When S2 comes a-knocking a few weeks ago, I was all excited as I was totally blown away with S1. S2 starts off a little more muted, with the brothers coming on board in a big hall. The list of brothers participating in Season 2 is really impressive with a mixture of singers, rappers, composers and actors (no dancers nor pianist though). This time round, it does seem there are more Hong Kong and Taiwanese participants and the list includes:
- Alex To, the most senior at 60 (can’t believe he is already 60! And he definitely does not behave nor look like one)
- Old timer crooner Richie Ren, who is super-friendly with many people
- HK stalwarts including Raymond Lam & Ron Ng (Twin of Brothers!), Pakho Chau, Hawick Lau and even Deric Wan (although he really looks like an old uncle :P)
- Vannes Wu (of F4 fame) and Darren Wang Da Lu (lead actor of The Wolf)
The rest are a little less known to myself. It is a little weird that they brought back four of the previous participants namely Jordan Chan, Julian Cheung Chi Lam, Nathan Lee Seung Hyun and Leon Zhang Yun Long. It would have been way better to provide the chance for other participants to join instead.
Episode 1 Introduction to Participants
The first episodes pre-grouped the brothers in a band of 4 for their first ever performances, with a split of individual performances beforehand. An introduction in a way to individual performances and a combined boy-band performances. Frankly nothing much catches attention other than getting to know the participants better.
A few things are quite evident after the introduction:
- Julian Cheung has great stage presence, and he kills with his crooning of classic Fly Me To the Moon.
- Ron Ng can’t sing, and his individual performance is really cringy.
- Deric Wan is really dated, and totally looks like an uncle. Although his rendition of Life Expectation 一生何求 Yi Sheng He Qiu (originally sung by Danny Chan) is pretty good.
- I really like Nathan Lee’s innovation on stage. His rendition of a Hakka song is totally different from the others, and obviously catches many by surprise.
I was really looking forward to Pakho Chau’s performances as he impressed in his portrayal of the ever cool oppa in Wonder Women, pairing off with Miriam Yeung. Unfortunately, he has not really shine through in any of the early episodes.
Episode 2 – 3 First Regroup
The third episode is a long one as the participants regrouped into different groups for their 2nd performance. And this is where it gets a lot more fiery and exciting.
The top performance (which is also one that I like) xin di qiu 新地球 @ New Earth utilises great stage effects with waves of water for the participants! Performed by Kenji Wu, Wilber Pan, ICE and Chang Chen Yue, the boys definitely look cool on stage with great vocals for the concert, coming out top. The kind of background work the crew has to make for less than 5 minutes performance, whoa… Wilber Pan actually catches my eyes (and ears) as I thought he is quite a good performer for his individual performance and his contribution towards this performance. However, the leader Kenji Wu comes across as very competitive (and not so likeable).
The only English song Legend Never Dies (theme song from Leagues of Legend, an online game) is performed by Vannes Wu’s group (comprising Raymond Lam, Cai Heng and Alen Fang Yi Lun). Personally, I really like their performance as the song is performed well on stage. Great stage presence and use of props especially fire. Even the vocals are surprisingly good whereby the group changed chords and blended the symphony pretty well. However, the song performed very badly with the least votes, totally surprising me. My take – English songs generally don’t do so well in Call Me By Fire (even in the first season), perhaps the audience is not able to appreciate the nuances of the language. But based on the performance and in various interactions, Vannes Wu and Raymond Lam can pronounce English clearly.
Alex To’s group (comprising Zhu Jia Qi, Fan Shi Qi and Mike Tsang) performed a varied 红云袍 hong yun pao with traditional garments but mixed with opera, rap and even dance moves. Energetic but perhaps too much mix of different genre that it’s too confusing.
Richie Ren’s group takes a slightly different route with a more catchy neighbourhood Hokkien song. Johnny Zhang and Ron Ng struggled with the pronunciation while Richie Ren and Ren Ke are a little more natural. It is quite funny to see Ren Ke confusing both Johnny and Ron Ng with his Hokkien pronunciation and has to be corrected by Richie Ren 😀 And totally heart-warming to see Ron Ng cooking for the group.
