Picture by Aloysius Lim

Apologies are in order cos this review should have been published at TODAY at least two weeks ago but for some reason – technical hitches etc – the article never appeared. And so, a much belated review of Plainsunset’s triumphant celebration of The Gift’s 10th Anniversary follows.

In 2015, Singapore will celebrate its 50th year of independence. Whilst clearly much has been written about the miraculous economic progress that the country has experienced, it might be argued that this success was achieved at the cost of Singapore’s artistic soul. But slowly but surely, that state of affairs is beginning to witness a sea change. Since the modest revival of Singapore-made rock music in the 1990s, only one band has lasted the course – weathering a break-up in the mid-2000s and the loss of a founding member to come on through the other side still as vibrant as ever and still as relevant to their loyal fans in 2014. That band, of course, is Plainsunset.

The band (Jon Chan on vocals and guitars, Norsham Husaini on guitars and backing vocals, Nizam Sukri on bass & Helmi Abdul Rahman on drums) recently re-released its 2003 album, The Gift, and celebrated the occasion with a 10th anniversary gig at TAB on Saturday, 8th February. Better known nowadays as a Thai disco venue (a running joke during the gig itself from stage) with sound and lighting to match, the band made their maiden appearance at TAB count with a raucous performance of The Gift album in its entirety, along with a couple of surprises.

Although the crowd welcomed the band on stage enthusiastically, the response to the opening Quiet Time was a little muted for a Plainsunset concert. Meaning the crowd needed time to warm up. To clarify, Plainsunset concerts are famous (or notorious – take your pick) for intense bouts of stage diving, body surfing and moshing – the kind of activity that the authorities frowned upon and banned in the good old radical days of the 90s. It’s all acceptable now in these liberal times and thus, Jon Chan had no qualms about admonishing the crowd for its rather staid behaviour. That seemed to do the trick as from the pummeling Next in Line onwards, the audience members let go of their ingrained Singaporean inhibitions and cut loose! Over the course of the rest of the gig – songs like Girl on Queen Street, Photos of Us, Checking Email, My American Beauty etc were greeted in the more familiar fashion of audience members getting on stage only to dive into the waiting crowd and to be passed overhead from person to person, transferring the surfer from one part of the venue to another.

As if to interrupt the orderly, scripted version of the setlist, founding drummer Ronny Laily was cheered onto the stage to play on two songs with the band – Find My Way and Lovesongs For the Emotionally Wounded – and the entire audience seemed to be transported back in time and it felt like Laily had never left. Definitely a heartfelt moment for audience and band. Rahman returned and almost as if to demonstrate that despite the occasion, Plainsunset was defiantly still about the here and now and launched into new song 2013, which promises to become yet another band classic in the years to come. The band closed with a pulsating Do I? and left the stage with guitar feedback ringing through the venue. Naturally, the boys could not resist the cries of “encore” rising from the baying crowd and the band duly complied with the rollicking signature tune, Plainsunset.

At the end of the day, Plainsunset is a true-blue original Singapore indie rock band and there was a sense of local pride & a sense of shared history as the band and audience became one singing – “And now you come around to me to see my plain sunset” suitably illustrated by Jon Chan diving in the crowd & being lifted up by adoring fans even as he swung away on his guitar. A truly magical moment for everyone concerned – hopefully there will be many more memories to take away in the years to come. Congratulations, Plainsunset!