I wasn’t planning on taking in two bands in one week, for after the Thai Bee Gees, I considered that anything else was going to be a bit of a let down. I mean no disrespect to other musicians in Pattaya but the Bee Gees blew me away and I considered that ample entertainment for this week.
However, a good friend invited me his bar to listen to his resident band, with the promise that I would not be disappointed. As it was the same venue the Bee Gees performed at, I gave it due consideration and decided to take the camera out for trip to central Pattaya.
The band were called, as the title of this story suggests, “The Blue Sky Band”. I was introduced to them and sat and enjoyed a brief history of the group and its members from drummer Oy. At sixty-four, he is the elder statesman of the group but he does not look his age.
He informed the band had been on the go for six months and where I could see them playing around the city of Pattaya. Oy lived in Switzerland for 24 years before returning to his native Thailand.
He introduced the other members as Lek on bass, Aon who plays lead guitar, Joe the keyboard specialist and the very talented vocalist, Jowel, who is the baby of the band.
I took my seat in front of the stage area and waited on the music commencing.
Like many groups, they played three sets, the first one featuring songs that are designed to settle the audience down. They played hits from the likes of Chicago and Procol Harum before treating us to the Cars, Elton John and even the Bee Gees.
They sounded good but they hadn’t really grabbed my attention. That was until Jowel sang Sam Brown’s “Stop”. It was then that I realised the evening was going to get better. She followed this up with a fantastic vocal on “Simply The Best” from Tina Turner and again, I was starting to accept that the hype honoured on them by my good friend Steve, could actually be justified.
Occasionally Oy took the lead vocals as Jowel either went for a rest, played guitar or keyboard or wandered around the bar. He did a pretty good rendition of “Hello”, the classic from Lionel Richie. I was taken aback by his vocals, not something you often hear from the drummer of a band.
Jowel returned to front the group and sang a superb cover of a song, that at the time, I could not think who sang the original or even decide on the title. I had to ask the singer what the song was. It was Adele’s “Hello” which I thought was called “The Other Side”.
We live and learn.
They completed the first set with astounding versions of “Purple Rain” and “Sweet Child Of Mine” by Prince and Guns ‘n’ Roses respectively. It was during these two songs that I realised how good the musicians in The Blue Sky Band were. The drums, lead guitar and keyboards shone through.
I had requested “Proud Mary”, one of my all time favourite Tina Turner songs and Jowel, true to her word, opened the second set with the song and nailed it. The drums on this one were top drawer it has to be said.
They band were really coming to life and stepped it up a gear as they entertained us with a song I never expected from them – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The bass on this track pumped around the venue and the keyboards produced what sounded like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. What a treat we were having and the best was yet to come.
I should have known they would be a top band because they play in the Hard Rock Cafe, a venue that only use the cream of talent from the Philippines, Indonesia and occasionally, Thailand.
The other thing that was evident, was their grasp of English during the vocals. Every word was pronounced as it should be, which is a failing on many local bands.
I always prefer live music over bands or artists that use backing tracks but there are some I make exceptions for, such as the aforementioned Bee Gees, who were a class act.
The Blue Sky Band however, were live and rocking the joint.
Jowel continued to amaze us with her versions of Heart’s “Alone”, accompanied only by the sound of the piano.
Similarly Oy offered us his interpretation of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful To Me”. Aon exhibited his ability on the guitar as the five piece group played Toto’s “Hold The Line”.
Then the real treat for me came with two back to back Queen hits “I Want To Break Free” and a spectacular version of “Somebody To Love”. The band were now well and truly alive and Jowel frolicked on the stage, goofing around with the band members. They were really enjoying this set.
However, they attempted to cover Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares To You” which went pear shaped. They apologised and admitted they had never performed it before. Nevertheless, they came back to the song during the third set and did it justice.
It was during the third set that they played what I considered to be the best tune of the night. They had sang “First Cut Is The Deepest” in an acoustic style and “The House Of The Rising Sun” but when the played a very long intro to a Blondie track, I knew we were in for a treat.
“Atomic” was just sublime. Jowel sang in the style of Debbie Harry but the band performed their own twist on the 1980 UK number one hit. Astonishingly, the recording just broke the top 40 in the USA back in the day.
With my evening complete, I packed up the camera and departed the Triangle Bar in the early hours. Three hours of wonderful music from a highly talented bunch of musicians, everyone of them a master of their trade.
It is baffling why talent of this nature is never seen around the globe or even further afield than Pattaya. In this case, it is Pattaya’s gain.
If you wish to see them, they play in the Triangle bar Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Variations of the band, under another name, play the Holiday Inn and The Hard Rock Cafe, although the line up is slightly different.