Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wu Yue Tian! (Mayday!)

Tonight Donny, Gene, Sammi, and I went to see Wu Yue Tian on their Final Home Tour at Beijing Worker's Stadium. Wu Yue Tian is a really popular band from Taiwan, and their name in English is Mayday. I was most excited to be attending this concert not to see the band, but rather to watch the audience. I didn't know this band's music very well ahead of time, and about half of the songs I heard were in Taiwanese, so I couldn't have understood them anyway. I just really want to see what Beijing concert-goers were going to be like.

group and audience
(Photo credit: Donny Newman)

The audience showed its enthusiasm in the form of thousands of glowsticks distributed amongst the stadium. Instead of dancing, people waved the glowsticks in the air to the beat. The glowsticks added to the already overstimulating display of lights around the stage. Don't get me wrong, I mean overstimulating in a good way here. It was great to look at everything, but I'd be lying if I said that it couldn't give someone seizure. The stage had three screens on the backdrop; one was to show the people on stage, and the other two were mainly present for the purpose of putting the words on the screen. It looked a bit like karaoke with a live band from this standpoint.

sparkle fanfare
(Photo credit: Gene Young)

There were a few things about the concert that didn't register quite right with me. With one exception, I got over those things quickly after I realized that I was incorrect in expecting something cohesive. There were three or four costume changes for the entire band. Also, during one song, two lions, five or so nurses, and three fifties-styled dancers came on stage to do some choreography. I understand that Benq was sponsoring the concert, but I don't know why they sent out lions with their company's name written on their bellies to dance. I expected ads, but not like that. Also, the audience didn't clap. There was screaming and banging of glow sticks, but not really any clapping. And the screaming died down almost immediately after songs ended.

benq lion
(Photo credit: Donny Newman)

Furthermore, there were about five heartfelt speeches interspersed throughout the concert. One of them was the drummer asking his girlfriend to marry him. Then, the one about the singer's dead grandmother made the entire stadium cry, except for the three foreigners who looked at each other incredulously. The guy started talking about how his grandmother had reached her final home, and when he talked about the different family members who were there to watch the concert, he mentioned that he was pretty sure his grandmother was there, too.

All of the sudden, the scene shifted for me, and I got an entirely different view of the situation I was in. There was soft piano music in the background while one man with a spotlight on him talked about his dead grandmother. There had been screens up with words on them so everyone could sing along to their songs. People had their open hands in the air and were crying. I was in what US News once described as a "mega church." I've been to a few of those services, and it looked just like a huge scale one. Keep in mind, however, that it only looked like one; the spoken content had no religious context.

end of show
(Photo credit: Gene Young)

I think that for a large number of the people at that concert, seeing Wu Yue Tian was an intensely spiritual experience. Watching this all unfold before me with the church service idea in my head, the reasoning behind the CCP's keeping missionaries out of the country became increasingly clear to me. The government views huge religious groups as a threat to maintaining power and stability. If a huge group of evangelical Christian missionaries came here with services similar to that concert, I think people would be really apt to going to the services. That kind of service could attract a huge number of people. Whether or not you agree with what the government's position is, you certainly can acknowledge their insight in this situation.

All told, I think this was a really interesting experience.


At 1:24 AM, Blogger David Farrell said...

wow! lions, nurses, shiny lights, 50s dancers, dead relatives...i think this sounds more like a crazy dream than something that could be real. amazing!


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