Chinese opera – a spectacle of song and dance which, together with the colorful costumes, make-up, jesters, storytellers, acting, and poetry, make something truly singular. And to most, a chore and a half to sit through. Well, perhaps, lead singer, Liang Long, might have felt the same way, and went ahead and instilled a little rock and roll spirit into the timeless tradition. A melting pot of Chinese opera, rock and roll, cabaret, spaghetti Westerns, and those awful radios shows every taxi driver listens to (you know the ones), Second Hand Rose have flipped customs on themselves in the process created something remarkable. Oh, and they know how to rock, real hard as they proved at Tango last Wednesday night.
Theatrically, SHR go all out. With a stage set up straight out of a pirate movie, and each of the members donning ridiculous costumes, from nightgowns to military uniforms, the band knows how to grab your attention.
Lead singer, Liang Long, with enough eye shadow to make one blush, worked over the crowd with his comical antics and outlandish persona, like a game show host who had gone off the rails. This is controlled chaos, folks.
Musically, they are a treat. Influences can be heard all over the place – a little Spanish, some Greek, a dab of Middle Eastern. Yet, combining these with a traditional Chinese folk sound, with the help of the suona, a high-pitched horn which acts like the trumpets spicier cousin, and intoned vocals from Liang Long, truly sets them apart. Both in content and sound, these traditional themes encroach – ghostly settings, the double-edged nature of money, and of course, love, real or not.
The band’s lyrics and Long’s singing style are undeniably humorous. Whether he’s slyly coaxing sheep to come his way or commenting on how capitalism has poisoned society, you can particularly hear the sarcasm in every character. It’s nice to see a band not hold back and their use of humor as weapon is piecing. When all is said and done though, Second Hand Rose were tight – a group of musicians who know how to put on a show with professional ease all the while never losing their sense of fun. Color me impressed.