Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Tag: 2017

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition in Singapore

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I had never heard of Yayoi Kusama.

If you were to look at her artwork you would think it was the work of a ubiquitously happy hippy permanently tripping through the sixties. You would be wrong. Quite a bit wrong. But not at fault.

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You see, to experience Yayoi Kusama’s art work is to take your eyes and brain on a visual picnic in a meadow of naturalistic patterns and vibrant colours. At first, without knowing Kusama’s background, you see an optimistic contentedness with the world around her; a celebration of life and its multicoloured existence.

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To delve deeper, uncomfortably deep one might say, and you will see a newer dimension to her art. One seeped and centred around her mental illness; Kusama has suffered from intense audio-visual hallucinations since childhood. In fact, her art work can be summed up no better than from the woman herself:

My art originates from hallucinations only I can see … All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis and are therefore inextricably connected to my disease.

With her infinity nets series composed of many miniature circles or dots (and much of her art balancing precariously on a scaffolding of dots) Kusama leaves next to nothing to the imagination. Strong (and perhaps aggressive) patterns invade everything in life; like hallucinations have invaded hers. “Polka dots symbolise disease” Kusuma has said.

I found it interesting the title of this exhibition is a little light-hearted “Life Is The Heart Of The Rainbow”, almost comes across a little dismissive of Kusama’s mental illness and the saga that resides behind her art. Perhaps that initial joy at experiencing the art is what the National Gallery wanted to remain with the viewer. You can’t fault them for taking that approach I suppose. “Art As A Result of Terrifying Hallucinations” just wouldn’t bring the families flocking.

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You leave the exhibition with an un-nerving sense of joy at the art you have witnessed but the fact that Kusama is living out the rest of her life in a psychiatric asylum (voluntarily) weighs heavy on the mind; like a net trawling through deep waters of patterns.

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Megadeth: Live in Singapore 2017

The Kallang Theatre welcomes you like an old musty bingo hall. No blue rinse hair and floral ankle length skirts on parade for Megadeth though. No it’s black. Black on black. Long hair if genetics allows. Indeed, the Kallang Theatre is a strange venue for the thrash metal stalwarts but once the lights went out the majority took to standing. If genetics allowed.

And so, this ended my 2017 nostalgic rock/metal gig saga with Guns N Roses and Metallica already in my rusty old rear-view mirror, Megadeth were the last of the trifecta on my concert planner.

Megadeth. Never top of my favourites but much respected for their pedigree and penchant for multiple dozens of guitar solos in one song. Bizarrely enough, their Countdown to Extinction album was the soundtrack to me playing the original Sonic the Hedgehog on my friend’s Sega Mega Drive.

To the concert itself then. One must admire the steadfast look of Megadeth over the decades. Dave Mustaine, the forever jeans wearing mop haired frontman, hasn’t changed his style since the 70s one would imagine. While other bands (eg. Metallica) have had mid-life crises and cut their hair and applied some nail polish, Dave and crew stuck to the same formula: long hair, jeans, trainers. No deviations. One must also admire the almost choreographed movements on stage which leaves no-one in doubt who is doing the guitar solo; two step back into shadows, one steps up front and proceeds to shred another solo.

Megadeth have always been a no nonsense metal band and their latest release “Dystopia” has got fans excited about them again. This confidence in their current offerings is shown in the set-list with no less than 6 songs included. Of course, being a fan of their old stuff, I was more engaged with their classics; “Hangar 18”, “In My Darkest Hour”, and “Peace Sells”. Only two songs from “Countdown to Extinction” (which wasn’t really liked by hardcore Megadeth fans) are played but “Sweating Bullets” and the amazing riff-centred core of “Symphony of Destruction” are stand outs for me.

With quite a short set-list for a band with so much material; it’s a little bit of a let-down. They do save the best for last though. “Holy Wars…” is probably the most under-rated metal song of all time. An amazing piece of song writing interlacing riffs and multiple solos whose lyrics are uber-meaningful nowadays more than ever. Check it out if you have time.

And after 14 songs, that was that. Sound was a little muddled at times but all in all a great show.

Megadeth Setlist Kallang Theatre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, Dystopia World Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Ink Show 2017

Having a weird interest in permanently inking one’s body for random reasons, I bought a $36 ticket to visit the Singapore Ink Show 2017. I pondered why tickets were so expensive and would it be worth it. After visiting the show on the Saturday I guess my answer to that would be….yes and no.

Yes, it was very interesting to see the tattoo artists live at work doing a wide range of different tattoo styles on a wide range of bodies (and body parts). No, in that there really wasn’t much else to warrant a $36 ticket cost.

Skull tattoo….can’t imagine the sensation he must be feeling…

One thing that stood out to me was the lengths people will go to to get a specific tattoo by a specific artist. I’m not too keyed in to the famous tattoo artist world so I’m presuming a lot of these artists were reputable and sought after. Which explained why you see half naked people happily getting tattooed while being observed by hundreds of people throughout their ordeal. Call me old fashioned but give me a quiet corner and a curtain to keep the world away from me when I’m going under the needle for a few hours.

