Shun Ng And The Shunettes can make it look easy to put on an impressive show of acoustic guitar virtuosity and complex vocal arrangements. Performing in the Onstage series at the Chevalier Theatre in Medford, Massachusetts last Saturday night, Ng and his Shunettes received a few standing ovations before keeping their audience in a further state of astonishment. Vocal gymnastics and guitar techniques dominated everyone’s attention while the soulfulness of their music, both original and arrangements, stirred something on a deeper level.
Ng began the evening’s entertainment with some of his guitar magic. Finessing notes out of his acoustic, he offered sounds snappy and sudden before some of his sustains brought people back to another musical place and time, borrowing tones from music both old and new. His take on “Every Time I Have The Blues” found him accompanying himself with a stomping bass lines, his melodic notes and his voice joining the fine mesh of song going on above. He used his guitar’s low end to create a sly groove on “Route 66” as his voice rode through its lyrical road directions. Next thing we knew, Ng was knee deep in Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin Something,” a number that allowed the Shunettes to come up on stage to offer all that their two voices could do. His lead vocal work, their backing vocals, speedy, on time, subtle allowed the three to bring out many colors and tones as they moved into the more forceful “Funk You Up” and the more danceable “Funky Town.”
Ng’s original material lead to even more interesting developments in the performance. The two women turned his “Get On With It” into a booming funky low end number with the two woman’s sweet, darting intervals of voice.
Next, Ng’s lead vocal seemed to fall like a gentle rain onto his song “Follow The Goosebumps.” The two women beautifully augmented his tasteful, expressive melody with their smooth, harmonic crooning. The arrangement was impressive in concept, amazing in delivery. Ng’s original “Walls” was a lament, crooning about the distance from home everyone feels when one can’t be where one would like to be. The Shunettes, by layering their voices around him, with pleasant, soulful, gospel like vocal notes, created a three dimensional effect before Deon Mose concluded it with her heavenly sustain.
Ng treated his audience to his own vocal gymnastics by working his way through the twisty “Four,” Jon Hendricks’s lyrical interpretation to this Miles Davis gem. Ng’s voice was so adept, climbing suddenly high before falling swiftly low and in any other direction, that he proved he can sing as adeptly as he plays his acoustic guitar. Vocalist Angel Chisholm dazzled the OnStage crowd with her presentation of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Her voice soared, clearly, sharply, and with spiritual ebullience, making it impossible not to feel the emotional depth of that classic as she filled out its momentous chorus and the currents of voice of leading up to it.
Deon Moses returned to the lead vocal spot for “I Get Misty” and brought it to a higher, more heavenly place. During other numbers, the two women sung in unison, their perfect blend of voices increasing the dynamics, tempo, turning a tune into a veritable force of nature. They could also suddenly switch to trade offs, taking turns on the lead vocal line. Ng’s quiet, intricate playing bounced off a simultaneous louder low end line, one crying out a pretty melody, one pleasantly booming and bombastic. This workout segued into a soulfully pleasant take on “Amazing Grace.”
Ng closed out the night with two familiar classics. He performed all of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” by himself, with just his voice and acoustic guitar nailing all of the very familiar parts of that epic rock song. His guitar parts and his vocal parts rang out with purity, tone, feeling, making his audience feel the connections between each segment. Ng then asked the Shunettes back up on stage with him for an especially emotive take on Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” The vocalists sang it with huge presence in their voices as Ng’s guitar melody rang out with a purposeful stride.
Based on last Saturday night’s concert, Shun Ng And The Shunettes will continue to find a niche for their combo. There are many music fans out there who would like to hear the human voice and the acoustic guitar in a format where both are highlighted so fully and so well. Shun Ng And The Shunettes can give those music fans just what they’re looking for.