LIVE REPORTTHE PALACE OF WONDER7/28 SUN
Hanggai’s set starts with a horn section at the back of the stage, and a rumbling, foreboding bass rocking out. Then the vocals, drums and guitars kick in, and it’s like a mix of deep Asian music and nu-metal; like Linkin Park. The dozens of people filling the gorgeous mock-Victorian venue that is the Crystal Palace support this band all the way; bouncing up and down and pumping fists in the air. As the first song pulls to a close, the lead singer of the band thanks the crowd in Japanese and, presumably, in Mongolian. A few seconds later the band erupts into a flurried mix of funk, Asian folk music and nu-metal, as everyone on the dance floor pogos up and down to the furious beat. The members of the audience then stop pogoing, and gesticulate hard with one hand over their heads; pointing at the band rhythmically, in a gesture of enthusiastic approval. The vocalist can hold notes like the strongest of metal singers from the 1970’s. As this song also ends, the applause from the crowd is enthusiastic.
The lead singer barks something at the crowd, and I have no idea what he is saying, and in what language, but the audience reacts enthusiastically as the next track starts off as a galloping hybrid of Asian music and Iron Maiden. The choruses gallop even harder than the verses, almost like Iron Maiden’s “Aces High,” to which the audience hoots and hollers, and yells “Hey” rhythmically; like the backing vocals on “Rasputin” by Boney M. As this latest song ends, the crowd cheers enthusiastically again.
The third song of the evening starts off with a gently picking guitar and vocals, before the whole band is off galloping again. This time they sound like “Chainsaw Charlie,” by W.A.S.P. As the band drives the chorus home, all the bodies in the pit pogo in unison, calling out “hey hey hey,” as in the aforementioned Boney M song.
Once again, in between songs, the lead singer speaks to the audience, and I have no idea what language he is using. However, the audience listen with rapt attention, and react with joy. This latest track is funkier rock, with an Asian flare. Nevertheless, the galloping guitars return; perhaps to convey the sense of horses, which are such an integral part of Mongolian culture. As Hanggai drive home another anthemic chorus, the now one-hundred strong people in the pit all raise a hand at a 45 degrees and point in a rhythmic fashion, to show their support. As this song also comes to an end, Hanggai lead singer says, “Xie Xie. Arigatou”.
At one point, the band delivers a track that is a bit reggae-flavored, but also deeply tinged with an Asian flavor; because Hanggai is, first and foremost, a band that plays modern versions of Mogolian folk songs; as well as their own originals in the same vein. The audience cheers warmly after this song as well.
Yet another song to stray from their average fare, is a hardcore Asian number, leaning heavily on traditional instruments, and a call-and-response chorus. During said chorus, the audience is supposed to answer “hey,” to each of the lead singer’s prompts; which they do with surprising enthusiasm, considering it’s 3:46 a.m. After the first verse of this song, the vocalist raises a glass, and says “Kanpai” (“Cheers”) to which the whole crowd answers in kind. Midway through the song, the band goes into double-time feel and the whole audience pogos enthusiastically. The tempo keeps getting more and more frenetic, but the audience keeps up, while never missing a cue to yell “hey!”.
Their before-last song rings out like a mix of nu-metal, funk and Mongolian melodies, with horn section hits to accent the whole. The bridge is then played out on traditional Mongolian instruments – which possess a tone similar to that of a violin – before the chorus comes back thundering in, in all its nu-metal hybrid glory. As the band once again reverts band to a gentle passage, everyone in the crowd waves their hands gently in the air from side to side. And, as this song dies out, the lead singer holds up a flag; presumably the flag of his native nation.
The band seems ready to pack it up at this point, but the audience claps a rhythm demanding an encore, and the lead singer laughingly accepts. The resulting encore is anchored on a rollicking old-school rock feel – mixed with Mongolian music – with blasts from the horn section. The chorus is a ‘waaa-oh-oh-oh”-type affair, which all the audience members seem to know by heart, and deliver enthusiastically in unison. As Hanggai delivers the before-last chorus together a cappella, it’s like watching Bon Jovi pull the same trick with Livin’ on a Prayer in concert. The last song ends on a rhythmic vamp which slows down and grinds to a halt, as the lead singer yells “Arigatou! I love you!”. The crowd then roaringly return their love in kind.