Thursday, November 16, 2006

Review of Rockapella's concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall, November 15th 2006

For more info on the group, drop by their official website.

In a nutshell:

1. It was awesome!

2. I love the crowd!

3. Chris Botti should've performed here instead of the Victoria Theatre ( sorry it's a major grouse of mine ).

More Details

I went to the show with no expectations whatsoever, and came away with only the highest regard and admiration for this quintet of hugely talented musicians.

The performance kicked off to a rousing start with an upbeat number which I assume is one of many of their original compositions. Of course, being a newbie where this group is concerned, I'm unable to tell you the titles of these songs, which were scattered throughout the evening.

However, I will say that they're all very enjoyable, with catchy melodies and sincere deliveries.

Hence, I shall comment mostly on the covers, which IMHO were EXQUISITE.

Having grown up listening to many of these classics ( you name 'em -- The Drifters, The Temptations, Ben E. King, Sam Cooke -- thanks 100% to my mother, whom I consider a foremost authority on truly good music ), I found myself grinning from ear to ear as the night progressed and the guys wheeled out hit after hit after hit.

Early in the repertoire, Stand By Me made an appearance, to the audience's immense delight ( that's when the whooping and cat-calling began :)). John K. Brown's gorgeously rich tenor vibrato soared to the heavens, and I especially love how he chose to lighten his tone during the 2nd "darling" in the line "so darling, darling stand by me" ( most versions I've heard usually belt that word from beginning to end ). The overall a capella arrangement was flawless, with just the right mix of soul and doo-wop. Coupled with the grand yet intimate venue ( I can't stress enough how much I LOVE the Esplanade ) and soft lighting ( a dim stage with dark luminous blue hues ), the piece was just positively... magical.

The very next song lifted my spirits even further, as curly-haired redhead Kevin Wright did his rendition of Under The Boardwalk. Kevin, by the way, is my personal favourite in the group. His voice is higher-pitched than John's, but I'm totally blown away by its quality and control. ( It was mentioned that one of the guys appeared on Les Miz on Broadway -- can someone confirm whether it's Kevin? ) His performance of this Drifters classic was pitch perfect and divine.

Lead member Scott Leonard is also a terrific singer, but he definitely excels at winding the crowd up and proved to be the main joker of the group, amusing us with his account of a trip to Chinatown, even managing to be understood when he said "Happy to meet you" in garbled Mandarin ( heh heh! ). Plus, he's clearly the most exuberant dancer of the bunch, never missing a step or showing any sign of fatigue even after the show hit the 2-hour mark.

Then there's George Baldi, who's well-known for being one of the original members of an ensemble which later became Boyz II Men. He's Rockapella's equivalent of Barry White, all deep booming bass and smooth grooves. He put his vocals to good use on Motown numbers, but surprised us all when he demostrated amazing range with a falsetto performance of Dolly Parton's ( or should I say, Whitney Houston's ) I Will Always Love You. Excellent stuff! :)

Last but not least, we have Jeff Thatcher, the self-professed "Mozart of spit", whose energetic mouth drumming kept things moving at a swift pace. Although he didn't speak a word ( kinda like Teller in the magician duo Penn and Teller ), his personality still shone through, especially during a solo bit that had me wondering how the heck he breathes through all that beatbox-ing.

As you can see, they're all very accomplished. Other noteworthy performances include covers of My Girl, Up On The Roof, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Wonderful World ( the Sam Cooke piece with the famous "don't know much about history" lyrics ), Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? and Do The Hustle.

Humour was a major feature throughout, with a hilarious skit involving a hapless couple in the audience. John Brown came strolling towards the back of the auditorium then shook hands with a gentleman seated a couple of rows behind us ( seems the 1st of the tiered rows is a lucky position -- Patrizio Buanne stopped by during his concert too :)). He asked the guy to stand up, and when he did, John took his place and began to flirt with his female companion, to loud cheers from the crowd. Haha! She was a good sport and obliged when John invited her on-stage. Perched on a stool, she calmly answered questions about her profession, then got a 3-song serenade of Motown tunes, lucky woman! The Rockapella dudes had a ball vying for her attention, with John kneeling beside her and placing her hand on his head, and George using his baritone to full use. The best attempt came from Scott, who pushed the others aside then gyrated his guts out while she stood, laughing and blushing. And I absolutely adore the part where Scott pretended to lead her off-stage then stopped and began to sing the opening verse to Ain't Too Proud To Beg, which states "I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go". Did anyone catch that? :D

The 2nd half got really rowdy towards the end, and the fellows happily granted us not 2, not 3, but FIVE encore songs! The best of the lot, I think, was the calypso number with a light Jamaican flavour. Beautiful!

There were 3 standing ovations, and they promised to return very soon for another show. I didn't stay for the autograph signing session though, being exhausted from a long day, but I will certainly go see them again.

If only they'd performed a few Christmas songs. Would've liked to hear their versions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, In The Still Of The Night, and ( wooo ) O Holy Night. Perhaps they can do some Broadway the next time round? How about On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady ( my all-time favourite song from a musical )?

Thank you for a great evening. Rock on, guys!


I leave for Tokyo this weekend, and am being inundated by numerous recommendations and purchase requests.

Am greatly looking forward to it! Poster arrived today -- looking good. :)

One Last Thing

I meant to write about this last week but never found the time.

Anybody recall a Sunday Lifestyle feature article about how local women in their 30s and 40s find it difficult to get dates / mates?

I personally found it derogatory and biased. Who did this reporter talk to???

Let me state, for the record, that there are MANY single women who are perfectly happy living their lives without a ball and chain called "a relationship". Within the medical profession alone, there're successful surgeons, paediatricians, ER physicians, internists etc who travel the world and engage in some really hip pursuits without griping about how lonely / incomplete they feel ( they don't, by the way ).

If you're financially independent, emotionally secure and lead a fulfilling life sans boyfriend / husband / offspring, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that and who cares what society thinks?

And by the way, I suspect only Singaporean / Asian men consider age a disadvantage. Westerners have a much more favourable view of older women, which I certainly appreciate.

Singlehood has its privileges. Settling down doesn't mean you have to settle. :)

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