Taylor Swift The Red Tour Singapore – The Best It Is

When Taylor Swift first came to Singapore, by the time I saw the advertisement on the paper, the concert was a sold out. Then Taylor Swift has made a return. I vowed to get the tickets this time. By noon, all the tickets were gone. In mere two hours! I have signed up for a notification if Taylor Swift is to open a second concert. She does. An email came to me. But I was not able to buy the tickets. Something is just not meant to be.

Or not.

Taylor Swift with her guitar

Cynthia took this picture when Taylor Swift was performing acoustic version of some of her songs with a T-shirt that says “I Love Singapore”.

8 years ago, Taylor Swift has released her debut album. I remember I was in HMV (City Link Mall) at the classical music section, that also had country music and easy listening. I was very impressed by her music. And she continues to impress me album after album.

So, yesterday I was having a mild flu and was working from home (I was on medical leave). My wife also worked from home (she usually does when I am sick). In the afternoon, one mutual friend of ours Hana messaged Cynthia about Taylor Swift tickets. My wife was like, isn’t that a bit too last minute? I was like, what are you talking about?! It’s Taylor Swift!

Hana’s husband called my phone shortly after but I was in the middle of a conference call. I called back and bam! a pair of tickets to watch Taylor Swift in a few hours’ time. I quickly told my mother-in-law to stop cooking. My wife was like, this really sounds like that song “drop everything now”. I was like, yes, yes, let’s wrap up work and go! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, consider the fact that I can never get her tickets on my own.

Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain. Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain. ~ “Spark Fly”.

The atmosphere at the stadium was amazing. There were so many people. Girls mostly dressed in red. Some with beautiful makeup and killer fashion. Some with red face paint. One dude was painting his girlfriend’s face with a lipstick, hers. There were parties outside the stadium. Taylor Swift music was blasting in the air (I know all her songs by heart). Long queues. In retrospect, if there was no standing area, why the need to queue?

A popular place for selfies.

The ticket said 7.30pm. With such a huge crowd, we expected delay. There was a local band opening the show at around 8pm. They were pretty good with the cover music. 8.30-ish, a large shadow appeared behind a huge red curtain that covered the stage. The fans went crazy. Taylor Swift has made an appearance. The curtain was drawn. The stage was unveiled. So was Taylor Swift.

I have watched her Speak Now World Tour Live on blu-ray. I know she performs well on stage. I was half expecting a dumb down version of what could have been a grand tour. Face it. Here in Singapore, most Western artists would give a halfhearted one hour straight show with nothing fancy. One year, Avril has brought in some dancers. We thoroughly enjoyed that show. Thereafter, it is just she and her band. Maybe the revenue from a relatively small venue doesn’t justify the cost of production.

For Taylor Swift’s Red Tour here in Singapore, the production is amazing. The sound was great. There was a huge ultra high definition screen showing Taylor Swift live on close-up augmented with various different visual effects that compliment the show. The last time I saw something this grand – visually speaking – was back in UK, Pink Floyd. The stage and the props were interesting. She has a team of dancers too. Every stare she made, every pose she made – all seem to be so well premeditated to entertain. She is either a natural or someone who works really hard to get everything right.

Either way, she is a great entertainer. What I really love about her show is that she made connection with the audience. She introduced her songs, she spoke about her songwriting process. She even shared with us that her mother was grown up in Singapore. Finally, someone gets it. We understand English here in Singapore. I often cringe when Western artists keep on saying “Hello Singapore” throughout the show. As though these were the two English words we could understand.

She plays various musical instruments. From piano to guitar. Towards the end of the show, she made her way through the crowd, shook the hands, and onto the second platform where the sound engineers were. Playing acoustic version of some of her songs, she danced too on that stage and got all of us on our feet, before making her way back to the main stage.

Beyond the glamour and the entertainment, deep inside Taylor Swift is a young talented songwriting and singer. She sang perfectly throughout the one-and-a-half hours concert, having some big moments that blew the roof off the stadium. I have watched quite a few live concerts, local and abroad. Taylor Swift The Red Tour is one of the best there is.

Singapore Indoor Stadium - Taylor Swift The Red Tour

I took this picture using my phone as we waited for the show to start.

Avril Lavigne 2014 Singapore Tour – What A Blast!