There was a cover-up tattoo competition on the main stage when we were there which was interesting but they wouldn’t announce the winner until a number of other competitions had run their course. Felt a tad slowww..

Eats and drinks related there were some small Pilsner Urquells going for $10 and a number of small dishes available. Some leather-clad ladies were ladling out free Monster energy drinks too.

All in all, an interesting enough experience but I would like a ticket price around the $20 range which would feel about right with what was on offer.

 

Artbox Singapore 2017

Artbox Singapore 2017 sucked.

That is all.

One of the small corridors. Sucked.

Actually,well, I have a bit more to say.

This event (which consisted of food, drink, and other stalls) ran over two weekends at the Bayfront Event Space at Bayfront Avenue. The first weekend was followed soon after by a public backlash on the horrendous crowd control and layout of the stalls and corridors. So what would change by the second weekend after the harsh feedback? Not much it seems, although it was reported that “they moved two rows of shops to add room and set up gates for better crowd control.” If they, indeed, did that I would have hated to see the first weekend because when I went there on the Saturday evening of the second week it was aaaatrocious. It was one of those experiences where you’re in the middle of a mass of humanity and you say “just kill me now”. Getting back on to the Marina Promenade was one of the highlights of my life.

So what did they do wrong? Well basically there wasn’t enough thought put into the freedom to just walk through and look at stalls and the actual queuing of human beings. While walking you would suddenly walk into a queue cutting perpendicular to your escape route. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a massive garbage bin would appear from the throngs of people with its stench and piles of sun drenched food blocking you like a homeless junkie Jabba the Hutt.

 

Yeah, Artbox Singapore 2017 sucked.

NASA: A Human Adventure Exhibition 2017

A couple of weeks ago I managed to get to see the NASA exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in its final week. I had been meaning to go since it arrived back in November 2016 and was looking forward to seeing some space loot. Tickets were 2-for-1 in the final few days so it was all systems go for….sigh….launch.

We’ve all heard the theories about the moon landings being fake well “fake” is actually the key word I would choose to describe this entire exhibition as a vast majority of the exhibits were replicas and models. What’s the point? I would get a more engaging experience looking up picture of the real space artifacts on the internet rather than staring at plastic effigy that some dude in an office in Cape Canaveral rustled up with some Cornflakes boxes and sticky tape.

So spoiler alert; I didn’t really enjoy it and it was pretty disappointing. As I went around I just ended up reading the information signs and  lowering my head every time I read the ubiquitous “replica” in brackets after the description.

First part was focused on the space race. Above us was a replica of Sputnik satellite. Graphically fine but nothing to write home about. Some old 60’s memorabilia set the scene for the era involved.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”

I guess the few authentic highlights were the REAL engine parts..at least I think they were real. Seeing the innards of wires and industrial tape and basic soldering really puts into perspective how innovative yet daring the NASA scientists were. I guess it was rocket science after all.

So after the engines you pretty much went through a model show-room of cockpits, modules, and rockets. It got boring where it should have got awe-inspiring.

Near the end there was a little miniature version of that big G-Force astronaut thingy (you know the one, James Bond was locked in one back in the day) for people to try out and that was pretty much that. I waited around to see if the door opened at the end of a spin and a pool of vomit would just flood out. It didn’t, people came out with faces asking “that’s it?” and just wandered off in a daze to the exit.
Sadly, I followed them too, in a daze, and was not sad to leave.

What was I looking for in a space exhibition? I was looking for real artifacts and an exhibition that left me with more questions than answers and a sense of awe. It failed on both counts…

Eddie Izzard: Live in Singapore 2017

The queen of erstwhile surrealist humour, Eddie Izzard, stopped by Singapore this week to deliver his force majeure stand up show. Starting this particular tour in 2013, one would be led to believe Eddie has this show down to a scientific tee. And he pretty much does.

It was only when I got there I realised that I had been to the University Cultural Center on the grounds of NUS (National University of Singapore) a few years ago to see John Cleese. It’s a fine venue if you don’t want a drink before the event as there’s only one bar with one server in the lobby. I had Vietnam-esque flashbacks to Guns N Roses looking at the snake like queue before the show. And you can’t bring drinks into the actual theatre.

Izzard starts his show off with some historical observations and surreal anecdotes, often warping historical events with his own unique angle on things. I thought he would have went along on that path throughout and I thought it was a good theme for a show; surrealistic historical anecdotes along a solid timeline. He strays off on to several tangents from then on though and the show feels a little all over the place. Which, I guess, suits Izzard’s style and manic, rambling delivery. But funny? Yes, generally funny with some laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout.

It’s also very apparent how his shows would work in French and German which Izzard has performed during this tour. Some clever and witty bits on those languages are tackled here and there.

Izzard takes a 10 or so minute break in the middle which leaves little room for thirsty beer hunting patrons to head down and queue yet again for their refreshments. Boo hoo.

