Friday, March 06, 2009

Live High
- A Review of Jason Mraz's Concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, March 5 2009

Warning: This is a lengthy account, so don't proceed if you're not interested.

The title of this entry belongs to a piece from We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, and now holds great significance because of a personal encounter I was fortunate enough to have with the man himself. More on that later. :)

I'm going to talk about the concert first.
Yes, it was completely sold out.
Yes, there were LOTS of women in the audience, but males were also well-represented.
Yes, the fans comprised quite a number of young people, but I did spot a few middle-aged people, one of whom is Caucasian with grey hair.

The show kicked off at 8:25pm with no fanfare, with Jason coming on-stage incognito, walking out with his band sans the usual buildup intro.

They launched into The Dynamo Of Volition, as Jason asked the roaring crowd to "stand up, c'mon!" and clap to the infectious Jamiroquai-esque rhythm.

The estimated 8000-strong audience remained on their feet for the next 90-100 minutes, enjoying a satisfying repertoire drawn from not only his 3 excellent studio albums, but also from a couple of 'live' recordings as well.

I counted at least 16 -17 songs in total:

The Dynamo of Volition
Geek In The Pink
Who Needs Shelter
Live High
Lucky ( a duet nicely done with local singer Joi Chua )
I'm Yours
Only Human
Make It Mine
A Beautiful Mess
You And I Both
No Stopping Us
Sleeping To Dream
I'll Do Anything ( I think it was included, correct me if I'm wrong )


Mr. Curiosity
The Remedy
( there was one more, but I can't remember the title, argh )

I'm probably going to leave out certain details, but the overall impression is that he was on a major high last night, and sang flawlessly.
While such standards have become the norm for him, I never take anything for granted, especially when his manager revealed how Jason had just flown in from Kuala Lumpur that afternoon, and was "tired". Just go to his website and look at his tour schedule -- it's absolutely insane. I don't know how he does it!

So last night's tour de force is again something worth treasuring. Mr. Mraz strutted his stuff from beginning to end, changing guitars so many times I lost count, and breaking a string on the very first song, imagine that!

He got the crowd jumping on the faster numbers, then held us spellbound on the slower pieces, which I felt were the highlights of the show.

I especially loved his renditions of A Beautiful Mess ( from album #3 ) and Mr. Curiosity ( from album #2, Mr. A-Z ). Jason has an incomparably gorgeous voice, and Beautiful Mess gave me goosebumps ( glory notes +++ )!

However, Mr. Curiosity was a lovely surprise, and the defining "magical moment" I always wait for at every concert I attend. This first encore song was stripped down to just vocals and keyboard, and despite listening to it many times before on the stereo, I really heard it last night as everyone huddled in hushed silence and Jason's voice soared to the heavens.
The bridge was spectacular, with him doing a beautiful falsetto, hitting operatic registers and holding notes for what seemed like an eternity. The cheers were deafening!

Other performances worth mentioning are Live High ( very uplifting, similar to what he did at SingFest ), I'm Yours, The Remedy and You And I Both ( karaoke bliss! ), and Butterfly ( the sexiest number on album #3 ).

Jason's got tonnes of rhythm, so watching him sway and bop as he plucked at his guitar was the icing on the cake. He displayed high energy levels and couldn't stop smiling and laughing. The raucous audience certainly helped him sustain that enthusiasm!

He had a blast showing off his scatting and rapping skills, whipping everyone into a frenzy many times when he stopped in the middle of a song to hear us belt the lyrics or engage in mock competitions ( he called the floor seats "the valley", heh! ).

His 7-piece band was outstanding, as always, and kudos to the guys in charge of the sound system, 'cos even though my seats were facing the speakers directly, everything was crystal clear, even on the noisier pieces with full instrumental backup. Jason's voice came through like an unfiltered ray of sunshine.

At the end, he did his usual routine of snapping Polaroids of the band and himself before throwing the photos into the crowd. He also distributed what looked like bunches of orchids, and his band joined in the fun by hurling these to the fans.

Although it was an undoubtedly great show, I still prefer his 1st gig at the Esplanade back in 2006, when he did an intimate acoustic set with sidekick Toca Rivera. The problem with large venues is the inability to really engage the audience, so he didn't make much small talk and the audience didn't get the opportunity to experience his intelligent and kooky sense of humour.
It was still awesome though. Worth every single cent of the ticket price. :)

Meet & Greet

First, a huge thank you to Mr. G, who so kindly arranged for me to go backstage.

