.
Organised by Create Intelligence, the three-hour-long rehearsal featured more than 20 hits and the audience, mostly fans in their 40s and 50s, packed out the 5,000-seat auditorium.
Lead singer Su told the audience that he had received many requests from fans for a reunion concert after the “Reung Rao Bon Paen Mai” (“Tales on Planks”) concert in 2000, which was billed as their last.
“We had three meetings every other year before we could agree to hold this concert,” Su told the audience.
The show opened with “Reung Rao Bon Paen Mai”, a song composed specially for their “last” concert, which successful brought the fans back through time.
That was followed by several of the band’s best-known hits, among them “Rhe Khai Fun”, “Roo Seuk Sabai Dee”, “Eak Kanake”, “Ton Chaba Kub Khon Ta Bod”, “Kluay Khai”, “Nai Khai Jiew”, “Khao Jai”, “Young Mee”, “Kae Mee, “Tiew Lamai”, “Thur Kub Chun Lae Khon Uen Uen”, and “Uen Uen Eek Mak Mai”, as well as three new numbers – “Khao Jai Wa Mai Khao Jai” composed by Nitipong, and “Kon Plaek Na” and “Mai Nan Nee Aeng” composed by Prapas “Jig” Chonsaranon, one of the band’s founders.
One of the few bands to maintain both their unique talk show style and legendary status, the six members gave a colourful, lively and humorous performance, drawing laughter from the crowd as well as appreciative applause.
The show was more polished and more creative than their concerts of old though still performed in the laid-back Chaliang style.
Helped no doubt by modern technology, the colourful and artistic graphic backdrops made the audience feel at times as though they were watching an art performance.
The band members sang songs, showed off their musical talents in solos, duos and trios interspersing the music with sarcastic storytelling about current issues. An orchestra backup added a richer sound, giving grandeur to the show.
A concert normally features a couple of highlights but the audience at this final rehearsal was lucky as they never stopped coming.
Su, now 53, started dancing in South Korean boy-band style while Watchara sang “Took Chalok Thur”. The other members joined the dance with some cute moves, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
Nitipong, did the honours in introducing their special guests – whom he called “the second generation member of Chaliang”, namely the seven offsprings of Nitipong, Watchara, Kiattisak, Pusit, and Chatchai, who received loud applause as they performed “Thur Mun Rob Chun Chun Mun Rob Thur” accompanying themselves on their own instruments.
The band regrouped for a final round of storytelling, with Watchara, as always doing much of the talking, “Nitan Hinghoi” (“Tale of Fireflies”), one of their most famous songs, played in the background as Watchara used the glittering insect to link his story to several current issues, including a top leader, scandals involving an abbot and a temple, a lavish light-decoration project, and a mysterious death during detention.
And as ever, his storytelling drew laughter and applause.
The band closed out the show with “Mai Rak Tae Kid Theung” (“I Do Not Love You But I Miss You”) and a new song “Mai Nan Nee Aeng”.
Earlier in the show Kiattisak explained that the band had chosen the title “Chaliang Phenomenon” because “we want to be part of the phenomenon in this current era. We want to write a new chapter of history together”.
This concert was certainly a phenomenon and a new chapter in the lives of Chaliang that their fans will not forget.