by Adam Wright
Back in the day, the announcement of a concert by an established big-name act or flavour-of-the-moment indie band would send ripples of excitement through Hong Kong's community of live music lovers.
It was as if we were grateful that these bigwigs or cool kids had decided to grace us with their presence, such was the difficulty in attracting quality acts to our shores. While Hong Kong was never shy about flashing its economic credentials, it was more reticent about exercising its pulling power for live music and other cultural events.
But times have changed, and now Hong Kong is treated to a steady stream of quality concerts - although not on the same scale as Tokyo, London and New York. Perhaps the most interesting element of this development is just how many of these acts are repeat visitors, suggesting they have discovered an audience they didn't know existed.
Similar to the phenomenon of the foreigner - myself included - who touches down here intending to stay a year but remains for decades, it appears the first visit to Hong Kong by an overseas act opens their eyes to a new horizon and sparks something of a love affair.
It can't be a coincidence. Here are just some of the big-ticket acts who've made repeat visits to Hong Kong: Eric Clapton (next performing on February 18 at AsiaWorld-Arena), the Eagles (March 18 at Convention and Exhibition Centre), Slash (March 22 at Star Hall), Coldplay, Deep Purple, Oasis, Suede, Avril Lavigne and Placebo. Similar patterns are also seen in the multiple performances by more left-field acts such as Muse, Mogwai, Handsome Furs, Toe and Electric Eel Shock.
Michael Roche, regional director of Lushington Entertainments, which is presenting the upcoming shows by Clapton and the Eagles, says various obstacles had to be overcome to establish Hong Kong as a viable stop on the international touring circuit. 'Yes it was a struggle to develop an audience which attended shows regularly and to develop a mindset among band agents that Hong Kong was a vital stop when on tour,' he says.
'But since we started back in 1990 with Clapton, Paul Simon in 1991 and Bob Dylan the year after, Hong Kong has become one of the most desired cities to play in Asia. Venue availability was always an issue in the past, but as the Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Arena became available, the number of shows we can route through has increased.
'Also, obviously the increased appetite among locals for more Western shows combined with the strong expat community have helped promoters to commit to more shows in Hong Kong.'
So let's wait and see whether big names about to make their first visit - such as Janet Jackson (Monday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre), Taylor Swift (February 21 at AsiaWorld-Arena) and The Script (April 14 at Star Hall) - will also fall under Hong Kong's spell, like so many acts before them. Going Out sure hopes so.