Monday, January 24, 2011

Concerts Update (Jan - May 2011)

Since my last update on 25 November, the number of gigs has swelled and there are a lot more exciting concerts lined up in the first few months of 2011! Of course, the one I'm most looking forward to is JANET's gig on 7 Feb. I've already got my tickets (darn good tix too) and I'm going to do a banner of sorts to hold up during the concert. Need some ideas for slogans...Miss You Much? Or I Get Lonely? Let me think about it.

Oh, Akon's concert on 8 Jan was cancelled at the last minute. Not really surprising because he has been here twice before, and I think Indoor Stadium is really too big for him. To me, he's a Club artist. The energy works better in a smaller venue for him. So too bad then.

Anyway, here's the most updated concert schedule for now. In addition, there are two more bands that have been confirmed but not announced yet, so I shall list them only when the information becomes publicly available.

29 January
St. Jerome's Laneway Festival
Lineup: !!!, Beach House, Deerhunter, Foals, Holy F***, Lady Hawke, The Temper Trap, Warpaint, Yeasayer
Fort Canning Park

7 February
Janet Jackson
Number Ones Up Close And Personal World Tour 2011
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$88, $128, $168, $198, $248

9 February
Taylor Swift
Live In Singapore [SOLD OUT]
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$90, $105, $125, $150, $175

14 February
Eric Clapton
Live In Singapore
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$99, $199, $299, $399

15 February
Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier World Tour Singapore 2011
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$98, $128, $148, $178

16 February
Diamond Eyes Tour Singapore 2011
Fort Canning Park
$88 (early bird, till 31 Dec), $98 (standard), $110 (showday)

16 February
Rachael Yamagata
Esplanade Recital Studio

22 February
Faithless with special guests Friendly Fires
Live In Singapore
Fort Canning Park
$98 (early bird, till 30 Nov), $115 (standard), $140 (showday)

23 February
Long Road Out Of Eden Live In Singapore
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$98, $168, $268, $368, $499

7 March
Guitar Heaven 2011
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$100, $150, $230, $300

7 March
Elvis Costello
A Solo Performance
Grand Theater At Marina Bay Sands
$90, $110, $140, $170, $210

9 March
Michael Bublé
Crazy Love Tour Live In Singapore [SOLD OUT]
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$98, $128, $188, $228, $288

11 & 12 March
Big Night Out 2011
Day 1: Stone Temple Pilots, I Am Giant
Day 2: Slash, Saxon, Twenty Two Hundred
Singapore Indoor Stadium
$98 (reserve seats), $128 (reserve seats), $148 (reserve seats), $148 (free standing), $168 (free standing)
Save 20% when simultaneously purchasing tickets for Day 1 & Day 2

24 March
MGMT and The Whitest Boy Alive
Suntec Hall 603
$138 (free standing)

1 April
Jimmy Eat World
Live In Singapore
The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa
$115 (early bird), $125 (standard), $140 (showday)

15 & 16 April
Timbre Rock & Roots 2011
Day 1: Bob Dylan, Toots & The Maytals, Michael Franti & Spearhead
Day 2: John Legend, Imogen Heap, Trombone Shorty
Marina Promenade (F1 tracks behind Singapore Flyer)
15 Apr: $120 (early bird, while stocks last), $140 (standard), $200 (Premium*)
16 Apr: $90 (early bird, while stocks last), $110 (standard), $160 (Premium*)
* Premium ticket includes a lawn chair which can be redeemed on site

11 May
Sara Bareilles
Esplanade Concert Hall
$68 - $148

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bon Jovi The Circle Tour - Live In Sydney 19 December 2010

Who: Bon Jovi
What: The Circle Tour
When: 19 December 2010, Sunday
Where: Sydney Football Stadium

I've waited so long to watch Bon Jovi in concert, kicking myself for missing their These Days Tour in Singapore on 8 May 1995, the last time they visited our shores. Back then, I was just getting into English music and the Cross Road album was one of the first CDs I ever owned.

And so it happened that Bon Jovi were going on a massive tour in Australia last December. And since I was there for U2 already, it presented the perfect opportunity to catch them in concert too. Sydney was to be their last stop in Australia, and also for the year, having been on the road since 11 February last year, where they kicked off their tour in Honolulu. They were also to play three nights in Sydney, to 100,000 fans in all.

It was a wet evening, pouring heavily as we made our way to the Sydney Football Stadium. After alighting the bus, we followed the throng of people towards Gate K, huddled together under our umbrellas. We stopped by the merchandise booth, and saw that they were making big bucks out of selling disposable ponchos, which were going for A$5 I think.

