Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Entry #6

I realize I made a resolution to write more this year - and that includes blogging - but I haven't really stuck to my convictions so far, mostly for work-related reasons.

However, this latest entry could not be delayed any further, as my excitement about a return visit to Manhattan necessitated some serious Web-surfing on not-to-be-missed shows.

Before I begin, the latest Kevin Spacey photo. Here, he's pictured with director David Fincher ( the genius behind Se7en, Zodiac, Fight Club and The Social Network ). They're teaming up yet again for a TV series, House Of Cards, which has been picked up by Netflix. I hope it hits local cable soon. If not, there's always Sidereel. :)

Recently, I've been reminiscing about Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning musical I caught back in 2007, when I finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to see Broadway. It was nothing short of life-changing, and I've been itching to go back ever since.

Why has it taken me 4 years to do it? Well, there're lots of other places on my travel list, and since my holidays involve parents, I need to take their preferences into consideration as well. Luckily, my mom's just as nuts about musicals as I am. After all, she's the one who introduced me to movies like The Sound Of Music when I was in kindergarten. And she was ecstatic when I showed immediate appreciation for West Side Story, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Oliver!, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, The Student Prince and The King And I, when I was in primary school.

Despite not having the chance to catch any revivals ( we missed out on South Pacific, Gypsy and West Side Story ), watching Jersey Boys was absolutely delightful. I finally understood why Broadway has remained so popular for so many decades, and still marvel at the magic that goes on almost everyday in the numerous old theatres scattered along that long New York avenue. The buildings are old, the sidewalks cracked, the stages creak and there's a musty smell inside the auditorium. But when the lights go down and the curtain goes up, you'll feel your heart soar and the world will never be the same again!

Here's a revival I'm eyeing, which stars Harry Potter boy Daniel Radcliffe. I've seen video clips of him singing and dancing, and it's easy to see why reviews have been positive. Don't expect Raul Esparza / John Lloyd Young / Jonathan Groff in terms of powerhouse vocals. He's obviously going to draw crowds no matter what, and all he has to do is carry a decent tune and keep up with the other cast members.
Definitely high on my list. No regrets about missing his turn in Equus - I'd feel too weird about looking at a naked boy. :P

This one, I'm going to watch FOR SURE. Like, if I can't get normal tickets, I'm going for the premium seats, which cost US$300 a head. ( That's what I did for Jersey Boys - best S$900 I ever spent! Actually, a jackpot machine in Caesars Palace paid for that. I had fantastic beginner's luck. :))

The Book Of Mormon opened only a week ago, and has already received rave reviews. Check out its official website for a hilarious interview clip ( bottom right hand corner ) with Jon Stewart, in which he talks to creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone ( the gurus behind South Park ).
It had me in stiches, man! What is it about the word 'Mormon' that makes everything sound funny? I've met a few myself - young American men who are wholesome, well-mannered and unbelievably gorgeous. My mom dated a few in her heyday too, as evidenced by old photos. One of them looks like John F. Kennedy Jr, okay? Insane!

Wonder if the male cast members will be equally handsome? I just want to hear the songs, one of which has the words 'Mormon' and 'hell' in the title. The last musical I laughed till I cried at was a regional production of Avenue Q. I need another kick, so let's hope I get tickets to this one!

Am considering this a bit more carefully. There's been so much hype - mostly in the form of negative publicity - and a severely overblown budget, it would seem a shame to NOT watch it, no?

Video clips are quite impressive, but only heard part of one song, which wasn't that great. If I have time, and if the ticket prices are reasonable, I may give it a go.
( Anyway, if one of the stuntmen injures himself, I'll be the first to offer my medical services. :))

I may not be a huge Beatles fan, but there're enough effusive reviews on the Internet to pique my interest. More than 2 hours of non-stop music from the group's massive catalogue, covered by musicians who've mastered not just the singing, but even the tiniest mannerisms of Paul, John, Ringo and George.

It truly is the closest thing to watching the real Beatles in the flesh. Shall think hard about this. :)

I love the film version starring Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Hank Azaria. The original cast included Kelsey Grammer, whom I've followed on the TV series Frasier for eons. Harvey Fierstein ( remember the raspy-voiced dude from Independence Day? ) and Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor are the successors. Haven't checked out videos from just yet, but it's on my radar.

