page last updated: 5/24/2011
I stood at the foot of the God of Guitar, the King of Live, and was transported to a world of wonder, beauty and imagination... in other words, I was at a Wu Bai & China Blue concert.
We arrived at 5:30 p.m., an hour before the doors opened, and joined the queue behind ten to fifteen people. Taiwanese fans reading this might be amazed, but this is America and the first official concert tour of Wu Bai and China Blue, and there was no queuing in line for days to be assured of a front-row center space.
Most of the crowd was Asian or Asian-American, and most knew the music. Other than a friend and me, I saw only two other non-Asian fans at the concert. There might have been more. Many asked us how we knew the band, and the answer was the film Time and Tide. This Tsui Hark film was instrumental in introducing Wu Bai to many non-Asian movie fans.
Around 6:30 p.m. the doors opened, and since the DNA Lounge is a bar, age was a concern so everyone had to show an ID. There was no checking for cameras or recording equipment...darn should have brought my camera! We walked in and made out way to the stage. How better to see and hear Wu Bai and China Blue than front-row, center.
My first thought was to queue stage right, but my friends had moved to the left, so I did too. It was a good choice; Wu Bai gravitated to stage-left during many of his heartfelt, vibrant, dynamic guitar solos.
The show did not start until about 8 p.m., but that gave us plenty of time to meet other fans and chat about the band, the music, and our prior concert experiences, about culture and many other things. Culture and nationality became one as we anticipated the experience to come.
A concert ritual takes place in their native land that did not occur here. Maybe it is an American thing; maybe it is just my American thing. Maybe it takes queuing in line for two days to instill that feeling. After all, an hours wait before a gig in Taiwan is unheard of. The lights dimmed, the crowd chanted "Wu Bai, Wu Bai," and the band appeared on stage.
First impression ...Wu Bai has the coolest guitar strap! Huge blue jewels encrust the strap, it glitters and flashes in the light, a fitting beginning for a night of wonder. What emanated from the stage and speakers was a wall of sound, a sound so thick that even Wu Bai's Les Paul could not cut through. Dino's drums were muted, partly by the Plexiglas barrier surrounding him, and the keyboards and bass sound was buried too. It took a while for the room to find a comfortable sound balance, but eventually it did, and the music of Wu Bai and China Blue began to unfold.
There is more to a concert than sound; there is the magic of synergy, of musician and audience sharing a moment in time, a time that is etched in our consciousness. And what a synergy it was! Wu Bai is truly god of guitar. I say that to emphasize the magnitude of his ability. He is good, he is creative, he is expressive, and he is flat out bluesy rock 'n roll. Moreover, the band is, too. After all, it is Wu Bai and CHINA BLUE.
At the time, I did not know the concert was being web cast, and later I was happy to learn that a few Taiwanese friends were able to share in the experience, and that Marla was able to put together a complete set list. Way to go, girl! I know the songs, but not always the names, don't know the lyrics, don't know the ritual of movement. Marla says, "You gotta boogie more". My only comment is that I am dancing in my heart and mind and the genuine expression of enjoyment is an inner state.
By now you are probably asking, "What about the music?" In one word: perfect. After the sound guy and the band found IT and the room fell into harmony, the planets aligned and all was well with the world. The band became more animated, the crowd too. There is nothing better than Wu Bai expressing his music in body language. Towards the end, there were moments of sheer brilliance, and with Wu Bai just inches away it was like a timeless glimpse of magnificence, wonder, and bliss. Damn, he is good!
They played songs that are engraved in my mind and heart, songs that are less familiar, and one I'd never heard before, (Yi Shi Er Niao) One Stone Two Birds. Wu Bai said it was a "bonus track." They played songs I love ... Betray, White Dove, Crush on You ... the list goes on. But all good things come to an end, and so it was with this concert. Little did I know that the best was yet to come.
We went outside, and I found there were two posters still left on the building wall, so I took them down. They were somewhat damaged, but still a good souvenir of the gig. We waited a bit longer, and my friend was invited to go into the club and meet Wu Bai, and it goes without saying that I did not lag behind.
We are in the club, waiting, and suddenly I see Wu Bai walking down the stairs. It is one of those moments you remember, one that is forever etched in the mind and will stay in memory well beyond the reality. I thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm so much taller than he!" Not that he is short, but I am tall. (Well maybe he's a bit short, but not by Asian standards.
I checked my exuberance, remembering that the meeting was for my friend, apologized for being forward, and stepped back. Wu Bai and my friend walked out to the main floor to take pictures and I was invited to join them. It was after the pictures that I spoke with him. Wu Bai, speaking English said, "The sound was not so good tonight." I agreed, but said that if one wants to hear good sound, one listens to the CDs, but that if one wants to feel the soul of the music, one goes to a live performance (or similar words).
Wu Bai said they wanted to come back to America. Now I am all for that, but mentioned that I wanted to go back to Taiwan, too. He remembered me from the concerts in Taiwan, and that made me feel very happy.
There is so much more I could have said. I could have told him how much I love the music, how thrilling it was for them to come to America, how much I look forward to more shows, how much discovering the band and music has enriched my life. After all, it is because of Wu Bai and China Blue that I traveled to Taiwan and was able to experience the culture of a country different from mine.
The time I spent in Taiwan was special, and my second trip in April 2008 was just as memorable. Miss Fortune Cookie 500 is a perfect hostess. Although I did not see the band in Taiwan, I was fortunate to see them perform in Hong Kong. Fans from around the world traveled to Hong Kong to see the band. They thought the show and music was worth the effort it took to travel from Taiwan, Singapore, China and the United States, just to name a few countries.
Wu Bai never ceases to find new and creative ways to express his music. We were treated to several Wu Bai costume changes that included tasteful silk and sequins, a cool hairstyle that replaced the little devil horns worn in previous concerts, dramatic eye makeup and scantily clad women dancing around Wu Bai for several numbers. Very cool! And although some fans would disagree about his latest look, they could not help but boogie along after they warmed up to a Wu Bai that remains innovative and cutting edge, even after 15 years. And lest I not forget the band, China Blue remains one of the best rock banks in Asia. Wu Bai is blessed to be surrounded by good musicians, and my hope if that they continue to make music for many years to come.