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[Review] Mayday @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 12/05/2023

Review By Emily White

Rock music is a uniquely universal language, and Mayday’s long-awaited return had fans buzzing with anticipation as they packed out Rod Laver Arena this Friday night. The three-hour, fully immersive masterpiece of a performance was unforgettable, and truly leaves all western rock bands with a thing or two to learn.

The concert begun from the moment fans took their seats. High-production music videos of the band played on the mega screens behind the stage, the words ‘Mayday really really want to see you’ plastered across the display. The anticipation grew rapidly for what was to be a mind-bending piece of pure entertainment.

Unbeknownst to the crowd, a surprise opener Ann (Bai An) approached the supersized, runway stage. A quick three song set was all that was needed to appreciate her soft, angelic vocals, mainly backed by silken piano melodies. Beautiful, yet humble in her appearance, it was impossible to divert your gaze from the spectacle at hand. Never have I seen a support act perform with such high-level production – each song paired with exquisite, bright moving backdrops that place the songs in their own universe – one separate from everyday life.

Ann did not hold back. Her vocals are the work of angels, her falsetto so technically faultless. Brief moments of self-harmonisation were a stark highlight, sending shivers down the spines of everyone present. Displayed on the projections behind her were the lyrics of her songs, conveniently written in both Mandarin and English – the deep meaning held within her songwriting being an integral part of her act.

The end of the set had the entire stadium moving as one. Light sticks in hand, and smiles on faces, this perfect moment was a sign of what was to come for the main event.

Not a seat was left vacant as the box office line at the iconic Rod Laver Arena wrapped through the nearby gardens. Mayday (五月天) are one of the most iconic bands in Asia, and after seeing them play live I can now understand why. The band who started out their career in the late 90s continue to remain in their musical prime. Being their fifth time touring Australia, the MAYDAY NOWHERE tour has been a highly anticipated comeback, a ‘best of’ concert boasting the powerful vocals and electrifying performances their fans already know and love.

Smoke filled the air, the arena glowing red as the band raced downstage to the runway. There was no holding back for the music veterans; crashing drums and a bass that could be felt in my chest were just the beginning of the night’s pleasures. Dressed in black from head to toe, there was a mystery, a cool grunge feel to the band – polished with the glamour of a dazzling light show. 

Viva Love kicked off the evening, a fitting track to set the tone for the show ahead. Much of Mayday’s discography centres around themes of love, and longing for its reciprocation. Provocative lines that relate to fans young and old are at the forefront of the band’s success – screaming ‘Let me kiss you until the day breaks’ at the top of their lungs. Despite the more commercial nature of the lyric themes, Mayday’s members Monster, Ashin, Stone, Masa and Ming exude a type of coolness – true rock stars filled with angst and passion. A highlight of the stage production was the live footage projected behind the band – which out of context would appear as a final-cut music video. The 360° stage set up was similarly ingenious, leaving not a single ‘nosebleed’ seat in the house.

Mayday played for hours, with every fan favourite making the cut. The liveliness of the musicians is unlike anything I’d experienced, not letting up for even a second to breathe. Building this manic kind of atmosphere, fans were uncontrollable. Songs like Jump! forcing every person from their seats, throwing their bodies in ways only music can control.

A slower-paced segment of the night gave the band a platform to showcase their unreal vocal range, and heart-wrenching guitar solos. The stadium transformed into a night sky as the light sticks changed to white, the artists stationed independently across the stage. The tracks Contentment and World Crazy gave the crowd a sort of musical whiplash. Paired with a short film referencing the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, commenting particularly on the overwhelming doom that children see portrayed through the media. This was a particularly poignant moment; a reminder of the fragility of life, and to worry only about the things that truly matter.

Crowd interaction became a large segment of the concert as the night continued. Making conversation with their supporters, including those seated further from the stage. Front man Ashin (阿信) had the crowd in hysterics as he pointed out fan-made posters and gifts; a charismatic leader who puts a face to the name Mayday.

Moving back into their passionate love songs, Perfume covered themes of longing and devotion, so beautifully poetic with one-liners like ‘Deeply enchanted, deeply intoxicated’. Having the lyrics displayed behind them in both English and Mandarin made the songs accessible for all that were present and gave me as an English-speaker the opportunity to appreciate songs that I wouldn’t have otherwise understood.

A third clear portion of the show was met with the house lights being turned up, electric guitars switched to acoustic, and their all-black costumes turning to brighter-coloured casual clothing. This was to be the most intimate hour; the idea of a fourth wall was completely stripped away. If We Had Never Met dedicated its lyrics to their loyal fanbase – with images of concert crowds displayed on the screens. This was a collaborative effort; the mic being turned towards the crowd who sung every word in perfect unison. Song For You, Mayday’s newest single was met with gorgeous imagery of stained glass and golden lights, and pop hit Gan Bei drew the set to a close – a beautiful, humble goodbye as the band took a final bow.

I would attempt to write about the entirety of the show; however, Mayday was the gift that kept on giving, and giving, and giving. For each time the band took their bows, waved goodbye, and departed the stage, a chant would rise from the audience… ‘Encore!’

Mayday departed and returned to the stage another three times before finally satisfying the crowd enough to make an escape. Having a discography of over twenty years gave the band many songs to lean back on as they were chanted back on stage. Noah’s Ark, A Song with You, Tenderness, and Stubborn played to the accompaniment of confetti cannons; the band members going completely AWOL from their previously planned formations and movement. Huddling one last time to discuss their final song, the band dispersed, Ashin signalling with his hand that this would be the last one. LOVE-ing Being Happy was the perfect finale – and it was truly electrifying to be in the presence of such an avid fanbase who tonight proved their power in numbers.

I can now see why Mayday have been dubbed the ‘King of Concerts’. Still so clearly in their prime, the quintet make anthems for everyone. With lyrics that capture the nuances of life – met with stunning visuals and high energy, you would be a fool to miss Mayday the next time they return Down Under.

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