Bodyslam and guests crack an attendance record while cracking open Rajamangala Stadium
Top Thai rock band Bodyslam printed out another page of their remarkable history with last weekend’s “Bodyslam Fest” at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok – back-to-back sold-out concerts pulling in a record 100,000 fans.
But I was there the first day and was disappointed that the overall sound didn’t pack the punch the occasion warranted.
Bodyslam churned through powerful renditions of 34 songs spanning their nearly two-decade recording career, from the self-titled 2002 debut to the just-released “Wicha Tua Bao”, and all of the smash hits in between, which satisfied the fans’ hankering to sing along.
Deafening screams greeted frontman and national hero Artiwara “Toon” Kongmalai when he appeared onstage in black jeans and jacket. He forgot to wear a shirt, so we got a good look at his six-pack abs, tattoo and silver necklace.
Toon and guitarist Thanachai “Yod” Tantrakul, bassist Thanadol “Pid” Changsawek, drummer Suchuch “Chad” Chaneed and keyboard wizard Ohm Plengkham kicked off with “Saeng Sawan” from the new album stitched to the title track from 2010’s “Khram”.
The stitching abruptly came loose on the latter, though, when Toon stopped the band in their tracks.
“What the heck?” he declared to nervous shrieks from the crowd. “There are so many more fans holding mobile phones than at our last concert!
“I remember the audience last time shouting and singing along and jumping around – not taking pictures! I know everyone wants to share pictures with their friends, but I want you to think of the time you waited alone in line to buy your ticket, when their were no friends beside you. So you should be selfish with your fun time!
“With all these camera-phones, it’s not a concert – it’s a catwalk. The best memories aren’t on your phone – they’re in your head.”
With that out of the way, they resumed “Khram” and followed it “Siew Winathee”, “Khon Thi Thuk Rak” (during which Toon bent his fingers into a heart shape) and “Khrai Khue Rao” (which featured contributions by 60 performers).
Next came “Ruea Lek Khuan Ok Jak Fang”, “Cheewit Pen Khong Rao”, “Wela Thao Nan” and “Than Phu Chom” with a great solo from Yod.
“Thank you to the music for leading us to each other,” Toon said, “and thank you all for taking Bodyslam’s songs into your hearts.”
The band got “Proh Bang” and “Triem Tua Tai” out of the way – with amazing visuals on the big screens – before introducing their first guest of the day, Joey Boy, who sang “Mai Kae Tai”, as he does on the new album, and rapped out “Khwam Chuea”.
The proceeding got a little mushy with the romantic tunes that followed – “Khwam Rak Tham Hai Khon Ta Bod”, “Ying Roo Ying Mai Khao Jai” and “Khwam Rak” – and the smitten audience sang along with Toon.
Another eruption of screams welcomed Palmy to the stage, dressed all in white, to reprise “Niran”, her contribution to the latest Bodyslam album.
She demonstrated her formidable talent as a singer of mor lam, the Isaan folk music, on “Khid Hod”. Trained by mor lam maestro Vasu Haohan, Palmy looked outstanding with her posse of backup dancers in shocking-pink outfits.
Ohm did some great piano playing on “Khrueng Khrueng Klang Klang” before being rejoined by the rest of the group – with an orchestra tagging along – for “Khob Fah”, “Khwam Fun Kup Jakkrawal” and “Cheewit Yang Khong Suay Ngam”.
This time Toon wanted to see the phones again, but specifically he wanted the fans sitting further up in the stadium to do activate their flashlights and wave them around. It was an inspired idea and an amazing sight.
The band grouped closely together for a few tracks – “Thang Klub Baan”, “Plai Thang”, “Mai Roo Muea Rai”, “Sak Wan Chan Ja Dee Phor”, “Sia Dai” and “Wicha Tua Bao” – and then it was rapper F-king Hero’s turn to share the spotlight.
He performed fascinating renditions of “Phak Boong Loy Fah” and “Dharmajati”.
Bodyslam had their largest audience ever on its feet for the closing numbers “149.6”, “Ya Pis”, “Ok Hak” and “Saeng Sud Thai”, and the whole affair was capped off by a thrilling display of fireworks.
It took me a while to figure the show’s overriding concept in three parts, all titled “The Boy”. I decided it was about, first, a young boy setting out to discover life’s answers, secondly about a grownup who’s known love and disappointment, and finally about an older man remembering his many life experiences.
Another inspired idea – but I’m not sure how many other folks in the crowd got it.