Avril 2014 Poster

Every time Avril Lavigne visits Singapore, my wife and I would attend her concert. Her first concert was at SunTec City. Must have been ten years ago? Back then it seemed a bit odd to be surrounded by so many teenagers while we were in our business attires attending a weekday concert. To date, all her teenage fans who stood by her since the beginning have grown up, added another decade onto their age number. All of a sudden, the age gap between us and them doesn’t seem that wide. They are working and so are we. But still, we had two young girls sitting behind us screaming their lungs out jumping in the air throughout the concert holding banners up high. While I am glad that we did not sit one row behind them having to stare at their erm whatever throughout the concert, their screeching sound pierced my ears. I didn’t mind though. Especially during enchore. It was good to have reinforcement from my back to add onto my own screaming. I mean, Singaporeans are the quiet bunch. I was so worried that Avril wouldn’t come out because the crowd went so quiet during enchore. Before the show started, one girl from the back came to us and asked if we wished to switch seats with her. Cynthia and I were at the front row, with unblocked view. Why would we want to give up our seats? But I have got to say, she has the determination though. To her, there was nothing to lose really.

A good thing about Avril’s concert is that over the years, both of us know what to expect. We would arrive early and dine at Brewerkz. It is a microbrewery and a restaurant. The food is so-so. But I love their beer. The atmosphere is good. We remember where we were seated in the past. And every time we stepped inside, good memories return.

The concert started at 8pm on time, which was as expected. Hello Kitty was the opening number, which was what I have anticipated too. The song is upbeat. It is current and has an Asian feel to it. Loved her Asian doll-like outfits. This tour of hers started in Japan in the beginning of the month, she was in Hong Kong in Valentine’s Day and in Singapore the day after. I joked with Cynthia that we celebrated this special day on the 15th instead.

Next one was Girlfriend taken from her 2007 The Best Damn Thing album. Who doesn’t know how to sing Girlfriend? So, everyone sang along. The third number was Rock N Roll, a single from her latest album. The crowd went wild. I like Avril’s debut album. And her latest self-titled album is my favorite after her debut album. Rock N Roll is such a great song that portrays her unique attitude that her fans love so perfectly.

I remember her previous concerts usually were kept to 60 minutes long. This time, she has extended the duration to 90 minutes. I wish there were more but I understand that Singapore’s crowd is tiny, may not look that enthusiastic towards Western artists (compare to say Taiwanese artists). Most of the concerts I have attended are short. 90-minute is still longer than expected. So I am happy.

In her last concert, she cracked jokes on the stage and made connection with the audience. This concert, the connection wasn’t quite there. Maybe she didn’t have time to do much in our country. She did mention “Singapore” a couple of times though. Every time she did that, the crowd went wild. Some of our favorite songs from her most recent album, she did not perform. Having said that, she did pick a few hits from her previous albums, which was a treat. The highlight of the concert would be the band’s rendition on the the song written by Marilyn Mansion for Avril called Bad Girl. Avril has a costume to go along with it too. A black cap and two little red horns on her head.

Except a few glitches here and there probably due to sound engineering, she held her notes well throughout the concert. I knew she would do well on stage. And she gave it all for the last few songs of the set reaching notes so high till my ears and heart bleed, in a good way. What a blast last evening was. I sure hope that she will make a return to Singapore one day. Below is a photo I have taken during the concert with my mobile phone.

A photograph taking using my mobile phone Nexus 4.

Tiffany Alvord Live In Singapore – A Strange But Interesting Aftertaste

Poster of Tiffany Alvord live in Singapore.

Frankly speaking, I had no idea what to expect.  Tiffany Alvord‘s music lives inside YouTube.  The production quality of her music videos is professional.  I don’t YouTube often.  But I enjoy celebrity artists like Tiffany who push out good stuffs regularly.  Close to 1.3 million subscribers is quite a milestone.  Bear in mind that she does not seem to have the backing of the traditional music industry.  So, viewers stay onto her – I would suppose – because her cover music interpretation is good, and she has a personality to back it up.

But what about a Tiffany Alvord concert?

After I bought a pair of tickets, my brother-in-law Eric who is also into YouTube music artists asked a very valid question, “Can she sing live?”

I had no idea.  Unlike another YouTube artist Bri or Kina Grannis whom I have heard them recorded live, I don’t recall Tiffany demonstrating her vocal ability without all the fancy processing tools.  Also, I was thinking.  Just how many of us in a tiny country like Singapore have heard of Tiffany Alvord, willing to fork out some money and time and watch her concert?

Turns out she has amassed quite a sizable fan base here.  Amazing.

Tiffany's concert was held in Singapore Conference Hall.

I took a picture of the stage before the show started.

