Tuesday, October 11, 2005



First up, this entry is actually in 2 parts and not in chronological order. But I'm writing in this manner because I'm leaving the best bit till later. You can scroll down if you're kay poh, heh heh.

MB's previous concert was held maybe 3-4 months after his debut album was released here. Back then, he performed at an ugly ( sorry, I'm just telling it like it is ) SUNTEC concert hall, with an audience of perhaps 3,000 people. Nothing grand, his suit looked a little ill-fitting, the band was relatively small, sound system not so great -- and yet, I loved every minute of it from beginning to end ( review in the archives, dated September 16 2003 ) because his talent transcended all of that. I knew immediately that this guy was going to be BIG.

It's been a long wait ( well, long in my book at least! ), but tonight, I saw him in his element once more, and in front of a full-capacity 8,500-strong crowd which thronged the massive Stadium from floor to ceiling - yelling, wolf-whistling, squealing, laughing really hard, applauding before and after EVERY SINGLE PIECE, effortlessly singing along whenever MB stuck his microphone out at us and then, right at the end, standing up or running down front to dance.

The concert itself is so AWESOME I don't even know where to begin! The band walked on-stage at 8:30pm, nicely decked out in beautiful black suits and black dress shirts. The brass section has since expanded from the skeletal 4 members to 7 this time ( 2 trombones, 3 trumpets, 3 saxophones ). A newly added bassist lends loads of class to the whole ensemble, and I dunno - the guitarist looks new too ( a very very youthful-looking Randy Napoleon, who couldn't stop smiling throughout the 1 hr 45 min performance - how sweet :)).
There was one familiar face though - Alan Chang, the Chinese-American mix who acts as music director, co-wrote "Home" with MB, and is described by the latter as his "good friend". More on him later.

MB arrived shortly after, wearing a black suit and white shirt, standing atop a platform with steps, shrouded in smoke and silhouetted against a white spotlight. The opening strains to "Feeling Good" came on, the audience recognized it immediately and started screaming with excitement, and when the band kicked in with the punching brass chords, the front lights illuminated and everyone ROARED ( I'm not kidding ). What a fantastic reception! :)

Songs included in the non-stop repertoire came fast and furious: Sway, Fever, Moondance, For Once In My Life, The More I See You, Try A Little Tenderness, How Sweet It Is, I've Got You Under My Skin, Come Fly With Me, etc. Each piece was delivered with FLAWLESS, PITCH-PERFECT VOCALS, plus a tinge of trademark boyish cheekiness ( a wink here, a mischievous grin there, lots of crazy dance moves, mike-stand twirling, teasing of fellow band-mates ).

I've got a few favourites from the show:

1) Home - a lovely rendition with soft piano accompaniment from Chang.
2) You Don't Know Me - one of his best album tracks, but "live" -- absolute HEAVEN!
3) That's All - mesmerizing!
4) You And I - my personal fav from "It's Time" ( track 13 ), with its haunting melody and goose-pimple-inducing conclusion. I usually blank out a little when I enjoy a concert too much ( really stupid, I know ), but I remember this particular song extremely well, and the whole 5 minutes, with the opening verse ( MB crooning to Chang's solo piano before being joined by the rest of the band ), the dark stage save for a little spotlight on the duo, and the swirling mist, all made for a positively MAGICAL moment. What a BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL performance!

Save The Last Dance For Me was the last song of the set, followed by 2 encores ( we were all chanting "Michael! Michael!" at one point, haha!) He began with the jazzy Crazy Little Thing Called Love, then mellowed with a very moving rendition of Song For You, gesticulating to the crowd at key verses, then ending with a wonderful flourish as he belted out the last few lines SANS MICROPHONE. Wow!

And now, for the REALLY FUN BITS!

1) The jokes

There were so many I don't think I can repeat them all! Something about thanking the men in the audience, who probably think MB's ( and I quote ) "a wanker", but gamely accompanied their girlfriends and wives to the show anyway. :D

A hilarious impromptu ditty about Singaporeans paying lots of money for their tickets and totally disregarding the rules ( ie. no flash photography allowed during the concert ), before immediately telling us "It's okay with me; you paid a lot of money to see us so TAKE AS MANY PICTURES AS YOU WANT!" to deafening roars of approval.

