Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review Of Peter Cincotti's Concert, Esplanade Concert Hall, 21st October 2008

I don't know what the review in today's paper will say, but here're my personal thoughts.

Long-time readers of my blog will remember that I saw Peter in Rome in 2005.

3 years is a significant period of time, and naturally, Peter's musical style has evolved dramatically. While his first 2 albums featured mostly jazz covers with a smattering of pop ballads, his latest record, East Of Angel Town, is produced by David Foster ( who's mentored the likes of Josh Groban and Michael Buble ), comprises 13 self-penned tracks, and has a much edgier sound.

Tuesday night's audience was an eclectic bunch, comprising young and old, local and expatriate. What we all had in common, though, was a deep appreciation for this young man's sensational talent.

Opening with track #1, Angel Town, this set the mood for the rest of the evening, as Peter and his 5-piece band jammed heartily and the concert hall reverberated with their energetic rhythms. Sitting in the centre of the 8th row, I initially found it a little jarring, but got accustomed to it quickly. Guess the hall's superb acoustics aren't exactly suited to music of this amplitude.

Peter followed with Be Careful, Man On A Mission and Cinderella Beautiful, then covered the remaining tracks on the album, only omitting The Country Life.

Especially noteworthy are Another Falling Star - a slower-tempo-ed ballad and my favourite on the record, which Peter sang beautifully - and Always Watching You, which he explains is inspired by what he sees from his New York apartment. The latter made an especially huge impact, thanks to a spirited and sexy rendition, very different from the studio version.

Make It Out Alive featured a drawn out jam session that drew deafening cheers, and Witch's Brew enchanted with its piano solo, a bit I greatly enjoy because of its similarity to a Bach fugue.

Peter hasn't lost his love for performing, displaying many traits which I noticed back in 2005, such as tapping and stamping his feet, bopping his head to the beat, and flashing huge smiles at his band.

This time round, however, he was much more enthusiastic, at some points getting so worked up that he leaned forward a tad too much, causing his seat to tilt precariously on 2 legs instead of 4. I really worried he'd topple over, but luckily, he didn't. :)

The physical demands of the performance took its toll as well, with Peter taking frequent gulps of mineral water, wiping his forehead with a towel, and pausing to catch his breath in between songs, taking a minute to compose himself and recover before launching into the next piece.

My seat provided a wonderful vantage point - I faced his back in Rome, but this time, I saw his side profile, had a clear view of his hands, and was treated to a full frontal whenever he switched to the keyboard situated behind him.

He's still as boyishly handsome as ever but has also definitely matured, with an easy on-stage confidence and more banter with the audience.

Best of all, he's put some weight back on ( instead of looking gaunt like he did in Rome ), and his floppy fringe has reappeared. Yay! :)

He closed the show with 2 encores, the first a new composition titled Nothing's Enough -- a heady mix of pop, jazz, rock and even a little disco -- and the second, a cover of David Guetta's Love Is Gone. Both are available on YouTube. I'll take a listen one of these days to familiarize myself with the melodies, 'cos it takes me a few spins before a tune sticks in my head.

The audience that night was truly fantastic. It wasn't a full house, but the cheers more than made up for this, and many stood to applaud the guys at the end. A well-deserved ovation indeed!

Peter stayed back for an autograph-signing session, but I opted to take my chances at the post-show reception instead, and was duly rewarded.

Held at the VIP Tent across the road, this was supposed to begin at the official time of 10pm, but Peter arrived early, and I managed to speak to him for quite a while. Here's a gist of what happened ( won't bore you with a minute-by-minute description, don't worry ):

Bits of our conversation:

Me - Will your next album be produced by David Foster as well?
Peter - Oh, I hope so! I really enjoyed working with him on this one.

Me - Will you be in Singapore for long?
Peter - Oh, no, we actually have to catch a flight later tonight 'cos I'm performing in Vegas the next day.

Me - I'm going to be in New York next year. Will there be a summer tour?
Peter - Definitely. We're going to launch the album in the U.S., and there should be a tour after that. Check the website for details!

Somewhere in the middle of this, my mom ( who adores Peter, by the way ) blurted out that we'd met him in Rome before, to which Peter replied with an uncertain "O-kay". I could tell he couldn't remember the encounter and felt bad about it, so I interjected with "I don't think he remembers, mom", wanting to add "... but it's all right". But before I could say that, he turned to me and asked, "Was it last year?" I said no, it was 2005, prompting a laugh as he pointed out that our meeting was "way, WAY back!", using his hands to make sweeping actions in the process.

He then posed for pictures, separately, with each of us. As I wielded the camera and looked around for someone to hold my mom's plate of food ( there was a small buffet at the reception ), Peter gallantly stepped forward, said, "Let me take this for you." then deposited the plate in ( I think ) his tour manager's hands. I didn't know he worked with Peter at this point, so I was slightly horrified, thinking this poor man was a fellow guest. It was only later when I saw Peter leave with him in a car that I realized who he was. Whew!

Peter was extremely sweet to my mom. He actually asked me whether she's my mother early in our conversation, then shook hands with her and gave her a big, gorgeous smile. When he posed for the photo, he hugged her tight and leaned in close, flashing a happy grin as I cued them both to "Smile!". He looked at her intermittently even though he was talking to me most of the time, so she wouldn't feel left out. And he waved at her again just before leaving for the car.

To me, he's remained the same warm and friendly chap from 2005. He still tilts his head towards me to hear what I'm saying, maintains steady eye contact, and shook hands with me more than once ( twice that night, compared to 3 times in Rome, haha ).

This is probably superfluous, but he is unbelievably good-looking, and has grown even more dashing through the years. He wore a white shirt with a metallic grey suit, and seems to have shot up by a few inches as well. You can't imagine how much I enjoyed talking to - and staring at - him. :)

He tried to leave the reception by inching towards the exit in stages, moving from the buffet table area to the wine bar then the grass verge. My mom and I had retreated to the wine bar after the photo-taking, as other fans came over to say hello to him. But he kept coming our way, then as he passed us again, he looked at me, smiled, and said, "It was great meeting you" before getting waylaid by an Indian man and his wife. I could only manage an appreciative smile, being caught completely off-guard.

I'll post the YouTube links the next time I blog from home. But they're easily found via Google. Just type "Peter Cincotti, Nothing's Enough" or "Peter Cincotti, Love Is Gone".

Of course, one of the best things I like about Peter is the fact that he acted with Kevin Spacey in the Bobby Darin biopic, Beyond The Sea. One degree of separation from Mr. Spacey himself!

Peter's expressed a desire to return to Singapore soon ( "hopefully next year" ) for another concert, so let's hope that becomes a reality. Your fans here would love to see you again.

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