This happened before the concert, at around 6:30pm. There were about 12-15 of us in total.

Before we entered the room where Jason was waiting, his tour manager ( a very nice young bespectacled fellow ) issued a few instructions. We were told that we could give Jason a hug, 'cos he "loves human contact" ( haha! ), and that if we had any gifts on hand, we could present them to him but shouldn't be offended if he passes them on to someone else, 'cos that's what he usually does, and he would take them back later. A Chinese lady - whom I assume is from Warner Music - asked us to leave our bags outside, and initially didn't allow anyone to bring their CDs in for autographs. But as luck would have it, when it came to my turn, the rules changed. :D

As the 8 people in front of me went inside two by two, I was slightly alarmed by how quickly they re-emerged. It seemed like each meeting lasted only 2-3 minutes at most, and I really worried that my turn would be over before I even got to do anything.

So in the blink of an eye, I was hurriedly placing my bag on a chair provided, as the Chinese lady took my CD sleeves and said "no autographs please". Suddenly, his manager who was standing next to us said it's okay, as Jason was now agreeable to signing stuff. Yes!
The lady then wanted to take a package I was holding ( with a small gift for Jason ) and hand it to his manager, but instead he asked me to bring it in and give it to Jason myself. No problem! :)

I don't know the exact term for the top he was wearing -- it's white, seems to be made of cotton and looks like a long john. He had his trademark hat on ( dark brown shade ), and sported dark-coloured pants. Very formal considering his usual baggy T-shirt and jeans getup for previous gigs.

My first impression was how much taller he is up close. He stood facing the door as I entered, and stepped forward to shake my hand, smiling and saying a soft "hello". At this point, my memory's a bit fuzzy, which is a sure sign of how flustered I was. :)

I returned with a greeting and, remembering what his manager said, asked, "Can I give you a hug?". Jason didn't say anything, and merely released my hand and opened both arms wide in response to my question. THIS moment is forever etched in my mind in perfect clarity -- the words "oh my gosh!" blared in my head as I felt him enfold me in a tight embrace. I had to stand on tiptoe to put my right arm over his left shoulder, as HIS right arm reached over MY left shoulder. This placed my face right next to his right ear, and I just couldn't help saying, "It's so great to meet you!" as we hugged.

Upon releasing me, he asked for my name and how to spell it. At this moment, he spotted my mom -- yes, she gamely went in with me :) -- and very nicely acknowledged her with a warm smile and a small bow, shaking her hand firmly. She managed to sputter, "I'm a great fan!", to which he laughed and said, "Thank you!"

We posed for a photo next, with my mom and I flanking him, our arms around each other. I had some difficulty finding a spot to put my hand 'cos my mom already had her arm at his lower back, so I placed it on his upper / mid-back first, before finding it a little awkward then moving it to his right waist.
This was completely unintentional, but I have to tell you that Jason's not the scrawny fellow he used to be a few years ago, and has obviously been working out at the gym. That outfit he wore showed off a muscular physique, and running my hand around his back was pure heaven. :)

Autographs came next. I brought 2 for him to sign -- the sleeve for Tonight Not Again, and the cover for We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. He did a straightforward signature for the first one, then asked me again how to spell my name as his hand hovered above the second. As I recited, he wrote it down meticulously, before saying something cryptic, along the line of "Ah yes, I KNEW it would be that!" ( whatever that means :)). He added an exclamation mark after my name, then scrawled his signature below, even inserting a couple of ??little stars to finish the job.

Before leaving, I wished him a good show, shook his hand again, then proceeded to leave. However, he surprised me by asking whether the package on the floor was for him -- at some point, no thanks to my hazy recollection, the gift had been taken from me and placed on the ground nearby. When I said yes, Jason looked extremely grateful and pleased, and thanked me for the present.

Then I was back outside, my head spinning. I think we were in there for at least 5 minutes, maybe even more. :)

The gift wasn't anything really special -- partly because I just didn't have the time to go looking for something unique -- but I did include a short letter and explained the thought process behind the choice. Jason's known to appreciate everything he receives from fans, so I hope he likes what I gave him.

Watching him perform after this once-in-a-lifetime experience was exhilarating! Thank you again, Mr. G, for giving me the chance to meet my favourite musician of all time. I will treasure this night forever. :)

[ photos to follow soon ]

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