When Taiwan's homegrown rock-pop sensation May Day (五月天) announced its world touring concerts would end at Hong Kong's Colosseum (香港紅勘體育館) in May, local fans filed petitions in a united effort to ask the band to perform the grand finale of their two-year world tour in Taiwan. Their prayers were answered. May Day is coming home to stage two much-anticipated concerts at Taipei Arena this weekend.
Advance tickets are nearly sold out. Only a few seats in the rock areas (NT$1,000, NT1,800 and NT$2,500) are still available. The band, whose CDs have sold in the millions, has broke audience records for Taipei Arena. And this is not the first time.
Starting in Tainan at the end of 2004, the world tour is a record breaker on a number of counts. It has been hailed as the longest concert tour by a Chinese-language rock band. And according to Rock Records, it is estimated that over 250,000 people have crowded the hugely popular events in Taiwan, China, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Hong Kong.
Facing the frenetic hype surrounding their achievement, the indie-rockers-turn-mainstream-pop-idols surprise the media and fans with their humility, and the fact that they have managed to remain true to their garage-band roots. “For [Rock Records], our record-breaking ability is certainly good for publicity. But for band members, it's kind of embarrassing to talk about these things. In our view, we just try to meet the challenge and once we accomplish it, we move on to our next plan,” the band's guitarist Monster (怪獸) told Taipei Times.
The early days of playing gigs in Taipei's smoky pubs in the mid to late 1990s are long gone and the lyrics of teen angst or human rights have softened into love ballads and upbeat rhythms. Their Golden Melody Awards nomination for Best Band in 2000 was a career breakthrough for the band, securing a contract with Rock Records that helped them rocket to international fame.
The world tour happened more by accident than design. “First we just planed to do a tour round Taiwan, taking in Taichung, Taipei and Tainan. They were well received and earned us a chance to play in Shanghai and Beijing. And before we knew it, people in Los Angeles contacted us and bang, we were having concerts in the US,” Monster said.
The 12 concerts covering two continents have sent the band to not-so-far-away foreign lands but the trips were not always smooth. But band members faced the mishaps with high spirits.
“Since the whole thing happened unexpectedly, we just tried to enjoy every accident on the road. I guess the biggest gain we had during the tour is that despite language barriers in different countries, we could still see the sparkle in the audience's eyes when they heard the music they loved,” said Monster, striking a rather romantic note.
Back home in Taipei, the band members are all excited about their first indoor concert in Taiwan. “Since the capacity of the arena relatively small at 14,000, we wanted to exploit this and make the concert a more intimate occasion when we can be close to all our fans,” Monster said.
To achieve this aim, a huge O-shaped stage with a central catwalk was set up, so the people in the rock areas are actually encircled by the stage. Many of these fans are going to be dressed in red, because, as Monster explained, this is the band's color, and this concert is by way of being an annual reunion between the band and its fans. “We have staged a concert each year since 1999 with the exception in 2002 when Masha (瑪莎) was away in military service. So the concert is like an annual reunion with our fans. And we picked red as it is a symbol of Chinese culture and also expresses our passion for rock ‘n’ roll.”