We entered the stadium and were glad to find that our seats were sheltered from the rain. We were rather far from the stage, but we didn't expect much as we had only bought the cheapest seats (having already splurged quite a bit on the U2 ticket). After taking a few obligatory snapshots, I went to get some food and merchandise.

At 7:45pm , I was about to munch on my fries when the screen behind the stage started showing some images and the sound came on. I thought it was the opening act coming on, but after about one minute later, it revealed the silhouette of four guys, like The Circle album cover, and we realised it was Bon Jovi themselves! Didn't expect them to come on so early!

They kicked off the concert with Raise Your Hands, from their 1986 Slippery When Wet album. I wasn't familiar with the song, and it didn't matter. We got on our feet, and stayed there pretty much for the entire concert. Then it was time for one of their classic tunes, You Give Love A Bad Name. I remember my BMT sergeant loved this song, and while we were marching along, he would suddenly shout out "Shot through the heart and you're to blame", and we would have to reply in unison "You give love a bad name". Anyway, I digress...

It was super cool to sing along with 34,000 other people, together with the strains of Richie Sambora's signature guitar sounds and solos. Unlike the U2 concert, the sound system was superb and we could hear the band and Jon Bon Jovi's vocals clearly. It was like a dream come true, to finally witness Bon Jovi live.

They played songs from their extensive catalogue, ranging from their some of the earliest hits to their newest ones from the just-released Greatest Hits album - No Apologies and What Do You Got? As always, it was the classics that received the most rapturous response. The crowd went wild Richie played the opening notes of Blaze Of Glory, and Bad Medicine was pretty wild too. Their more recent hit It's My Life also got one of the best reactions and fists were seen pumping the air during the chorus.

One of the most poignant moments came when Jon appeared solo in the middle of the catwalk and sang a passionate version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, accompanied by keyboardist David Bryan and later by the rest of the band. Jon stood there alone in the rain, with a solo spotlight shining on him as he poured his heart out. That was one of my favourite moments from the concert.

The band later joined him on the catwalk and in the rain for an acoustic segment, before returning to the stage for the final songs of the evening. After a blistering version of Keep The Faith, the band retreated backstage for a short toilet break, as the rest if us chanted for more. They returned for the encore, performing Dry County, Wanted Dead Or Alive and Livin' On A Prayer, the song everyone wanted to hear. Once again, it was surreal listening to Livin' On A Prayer live, with Richie on the talk box. It was their signature anthem, and no doubt one of their best songs ever.

As they prepared to end the gig, the audience clamoured for more once again. And they relented, but Jon said that they had only seven more minutes before they really had to end the gig because of noise regulations, and they launched into These Days. Even though I love that song, it was a little of a letdown because it wasn't their biggest hit, and not everyone in the audience was familiar with it.

And I was really upset that they didn't play four of my favourite tunes - Always, In These Arms, Bed Of Roses and I'll Be There For You. Any one of these songs for encore would have been bliss for me. In the end, it wasn't to be. But I left the concert feeling very happy and fulfilled. It also gives me a reason to catch them another time, with the hope that they will perform those songs. They owe me!

They left the stage for good at 10:20pm, so it was a 2.5 hour concert. They gave their all that night, and I believe every night. And that's the reason why they're still at the top of their game after 27 years. Respect.

It was one of my best concerts ever, and I would really encourage everyone to go watch them if there's the chance. Rumour has it that they will be staging a concert in Singapore this year very soon. I know I'll be there again, this time in the Standing section! In the meantime, here are my pictures from the Sydney concert, enjoy...

A rainbow arches across the sky

The band come on at 7:45pm sharp

Raise your hands!

The moon appears briefly during a respite from the rain

Shelters had to be erected to shield the band from the rain

Hail Richie!

The jukebox segment

Jon gets all emotional during Hallelujah

Jon soaks up the atmosphere

Attempting to capture how heavy the rain was falling

Acoustic segment

It's Jon's signature pose!

34,000 fans can't be wrong

Wanted Dead Or Alive

Farewell Sydney!

These Days

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

U2 360° Tour Live In Sydney - 13 December 2010

Who: U2
What U2360° Tour
When: 13 December 2010, Monday
Where: ANZ Stadium Sydney

The second concert I caught in Sydney was U2's massive 360° Tour at the 60,000 seat ANZ Stadium. This concert was the primary reason why my friends and I embarked on this Sydney trip, and it was an experience like no other.

