Thursday, July 05, 2012

Review of Jason Mraz's Concert, Gardens By The Bay, 29 June 2012

As you can see, this entry is a week late. Mostly because I've been too busy to post something coherent, but also because I want to make sure my favourite musician gets a proper review rather than a cursory one.

JM's Gardens By The Bay gig marked his return to Singapore after 3 long years, following a sell-out show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

This was his 4th appearance here, and he was bestowed the honour of being the opening act for the Rhythm With Nature festival, in conjunction with the Gardens' official launch on 28 June.

My last experience with large crowds at an outdoor venue was SingFest 2008, which also featured JM doing an hour-long set with an all-star lineup ( review link here ).

It was really rough - hot and humid weather, sardine-can conditions, dehydration, physical exhaustion - and I swore never to put myself through that again.

But I couldn't pass up a chance to see him, even though I had no idea what The Meadow's exact conditions were like.

Only for you, Jason! Nobody else! :)

First, the venue.

It was, to be honest, aesthetically disappointing.
The Meadow should be renamed The Grassy Patch. Because that's what it is.
Considering the $1 billion poured into the construction of the sprawling Gardens, little effort was made to beautify an area which is supposed to host concerts on a large scale.
Fort Canning Park by comparison is practically scenic. At least the Marina Bay Sands provides some nice photography shots especially after sunset, but that's about it.

It's also reaaaally dark.
This became obvious when more than 10,000 concertgoers moved toward the various exits. Some areas were practically pitch black - a danger zone if the ground's uneven or if you have poor eyesight. If kids are involved, they're at risk of getting trampled.
Will someone please consider installing more lamp posts!'s damn confusing for newbies.
Of course, most if not all of us there that night were first-time visitors.
The ushers did their best to direct us, but after a certain point near one of the small gardens / bridges, we were basically moving around en masse, without any clear idea whether it was the right direction or not.

I'd also like to add that if there'd been an emergency - collapse, fire, terrorist attack - good luck to everyone.

Suffice to say, I WILL NOT be attending a show there for a loooong time. I treasure my life too much.

Second, the concert itself.

I've seen JM in action 4 times in total now, and am happy to report that every single performance has been completely different.

His first Esplanade Concert Hall gig will always be my fave ( it's also the BEST concert I've ever attended, no chance of being toppled, period :)), followed by his 2009 Indoor Stadium extravaganza ( review link here ).

I'm no fan of outdoor venues partly because of our tropical weather ( makes things terribly uncomfortable ), and also because the atmosphere changes dramatically.

I suspect The Meadow causes sound to disperse, so even though the crowd was 12,000 to 15,000 strong, JM might not have heard much from the audience.

I chose to stay near the back, just in front of the hilly section. The people around me applauded at the appropriate times, but were otherwise subdued, even during the singalong segments.
A group of young girls just behind me also jabbered for almost half the show, shouting at the top of their lungs when the music drowned out their voices. I chose not to give them dagger stares to avoid any ugliness, but it was definitely annoying. Why even bother to come if you're not going to listen, dammit?!

Here's the list of songs JM performed, in order:

The World As I See It
Everything Is Sound
The Freedom Song
Bella Luna
Be Honest
Only Human
The Woman I Love
A Beautiful Mess
Make It Mine
Frank D. Fixer
Curbside Prophet / The Remedy medley
You And I both
( A song I didn't recognize, with the lyrics "I'm coming over tonight" )
Details In The Fabric ( duet with Corinne May )
Lucky ( with Corinne May )
Living In The Moment
I'm Yours

Mr. Curiosity
93 Million Miles
I Won't Give Up

This makes a total of 23 songs, spanning about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Non-stop! Jason, your stamina never fails to astound me. :)

My general impression of his mood that evening is: introspective, maybe a little sad, hopefully not bored.

People tell me he's been rather mopey this year, perhaps due to his recent breakup, or perhaps other factors are in play.

Whatever it is, the energy level was generally at a plateau, with occasional small spikes. None of the euphoria at the Indoor Stadium and SingFest for sure.

Did I mind? Not at all. I made the trip only to hear his gorgeous voice. Anything extra was a bonus.

And vocals-wise, he continues to impress.

Maybe the predominantly slow tempos appealed to me because I've grown older. But I think it's also because this reminded me of his 2006 acoustic concert at the Esplanade. I've always preferred JM's stripped-bare performances, sans heavy band backup.

Previously, JM would wing it during his gigs, choosing songs on the spot based on audience response. This time, I don't think he had as much freedom considering the programmed video clips flashing behind him during each song.

Another significant difference is the predominance of pieces from his latest release - only 3 tracks were left out. Past shows featured a much more varied repertoire.

I couldn't be happier, of course. Love Is A Four-Letter Word is, IMHO, his best album yet, and I would've been ecstatic if he'd gone through every single song on the list!

Third, highlight moments.

Definitely the slowest pieces. There were many, but I absolutely melted during Bella Luna, Be Honest, A Beautiful Mess and I Won't Give Up.

I was really looking forward to Living In The Moment, but somehow, I couldn't get into the groove, and the audience wasn't very enthusiastic either. What the heck!?

Many would've noticed the paucity of cheeky banter and on-stage antics, but JM's vocals haven't sounded this exquisite since 2006 ( i.e. at the Esplanade ). Flawless, I tell you! :)

So in conclusion, despite not being as exciting as I'd hoped, it was still a great privilege to see JM again.

He didn't tweet anything about Singapore the last time I checked, but he did post something on his blog. I stayed at the MBS in 2010 and don't recall any of the things he mentioned, but hey, I'm glad whatever was arranged managed to impress.

No luck getting a meet-and-greet this year, but I did forward a belated birthday gift via the event organizer. I hope you like it, Jason, and please come back soon! :)