From Sari’s lively stage presence to John’s spirited drum movement to the whole group’s passionate performance, last week's concert served as a retrospective of sorts for White Shoes & The Couples Company. (Photo courtesy of Muhammad Asranur)

White Shoes & The Couples Company Take a Jolly Stroll Down the Memory Lane

AUGUST 09, 2015

White Shoes & The Couples Company made a big comeback at a special live performance titled “Konser in Cikini” (“Concert in Cikini”) last Wednesday night. After many years absent from doing solo concerts, the indie-pop group was lauded with enthusiastic cheers from longtime fans as they made their way on stage right as the clock struck 8 p.m.

Bedecked in their signature retro-style costumes, the sextet started the first set with a lively rendition of “Sabda Alam,” a classic song written by Ismail Marzuki. It was an apt opener, considering the show was held at Graha Bhakti Budaya, a concert hall situated in a Central Jakarta park named after the legendary Indonesian composer.

Lead singer Aprilia Apsari, better known to fans as Sari, greeted the audience afterward. “It has been almost 13 years since we teamed up as a group, so we think it’s about time to do a concert for our loyal listeners,” she said.

This concert also marked the debut of an annual music presentation organized by RURU Corps, an independent visual communications bureau, to promote local acts. “We chose White Shoes & The Couples Company because they have been consistently elevating Indonesian pop music through reputable acclaim and various achievements in the music world, locally and internationally,” notes their press release.

RURU Corps also held an exhibition at the same location, which showcased around 500 postcard designs – all inspired by White Shoes & The Couples Company, of course – submitted by 223 participants from across Indonesia.

Mainly inspired by the Indonesian pop scene in the 1950s until the 1970s, the band was formed when Sari, guitarists Yusmario “Rio” Farabi and Saleh Husein, bassist Ricky Surya Virgana, keyboardist Apri Mela Prawidiyanti and drummer John Navid were still students at the Jakarta Institute of Arts (IKJ) – whose campus is right next door to last week’s concert venue.

“It all began in Cikini. We studied here, we sang here, we slept here, some of us even had our children here,” Saleh jokingly said to the audience, referring to why they decided to do the concert in the neighborhood.

Not long after, they started playing “Pelan Tapi Pasti,” a breezy, clarinet-inflected tune from their 2007 EP “Skenario Masa Muda.” Two songs from “Album Vakansi,” the group’s second album that was released in 2010, immediately followed. Sari’s soft, lilting voice during “Vakansi” was reminiscent of a ’60s jazz chanteuse and, combined with Ricky’s soulful bass style, managed to cast a spell on the audience. The peppier “Matahari” was an opportunity for Rio to show off his guitar chops, as rhyming phrases from the English song were screened behind them. “We’re going back to Jayapura/No more pretend, no pura-pura,” a line sang.

Fun, tiny surprises punctuated the entire concert. After the hall went pitch black for a minute, Sari and Mela suddenly made an appearance under a spotlight in the middle of the stage – the former with an electric guitar slung over her shoulders, and the latter with a viola tucked under her chin.

Sari explained that they were going to do a cover of “Stephanie Says” by Velvet Underground, the iconic Lou Reed-fronted rock band. “Consider us as a band inside a band,” Sari joked.

It was the boys’ turn afterward, with Saleh and Ricky (who substituted his usual bass with a cello) playing an energetic jazzy instrumental tune. The drummer John playfully sneaked into the stage, to the audience’s laughter, and eventually added a jolt of rhythm to the duo’s performance.

The following numbers mainly consisted of what could be considered the group’s classics. During “Tentang Cita,” one of their earliest singles, Sari showed off her knack for old disco moves, dancing and sashaying across the stage. The audience was in for a treat when another widely famous song, “Windu & Defrina,” started. The entire hall seemed to be singing and clapping along as the group hit the song’s nostalgia-tinged chorus.

The most memorable act of the night, however, appeared right after a 15-minute intermission. As the curtain was drawn at the beginning of the second act, an elaborate set depicting places in Jakarta – a cafe here, a barbershop there – was already in place. A small-sized orchestra entered the stage along with John, who took a seat at a wooden desk in the middle.

Quite unexpectedly, he played an instrumental piece by Leroy Anderson, “The Typewriter,” on an actual typewriter – every stroke and ding was masterfully synchronized with the orchestra players’ performance.

More tunes from their newer EPs such as “Menyanyikan Lagu-Lagu Daerah” followed. In between, John did an impressive drum solo, continued with a tribute to the Tielman Brothers, a 1950s Indonesian band.

The song “Masa Remadja” bookended the two-hour concert, but thanks to shrieks of “We want more!” from the audience, the group came back to the already confetti-strewn stage.

Many fans instantly rose from their seats and went straight to the front of the stage, happily dancing and singing to the group’s encore performance of “Ye Good Ol’ Days” and “Nothing to Fear.”

From Sari’s lively stage presence to John’s spirited drum movement to the whole group’s passionate performance, the concert served as a retrospective of sorts for White Shoes & The Couples Company, highlighting their popular hits as well as less-known yet equally engaging fan favorites. If anything, it only further solidified the group’s peerless status as one of the most influential local indie acts of the last decade – and, most likely, for many years to come.