Monday, July 25, 2005

Before I officially start posting about the 3 weeks I was AWOL from Singapore, work and the like, I just want to state for the record that the bombings in Europe did and still do deeply affect me. The truth is, when my mom and I first heard the news on July 7, we were stuck somewhere in Sicily, nursing a totally whacked out gastrointestinal system, moderate dehydration, heat exhaustion, incapacitating fatigue, and severe homesickness ( forgive the liberties I'm taking with the English language ).
CNN reports predicted possible new targets - Paris, Madrid, Milan. We felt helpless and alone. We missed our family and friends. We could only pray for a safe journey ahead.
Security was stepped up almost everywhere, but most evidently in Rome, where squad cars and uniforms swarmed the streets near tourist hotspots like St. Peter's Square, the Colosseum, even the Spanish Steps. It was a huge relief to be home, but the Egypt bombings - which claimed the lives of quite a few Italians - brought yet another wave of emotion.

So even though the following entries sound upbeat, also realize that I sympathize with the victims, and that I've merely chosen not to write at length about these episodes on a purely personal basis.

Italian Trip Post #1

Peter Cincotti's Concert July 17 - Cavea Auditorium, Rome

I need to get this out before I burst, so please bear with me. :)

I first found out about Peter in the December 2003 issue of People magazine, which I'd bought only because Clay Aiken was in it. Somewhere within the many pages featuring interesting fellows with their fascinating profiles, I spotted the photo of a thin young man with tousled brown hair, clad in a white singlet and black pants, seated at a piano. All of 20 years of age, and hailed as the next jazz sensation, no less.

Out of curiosity ( and a newfound appetite for jazz soon after discovering Michael Buble's album and seeing him in concert ), I began my hunt for Peter's CD, finding it tucked in a corner of Pacific Plaza's That CD Shop outlet. At the time, perhaps only 5 copies were stocked, and I still insisted on sampling one before making the purchase.

As you can tell, I liked what I heard, bought the album, and unbeknownst to most people, convinced a certain radio DJ to get it as well. He went on to feature Peter on an evening jazz segment, effectively launching his career Singapore-wise, and the rest is, well, history. :)

Over the past 18 months, I've listened to Peter's music so many times over I've completely lost count - hundreds, maybe thousands perhaps? With each new spin, I find something new to appreciate and marvel at. Even today, as I savoured Fool On A Hill / Nature Boy from his debut offering, it suddenly dawned on me ( slaps forehead ) that it was a solo piece with no backing whatsoever. And how absolutely perfect it was.

I'm not a Peter Cincotti groupie. Granted, he's very good-looking, but my interest in him easily transcends his physical appearance, and focuses mainly on his undeniable talent. It was wonderful to be able to watch him "live" at his showcase here on 27th April ( go to the archives if you'd like to read about it ), and it was an unbelievable stroke of good luck which made it possible for me to see him in Rome.

And what a night it was.

The Cavea Auditorium, a recently constructed concert venue, turned out to be an open-air concept. The sun began to set at 9pm, with a nice dip in the temperature, and as the many couples in the audience began to snuggle a bit, Peter and his band walked on-stage at 9:15pm.

While his bassist, drummer and saxophonist were in smart casual wear, Peter chose a full black suit and pin-striped black shirt, sporting his now familiar short hairdo. He looked terrific, as always, but was glaringly more gaunt when compared to his well-fed appearance during his Singapore stopover - a fact my mother pointed out before I did, imagine that.

After a short greeting, he launched into Bali Ha'i, a cool jazz reworking of the South Pacific gem. And just so I won't have to keep repeating myself later in the post, Peter and gang sound phenomenal in "live" settings, especially when the acoustics allow them to shine. Thumper ( where they performed in April ) was too constrained, the speakers cranked way too high, with certain people inconsiderately yakking away. At the Cavea, however, every instrument could be heard individually. Peter had a rapt audience, it was a beautiful night out, and the show was just fantastic. :)

He mostly performed pieces from his 2nd album, On The Moon, which included the title track, I Love Paris and St. Louis Blues. Also on the repertoire was his trademark sizzler, Sway.

What I enjoyed even more though, were his NEW songs, which appear to have been penned while he was on the road these past 3 months or so. He proffered no fewer than FOUR original compositions and one cover. Due to a writing arrangement with a certain publication, I won't divulge all the details. But just to whet your appetite a little, Come Tomorrow is set to make waves with its strong melody and poignant lyrics. And his version of Solomon Burke's Cry To Me was so flawless it took my breath away. ( You can hear the latter on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. And if you need some visuals, rent the DVD. You won't regret it. :D )

For the encore, he enthralled with some classical piano on yet another original piece - a few heavenly minutes of gorgeous fingerwork reminiscent of a Bach fugue ( another breath-holding moment! ). His final song was a soft, sensitive rendition of You Don't Know Me which sounded totally different from the album recording, thanks to a remarkably tender vocal performance ( and perhaps the audience's great reluctance to let him leave, haha ).

I was actually seated facing Peter's back, because I purchased my tickets a little late. But in retrospect, it turned out to be a vantage point, because I badly wanted to see his hands the whole time, and this provided a bird's eye view not only of his effortless technique, but of his other little quirks as well - e.g. stomping his feet to the beat, shaking his torso, the subtle cues he'd give the band, etc.

