When I heard about it from a tall, long-legged friend, my jaw dropped. All these artistes, on the stage, together, at the same event? She had to be kidding me, right? Because here’s who she mentioned, not in order, because I lost track when I had to look away for a while to pick up my jaw: Jonathan Lee 李宗盛 (one of the most prolific, popular and evocative lyricists of the past couple of decades); Emil Chau 周华健 (singer of many singalong hits, mostly in the 1990s, and a supremely charismatic onstage presence); Mayday 五月天 (by my reckoning the most popular Chinese band in the world, and by all appearances a bunch of amazingly down-to-earth, airless blokes); Cheer Chen 陈绮贞 (stunningly talented Taiwanese singer-songwriter, with a magnetic voice); Tanya Chua 蔡健雅 (criminally under-appreciated Singapore singer – she has to have a solo concert here soon!); A-Yue 张震岳 (I don’t quite care for him :p).
And later, looking for it on Sistic, I found out that the concert was billed as the Lee Guitars All-Star Concert Singapore, and owed its name to 李宗盛, who after many years of composing, producing, singing and writing lyrics for music decided to craft instruments of music – guitars, to be specific – and set up a guitar-crafting business called Lee Guitars. The concert was meant to be a celebration of the relationship between these artistes and their guitars, and the stories of how the guitars gave them their voice, to share with the rest of the world.
So I did the only thing I could and bought a ticket and went to watch the concert this past Saturday night. Some observations:
- The first thing I noticed was that the audience was diverse, age-wise. Itty bitty teenyboppers were there, and folks just slightly younger than my parents, and those in-between. It was interesting to see Mayday go mad on stage, and the teenyboppers bop bop bop in the crowd, and among them, the older folks in their seats, relaxed, a little puzzled at the attraction of the noise, then smiling at the remembrance.
- During the recorded voice-over introduction to the concert, the artistes were announced one by one, and the chap who did the list must have had some sort of applause modulator, because the audience’s reactions to the names, in order, were like this: 李宗盛 (cheers); 周华健 (cheers, loud); 张震岳 (louder); Tanya (loudeR); 陈绮贞 (very loud, high-pitched); 五月天 (high-pitched, ear-piercing, prolonged mangling of vocal chords).
- But the loudest, most sustained applause of the entire night (three-plus solid hours; worth it!), by far, was for a guitar solo by an accompanying guitarist. He was phenomenal! I forgot his name – shame! – and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what he was playing! So many seemed to know, but I didn’t. Darned. But he was electrifying – so psyched up, so in the flow, and then, after he finished, so pumped that he did it perfectly, that we were pumped for him too.
- All the singers were better ‘live’ than on the CD, 李宗盛 and 周华健 because of their stage presence, the former earnest and likeable, the latter charming and witty; 五月天 because of their energy and chemistry with one another and the audience; 张震岳 because he is really a shy git unless he’s onstage, where he becomes a sly and mouthy mix of brash hip-hop and sensitive R&B; 陈绮贞 because of her talent and her incredible intensity – she gets so lost in her performances; Tanya because she was just absolutely born to sing on a small stage, with acoustic instruments and a small, attentive audience. It was not that sort of venue, and we were not that sort of audience, but there was this point when Tanya appeared on stage, at the back, and the lights came on a bit early so we caught the last few seconds of the elevator lifting the platform she was on, and she chuckled, nervously, and then started a rendition of 记念, and – you know how sometimes at concerts you get disappointed by renditions of your favourite songs because the artiste insists on singing it in a creative i.e. different way, with a creative i.e. stupid rendition of your favourite part? Tanya sang 记念 differently too, but it was an intoxicating and bracing sort of difference – a bit of jazz improvisation. You had to hear it. You think what you hear on the radio, from her CDs, on YouTube is amazing? Wait till you hear her ‘live’. Just wait. Which is why she needs to have a solo concert, or several, on the double chop chop.
- 五月天 are amazingly popular, and they seem like such fundamentally decent people that you don’t grudge them that at all. When lead singer 阿信 went into the chorus of 温柔, he sang a bit, and, sensing that many many of the teenyboppers present (and some older folks, ahem) were champing at the bit to show that they of course knew the lyrics by heart, happily obliged and played the part of acoustic guitarist. What a simple but effective way of engaging the audience.
- The best way to get a cab after a full-house concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is to walk across the bridge over to Tanjong Rhu Road, where there are many blocks of condominiums, and, at that time, many people returning to their blocks of condominiums in cabs, one of which you can then grab :)