Last but not least, a Cole Porter classic that features old-fashioned jazz. More importantly, one of my favourite Porter songs, I Get A Kick Out Of You, is in this musical. Thinking, thinking... :)

I desperately want to see Raul Esparza, but his run in the Tom Stoppard play, Arcadia, ends in June. Need to track him down, argh!

p.s. I hope Jason Mraz writes music for a Broadway show in the near future. It's guaranteed to be a big hit!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


A week after Michael Buble's phenomenal show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the symptoms have yet to abate.

Been combing through YouTube for clips from the concert, and really have to thank the many fans out there who uploaded footage!

My favourite is this one which tracks Michael as he hops off the stage and makes his way to the platform in the centre of the arena, before singing Home with the 10,000-strong crowd then strolling back the other way.

My cousin's daughter can be seen very clearly during the later half of Home, and the back of my head is visible just a couple of metres behind Michael as he's escorted to the stage. Can't believe how close I was to the man! Makes me feel worse! :P

I also have a very soft spot for this video I took, with Michael performing Billie Jean and Twist & Shout. I compared this segment with many others from his previous shows, and it's become pretty obvious that he was on a major high that night!

One, he sang a short bit from another MJ song, to raucous laughter from the audience, before launching into Billie Jean. Did not do this in other countries, at least from what I've seen so far ( i.e. he just went straight to BJ ).

Two, his reaction when someone in the audience - a man just a few rows directly in front of me - caught the hat he threw out was priceless! He looked positively ecstatic, yelling "Yes!" a couple of times. Also did not happen elsewhere. He was enjoying himself thoroughly! :D

I realize that he does a lot of covers, and that critics target him for this. But I think there's an important role for artistes like Michael, who choose to support a genre which might otherwise have sunk into oblivion, who do these great songs justice by performing them beautifully, and who keep the jazz legacy alive by bringing it to millions all over the world, especially the younger generation of music lovers.

I grew up listening to jazz, thanks to my mother's invaluable influence. I know exactly what Michael means when he reminisces about his own childhood, which was shaped by his father and grandfather, both jazz fans.
Sometimes, I feel really sad that no-one at work shares my passion. I spend so much time at the hospital and have nobody to gush to! So when a concert like this happens, and 10,000 rabid fans holler the lyrics to jazz classics, filling the massive arena with their voices, it fills a huge void in my heart.

Michael is also special to me because I discovered him on my own, without any assistance from the radio or TV, etc. I first heard his album playing at Great World City's That CD Shop back in early 2003, and had no idea who he was. The song was The Way You Look Tonight, and I was so hooked I bought the disc immediately.
The rest is history.

Reading my October 2005 blog entry again is a wonderful way to relive the night I met him in person. Again, searching YouTube clips reveals that he isn't always that friendly to fans. He usually takes a photo, signs an autograph, and moves on. To this day, I have no idea what possessed him to get so cheeky with my mum and I, even grabbing our backstage passes to scribble on after he'd already initialed my programme.

I really hope my cousin's daughter will get a chance to experience this the next time he returns to Singapore. I promise you, E, I will do everything I can to make your dream come true! :)

Shall leave you with lyrics from one of his recent hits, Haven't Met You Yet. As you know, I rarely pay attention to the words unless it affects me emotionally in a huge way. But Michael's comment about this piece giving hope to all those who think they're unlucky in love made me sit up, and this verse deserves special mention:

I might have to wait, I'll never give up
I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck
Wherever you are, whenever it's right
You'll come out of nowhere and into my life

Someone broke my heart badly 11 years ago, and I've been single ever since. Somehow, this song helps me feel a lot better about my current situation, and since my mum keeps telling me she has a 'strong feeling' I'll get married one day ( trust me, her ESP ability is not to be trifled with! ), maybe I'm not a lost cause after all.

So thank you, Michael, for many great memories, and please come back soon. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review Of Michael Buble's Concert
9 March 2011
Singapore Indoor Stadium

I waited 5 years and 5 months for Michael Buble to return to Singapore, and the reunion was absolutely spectacular!