Jordan Chan’s group (comprising Julian Cheung, Nathan Lee and Zhang Yun Long) perform an 80s song from Paula Tsui, but nothing great to shout about. Deric Wan’s group (comprising Hawick Lau, Huang Yi Da and Mike Angelo) performed with guitar as a group – actually very brave as Huang Yi Da is the only one with real experience in playing guitar in his career as a musician 😀 Although the performance is just so-so, I was kind of rooting for the group as I really like Huang Yi Da. He’s a Singaporean musician who shot to fame in his 20s but faded out of the music scene as he was battling depression. His participation is his surprise comeback. Based on the performances thusfar, he can really sing well and talented although a little more introverted.
During the elimination part, the palpitation is evident in all the brothers’ faces. As some of them admitted, even though they stated they are here for the experience and less for the competition, when it comes to the crux of the performances – the testosterone obviously took over 😀 2 participants are eliminated ie each from the last 2 groups from the votes during the performances, Deric Wan and Alan Fang.
Episode 4 – 5 Second Regroup
Selection of songs are always an exciting part. Funny how this time round, Jordan Chan always wants to be X-leader (instead of the champion :D). The groups are combined, with 2 performances from each group. The participants are now more serious than ever, and hardworking to perform their best.
After watching all the performances, they are good & obviously concert-worthy. However, only 2 of the performances really tugged at my heart. Ma 马 Horse (performed by Nathan Lee’s group) and Bai Ge 白鸽 Pigeon (performed by Zheng Jun’s group). Both extremely different, and brings out the best of the variety group.
As expected, the song Horse performed very well to get the top votes from the audience. No surprise there as they exceeded all expectations. The song is performed by 6 participants – Nathan Lee, Jordan Chan, Julian Cheung, Ren Ke, Zhang Yun Long, Mike. Stage presence of the participants, majestic presentations of the regality of the horse, the adaptation of throat singing of the Mongol’s culture (I heard the the horsehead fiddle on the background too), the imitation of the dance of the riding of the horse, the deliberate movements on stage movements, dance moves throwing off the dirt, even to an extent the Haka’s dance of the Kiwis. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the stage, as the song beckons you to enjoy the performance not wanting to miss out a second. I really like the fact that they incorporated the horse with the Mongol’s grassland, as how else can the horse shows off its elegance except to roam freely in the grassland. During the rehearsal, it does seem Ren Ke is the one who is stressed out the most while the rest seems to be taking it in their stride.
The song Pigeon is originally a Wu Bai’s song which is slow and steady. The variation when performed by the group (and no less than 6 singers too ie Zheng Jun, Ma Di, Shin, Hawick Lau, Huang Yi Da) is very nice. The variation is mild but pronounced, with re-focus on the stage presence. Very little props, more focus on feelings & singing capabilities. Zheng Jun’s inputs are great to tweak this song into what it is during the performance. Love the performance. Unfortunately, it did not perform well with the audience and understandably so too. The excitement of the other aspects in a concert for the other performances are just too much. If I am the audience, I would also have an issue to pick my favourites. It becomes a very individual taste & preference.
Not to say the rest of the performances are not good. They are great, just that it affects different people differently. Come elimination time, two more participants are eliminated – Huang Yi Da & Zhu Jia Qi. Very sad for Huang Yi Da, but happy that they have enjoyed the performances and interactions.
After warming up to the new bunch of participants, I find myself drawn again to their interactions and looking forward to the concert performances. The kind of interactions are impromptu and very fun to watch. The cooking competition (shows who can cook, and who can’t!), the funny poses to be completed by a few participants, the on-the-go exploration of music during rest time, discussions on preparation for performances and the list goes on. Slightly different vibes compared with S1, but making me fall in love with the reality series. Looking forward to more episodes.
It is actually quite weird how different the vibes are for Call Me By Fire vs Sisters Who Make Waves, which is catered for female participants. I did not like the latter at all, often getting the vibes that the women are competitive and fake, whereby the “friendship” is often pure show of embracing each other.
What are you waiting for – watch it! For its performances, for the interactions, for the songs (old and new), for the participants, for the brotherhood! Review to be continued for the remaining episodes…
Original link to Youtube of the episodes .
As usual, there are Plus episodes with additional 45 minutes on more interactions of the participants. Link to Youtube of the Plus episodes.