Archive for January, 2002


Tuesday, January 8th, 2002

By Warren Chan, KLue

You wouldn’t immediately think that a comfy, low-key No Black Tie gig would spark off a manic-depressive streak, but that was exactly the case when Pete Teo, Farid Ali and Steve Thornton came together for two very interesting weekend nights.

As the first feathery chords of “Alive & Free” rang free from Pete Teo’s acoustic, the sombre Sabahan dug up Johnny Cash’s demons and laid them completely bare and beautifully unadorned through the full measure of an ominous vocal timbre. This grave declaration pretty much set the tone for the night, as an unusually attentive audience was kept rapt by the meditations of a soul caught between light and shadow. “Where Have The Years Gone?” instilled a strong sense of longing and regret, with Teo filtering New Orleans imagery through a melodic prism of bittersweet memories.

Brooding then took a brief breather, as the vaunted “porno song,” “Rhapsody in Blue” powerfully ran off the rails with Teo vociferously adopting a growling, stalker/bluesman persona – a primal display that was startlingly invigorating and remained one of the strongest parts of his repertoire. “Street Where You Lived” pulled the audience back to lamentation mode, before Teo earnestly exposed his Van Morrison roots on the muscular “Madam George”(Editorís Note: ëLast Good Maní). A couple of numbers basked further in the wrist-slitting gloom, before Teo unexpectedly turned 180 degrees and finished with “Someday” (Editor’s Note: ëArms Of Marianneí), a pulse-quickening slice of folk-pop with “radio hit” written all over it.

As singular a talent as Teo is, those looking for upbeat thrills were probably better served through Farid Ali’s slick, finely-tuned set. The singer/jazz guitarist-maestro is quite resolutely an entertainer, and gratification came easily through a series of well-chosen, crowd-pleasing covers. A single acoustic guitar accompanied his polished, glassy voice on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” – the jazzed-up rendition proved far more engaging than what the recent conglomeration of MTV superstars vomited out. It could all have slid into pub band territory if not for the backing presence of percussion guru Steve Thornton and his protÈgÈs, who swelled the groove to towering proportions. John Pizzarelli’s version of Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” showcased Ali’s incisive lead fills, and other popular standards flew by until finally, Pete Teo made a welcomed return to join Ali and Thornton on his own cheery “Jesselton Tonight” – an appropriately rousing finale to the night.

With the headliners providing solid counterpoints to each other, all the experienced highs and “lows” of the show blended together well, with Teo coming through as one of the deftest singer-songwriters on the scene. Here’s to hoping that, just like No Black Tie itself, he won’t remain a secret for long.