Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kanye West Glow In The Dark Tour (with updated setlist)

Who: Kanye West
What: Glow In The Dark Tour
When: 29 October 2008
Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium

1. Good Morning
2. Through The Wire
3. Champion
4. I Wonder
5. Heard 'Em Say
6. Get 'Em High
7. Swagga Like Us
8. Put On
9. Can't Tell Me Nothing
10. Diamonds From Sierra Leone
11. Flashing Lights
12. Homecoming
13. All Falls Down
14. Pinocchio Story
15. Heartless
16. Love Lockdown
17. American Boy
18. Touch The Sky
19. Gold Digger
20. The Good Life

21. Jesus Walks
22. Stronger


Mr. West is finally in town for his first performance in Singapore. Previously, the closest he got was a gig in Malaysia 2 years ago, but this time, he decided to bring his critically-acclaimed Glow In The Dark Tour to Singapore instead. And it's the only stop in Southeast Asia. The other 2 stops in Asia are Beijing and Shanghai. So we should feel pretty honoured.

And it wasn't easy getting Mr. West here too. Tonight's show was actually supposed to happen last month, but was postponed due to "scheduling conflicts". No matter, the delay actually gave more time for fans to grab their tickets, and also allowed momentum to build after Kanye premiered his new single, Love Lockdown at the MTV VMAs on 7 Sept.

Opening the show were the 2 finalists from the 987FM Beatboxing Championships. They were pretty good, but DJ KoFlow and beatboxer Dharni were even better, as they took on the stage after them. The crowd, however, wasn't exactly pumped up. As usual...Singaporeans.

They wrapped up their act at 8:50pm and the crew went about re-jigging the stage for Kanye's performance. The house lights dimmed again at 9:15pm, and the crowd got ready to be entranced by Mr. West himself, winner of 10 Grammy Awards no less.

Kanye opened the show with Good Morning, the opening cut to his Graduation album as well. He then followed it with his big hit from his first album, Through The Wire. A pair of cuts from the latest album followed. Perhaps it was the fact that 3 of the opening 4 songs were from the latest album, and the crowd wasn't that familiar with the material yet, so they weren't very pumped up at first.

Kanye also performed a couple of tracks that I don't know what their titles are. Not sure if they're from his forthcoming album, 808s & Heartbreak, or they could possibly be freestyle tracks. But the one where he was accompanied by only a synthesizer, and he knelt down while rapping the entire song, and it was something about his mama (who had passed away earlier this year), was pretty powerful.

2 songs that are confirmed to be on 808s & Heartbreak also got a live airing. Love Lockdown sounded very much better live than when I first heard it on the VMAs. On TV, it was slow and boring. When performed live, the bass and drum beats got to you and the vocal delivery was much more powerful. The song is definitely growing on me now.

He also performed Heartless, which is going to be the 2nd single from the forthcoming album. It might have been the first time he performed it live, to the extent that he requested to re-do it shortly after admitting he "fucked up" the opening line. 

That was candid and demonstrated how committed he is to his craft. I mean, I couldn't even tell that he messed up. And even if I did, I would have forgiven him because he's not familiar with it yet. But he was not pleased with himself so he re-did the song after the flubbing the first lines.

On Heartless, he uses a vocoder to manipulate his voice. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but he sounded like Akon on that one. Or Akon might have contributed his vocals to that song. Not sure yet. We'll have to wait till the album is out before we can find out.

A real surprise was American Boy. Recorded with rising R&B star Estelle, American Boy is a big hit worldwide and he decided to spring it on us as a treat. Thanks Kanye! I enjoyed that.

The crowd-pleasers were obviously the older stuff, like Diamonds From Sierra Leone, Touch The Sky and Gold Digger. Homecoming, featuring Chris Martin (of Coldplay) on pre-recorded vocals, also got a warm welcome.

