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Dick Lee’s The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman

May 28, 2011

When I first got wind of this from a poster at Esplanade, I mistakenly thought it was going to be a musical. But on a more careful reading of the synopsis, realised it wasn’t. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out actually. Was it his greatest hits concert? Not really. Instead, it was like a biographical performance by Dick Lee. And so began the tale of one of our most acclaimed pop composers.

Set up as a living room, we are invited into his world. A world of his influences and inspiration. Dick Lee shared about how he got involved in music that led to a lifetime of composing music, his family, the musicians that inspired him, people who helped him, etc…basically, it’s something straight out from his book of the same name “The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman”. As he jokingly puts it, “I know some of you can’t read, so that’s why I’m putting up this show” (well, something like that). Actually, it was like the talk he gave at the library@esplanade some time ago, but a bit more complete and this time, with him playing the piano and singing his songs. Even though it was a repetition of history, it was still engaging as Dick has his own sense of humour and charisma to hold your attention. However, I felt he did not play enough songs! I would liked to have watched him perform more of his songs, which were good songs with stories behind them.

Don’t expect the pop songs we’re all so familiar with that he wrote for others, but really, his personal songs from his own albums, and also from his musicals. As the story was in chronological order, you can quite distinctly hear how his music evolved as he moved through the years and the influences he had like Elton John, Joni Mitchell, etc. A sad point of the programme came when he shared about the death of his sister, which I believed moved many, including myself. When he finally came to terms with her death, he wrote “No Goodbyes” which can be found in his 1993 Life Story album.
On a lighter note, you thought you had heard it all but even though the material has been used (and over-used) a dozen times, he still managed to make a dig at politics in fresh new way in the effortless sense with his songs, as if it were not too intentional (although it was).

However, I don’t know if it’s only my perception…although I’ve heard “Life Story” a number of times, it was not until this show that I began to feel that “Home” actually bore some similarities to it. Not that it’s a bad thing, as they are both good songs.

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