This marked my 3rd time watching him on stage, but was made that much more memorable because I brought my cousin's 15-year-old daughter, E, along. She's been a huge fan of his for years, and was excited not just by the prospect of seeing her idol 'live', but of being at the Indoor Stadium for the first time ever.

The review in Life! today was very positive, but the featured photo didn't quite do the entire setup justice, and dwelled more on Michael's banter.

So I've posted a few pictures to show off the amazing stage design ( click to enlarge ), and will talk more about the music and audience reaction.

Opening number Cry Me A River got things started at 8:30pm. As the band played the dramatic intro, Michael's silhouette could be seen behind the enormous curtain covering the entire stage, and when the drapes parted, the 10,000-strong crowd roared its deafening welcome.

This song has been redone quite a few times, but I love the arrangement on Michael's version - very James Bond-esque! - and his powerful vocals are perfect for this classic.

Immediately after he finished the piece, he sat down and spoke to the audience for about 10 minutes. Very different from his previous shows when he talked less and introduced the band much later. This time round, he mentioned how he arrived a day early and went sightseeing. He visited the Marina Bay Sands and the Night Safari, even calling out and saying hello to 2 people in the stadium who brought him around.

His hilarious intros for the band members seemed ad-libbed. Sure, he's done this a million times before, but from what I could see, no-one knew what he was going to say because they had pretty shocked / embarrassed expressions on their faces, and at certain points, weren't even sure who he was talking about!

Pianist and musical director Alan Chang remains a close friend and long-time tour mate. Still looking boyish but slightly haggard ( the same can be said of Michael as well ), it finally hit me that I last saw these guys when I was 30. They've come so far these past 8 years. I can still remember their first Singapore show at Suntec City in 2003. How time flies. I feel old! :)

Michael then launched into At This Moment, also from his 2009 Crazy Love album.

And since this IS the Crazy Love tour, the repertoire featured many other titles from the release, including All Of Me, Georgia On My Mind, Crazy Love, Haven't Met You Yet, All I Do Is Dream Of You, and Heartache Tonight.

From the other albums:

Michael Buble: For Once In My Life

It's Time: Home, Feeling Good, How Sweet It Is, Song For You, Save The Last Dance For Me.

Call Me Irresponsible: Me And Mrs Jones, Call Me Irresponsible, Everything, I've Got The World On A String.

He also sang Mack The Knife, bits from Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, Aladdin's A Whole New World, and Twist And Shout( from the John Hughes comedy, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one of my personal faves! ).

There was an awkward segment when Michael asked the audience about Ferris Bueller and didn't get much of a reaction. I was in the 12th row, so I couldn't tell him how much I love that movie. If you haven't seen it, go look for it online!

p.s. Enjoyed the giant bouncing balls which Michael kicked into the audience during Twist And Shout. Made the atmosphere so much more festive! :D

Regular readers will know that I always highlight a 'magical moment' from every show I attend. For Michael's 2005 gig, it was his soulful acoustic performance of You And I. This time, I was completely hypnotized by Georgia On My Mind, which he crooned seated next to the piano, with only Alan and the bass / guitar for company. Beautiful!

Here's a YouTube video - can't see Michael but the sound is excellent!

I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of songs from his earlier albums, especially It's Time, which I personally feel is his best work so far ( E agrees :)). Just wish he could've done You Don't Know Me and Try A Little Tenderness, because he interpretes them so wonderfully!

Here's a good view of the stage. Pictures in the Straits Times and Life! featured close-ups of Michael, but I think the stage design deserves special mention.

Definitely a lot more elaborate compared to 2005. Really love the multi-screen backdrop with the juxtapositioning effect. Kudos to the technical crew for doing such a marvelous job!
( The ticket price doubled this year - now I know why! )

This was taken when Michael, in typical form, hopped off-stage and visited his fans in the back. In 2005, he walked one round and returned to the stage after a few minutes. This time, he had a platform placed at the rear of the floor area, just in front of the tiered section. Accompanied by a guitarist, he belted out Home, a huge hit 6 years ago.

E and I sprinted to the base of the platform but were blocked by the last few rows of seats. I stayed put, but E climbed OVER the seats and ended up just inches from Michael's feet - now THAT'S what I call devotion!