2) The impressions

Again, there were so many! Like the short dabble with opera ( he has the most powerful, GORGEOUS tenor vibrato, yow! ), the Buddy Holly impersonation ( with another short song from the late great ), the Ray Charles head-sway-broad-grin routine during You Don't Know Me. Then there was a momentary pelvic thrust from Elvis, some high-pitched meowing as he attempted to imitate a tiger, plus a PRICELESS imitation of Ben Stiller's pose from "Zoolander" ( I caught the movie in NZ so I found it a huge riot! ).

MB did a few of these during time set aside for "mugging for the cameras". He'd tell fans to get their devices ready, then join his brass section for various shots, again to everyone's immense delight.

3) The "bonus songs"

Maroon 5's "This Love" was a massive crowd pleaser, and MB's versatility was equally matched by the audience's eclectic musical tastes ( heck, we could sing selected verses on cue, imagine that! ). He certainly rocked the house on this one!

Michael Jackson's classic "Billy Jean" elicited the loudest screams, complete with a very smooth Moonwalk and exaggerated crotch-grab! Unfortunately, MB expressed great contrition when he spotted a 6-year-old girl with her parents, before offering to sign "anything you want", then adding a desperate "Please don't sue!". :D

There was also some James Blunt ( a short, funny "You're beautiful!" inserted in the middle of a sentence ) and the sole truly new song from MB - a wonderful cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile", which began in typical ballad fashion before escalating into a full-headed uptempo swing/big-band number. Woohoo!

4) The mad dash

Yes, readers, believe it, because it really happened!

After maybe the 3rd or 4th song, MB was very amused by all the camera flashes he spotted in the back rows, saying he'd probably look like "a tiny ant" in those photos. So the next thing we knew, he leapt off the stage and sprinted all the way to the tiered seats - past the floor, up the stairs, almost reaching the upper corridors before having to stop because of the crowds waiting for him there. I saw him hug a few people, plant kisses on a few ladies, get grabbed by loads others, before sauntering back to the front with 2 worried-looking security staff in tow. Bet that must've scared them witless! :)

He didn't get mobbed by definition, but upon returning to the stage, he expressed thanks to "the guy in the back who grabbed my ass", to loud guffaws all around. What a joker!

So you can see it was definitely an evening to remember. MB never missed a note, and he's very obviously become lots more polished in the 2 years since I last saw him. Very confident, vocals which have improved ten-fold in terms of power and quality, and so much more naughtiness!

He is already such a star, but he will no doubt only get bigger in the future.



Again, through the amazing kindness of strangers ( with a little help from someone whom I got to know earlier this year ), I was granted very exclusive backstage access 2 hours before the show.

We were allowed into the Stadium along with 4 other fans to watch the band rehearse from 6:30pm onwards, during which I was 4th row centre ( don't really understand why the rest clustered themselves on the left side ), and had a bird's eye view of the entire stage.

There were maybe 10-15 people max on the floor ( excluding the band and sound engineers ), with most hailing from the media and music industries, so this was indeed the opportunity of a lifetime for mere mortals like us.

Music director Alan Chang was directly in front of us tinkering on the grand piano. He's definitely Eurasian, with a nice mix of Chinese features complemented by light brown hair and fair skin. He may look skinny and tiny on-stage ( being seated and slightly hunched most of the time ), but he's actually very very tall once he stands up. Clad in a thin purple cotton jacket, white T-shirt and light blue jeans, he glanced over at our group many times, but I couldn't muster up the nerve to walk up and say hi ( darn it! ). He strolled around the stage a lot, took off his jacket at one point ( he isn't skinny, trust me :)), but one of the trumpet players threw it back on his shoulders. He did look tired and perhaps a little under the weather. Since he's also the only guy wearing a jacket, my mom guessed that he might be sick. Poor thing.

Mikey arrived without any fanfare at approximately 7pm, wearing a dark brown leather jacket, blue T-shirt and jeans. Prior to entering the auditorium, we were informed that MB was "quite tired" and may not be able to oblige with autographs or photos. However, it turns out that he was far from exhausted, and actually pretty high from what I could see! :)

He didn't know there were fans watching him, but upon spotting us, he instantly asked if we were his "soundcheck party". When someone confirmed yes, he immediately walked off-stage without another word, came straight up to all 6 of us, and respectfully shook our hands one by one. He beamed and thanked us repeatedly for coming to see him, happily hugging one effusive young lady before moving on to me and my mom.

We were at the end of the row, which might have been a lucky coincidence, 'cos Mike not only lingered on our side for most of the meet-and-greet, but also spoke to us more compared to the rest.

