Onstage crowns its winners

By Namali Premawardhana

The night of Saturday July 30 heard some laudable performances at TNL Onstage. Let’s track back through the beginning. Although the show was said to start at 6:30pm very few had turned up and the opening guest act, the Rebels, was found making music to an audience amounting to hardly an eighth of the amphitheatre capacity.

The first two hours or so of TNL Onstage 2011, titled - ‘Party in the Park’, seriously redefined the word “party”. CC - vocalist for the second guest act Salvage might have bitten off a tad more vocal range than he could chew however the band was probably the most confident and relaxed. Salvage was the only act able to claim the stage for themselves.

The next band up was nevertheless definitely more interesting The, farcical movements (seemingly inspired by the traditional Kandyan Peacock Dance) of the “dance” crew that accompanied their performance of The Lazy Song were entertaining. Extra excitement was delivered via the fire-dancing which (although slightly disjointed from the band’s performance) was of course exciting and possibly even gained the band some mileage by distracting the crowd from their performance.

The competitors on the other hand were actually very closely matched, and having a panel of four judges (Shehan Karunatillake, Isaac Smith, Mirshad Buckman and Rukshan Perera) from rather different musical backgrounds was absolutely essential to eliminating close ties.

It’s not an easy thing to be an opening performer, let alone a solo opening act, but Harshana – voice fluid and gentle – got the competition off to a surprisingly good start. He can lay claim to a full voice, clean upper registers and a nice, subtle vibrato but not the emotional sensibility of a performer.
The finalists were better aware than at the semi-finals of the importance of getting the audience engaged in the performance.

The rhotic accent was an ineffective cover for bad pitching and nervousness, but Ethereal, winners of the Voice Your Choice Award, managed to pick up some of that brilliance they showcased at the semi-finals in a generally well-balanced and well-coordinated act. The Ethereal moment of glory though, was the acoustic round where vocals were clear and sensitive, seconds gentler and stage presence much better felt.

Stage-savvy Shehara walked on confident as usual, but the audience being now a little more accustomed to her tomboy looks was a little less interested. Her performance levels at the preliminary rounds were impressive, but by the finals, her vocal production had dropped to a slightly nasal yet raw to a rounded mature tone. The gentleness, sensitivity and emotional intensity prerequisite for a good performance of Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’ (a challenging and risky choice for any vocalist) was also wanting. Shehara was nevertheless one of the rare ones in control of pitch levels, and the ease of her delivery was testimony to her superior musical abilities.

CryWolf got an interesting introduction but failed to live up to it, their act lacked energy. Their original acoustic number ‘The Wake’ had a rare quiet opening and some smooth rhythmic transitions which made way for a variety without disrupting the flow of the song. The original worked much better for this band-full of performers than the covers, testifying that they seem to have found their sound and that they truly deserved the award for Runners Up in the Band category. They also bagged the Dialog Jingle Competition prize.

Dilini on the other hand was a complete knockout.  It was evident from the preliminaries that she was in for something big and her performances just got better and better. Sadly, she was either hoarse or had completely lost control of her glottis in her first number. ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ though, was just mind-blowing; her well-controlled voice complemented the key she’d chosen, allowing her to show off not only range but also skill. The audio experience was simply amazing. Dilini’s sensitive and simply classy delivery must have made for a unanimous vote from the judges on her victory in the Solo category.

Heshan, drummer for White Living Grave took away the award for Best Musician. He was, throughout the competition, the most hyped and uninhibited performer. Shevon was close competition for Heshan in the attention-grabbing department, in his leather jacket doing the sing-dance-and-leap act.

Possibly a little less sensitive and more forced than at the semi-finals, he nevertheless was completely absorbed in what he sang, meaning every word and doing the final “yes I’m wrong” on his knees! He was good to listen to and great to watch, and walked away with the Runners Up award in the Solo category for a good time shared.

The big winners for the night were of course ‘Road kill’, the Best Band, whose vocalist made waves from the preliminary rounds, hitting crazy neat falsettos and doing jaw-dropping things with his voice in general. The band as a whole produced a unified sound that seriously rocked.

Their original acoustic number ‘And Then There Was None’ (which won the Best Original award) was quiet (even at the semi-finals Roadkill seemed to be the only band unafraid of some gentleness) and the vocalist was fluid as ever.

But whether on purpose or not, the quality of his vocal tone kept shifting, a little more control definitely being in the calling. The boys evidently enjoyed themselves and the crowd was ecstatic at their performance, delivering more than “loud” (Ishara, the other emcee’s favourite or newest-acquired adjective it seemed!) applause.

The Sunday Times was the media sponsor for the event

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