Saturday, July 17, 2004


-- title of a song by Kurt Nilsen, Norwegian / World Idol 2003

Or more accurately, I'm so high. :)

* the following post should be read only if (1) you're a Jamie Cullum fan, (2) you're genuinely interested in the events surrounding his Singapore showcase, (3) you don't mind overdosing on some really major gushing, or (4) you just want to know what the heck I did with my Friday night. Don't say I didn't warn you. :) *

It's 9:45am Saturday, and I'm suffering from a case of almost-overwhelming fatigue mixed with giddy euphoria. As you can guess, I did indeed enjoy Cullum's performance last night ( more below ), but two incidents -- totally unexpected and once-in-a-lifetime -- and two people ( complete strangers who went out of their way to help me ) definitely contributed to the adrenaline rush! 

The Aquadesiac Bar at Indochine Wisma

First, a little bit about the venue. It's located in the back of the mall's Top Shop outlet, with 2 levels and a glass-floor-and-steps decor. The stage is near the bar at the front, but surprisingly small in size, like that at The Marriott's Bar None. Still, this arrangement offers great intimacy during band gigs, and this was just fine with me. :)

The set-up: grand piano to the left, bass in the centre, drums to the right. First row: small tables with low cushion seats. Second: high tables and chairs. Behind that: free standing area, with more tables and seats at the sides -- all of which were reserved for industry executives. Large fish tank to the right covering the entire wall, which was quite a novel concept.

My location: initially second row of free-standing spectators, slightly to the right. Later, people in front of me shifted to the reserved tables ( warranted, so don't worry :)), leaving me with an unobstructed view of Jamie ( most important ), and partial views of his band members -- Geoff Gascoyne on the bass, and Sebastian de Krom on the drums ( both blonde, 40-ish, and extremely proficient with their instruments, wow ).

It was packed, with one Universal Music exec ( seated just in front of us ) saying at least 300 guests were listed ( though I'm not sure if that includes contest winners ). Lots of photographers, at least 2 video cameras recording the whole thing. But best of all, personal cameras weren't prohibited, so I whipped mine out and snapped away. Gonna get the roll developed ( finally ) soon -- and it's got my pics of The Ten Tenors and Judy Kuhn as well! :D

The Man Arrives

After a short intro by Class 95's The Flying Dutchman, Jamie sprang on-stage at 8:20pm, sporting his signature T-shirt, jeans and sneakers ensemble. In the UK, he usually wears the Fake London brand, but here, his shirt had the Tiger Beer logo emblazoned on the front ( very smart move :)). He's diminutive, but looks taller than his 1.63m frame. Bushy dark brown hair, prominent eyebrows, very boyish ( exactly like his publicity shots ), and unbelievable eyes -- they just seem to fill his entire face, and are positively hypnotizing, with a touch of the impish, the melancholy, and maturity way beyond his tender 24 years.

Unlike most artistes who either offer a short greeting or go straight into their performances, Jamie put the mike to his lips and started singing a capella -- a piece I did not recognize, but I might have been too delirious to fully understand anything at that point :P -- keeping it up for at least 5 minutes, to rapturous screams from the appreciative audience. Soon after, he jumped ( yes, jumped ) to the piano, kicked the seat back, and started to bang the keys while standing (a position he maintained for the next full hour ), playing the opening chords to I Get A Kick Out of You.

Now, I Get A Kick is a song I've been dying to hear him perform live ever since I heard it on the CD. It's a tour de force combining mind-boggling piano techniques with an infectious swing rhythm, and a very cheeky delivery of the Cole Porter classic. And with this guy, "live" means "prolonged, unadulterated jamming". I estimate that he performed 10 songs in total, but this stretched to more than 5 minutes per song, thanks to major improvisations and drawn out piano solos ( which I had absolutely no problems with! ).

Anyway, I digress. After that exhilarating opening number, he launched into Frontin', a rocking jazz piece which is probably from his first album ( before Pointless Nostalgic and Twentysomething ). Other songs that followed: These Are The Days, What A Difference A Day Made, Singin' In The Rain, I Could Have Danced All Night, Wind Cries Mary, Lover You Should Have Come Over, High And Dry and Twentysomething.