At this juncture, I'd just like to mention ( with my mother's permission ) that when Mike first saw my mom up close, he looked very pleasantly surprised, tilted his head back to get a better assessment, then murmured a very appreciative "Oooh, lovely!". I'm not kidding! I heard it with my own 2 ears! My mom blanked out at that moment 'cos he was holding her hand, but I DEFINITELY caught those words, and he was staring right at her. She had this pastel cream / gold-ish lace blouse and skirt combo on - which I hand-picked - so mom, you owe me big-time! :)

When it came to my turn, I said something rather silly along the lines of "( pointing at my mother ) This is my mom. ( then pointing to myself ) And I'm the daughter." Ack, I'm not proud of it, but I felt compelled to explain! Mike flashed me a gorgeous smile, shook my hand, then - get this - leaned forward, pointed to his right cheek and asked me to give him a kiss! Do you think I obliged? Oh c'mon, OF COURSE I DID! :D

For a split second, I smelled talcum powder, maybe some makeup as well. Up close, he looks REALLY REALLY GOOD. Beautiful complexion, huge eyes, that sincere and friendly smile - YOW. :) He's very soft-spoken, with a firm handshake and slightly cool hands.

We didn't dare ask for autographs, but Mike took the initiative and asked if we had anything for him to sign. Most whipped out CD sleeves, but having bought 2 programmes before going backstage, I asked him to initial those, which he did so without hesitation.

What really shocked me, though, was how he grabbed the backstage pass clipped to my collar after he finished with the programmes, signing mine and my mom's as well!
I tried to stop him, saying, "Err, we can't keep these. They're taking them back later." to which he replied, "Aww, they won't miss these! Just keep them! (scribble scribble)" :D

Darn, I can't even remember whether the pass-signing or photo-ops came first! One of the other young female fans went first - think she ran round a whole row of seats to get to him ( 'cos we were in Row 4 and he was stuck in the middle of Row 5 ), but I stayed where I was and was quite amused when he tried to pull one of the chairs out of my row to get to me, heh heh! There wasn't enough space though, so he left it in its original spot, making do by leaning in close, putting his right arm around my shoulder, grabbing my camera with his left hand and launching into do-it-yourself mode.

"Um, I can ask someone to take the photo for us," I offered, but he just waved it aside, replying, "Nah, I've done this MANY TIMES, TRUST ME!" We went back and forth a few times, and I even reached for my camera once to drive home my point, but he responded by sticking his left arm out to the side so I couldn't get at it! :)

So in the end, he did take the picture for us ( don't think he did this with the other 4 ), even asking if my mom would like to squeeze in ( she declined - oi, why??!! ) before planting his cheek against mine and snapping the photo. He quickly flipped it around to check the result, then showed it to me and asked, "See? Not bad huh? ( big grin )". I laughed and nodded my head in agreement, then he waved goodbye and ran back up on-stage.

The recording company reps began ushering us out, but Mike quickly stopped them ( he spoke into the microphone from where he was standing ), saying, "You don't have to leave. Why don't you all stay? Wanna hear some of our stuff?" He looked right at me so I bobbed my head as hard as I could so he'd see that I DESPERATELY wanted to stay. He did see it, and waved us back to our seats. I returned to my 4th row centre vantage point, and spent the next 15-20 minutes watching a terrific private performance ( it was a rehearsal but he did it like it was a real concert ) of Feeling Good, Sway and Home.

The best part is, after each song, he never once waited for us to applaud. He'd start talking, or drink some water, or walk over to his band-mates to discuss something. NEVER once did he stand there and expect our adulation. His rapport with the band is wonderful to behold ( watching them rehearse is the best way to gauge their true feelings for one another ), and Mike was equally wacky during the soundcheck ( something I found most surprising ).

At around 7:20pm, we finally had to leave. MB said goodbye from the stage, then strolled over to the left side to watch us go.

I usually meet singers after their concerts, so this pre-show thing was very unusual and extremely enjoyable, not just because Mike's such a sweetheart, but because seeing him bring 8,500 fans to their feet ( complete with 3 standing ovations ) made me appreciate the privilege so much more.

Thank you, Y and L, for your invaluable help and patience!

And thank you, Michael Buble, for being so nice, and for making my mom and I the happiest people on Earth!

That perfect end to a perfect year did happen after all. I never thought there'd come a day when I'd have nothing more to ask for - but that day has arrived, and what an amazing feeling it is. I will never forget my 30th birthday for as long as I live! :D

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