By Kittipong Thavevong
Almost six years after her last concert in August 2012, Siriwimon “Mai” Charoenpura was back on stage last weekend, performing back-to-back shows to celebrate a career in the music business that has spanned 30 years.
Known for what fans call her “charmingly hoarse” voice, Mai mesmerised the audience with her ballads and excited them with her dance numbers, keeping their attention throughout and never disappointing her legions of fans.
Performing to a capacity house at Royal Paragon Hall, she kicked off the concert with three of her best-known hits – “Mai Mee Panha” (“No Problem”), “The Rak Kuen Pai” (“Throwing Back Your Love”) and “Jing Jai Wai Kon” (“Sincerity Is the Policy”). For reasons that weren’t clear, the stage was designed to resemble ancient Egypt complete with a large pyramid-shaped structure and dancers dressed to match the theme.
The concert, titled “I Am Mai: A Celebration of 30 Years”, took place at Royal Paragon Hall last Saturday and Sunday, with the Sunday night show lasting more than three-and-a-half hours. Music backup was provided by Extra Band and the dancers were from the D Dance troupe.
Mai performed about 35 songs, many of them hits, and gave as much vocal power to the slow ballads as the fast-paced dance numbers. The audience was happy to sing along, many of them standing up and dancing.
Cheers greeted Mai’s first guest, rocker Anchalee “Pu” Chongkhadikij, as she emerged from the wings to belt out her all-time hit “Nueng Diew Kon Nee” (“This One Only”).
The veteran rocker played the guitar as Mai sang “Oh Rer” ("Really?") and joined her on the vocals of “Nak Kern Pai Laew” (“It’s Already Too Much”). Pu wrapped out her set with “Duey Kwam Kid Thueng” (“Thinking of You”).
After a short break, Mai was back on stage, dedicating, with tears in her eyes, three songs to the three most important persons in her life – her estranged parents and her late mentor. “Proh Khao Kon Diew” (“Because of Him Alone”) was a tribute to her deceased father, actor Ruj Ronnapop (whose real name was Surin Charoenpura); “Ya Ao Namta Klub Ban” (“Don’t Come Home with Tears”), was dedicated to her mother Winee Sonthikul, who Mai said had given her “power since my birth” and proved it by coming along to the show to cheer her daughter on. Mai dedicated the third song, “Thanon Sai Nee” ("This Road"), to her late mentor, singer and music executive Rewat “Ter” Buddhinan who, she explained, had always believed in her as a singer even though she came from an acting background.
That background has paid off over the years, helping Mai effortlessly entertain her audience. And Ter was right – her hoarse voice is a perfect match for her powerful vocals.
For the next set, Mai went luk thung (country folk), covering hits “Sao Na Sang Fan” (“Farm Girl’s Requests”) and “Puchai Nai Fun” (“Dream Man”) by the late luk thung queen Pumpuang Duangchan that she’s included on her albums over the years. Heartthrob actor Nadech Kugimiya came out on stage during the second song, his presence raising the decibel level of the screams considerably.
The actor sang “Sam Sib Yung Jaew” ("Still Shining at 30") and drew even more shrieks from the mostly female fans when he revealed his six-pack. Mai and Nadech sang a few more songs together, dancing energetically and taking on sexy poses that drew loud cheers from their fans. Nadech wiped off sweat from Mai’s upper chest with a handkerchief and she kissed him on the cheek.
After another brief break, Mai shifted into higher gear singing “Sia Jai Dai Yin Mai” (“Sorry is the Word”) and “Yak Ja Ronghai” (“I Want to Cry”) before being joined on stage by singer Boy Peacemaker, the third and last guest of the night. Boy entertained the audience with his hit numbers “Ther Plian Pai” ("You Have Changed") and “Nua Khu” ("Soulmate") as excited fans danced along.
Backed by about 20 dancers, Mai returned to the stage for the final show, performing dance hits “Kwak Huajai” (“Prove with Your Heart”), “Klub Duek” (“Going Home Late”) and “Sud Rit Sud Det” ("Extremely in Love"), the latter raising the excitement in the hall to its peak.
Mai, who has certainly not relinquished her crown as the queen of pop rock, bade farewell to her fans with “Mai Yak Hai Ther Roo” (“I Don’t Want You to Know It”), sending them happily on their way.