Once you step into the stadium, you realise how enormous the whole concert is going to be. The Claw is right in front of us, and massive as it is, it looks kinda small cos it's so far away. I thought The Claw structure would be more metallic and silver, but it was light green and looked like some cheap plastic toy frame. That was before it came alive as the sky turned dark of course.

Jay-Z opened the show at about 6:15pm, when the stadium was only about one-third full. It was a Monday evening and most people were still making their way to the stadium after work. As good as Jay-Z was, we didn't really get into it as the sound on our side of the stadium was really bad. Jay-Z was muffled and we couldn't make out any of the song lyrics at all. It was rather bad.

However, our friends who were seated on the oppposite side of the stadium told us that the sound there was quite clear, just that it was a little loud. So it seems that we got the short end of the stick. Such a pity, because even for U2, the sound wasn't much better. And this was the most expensive concert among the three!

I was expecting a grand entrance by U2, but they simply strolled out from one of the entrances on the ground, with the stadium lights fully on. They were surrounded by security but walked in plain view of everyone. After walking about 60, they then hopped onto stage and started playing. Bono's mic seemed to be faulty while the rest of the band played. Only towards the end of the song was his mic replaced. Besides this initial technical guffaw, the rest of the night went smoothly.

As the night grew darker, The Claw demonstrated its full power and put on a dazzling light show. You needed a massive structure like this to match the grandiose of U2's anthems, which filled the huge stadium adequately. It would have been even more cool if The Claw was able to move or had more surprises in its body, like raise its mechanical arm or something. I was thinking along the lines of Transformers...

U2 played almost all of their hits, and the crowd lapped it all up. My favourite song of the evening was I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Jay-Z made a cameo appearance during Sunday Bloody Sunday as well. I thought it was strange that they decided to do Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me as one of the encore songs. It wasn't that big a hit for me, and certainly not one of their most classic songs. By the time U2 finished the last notes of Moment Of Surrender, it was about 10:15pm and all 60,000 of us started to make our way home.

All in all, it was definitely something to remember. A U2 concert is on a whole other level. Something like a National Day Parade kinda level. It's a spectacle. It's huge. And when Bono asks everyone to put up their mobile phones in the air, you don't see stars - you see a galaxy. It's that massive and magical. You got to give credit to them for being at the top of their game for so long, and still managing to pull in the crowds night after night. It's amazing. If only they'll come to Singapore one day.

Here are some of my best pics from the night, enjoy!

(There seems to be some problem uploading pics now. I'll try again another time and upload more pics)

The massive ANZ Stadium
(taken with my camera's panoramic mode)

Jay-Z opens the show

The concert is about to begin...



Bono picks a girl from the audience and she laps it up

Jay-Z returns for a guest spot

Bono needs a little elevation

A galaxy of stars

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top 30 Songs Of 2010

Once again, this list is overdue, but here it is, my 30 favourite songs of the year past.

  1. Firework – Katy Perry
  2. Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars
  3. Empire State Of Mind – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
  4. Power – Kanye West
  5. Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
  6. California Gurls – Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg
  7. Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
  8. Hey, Soul Sister – Train
  9. OMG – Usher feat.
  10. Fuck You – Cee Lo Green
  11. Love The Way You Lie – Eminem feat. Rihanna
  12. Runaway – Kanye West
  13. You Can Always Come Home – Jason Castro feat. Serena Ryder
  14. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Glee Cast
  15. Nothin’ On You – B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars
  16. Airplanes, Part II – B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams & Eminem
  17. Billionaire – Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars
  18. Doesn’t Mean Anything – Alicia Keys
  19. Shame – Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow
  20. Grenade – Bruno Mars
  21. Waiting For The End – Linkin Park
  22. Whataya Want From Me – Adam Lambert
  23. That’s What I’m Here For – Jason Castro
  24. Don’t Let Me Go – The Click Five
  25. On Melancholy Hill – Gorillaz
  26. Hold My Hand – Michael Jackson & Akon
  27. Find Your Love – Drake
  28. Tik Tok – Ke$ha
  29. Na Na Na – My Chemical Romance
  30. Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love) – Kylie Minogue
It's been quite a good year for pop, even though we had a rash of generic, similar-sounding dance-oriented tunes. But these songs managed to stand out from the crowd and rock my iPod (which sadly, died on me after just 2 years).

