By Kittipong Thavevong
Special to The Nation
Organised by Neekrung Connects, “Grand Ex' Boriboon” – which roughly translated as “Grand Ex' Complete” – featured some 30 songs, most of them hits from the band’s heyday – and brought fans in their thousands to the 10,000-seat Impact Arena to bid a final farewell to their heroes of yesteryear.
Backup music was provided by the 50-strong Royal Thai Air Force Symphony Orchestra and the songs themselves were mainly sung by the band’s frontman Danupol “Jae” Kaewkarn and its co-founder and leader Nakorn Vejsupaporn, who these days is better known as the father of pop singer/pianist Tor Saksit. That’s not to say the other members were left out in the cold. Saxophonist Panat Hirunkasi sang his hit “Nang Nual” (“Seagull”). Bassist Thanongsak Apornsiri, who also played the harmonica during the concert, crooned “Pom Pai Mai Pon” (“I Can’t Escape from You”) and organist Wasan Sirisukpisai sang “Yak Mee Rak” (“I Want to Love You”). And while the quality of their voices was obviously not the same as all those years ago, their impressive performances helped take the fans back in time and had the middle-aged audience members happily singing and dancing along to their favourite songs.
Grand Ex' was formed in 1969 -- 50 years ago -- when Nakorn and his mates were still at high school. Their name came from their two favourite bands of that time, Grand Funk Railroad and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Now mostly in the 60s, they joked on stage about their age and health. Indeed, trombonist Chokdee Phakpu had only recently been discharged from hospital but his energetic performance belied his days as an inpatient.
Danupol, 59, warmed up the fans with his hit “Phob Rak” (“Finding Love”) before seguing into “Lom Sawat” (“Winds of Love”) backed by the chorus.
The frontman thanked the fans for having supported the band then swung into “You Are My Angel” as if to say thank you. He picked up his guitar to perform the ballad “Puen” (“Friend”) on which he was joined by Thanongsak on harmonica. Nakorn mesmerised the audience with the ballad “Rak Nai C Major” (“Love Song in C Major”) while former band member Chamras Saewataporn, who went on to become a well-known songwriter and composer, took to the piano and mesmerised the audience with his classic “Nam Soh Sai” (“Water Eroding Sand”). Three younger band members -- Sutee “Kai” Sangsareechon, Aisoon “Oh” Watayanon and Johnny Anfone – came on separately perform their hits of yesteryear before handing back over to Danupol for a set that included “Piang Sop Ta” (“Just Eye Contact”) and “Chuea Chan” (“Believe Me”), which prompted many audience members to dance along.
Nakorn’s son Tor Saksit, performing as a guest at another concert across town, made an appearance in a recorded video, in which he said how he was inspired by Grand Ex' during his childhood and played the opening notes of “Bua Noi Koi Rak” (“Waiting for Love”) for his dad and the rest of the band to continue.
Bringing the entire band back on stage for the finale, Nakorn choked up with emotion as he tried to read out a message thanking the fans for their support over the past half century. “Time will never part us from you, our fans. May God protect and bless you all,” he concluded before leading Grand Ex into special goodbye song that combined the lyrics of “La Kon Samrap Wan Nee” (“Goodbye for Today”) with the phrase “sayonara, never say goodbye”. Tears were very much in evidence both on stage and in the auditorium as the show closed out after a little over three hours – for many, far too short a time for that final goodbye.