THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

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It’s all about the repertoire. And if the interpretation and delivery don’t take some of the greatest songs written and batter and bruise them by changing them for the sake of change, it all works and everyone goes home having had an enjoyable evening.

This was the case when a friend and I decided to drop by the Blue Bar of the Four Seasons on Saturday night at around 10pm for a plate of their Peking Duck- strangely for a hotel lounge, the place that, to many of us, serves the best Peking Duck in town along with their Mini Burgers.

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The initial trepidation of thinking we’d have to endure resident singer Alice Ella’s non-stop and tortuous falsetto that crippled so many songs while she took selfies of herself onstage disappeared when told that her gig was up and she’s now falsetto-ing back from whence she came.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHRXVnGrZ1A

What was a very pleasant surprise was listening to stand-in songstress Liza Melfi with the resident band- sans the ghost of Amy Winehouse and her one-time guitarist Robin Banerjee this night- sounding better- and happier.

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Sure, she hadn’t exactly rehearsed long and hard with the band and there were some pregnant pauses between songs, but when everyone came together, they delivered- nothing of exactly musical breakthrough proportions, but no one goes to five-star hotel lounges in Hong Kong expecting to hear the Doors or Esperanza Spalding or Janelle Monae. Or Mothers Of Invention.

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It would be brilliant if this could happen, but, let’s face facts, business ROI’s, and let’s also face the music: Most Hong Kong audiences have very little time for originality whether in hotel lounges or those “jizz” clubs over-flowing with self-indulgence and musical showboating.

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Riffing and raffing and scatting and adlibbing during instrumental breaks is hardly being original if the songs are the same old chestnuts that have been roasting by the open fire for so long that they’ve become dried and withered.

And so when the very professional and confident Ms Melfi launched into versions of Cher/Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, a sprinkling of standards and some musical surprises one doesn’t come to expect from the often wafer-thin repertoire of the handful of singers who make the merry-go-round of venues with an almost obscene regularity, it worked- it worked for the audience there to be entertained while able to converse with their friends, it worked for the performers on stage and it worked for our $1,364 bill for two.

Sadly, Liza Melfi is only filling in before the new resident singer arrives. After bringing in two absolute howlers from overseas for two long residencies at the venue- it seemed longer than they were- here’s hoping it’s third time lucky for the Blue Bar- and that the entertainment fare works for the many regulars that the extremely customer-friendly venue attracts.

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It’s all about horses for courses and not about trying to force square pegs into round holes.

Hans Ebert