He strode onto the stage straight from the pages of a Jilly Cooper novel. Drainpipe trousers with a sweeping fin-tailed jacket topped with a luxurious mop of wavy black hair.
The orchestra were covering versions of pop songs from the likes of Micheal Jackson and Madonna. And whoever chose the playlist must really have been a fan of the King of Pop, as three out of fifteen songs were his.
The conductor’s pedestal was about 3’x3′, and looked even smaller from seats high up in the auditorium. He made use of every inch of it.
At times he lunged forward so far I feared he would slash the face of one of the front row violinists. At others, he ranged so far back an embarrassing backwards tumble and possibly a broken ankle seemed inevitable.
Yet neither happened.
Instead he rocked that pedestal. He moonwalked for the Michael Jackson songs, gyrated his hips to Madonna’s beats, and showed off his delicate footwork in between. All accompanied by dramatic tosses of his wild curls for emphasis.
When it was time for the encores, he addressed the audience through a handheld mic. His voice matched his renegade image, being deep and gravelly… the voice of someone that’s spent many late nights with a pack of cigarettes and a single malt.
He encouraged the audience to participate in the encores. And even the violin soloist got into the groove, strutting her stuff as eagerly as the conductor.
But they didn’t play fair. When they chose the Carpenters’ song ‘Yesterday Once More’ for an encore, they were tugging on the heartstrings of almost any Chinese adult. One of the first Western pop songs to be widely played on Chinese radio after the ‘Years of Conflict’, it would always get a sing-along going.
The master wielded his baton to bring the best out of his orchestra. He stamped his feet and swung his hips to get the audience into the mood. And he mixed encores of perennial favourites, rocking beats and even repeating one of the night’s top hits to send everybody in the auditorium home on a high. Best conductor ever!