SHANGHAI: Beyond, the Chinese rock band with the greatest longevity, have finally called it a day. They are on a farewell tour, but for many fans, the long tour is asking too much of their sympathy.
Hong Kong pop-rock band Beyond made as profound an impact on the Chinese young in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Rolling Stones did to the British youth of the 1960s and 70s.
While Charlie, Mick, Keith and Ronnie of the four-decade-old British band are still wooed by fans of their age, the three middle-aged members of the Beyond are giving farewell concerts to their fans, who have grown up and entered the golden times of their careers.
There has already been one heart-breaking farewell before, as Beyond fans, many of whom were teens at the time, poured out tears over the untimely death of Wong Ka Kui, the lead singer and guitarist of the band, 12 years ago.
Most of the audience are not fans of today's Beyond, rather, fans of the Beyond of 12 years ago.
It has been a long wave of goodbye.
A farewell concert is to be given at Shanghai Grand Stage on September 3. Before this the farewell tour, which started in February, will have had numerous stopovers such as Atlantic City in the United States, Toronto in Canada and a handful of Chinese cities such as Beijing, Harbin, Shenyang, Tianjin, and Changsha.
Newspapers and television channels in Shanghai were still celebrating that Beyond chose the city to be their last stage, when the band claimed that they will travel to Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, after receiving an invitation from a performance agency in the city.
After Kunming, Singapore has been newly added onto the list.
Fans in Shanghai were angry on hearing of the news. "Now we all know that the Shanghai concert is only one of a series of commercial performances in the fading name of Beyond, a band who really died 12 years ago," Yang Shijie, a local music critic who embarked on the career because of Beyond's influence, told China Daily.
In the year Yang mentioned, 1993, Wong Ka Kui fell from a seven-foot-high stage on June 24, when shooting a programme for Fuji TV, and died six days later.
Beyond kept going with the remaining three members, namely Steve Wong, Paul Wong and Yip Sai Wing. The trio released some albums featuring a mixture of songs by Wong Ka Kui and the remaining members, and their concert "Live & Basic" in Hong Kong in 1996 still drew a crowd of appreciative fans.
"My favourite Beyond songs are still those written during the 'Wong Ka Kui period' of the band, such as 'Glorious Days' and 'Really Love You'," said Yang.
His favourite songs are also the seminal works of China's pop-rock scene, with the "Wong Ka Kui period" of the band coinciding with the peak of Chinese rock music's fortunes.
Beyond was to Hong Kong what Cui Jian has been to Chinese mainland rock music, and Lo Ta Yu was to Taiwan's pop-rock scene.
As youngsters like Taiwan singer Jay Chou have replaced Cui and Lo in the limelight, rock'n'roll has given way to R&B and light-hearted pop music in China.
Beyond's fans, mostly five to 15 years older than Jay Chou's, are buying tickets to the band's concerts mainly out of nostalgia, according to Xu Jun, a diehard fan and an engineer in Shanghai.
Xu bought two tickets to the concert and he also attended the concert held in Shanghai in 2003 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Wong's death.
"I know that there will be no big difference between the 2003 and 2005 concerts, and I believe 'farewell' and 'commemoration' are simply promotional slogans," he said.
"But I love to look back on my passionate yet carefree high-school days with similar people in the stadium, humming Beyond's songs," he added.
These 30-somethings are the major buyers of tickets to the Shanghai concert, according to the organizer. More than half of the expensive tickets have been sold three weeks before the concert.
At concerts held recently in Hong Kong, fans couldn't hold back their emotions and thousands cried.
"We should say sorry to the late Wong Ka Kui. But he would have understood our decision if he were alive. He knew the three of us so well we started everything together," said Paul Wong at the end of one of the concerts.
On a day in May 22 years ago, Wong Ka Kui met Yip Sai Wing in a studio both were teens in amateur bands. Finding that they were both influenced by British rock 'n' roll, they decided to form a band along with some other friends.
On year later, Wong's brother Steve joined the band as bass player. In 1986 Paul Wong, originally a graphic designer who drew posters for Beyond, joined the group when one of its guitarists left the band one month before a small concert tour.
In 1986, Beyond released their debut album, "Goodbye Ideal," and formally stepped out from the underground.
Two decades later, "we no longer have the same chemistry," said Paul Wong.
The three are to pursue their individual careers in the world of music. Two will be singers and one a producer.
But some fans believe in the possibility of their reunion. "They will be together as Beyond again when they have used up their money," said Shanghai-based music critic Fei Qiang.