The venue was Singapore Conference Hall.  Quite an unusual place for a pop concert.  More like an auditorium and it is located in the heart of central business district.  By my calculation, there is a seating capacity of 1,000.  Mostly filled.  Mostly teenagers.  The sound system is okay.  A young girl named Natalie Hiong opened the show.  Previously worked as an investment banker in UK, she is now pursuing her music career in Singapore.  She has the look, not too sure about the voice.  Or perhaps the monitor speakers setup was not right and she couldn’t hear herself.  In any case, it is hard to stand in between the audience and the main artist.  I lost focus after her first song.

When Tiffany emerged from the backstage, the crowd was somewhat lukewarm.  There was no live band.  She sang using a prerecorded music track, which was like a karaoke.  Very strange.  She sang OK, a bit of pitch problem here and there.  As the crowd got warmer, she got more relaxed.  The concert came alive when finally, a band arrived at the stage.  By the look of it, these were young local session artists.  The band was OK, certainly much better than having the soundtrack played in the beginning.  It is quite obvious that the 20 years old Tiffany is new to performance.  The band is new to her music too.  Together, they played a mix of her original music and her cover ones.  I didn’t see much connection between Tiffany and the band though.  Maybe the band was added in the last minute.  No idea.

At one point of her concert, Tiffany has invited someone called Marcus onto the stage for one song.  Apparently, he flew in from Europe, has helped in the design of her tour T-shirts.  That was neat.  The things she does to her fans with her singing and him sitting at a stool.  After Marcus returned to his seat, Tiffany realized that she has lost her guitar pick and she did not carry any extra.  So she asked the guitarist behind for a spare one.  One guy at the front row offered her a guitar pick and she has decided to use the one from her fan instead.  That was sweet.

And there was an intermission!  Amazing.  An intermission for a pop concert is definitely a first for Cynthia and I.  According to Tiffany, last evening was the longest performance for her.  Almost a two-hour show, that is pretty respectable.  Quite a few Western International stars only perform a one-hour long concert.  Then more singing using a prerecorded soundtrack.  One time, the sound engineer played the wrong track  that came with the vocal.  Oops.  She stopped and restarted.  Still the wrong one.  Uh oh.  Awkward.  She asked the crowd if it was OK for her to sing acoustic with her playing the guitar.  Of course that was OK.  Take 3 here we went.  Tiffany is not a guitar player.  But personally, I enjoy her singing with her acoustic guitar (not exactly hers as she has left her guitar in California, strangely so).  Much livelier that way.  Her song “Possibility” could have been a disaster, with the stop’s-and-go’s due to technical problems.  She managed to turn that around.  That impromptu acoustic version could easily be my favorite performance of the evening.

Then the band came out.  And then midway Tiffany switched back to karaoke mode with the band still on stage.  That was odd.  After a few more songs, she has finally dropped the karaoke for the remaining show.  The entire concert was filled with a lot of I-love-you’s from the audience.  A lot of I-love-you-too’s from Tiffany.  Her cover version of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together is probably the highlight of the concert.  Glad You Came was the last song of the set.  Or so she said.

But you know how concerts are like.  The audience are supposed to scream for encore.  And then the artist would return to the stage and perform another number or two.  When Tiffany and the band dived into the backstage, the venue was still dimmed signalling a high possibility that there was more.  All of a sudden, the few feeble scream of encore was drown by a series of loud stomping sound from left to right, towards the exit.  Singaporean audience was storming out of the venue like packs of zebras in Africa sensing a tiger nearby.  These people were in such an urgency as though they were running for their lives!  What’s up?!

Cynthia caught the band peeping from the backstage to see if they should make a return.  By then, more than three-quarter of the crowd has gone or were making a hasty exit.  The organizer has then decided to turn up the light and announce the end of the concert.  That was really odd, especially when you are new to Singapore.

Here in Singapore, we are known for two things.  Impatience and queue loving.  The whole crowd has migrated from the concert hall to the main lobby within minutes, queuing up and waiting for – I suppose – meet the artist session.  That got me thinking. Do the majority care about the music?  Or more about meeting the person behind YouTube?  Now, I would never know if my favorite Tiffany’s cover of Payphone – the video that got me subscribed to her – was indeed on the encore list.

Boy, don't we love to queue or what?

Very uniquely Singapore, people rather queue up to meet Tiffany after the show than to wait for an encore.

