In their 26-year career, Taiwanese rock duo Power Station (動力火車) has been through the whole gamut of ups and downs. They’ve won multiple awards for their TV soundtracks, held hundreds of concerts across the world, and regularly guested on Taiwanese variety programs, but things have not always been smooth sailing. Before they became popular, they had to work odd jobs, in addition to performing, to support themselves. Even after they gained some recognition, they experienced multi-year hiatuses, during which their popularity dropped and they went from performing at concert halls to pacifying drunkards at late-night pub stages. Through it all, bandmates You Chiu-Hsing and Yan Chih-Lin stuck with each other and maintained their commitment to making music even in uncertain times.
Along the way, they’ve garnered a sizable fanbase in not just Taiwan and Malaysia, but also in the U.S. Mandarin-speaking fans of all generations, gathered at Power Station‘s one-night show in the U.S. at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on March 12, 2023. Even though the duo is in their mid-50s, there were more younger adults in the audience than one might expect, and there were even little kids, presumably children of parent fans. “We’ll play a lot of songs you’ll recognize,” promised Chiu-Hsing, who is the de facto spokesperson for the duo, and indeed, their setlist included many older hits, even several from their first few albums, as well as several recent releases. They performed multiple songs from their very first album, Ruthless Love Letter, including “再會吧!我的心上人 (Goodbye! My Lover)” and “不甘心不放手 (Wouldn’t Let Go)” which remain well-loved to this day. One of their newer songs, “跳上車子離開傷心的台北 (Let bygones be bygones),” was written as a sequel to their hit song “忠孝東路走九遍 (Walking On Chung Hsiao East Road 9 Times).” The original song, released in 2001, won the band an award at the 24th RTHK Top Ten Golden Song Awards and later became the theme song for the TVBS drama “Threshold of An Era.” The lyricist of this song returned to write “Let bygones be bygones,” which was released almost 20 years after the original song. While “Walking On Chung Hsiao East Road 9 Times” mourns lost love, this sequel depicts the ex-lovers meeting again by chance and making peace with each other and their past.
Chiu-Hsing and Chih-Lin each performed a solo song, “還隱隱作痛 (Still Hurting)” and “Drunken Tango 2001,” respectively, to let their distinct voices shine (in addition to letting the other bandmate change outfits). Individually, they are strong singers and performers, but together, they create the powerful sound and ascendant harmonies that characterize Power Station. They have perfected the art of harmonizing, the supporting voice melding seamlessly into the leading vocal line. The two singers have a similar well-supported belting sound, though Chiu-Hsing’s voice is earthier while Chih-Lin’s is brighter with a more nasal tone.
Their tour is titled Because of Love, but there are no sappy love songs. Instead, the band sang about the sorrow, the regret, the yearning, the suffering that comes with love. A closer examination of the lyrics reveals a mature, poetic understanding of love. “背叛情歌 (Betrayal Love Song)” recounts the pain of insincere love, and “外套 (Coat)” likens the experience of unrequited love to that of a coat, “hugging but not being hugged.” To assist with the literary appreciation and encourage singing along, the lyrics were broadcasted on the side screens and often on the main screen as digitized calligraphy (Chih-Lin’s handiwork!). And while the crowd was not a rowdy one, they very much obliged when invited to sing, flawlessly singing the choruses of “我很好騙 (Love Me True),” one of the newest songs on the setlist, and the classic “忠孝東路走九遍 (Walking On Chung Hsiao East Road 9 Times).” “We’re so touched that you all can sing along,” thanked Chiu-Hsing. Even though their song lyrics can be emotionally heavy, the duo’s humorous comments in between songs lightened up the mood. They poked fun at the audience’s lack of coordination when waving the lightsticks, and they also recounted a funny story about visiting the Hollywood Sign only to have it be completely obscured by fog. “You’ll have to help us return to LA so we can properly see the Hollywood Sign,” they lightheartedly urged the audience, garnering both laughter and cheers of support.
After a journey through the trials and tribulations of love, the night winded down with, “彩虹 (Rainbow)”, which captures the beauty and joy that comes with devoted love, and the multicolored lights made the performance for this song that much more magical. The finale was the iconic “忠孝東路走九遍 (Walking On Chung Hsiao East Road 9 Times),” during which the duo graciously shook hands with several eager fans that crowded the stage. Despite the setlist spanning several decades of music, it felt very coherent. They may not be as experimental as some newer groups, but nearly every one of their songs pairs emotional depth and rocking groove in the way that they do best. This evening’s concert proved that Power Station is still going strong, and the band members’ unflappable devotion to their craft and timeless sound continue to captivate and console fans all across the globe.
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