2010 was the year where Katy Perry averted the second album curse and came up with three of the biggest hits of the year. California Gurls is a perfect piece of pop - dropping at the start of summer, it was bubblegum pop at its sweetest and catchiest, and it featured an excellent rap cameo by fellow Californian Snoop Dogg. The title track Teenage Dream was a slow burner but grew to one of the most heavily played songs of the year, surprisingly becoming an even bigger crossover hit than California Gurls.

By the time Firework came around, Katy's ascension to pop superstardom was complete. It was her favourite song on the album and it was a good showcase of her vocal strength. The uplifting chorus, together with the year-end celebratory mood, made Firework my #1 song of the year. Deservedly, all three singles reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Katy the first female artist in 11 years to send three singles from one album to #1. Likewise in Singapore, all three songs made it to #1 too. An amazing feat.

The Teenage Dream album also earned an Album of the Year Grammy nomination. Quite remarkable, considering that none of the singles were nominated for Record or Song of the Year. Comparing Teenage Dream with her debut album One Of The Boys, I wouldn't exactly say that Teenage Dream is better, but I guess it has bigger singles. As a whole, I still like One Of The Boys better. I think it's because Teenage Dream doesn't really have any ballads, and the ballads in the first album were power.

If 2010 was the year where Katy established herself as a bonafide star, the breakout artist of the year was definitely Bruno Mars. He co-wrote and featured on two of the summer's biggest songs - Nothin' On You by B.o.B and Billionaire by Travie McCoy. Then he followed up with his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans, which spawned the year's I'm Yours - Just The Way You Are. It went to #1 just about everywhere and won the hearts of all the ladies with its smart and oh-so-sweet lyrics. The follow-up single Grenade has also climbed to #1, and he also rewrote the record books, becoming the first male artist in 13 years to send his first two singles to #1.

Bruno has also been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, and if you look at the nominations carefully, only one nomination is for Just The Way You Are (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance). His album was released one week outside of the eligibility date, so it's not in the running in this year. His noms come from his vocal performances, songwriting and producing duties (with The Smeezingtons), proving that he is indeed a triple threat.

The album is choke-full of pop gems and we will see and hear a lot more of Bruno this year for sure. Already, his song Marry You has been covered by Glee in arguably the best episode of the season so far. Other tunes to watch out for the Jack Johnson-ish Count On Me and the soulful ballad Talking To The Moon.

The Jay-Z and Alicia Keys collaboration is one mega anthem that totally deserves its #3 spot on my list. It was released in late 2009 but it was so massive it carried over to 2010. It was the inspiration for Katy's California Gurls, and I think while Katy's effort ranks lower than Jay-Z's, both tunes stand among themselves and they're both great anthems - representing the East and West Coast.

Kanye also had a big year, returning with the critically-acclaimed fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The first single Power is exactly that - a powerful statement of intent, with its African chants and unabashed lyrics ("No one man should have all that power"). The one-and-a-half music video is also seriously good. Follow-up single Runaway is another smash. It doesn't sound like anything else on radio now, and that's its genius. Kanye managed to bounce back from the Taylor Swift saga and prove that his creativity is really on another level. A true groundbreaking artist, but he needs to keep his ego in check.

Lady Antebellum was a surprise hit. They're primarily a country artist and that means they should only do well in the US. But they proved that with a good song, it doesn't matter what genre it is. A good song is a good song. Pop radio in Singapore took a while to catch on, but they eventually did fall in love with Need You Now.

If Just The Way You Are was the ubiquitous hit for the second half of the year, the first half belonged to Train's Hey, Soul Sister. The intro guitar riffs sound a little like Jason Mraz's I'm Yours, and it proved to be a smart coincidence as everyone couldn't resist liking it. One of the most feel-good songs of the year, if a little overplayed.

OMG marked a return to form for Usher, after the disappointing performance of Here I Stand. Teaming up with super-producer, Usher came up with another #1 hit, taking his career tally to nine. I hated the song when it first came out, but like Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow, it grew on me steadily and proved once again's knack for crafting unconventional beats and hooks.

Cee Lo Green is also having a great year, with The Ladykiller album earning rave reviews everywhere. The lead single Fuck You is super catchy, witty and non-apologetic. As if bashing the guy is not enough, Cee Lo couldn't resist taking a dig at the girl too ("Fuck you, and fuck her too"). The song has been nominated for Record of the Year, and it will be fun to watch him perform this on Grammy night, even though he will probably sing the Clean version, Forget You.

The rest of the Top 30 are not really ranked in order. They're all great songs that have entertained me on most of my bus and train trips and also on the odd night where I can't fall asleep. Hope 2011 will be another great year for music!