When he closed the set with Good Life, he left the crowd wanting more. The house lights remained dimmed for a full 5 minutes and the crowd never stopped cheering. For most of the concerts I've been to, the crowd stops cheering after like 1 minute. But today, the crowd was fantastic and kept the cheering going on, really amazing.

Kanye rewarded our persistence with a strong encore performance of Jesus Walks and Stronger. he saved the best for last and brought the show to a climax expertly. When he left the stage for real at 11:10pm, the Singapore fans certainly weren't disappointed with what they had to wait an extra month for.

Closing thoughts:

Having witnessed Kanye's stunning performance at this year's Grammys, and the fact that this concert is titled Glow In The Dark Tour, I was really expecting a lot more fancy lightings and actual glow-in-the-dark gimmicks.

I expected him to put on a jacket that emitted lights, or at the very least, sunglasses that glowed. But there were none. The lightings were decent, but I realy expected a lot more elaborate work. The stage decor was quite minimal too. I just saw a clip of the Madison Square Garden concert on youtube and there were giant, lighted balloons on the side of the stage. How come we don't get the full set of bells and whistles here?

Kanye was decked out in red jeans and a gold jacket. Nice. But like I mentioned, he could have switched up the jacket or did a little costume change halfway.

I think concerts are meant to be heightened the senses, not only aurally but visually as well. There should be spectacle, gimmicks, otherwise we can just watch the DVD at home. Do the cliche stuff - tell the crowd that they're the f-king best he ever has witnessed, strike dramatic poses at the end of the song, tease the audience by taking off the jacket. Do it, the audience loves it.

That's why I'm really hoping to catch Janet's Rock Witchu Tour live. That's what a performance is about. There's choreography, pyrotechnics, smoke, larger-than-life sets, elaborate costumes and more.

Of course, Janet is a different genre and league from Kanye, but in terms of putting up a show, it could have given so much more. 

But having said that, I thought it was a good show. The crowd took some time to warm up, but when he unleashed his big guns in the 2nd half, the crowd lapped it up and it was infectious. Kanye is a dynamic performer and his passion shines through when he performs live. 

You might not like rap, but it doesn't matter because the music's good and you can feel his sincerity. And he makes sure he gives it his all every time. And he sang/rapped a whopping 22 songs, certainly got our moneys' worth. Was expecting his set to top 75 minutes max, but instead, he did clost to 2 hours.

So 5,000 fans went home happy and one thing I can say is: you're always welcome back, Mr. West. Just bring more pyro and glow lights next time!

Special thanks to the various anonymous people who left comments on this post, who provided me with the song titles of the 2 originally unknown songs from the setlist - Swagga Like Us and Pinocchio Story. Cheers!

Thursday, October 23, 2008 campus!

Here's a cool vid made by some French students...shows them miming to MJ's Thriller, all done in a single long take! Even though some of them couldn't really act or mime to the song, most of them played their part well. 

I love long takes as it requires a lot of choreography and blocking. The camera operator must have been super steady as he/she didn't trip and fall over the stairs or bump into a glass door or something. Cool...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rarities #33: Bon Jovi - These Days (Special Edition 2CD) (1996)

The good thing about having a 160GB iPod Classic is that I can now rip all my albums and store them in, and listen to them whenever I feel like it. Of course, the ripping is tedious, but I have also just bought a 320GB portable HDD, so I have very wisely ripped and transferred the mp3s into my HDD, since the iPod only allows one-way transfer (you can transfer mp3 into it but not out. You can only delete them from the iPod but you won't get back your mp3 file).

Anyway, the point is that I can now rediscover old albums that I have previously neglected due to the limited storage of my old iPod Nano (only 2GB), and also because my Discman no longer works. And one such old album I have rediscovered is Bon Jovi's 1995 album, These Days.

Coming on the heels of the hugely successful Crossroads greatest hits album, These Days had a lot to live up to. Crossroads contained 2 new recordings - Always and Someday I'll Be Saturday Night, and both of them were hits. Always, in particular, became one of their biggest hits ever, and replaced Bed Of Roses as the signature Bon Jovi ballad.