Before I knew what was happening, the song ended and Michael made his way back to the front. Unfortunately, I was blocked by a crowd of people near the aisle, and only caught a glimpse of him as he zoomed past, surrounded by burly bodyguards.
My mum, however, was waiting for him at row 12 as he approached. She got an unobstructed view and even managed to stretch out her hand to touch his left shoulder! But alas, all the cameras were with E and I, so sadly, no photo. Darn!

But at least someone uploaded a YouTube video of the segment. I can see E and myself in the crowd, woohoo!

As the crowd got more revved up, the final song began and a tonne of confetti rained down from the ceiling. The cheers grew 10 times louder and the atmosphere was just unbelievable. Everyone was screaming, jumping around and laughing uncontrollably as we became covered with the stuff. Woohoo!

For the encore, Michael obliged with 3 songs, but I can only remember Feeling Good and the closing number, Song For You.
Yes, I easily forget details when I get over-excited. Even E couldn't recall the song order when I asked. But she loved every second of the show and we're both thrilled to hear Michael say he will be back in Singapore very soon, and may even perform for more than one night. YES! :D

If anyone else who was there happens to read this, please fill in the blanks if possible, and leave any comments you have about the evening.

3 videos from the gig will be uploaded today. Please scroll down the page.

Thank you, Lushington Entertainment, for making this concert possible!

Next gig on my list: Maroon 5, April 25. :)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Entry #5

I was right about not being able to post an entry till some time after the Oscars.
No big surprises, with a slight upset when The King's Speech overtook The Social Network late in awards season, going on to clinch the coveted statuette when it mattered most.

Hollywood - or more accurately, The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences - loves to feel good, and I do think the voters chose The King's Speech because of its uplifting, inspiring theme. Take a look at the list of previous Best Picture winners and see if you can spot any trends.

I've always been vocal about my distaste for Forrest Gump, which beat The Shawshank Redemption back in 1994. My anguished scream of "Noooooooo!" was probably audible in multiple districts. Thankfully, The King's Speech is a much more dignified and intelligent film, and thus more deserving of this honour. ( Don't get me wrong, Forrest Gump is entertaining enough, but Best Picture? Not by a long shot. )

Congratulations also to Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. Certainly hope the latter won't be hit by the Best Actress curse. She's got a baby on the way!

The hype surrounding hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco proved laughable as both failed miserably in their global debut. Anne's nerves manifested as shrill laughter and stammers, while James spent most of the evening squinty-eyed with a goofy grin on his face.
The chemistry was definitely lacking, the jokes fell super-flat, and that bit where James dressed in drag will go down in Oscar history as one of the most tasteless gags EVER. What the hell was he thinking!?

Don't expect either back for a second gig. I think the Academy should stick to what works, and let the comedians run the show. ( One good exception: Hugh Jackman, who isn't technically a comedian, but did a fine job in 2009 nonetheless! )

Check out Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin from 2010, and Neil Patrick Harris' opening number ( ask him to host sometime! ).

But my all-time favourite will always be the incomparable Billy Crystal.

And you never know... maybe Kevin Spacey will host someday as well. He's got my vote! :)

It's about time I commented on the American Idol contestants ( aside from excited tweets, that is :)).

You guessed it: Casey Abrams is at the top of my list of favourites, for a number of reasons.

1) he's got one of the most incredible voices I've ever heard;
2) he's an amazing performer, whether over-the-top or acoustic;
3) when he adds the bass, I just MELT;
4) I love his self-deprecating humour;
5) underneath all that facial hair, I'm pretty sure he's a handsome dude!

His rendition of Georgia On My Mind during Hollywood Week gave me major chills, man. No-one else has had such an effect on me this season, so I'm rooting for him to win this!

Don't you just love how he plays the bass? It's so unusual to see a young person not only embrace this instrument, but also play it so damn well. It isn't just a prop, it's an extension of himself, and I applaud him for knowing who he is at the tender age of 19, for picking a genre that's off the beaten path, for sticking to his beliefs and belting every lyric with 100% conviction.

Taylor Hicks did the same thing back in 2006, and despite not doing well post-American Idol win, he remains one of my all-time favourites, and I still hope he'll make a breakthrough someday.

Shall reserve my comments for the other AI10 contestants for another entry. Don't like them enough to write anything yet. Go, Casey! :)