Antics Galore

Listening to his CDs may be loads of fun, but you can never fully prepare yourself for the man himself! Jamie is one exuberant firecracker, and holds true to his statement that "I treat the piano the way Hendrix played the guitar". Whereas most ( if not all ) plant their butts on the seat and maybe jerk or sway to the music, Jamie launches a full attack on the ivories, sweeping his hands across the keys in an effortless, laws-of-physics-defying manner. He also did his famous piano-string-plucking thing, reaching over with his left hand to tug at them as his right stayed on the keyboard. The effect was amazing!

Then there were the many times he actually stood on the edge of the piano, teetering precariously before leaping off onto the ground ( very agile, I must say ). At one point, he went under the huge instrument, drawing many a gasp from the audience as he used its belly as a substitute drum. Oh yeah, he can play the drums like a pro too. My gosh! :D

Most importantly, though, is his wonderful rapport with his fans. Instead of making us feel like outsiders with his eccentricities, he draws us in even nearer. He grins at us when he bangs the piano, he always stops for a moment to stare in our direction before hurling himself off in one direction or another, and he regularly stops playing to stand at the edge of the stage, singing to the audience, getting us to clap ( even asking us to set the pace for I Could Have Danced All Night ), and to sing a capella with him ( on Twentysomething ).

As for bantering, there was the usual "thank you for having us, everyone's been really nice/great, we can't wait to come back to do a show for you". But in between, he did mention going to Clarke Quay for some spicy crab, an experience he described as "possibly the spiciest meal I've ever had in my entire life, and which I think - and hope - helps my performance tonight!" :)

The Two People I Have To Thank

I can't mention names or details here, but one of them got me into the showcase, and the other got me Jamie's autograph. You both know who you are, and I am forever in your debt! Thank you so much!

The Two Incidents

*major gushing ahead, stop before you get nauseated!*

(1) Jamie shook my hand!

This happened during Twentysomething, when he was singing the a capella doo-wop bit with us. And through some twist of fate, he hopped off the stage, and walked directly towards my location. Media execs in front parted like the Red Sea as he strolled through the crowd, and before I knew it, he was just two feet in front of me, though still looking around and clapping away. Things are a bit of a blur to me, so this is the account my mom gave ( yep, took her with me to the show, which she absolutely loved! ): I screamed "Jamie!" once, and got his attention immediately. I then stuck out my hand, arm extended as far as I could manage, so it was hanging right in front of his lower chest. I vaguely remember saying, "Can I shake your hand?", but my mom didn't hear it. Jamie continued to clap for a few seconds more, but kept his eyes on me, with a slightly bemused expression on his face, and as I froze in my awkward position and contemplated withdrawing my hand 'cos it didn't look like he was going to take it, he suddenly stopped clapping and grabbed it! Aye-carumba!

It was surreal to the point that I don't remember anything other than that handshake. Everything around me just disappeared, and the memory is seared into my brain for all eternity.

FYI, he has a very firm grip, and his hands were slightly cold ( maybe a little sweaty too because of all the jumping around ). I'm very sure he held my hand for at least 3-5 seconds, and my mom swears he had a definite smile on his face. Before I knew it, the moment had passed, we let go at the same time, he turned around, crouched a little like a cat waiting to spring on its prey, and sped back on-stage.

He never came down to the audience again after that. And everyone around me kicked themselves ( they told me so, haha! ) for missing the opportunity that I was just too thick-skinned to pass up. :D

(2) I got Jamie's autograph!

Thanks to yet another generous soul from the sponsoring company -- a person I never met until last night -- Jamie obliged with a personal autograph on the CD sleeve of his Twentysomething album. It says "To [my name], Love Jamie Cullum, 2004" in a haywire scrawl with a purple marker. The interesting part is how he also included a small doodle of the keyboard below his name, and put an "X" at the end. It's now sitting on my bedroom shelf together with signatures from Clay Aiken, The Ten Tenors and the Hello Broadway! cast. Hmm, methinks I've got a new hobby going here. :P


So here ends the rambling. The adrenaline rush has yet to abate, and it was an evening I will never, ever forget. I hope Jamie and gang will return for that concert real soon, and if you haven't bought his CDs yet, don't wait any longer, 'cos he is going to be a gigantic star, and I think I'm pretty adept at spotting such talent ( had similar hopes for Robbie Williams, Michael Buble and Peter Cincotti, who are all doing very well ).

Last but not least, Jamie brings a breath of fresh air to the jazz genre, has an irresistible personality, a pitch-perfect voice, and so much talent. He truly deserves all the success he's enjoying, and I wish him the very best for the future.

Adios, amigos! Have to hit the books again. Sigh.

:D :D :D


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