So when the first single from These Days was unveiled, some people felt that This Ain't A Love Song was a poorer cousin of Always, since they were in a similar vein. Nevertheless, it was still a big hit around the world, and I remember it hitting #1 in Singapore as well. Clearly it resonated with people.

I also remember that time period as being quite "emo", with songs like This Ain't A Love Song and Bryan Adams' Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman being big hits. The definition of "emo" at that time is quite different from now.

Anyway, These Days proved that it could stand on its own as a good Bon Jovi album. In fact, I think that is their last good album. Their subsequent studio releases - Crush, Bounce, Have A Nice Day and Lost Highway aren't as impressive or memorable.

Five singles were released from These Days. This Ain't A Love Song was followed by Something For The Pain, Lie To Me, These Days and then Hey God. I like them all.

However, my favourite song from the album is the sombre My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms. I'm not the most lyrical person around, but I love the opening lyric, "Misery likes company". I like the music bridge too, and Richie Sambora delivers a heart-wrenching guitar solo after that.

Damned reminds me of Keep The Faith, with its guitar riff and drum beat. Richie's solo here is pretty impressive too. Too bad he scaled down on his solos on the subsequent albums. He's such a fine guitarist and a lot of Bon Jovi's songs are classics because of his guitar solos. Think Keep The Faith, Bed Of Roses, Always, You Give Love A Bad Name, Blaze Of Glory, Livin' On A Prayer. You can practically sing along to the guitar solo.

The first seven songs on this album are power-packed, so it's inevitable it tapers off a little towards the end. But overall, it's still a very good album, and it brings back memories of the time when I just started drumming and Bon Jovi were my favourite band at the time. They may not be my favourite band now, but many of these songs are still timeless.

This package is a Special Edition with the second disc containing demos, covers and live tracks. 


Nirvana Live At Reading DVD!!!

OMFG! My heart leapt when I saw that they're going to release a new Nirvana live DVD in November!!! This is their performance at the Reading Festival in the UK on 30 August 1992, and it has never been released on video before. According to HMV Japan's website, the DVD is due to be released on 26 November! Slightly more than a month away only!

Here's the tracklisting:

1. Drain You
2. Aneurysm
3. School
4. Sliver
5. In Bloom
6. Come As You Are
7. Lithium
8. About A Girl
9. Tourettes
10. Polly
11. Lounge Act
12. Smells Like Teen Spirit
13. On A Plain
14. Negative Creep
15. Been A Son
16. All Apologies
17. Blew
18. Dumb
19. Stay Away
20. Spank Thru
21. Love Buzz
22. The Money Will Roll Right In
23. D-7
24. Territorial Pissing

Oh man, Nirvana are best watched live and I have never witnessed a full-length show by them before. Well, not that the opportunity presented itself very much, since Kurt tragically decided to end his life in 1994.

But the energy and stage antics of Nirvana remained unsurpassed even till this day, and no matter how many people have tried to imitate the smashing of guitars and trashing the stage, no one does it better than Kurt, and Nirvana.

I'm also very excited about watching this DVD to witness Dave Grohl's amazing drumming once again. I recently received my copy of the Foo Fighters' Live At Wembley Stadium DVD, and in it, Dave took a guest spot behind the kit for the song Rock And Roll, jamming alongside Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.

It's always great to watch Dave drum, and it's great to know that he still drums fabulously after all these years, despite taking on the role of guitarist and vocalist for the Foos. His strokes are so precise and his arm swings and demeanour are so characteristic of him. He's my favourite rock drummer ever.

Yeah, so it'll be superb to see the pre-Foo Fighters Dave behind the kit once again, and banging the drums hard with Nirvana. 

Wow, all my favourite Nirvana songs are in there. Even early favourites like Love Buzz, Blew, Aneurysm and possibly my favourite Nirvana song, In Bloom. It's an amazing setlist.

Argh!!! I can't wait for this! Long live Nirvana!!!