Besides, I knew I'd see him up close later on, so... :)

The show lasted approximately 80 minutes, then Peter and his band were gone. As I sat and fiddled with my backstage pass, reality set in, and the anticipation mounted intensely. A very nice lady ( who doesn't speak much English but who probably works with the organizers ) came to fetch my mom and I, and we were ushered to Peter's dressing room.

The Meet & Greet Session

Not the most accurate description of our encounter since this wasn't in any way an official meet-the-fans type of thing. It took a seemingly endless walk down a looooong deserted corridor to get to our destination, where a lone security guard stood.

A door with Peter's name on it appeared before us. Yikes. My hands started to get a little cold, so I folded my jacket over them to warm them up a bit.

After a few minutes, Peter's bassist came knocking on the dressing room door, and Peter emerged. Carrying his jacket on a hanger, he glanced over at us transiently then continued talking to his friend. At some point ( and this is when a few details start to blur, sorry :)), the lady with us stepped forward and pointed at me. Peter smiled but didn't know how to react, so I took the initiative to introduce myself, rambling on about his Singapore showcase, the autographs he signed for me, how I missed the opportunity to meet him and found a way to watch his show in Rome, etc.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, he found space to slot in a very friendly "Hello! Nice to meet you!Thank you so much for coming to the show!" and a handshake - firm grip, warm hands. I complimented his new songs, asked when his next album will be released, probed about a possible return to Singapore for a full concert, and FINALLY questioned him about Kevin Spacey ( answers to be provided at a later juncture ). He signed an autograph for a friend of mine, we posed for a photo, then his tour manager arrived and the group dispersed.

All in all, probably a total of about 5-10 minutes. But that's just a short overview. :)

Again, I'm not divulging all the details here. Nor will I be posting the picture we took - whether on this blog or in the publication mentioned earlier.


1) My mom and I were the ONLY 2 fans with Peter that night after the show - something I consider an unexpected and tremendous privilege.

2) Revealing everything would cheapen the whole experience.

3) Peter did a few things which he may not want publicized. He may not have been aware of what happened, but as observers, my mom and I caught a lot of them and found them absolutely endearing. :D
( But of course, I did and will share a couple of these tidbits with fellow fans, pending promises of discretion and confidentiality. :))

The "censored version":

1) No photo in the entire world does justice to Peter's striking good looks. His attractiveness is inversely proportional to the distance between him and yourself.
My proximity to him? At one particular moment, just an inch or so. ( And that's excluding the photo op - proximity zero inches, you do the math ) :)

2) He shook my mom's hand TWICE and mine THREE TIMES during that short period.

3) He gave a respectful little bow each time he took my mom's hand ( he didn't do that with me, so my mom was duly impressed! ).

4) He tends to stand really, REALLY close when he talks to you. Or maybe I'm just lucky, haha. :)

5) His powers of concentration are admirable. Despite a gruelling tour schedule ( he was zooming through various parts of Italy for nightly shows the week I met him ), expected fatigue ( the meet-and-greet happened at 11pm ), and some scattered murmurings from his bassist and tour manager in the background, he never once broke eye contact during our conversation.

6) He is genuine and sincere. There were no reporters or cameras that night. Just a small bunch of us crammed outside his dressing room along a completely deserted corridor. He was really really nice to us even though he didn't have to be.

If I've left anything out, I'll amend the entry later on. Feel free to ask questions in the comments box below. :)

My only regret is not knowing that Peter just turned 22 on July 11. I found out after returning to Singapore and checking his website. I'd originally thought of buying a bottle of Rose wine or Merlot from a vineyard we visited in Tuscany, but our tour director scared us with her stories of valuables being stolen from hotel rooms and coaches and what-not, so we didn't buy anything we couldn't stuff into our suitcases.
Deepest apologies for that, aargh!

It's getting late and I need to sleep before my clock goes haywire again. Have got the next 2 days off with a lot of errands to run, so I desperately wanted to write this tonight! :)

Hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more entries on Italy and its many idiosyncracies.

And if you aren't a Peter Cincotti fan yet, what the heck's stopping you?!

Good night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'm Back

Looks like blog traffic's been pretty consistent despite my prolonged absence, so thank you for that. :)

The plane just touched down in Singapore at 6am today, so I'm pretty exhausted right now, though also euphoric as well, haha. More details to follow in the coming weeks ( lots to write about ), but in a nutshell:

1. Peter Cincotti gave a great concert in Rome last Sunday. His new songs are terrific, and yes, my mom and I met him backstage after the show. :D
He is - and this is a direct quote from my usually reserved mother - "an absolute sweetheart". I fully concur. Will post about this in greater depth very soon, so stay tuned.

2. The past 3 weeks in Italy have been rough at times - as those of you who received my intermittent SMSs will attest to - but the latter half of the trip turned out to be quite enjoyable. Favourite places: Rome, Venice, Florence.

3. Italian weather is bad. But the food's even worse. Okay, I'm over-generalizing a bit, but it isn't that far off the mark either. Will elaborate further another day.

4. The London bombings kept us on our toes while we were still stuck in Europe. Security was significantly stepped up in Rome as well. Why do these things keep happening to us whenever we're overseas?!

Wish I could write a bit more, but my mom wants me to get off my butt and drive over to the pet shop to pick up our cat STAT.

All I can say is - it's GOOD to be home. :)