An interesting experience no doubt.  I am hoping that artists promoting their works without the music industry support can make it in this business.  Clearly, the music industry plays a role in promoting the music and making the live performance more polished and professional.  As I was watching Tiffany Alvord on stage, I could not help but to think of all the cover bands in the region that play in local pubs and even Hard Rock Cafe.  They can do cover songs so much better.  If only they have entered into the game of YouTube as well.

Maybe that was why I was wishing for a glass of beer as I watched Tiffany Alvord on stage.

Evanescence Live In Singapore

While our friends were changing diapers, feeding toddlers, and making babies, Cynthia and I watched yet another rock concert in Singapore.  I wonder how many of you can spell Evanescence correctly.  I surely can’t.  We were seated at row 13.  In front of us was a small pool of standing crowd.  So, in effect, we were at the front row.  The last time I was seated so close to the stage was in UK, a Pink Floyd concert.  We were grateful, even though we paid S$323 for a pair of tickets.  Never trust the auto seat selection by Sistic.com.sg.  I am glad that I picked the seats instead.

To be honest, I struggled quite a bit, to watch or not to watch.  Amy Lee does not come across to me as someone who can sing live well.  I think she did OK on tonight’s show.  Some songs, especially the old ones, she did really well.  Some songs, I am not too sure.  BUT, taking all in, including the new band setup and that exceptionally energetic drummer, tonight’s show was awesome.  The songs are good, with so much raw power.  Evanescence‘s third album is easily my favorite out of the three.  For the past 2 months, Cynthia and I have listened to nothing but Evanescence.  That pays off.  Amy Lee worked her magic, played the piano, and the crowd was pretty hot.  Looking back, this one hour long concert might have been better if staged at Fort Canning Park.  Half of the Indoor Stadium was sealed off.  Even so, it was only half full.  I was mildly surprised that it was not a full house.  Maybe because today is a Monday.  Some may still be at work.

I wish that the concert lasted more than an hour, and the music arrangement was different from the album.  Somehow, that seems to be the norm.  To keep the music scene alive here in Singapore, I think the bands – International or not – need to give more.

Avril Lavigne Black Star Tour (Singapore) – Yes, We Miss You!

Cued to perfection, as Avril pointed her microphone to the us, ten thousand electrified audience sang in unison, “I miss you!”  And we did it more than once, as she performed “When You’re Gone”.  Yes.  We miss Avril.  The last time she was in Singapore, it was back in 2008.  At the end of the concert, I shared my reflection with Cynthia.  I said, “Every time we go to Avril’s concert, the age of the younger crowd stays the same, but we are getting older!”  It was scary, to be surrounded by so many young people.  The atmosphere was entirely different from the Jolin Tsai concert we have attended merely 2 nights ago.  The crowd for Avril was more international while the crowd for Jolin was more local and many girls dressed up and dolled up to look like Jolin.  On that note, I would say I enjoy looking at the Jolin crowd better.

We were anticipating Avril to be late by one and a half hours, like her previous concert.  Fortunately, she emerged from the stage after half an hour’s wait.  When she did, the crowd was euphoric.  The screaming was so loud that I could not hear what Avril sang or said.  Like her last concert, we booked the seats at the premium area.  Cost us S$165 per ticket but it was money well spent!  The mood was fantastic.  Everyone was on his or her feet and screamed like there was no tomorrow.  The dude beside me attempted to record the entire concert with his e-pony (that’s how the folks in my Spanish study group pronounce that phone made by Apple).  Initially I was apprehensive as in whether or not I should let go my emotion and screamed out loud.  It would be quite bad if he plays back the recording some days later and all he hears is my off-tone screaming.  But then, he was screaming just as loud, singing just as toneless directly into his e-pony.  So I joined him, together with a stadium full of people, we sang each and every song, like an army of true Avril fans.

There were no dancers on stage this time.  And it felt like more of a rock concert.  Avril played the guitar and the piano.  One song, she sat on top of the piano singing “Alice in Wonderland”.  The smoke effect at times was so intense that we could not see anything on stage.  After the song, she coughed a little and joked that she couldn’t see a thing.  That was funny.  And that was also the only time she said something other than “Singapore!”  I wish she would interact the crowd more (like Jolin did).  I wonder if she knows that people in Singapore can actually comprehend English.  Maybe she is not the chatty type.

The concert lasted for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (compares Jolin who performed an extra hour longer).  Especially for those who know nearly every song and every note, time flies.  I hope that Singapore still holds a special place in her heart and she will be back for her next world tour.  For sure, I am grabbing that Black Star Tour video recording when it is out.