Lost and Found.

It’s been three weeks since for King & Country‘s Burn the Ships concert at the Found Music Festival here in Manila. I’ve been meaning to write a review, but somehow life got in the way.

So here we are, almost a month after the event. My sentiments are now more nuanced and tempered, and much less effusive than the day (or the week) after the show. I would still give the concert a 10/10 rating, though – from stage design, production management, all the way to showmanship, there really is very little to criticize about the whole experience.

Let me just say that I am not your regular concert-goer or music festival attendee. My evening started with an exclusive interview of the brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. I missed most of the other acts in the festival – a consequence of being backstage for SAVED Radio DJ duties. (I really can’t complain since I got to get some airtime with the top-billed artists before anyone else saw them onstage.) But a quiet moment with Joel and Luke didn’t prepare me for the show that was about to happen an hour later.

Most concerts are first about showmanship and performance art, and then musicality second (sadly). Burn the Ships, however, was all three in equal measure.

I do not have extensive musical training or event production experience. But that night is what I consider one of the best put-together shows by one of the most musically-gifted groups I’ve seen.

Stage Design 

The stage setup was interesting, to say the least. It had platforms of varying heights, for instruments and musicians. The stage manager described it best – it was a playground for the band. There were two drum kits, one tympanum, one bass drum, another tom (or perhaps a different kind of drum, I really would not know), chimes, two cellos, a keyboard, an electric guitar, a bass guitar… and sometime within the show, a trumpet and a trombone made an appearance. That’s aside from the snare drum that Luke often wears, and the marimba that had to be brought out towards the end. 

The play in heights definitely added to the dynamic feel of the concert. It also highlighted the different instruments – each of which, by the way, was played by almost EVERY band member. (I think the average play count is three different instruments per person, but I’d have to verify). And yes, the musicians definitely had fun running and jumping around the stage. Let it also be said that I saw a cello being thrown from stage left towards a waiting stagehand between songs. (Drop me a message if you want to see the GIF someone created of that incident, taken from backstage.)

Audience engagement = 100. “Priceless.”

Audience Impact

Very early in the show, Joel and Luke decided to get off stage walk amongst the crowd. They sang on the way to the platform set in the middle of the concert grounds, where their cellists were waiting. You can imagine the mini-mayhem that ensued as fans crowded close to the brothers. (Of course, I just hung back since I already shook their hands two hours earlier.) They have a way of connecting with the audience that doesn’t always happen with musicians. They’re the type of guys who are so down-to-earth, you wouldn’t think they were recording artists. It’s no wonder they can get the audience to sing and dance along with them, even if some haven’t heard of them before.

Between the two brothers, I would say Joel is the natural performer. (Take a look at my videos and photos if you don’t believe me.) He’s the flash of lightning, while Luke is the rumbling thunder. It’s a combination that works for them. The rest of the band are equally good performers and of course, talented musicians. 

For King & Country has a unique chemistry that is really hard to find. Somehow, everyone just does their own thing, and they all do it ridiculously well, together. From vocals to strings to percussions… they just MESH. In fact, the entire performance appears so seamless, you’d think for King & Country had been doing this for ages. (Based on the interview, they’ve only been a band for seven years – ten if you count from the time Joel and Luke started making music together.)

Musicality

What I especially appreciated about this concert is the aural experience. With the ridiculous number of instruments being played, you can’t help but be in awe of the sound that meets your ears. The music is rich and textured, so unlike many of the pop anthems that we hear nowadays. It has a bit of an experimental feel to it, too. Throw in a cello here, try a marimba there, and let’s put two snare drums to shake things up a bit.

The layering of sounds doesn’t end with the instruments. The vocals also stand out. (Yes, the band members also sing back-up. Whuuuut?!) Hearing the music is one thing, but when you actually see it being put together before your very eyes – something magical happens.

Would I recommend watching for King & Country live? DEFINITELY. I think the people in Manila had an exceptional concert experience, because of the venue. The Globe Circuit Grounds has so much space, it was easy for Joel, Luke, and the band to literally “Run Wild”. (NB – I have a friend who watched their show in Singapore, in a much smaller auditorium. She also gave good reviews, but I would say they probably saw less theatrics.)

And in true theatrical manner, the night ended with a blast of silver confetti showered to the beat of “joy” – and the distinct sound of a marimba. (They did have an encore – Little Drummer Boy.)

Thank you, Joel, Luke, and for King & Country. It was unforgettable.

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