SORRY, No Live Music

18 Nov

Post-revamp Lunar bar has struck off its live band and ramped up the number of dancers
SORRY, no live music
By Germaine Lim
November 18, 2010

DANCERS dressed as popular Japanese manga character Sailor Moon gyrate and perform sultry moves on platforms as music and lights pulsate in the two-storey club.

When they are done, three singers take to the stage, one at a time, each singing a song accompanied by, no, not a live band, but a deejay.

The changes are part of Lunar Asian Fusion Bar’s ‘$1 million revamp’ completed a month ago, which promised to ‘push the Asian pop entertainment to a new level unmatched in Singapore’, according to its press release.

Turns out, live music, which was once its primary draw, has now taken a back seat. Lunar’s four-piece live band has been done away with, returning only on special occasions like public holidays and special club events.

Whereas there used to be six resident singers, there are now four.

Instead, sexy coyote dancers, once an accompaniment to singers, have stepped up to the limelight, taking a more prominent role with more solo performances now.

The number of dancers who – like those wearing Sailor Moon costumes – come from Thailand, Taiwan and China has also increased from 15 to 20. There are plans to employ Korean and Japanese dance troupes, B-boys and B-girls.

Selling sex appeal to the male patrons, who make up most of the crowd?

Mr Bernard Lim, chief executive of LifeBrandz, which owns three-year-old Lunar, denies it.

The 42-year-old told The New Paper: ‘We think the market is getting tired of the live band set. It is part of our strategy to stand out from the crowd.

‘Every performer has an equal profile now because of the new interactive programming. Yes, our dancers are sexy. But we also look for dancers who are more professional instead of those who just shake their bottoms.’

The line-up change is not all. Instead of singing to a live band which was the status quo for the last three years, Lunar’s four resident singers now croon to minus-one tracks which are played by four resident DJs.

And rather than performing in 45-minute sets like they used to, they now sing just one song before getting off stage and wait between 20 and 30 minutes before taking the mic again.

On a typical weekend night, there will be between six and eight performances by acts such as singers, dancers and even magicians interspersed throughout a three-hour show which kicks off at midnight.

Mr Lim explained: ‘The format of performing 45-minute sets has been done to death here. We want the club experience to be more interactive. ‘

Paying off

Lunar’s resident singers Alex Chia and Cola Song shrugged off their new part at Lunar.

Said Miss Song, 23: ‘We still work as hard, if not harder, to produce a good show. Compared to the past, we’re rehearsing a lot with the dancers for enhanced visual effect, now that there’s no live band.’

Mr Lim, who pointed out that it is the improved sound and lighting systems which cost the most, claimed Lunar’s new direction is paying off.

Although he declined to give figures, he said that sales figures have gone up at least 30 per cent since the facelift, and patronage has also increased.

Lunar’s marketing manager Gavin Choo said the club now receives between 3,500 and 4,000 customers every week.

But industry players said it remains to be seen if this new business strategy will succeed.

St James’ chief executive Dennis Foo, 57, for one, believes that constant modifications may not be the answer.

Marketing manager Serene Choo is not a fan of the new Lunar.

The 36-year-old, who has been a regular since its opening in 2007, said: ‘I prefer having a band, singers and dancers perform, and then having a DJ to break it up. The live element is what attracted me to the club in the first place.’

Mr Chia, one of the resident singers, refers to singing without a live band as ‘a nightmare’.

The candid 31-year-old, who’s been with Lunar since its inception, said: ‘I’m more of a rocker and definitely prefer singing to live music.

‘For some songs, we have to rearrange and record the melodies again so the DJ can play the tracks. Finding and remaking these tunes are a challenge because they don’t come cheap.

‘That said, there are also patrons who prefer this sort of uninterrupted momentum since music played by a live band and a DJ has different vibes. Without a live band, there’s no need to change stage lighting so there’s no break in the flow.’

To be sure, this concept is not new, but neither has it taken centrestage as it does at Lunar.

Shanghai Dolly, which is owned by St James Holdings, has done this since it began last November.

In addition to the standard shows with a live band, resident singer William Scorpion performs to minus-one tracks intermittently when the DJ spins and the band takes a break.

St James’ Mr Foo said: ‘Our live band is still our main draw. Singing to minus-one tracks between sets is just an added feature.’

There’s more talent and skill involved, compared to just singing to minus-one tracks, The Arena’s Mr Gin said.

He explained: ‘During live performances, band members and singers have to be intuitive to unexpected sound changes and adjust to them accordingly.’

When The New Paper visited Lunar last Friday, the Sailor Moon dancers were performing. They were followed by three singers, including Mr Chia, singing a tune each during a three-song set played by resident DJ Soulman.

The staccato-like performance durations got mixed reactions. Guest relations executive Elina Chong, 22, felt the intervals between acts were too long, while finance manager James Li, 30, thought they were just right.

‘It feels (as if) there’s more variety and the night is less stagnant,’ he said.


The NewPaper


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