In the second half Izzard continues where he lets off and seems to “try” new off the cuff rambles (which he drily note several times “Singapore says no”) but again it feels like even those are scripted and clinical due to the knowledge we have that he has being doing this show for coming on 4 years now.

Wrapping up, Izzard brings back a few things he mentions at the start of the show to bring a sense of conclusion to proceedings. One thing I felt dragged on for too long was the talking chicken bit. Didn’t work for me.

All in all, a funny show with some stand out (up?) highlights throughout but with a bit of a clinical sheen to it.

Leaving University Cultural Centre is, of course, a nightmare as it’s nowhere near an MRT show. Lines of people…line…the roads faces blazed from their phone screens trying to snag an Uber or Grab but we manage to entice an Uber from 15 minutes away.

Et voila.

Guns N Roses: Live in Singapore 2017

I took my time buying a ticket to this as my experience attending Metallica at the Singapore Exhibition Centre in 2013 was one I wanted to forget. I bought a ticket.

Without doubt, the Singapore Exhibition Centre is the worst venue for a concert in the world. Situated in the middle of nowhere nearly floating adrift into the Singapore Strait it sits with indignation and aloofness. It’s so far away from civilisation you can see stars in the sky and phones lose the will to live and lose any sort of coverage.

I spent over an hour in a taxi slaloming through gridlocked traffic jams getting to the venue and even after that I got out and walked the rest of the way once on the final never-ending stretch of a road (which doubles as a construction route with dumpster trucks careening back and forth).

So, GnR was meant to start at 8pm, I arrived at 8:15pm after leaving my house at 6:50 or so. They started playing at 8:34pm. Many hundreds of people missed the start of the show, without doubt. I knew getting home was going to be terrible so I planned to leave before the encore (just like I did with Metallica in ’13).

Looking at LAMC Productions’ Facebook page comments, I got away lightly. Many people queued hours for food only to find everything was sold out and they had no way to spend the money they had put on their RFID bracelets (LAMC have posted on their page that they are proud of bringing GnR here!! And then mentioned they will work on refunding the credit left on RFID bracelets). Ridiculous! It’s all summed up by this guy’s experience, VIP packages ranged from $1,038 to a staggering $2,063 for a lounge experience!!

Anyway, to the concert itself I guess!

Guns N’ Roses Setlist Changi Exhibition Centre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, Not in This Lifetime

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Guns n Roses were good, it was fantastic to see Axl ,Slash, and Duff do what they do. Highlights for me were “Rocket Queen”, “Estranged”, “Yesterdays”, and “Double Talkin’ Jive” as the latter three brought me back to the “Use your Illusion” days with my brother heading off to Slane to see GnR with Faith No More in support. With me at home, too young to go. To see Slash…slashing away at another classic and instantly remembered solo and to hear (barely) Axl whining his whine is something to experience. I still remember the blank BASF tape we had “Appetite for Destruction” copied on to.  They were the first band I listened to where it felt kind of naughty to listen to their music and lyrics. I also had “Living on a Prayer” on a blank tape back then so the contrast was very stark! I went along the GnR path of enlightenment from then on…
Back to reality…
Sadly I can’t really talk too much about the music without mentioning the organisation of the concert. Pen B suffered from muffled and low vocals from Axl’s mic. When you can’t hear a word that Axl is singing and hear the people around you singing louder then there’s something amiss. The stage was so so far away that we all ended up just watching screens which were out of sync somewhat with reality.
The fact that you have to start planning your escape route early is never good. I should be able to enjoy all of the concert and leave when I want. As I made my way outside and wrapped alllll the way around to the back of Pen B it was then I realised I could have just stood out there and watched the concert for free as it was all open and visible to all.
Thankfully I got on one of the first buses out of there (ticket wasn’t checked, could have got on for free) and, although happy to see GnR finally, it is overshadowed by incompetent organisation and planning starting with venue choice.
 
Some say there are still ghosts of people waiting for transportation home….

James Taylor: Live in Singapore 2017


Not my video. I paid for the cheap seats.

I’m not sure how James Taylor found his way into my maelstrom of heavy metal and hard rock listening habits back in my younger days. But found his way, he did. To be honest it was a James Taylor “Best of” CD and I didn’t venture too far away from his “best ofs”. Funnily and mirroring my experience with his experience, during his concert at the Star Theatre this week James Taylor quipped many times about his new songs and how “they won’t take too long” to play and he would go back to his “best ofs” soon after each one.

I think, perhaps, I was in need of wistful and melodic vocals along with soothing and relaxing music to counter-point roaring electric guitars and ear-splitting drumming that heavy metal produced. I guess I still am as listening to James Taylor still has the same calming effect. The irony is not lost on me that I saw James Taylor in the middle of these concerts I am going to:

Metallica – James Taylor – Guns N Roses – Megadeth.

Mirrors my teenage years perfectly.

On the night, any doubts that Taylor’s voice or guitar playing has weakened with age disappears with his first song “Wandering”. His voice still has the caramel essence that permeates throughout this discography. Backing up Taylor on his current tour is a plethora of esteemed musicians in their own right and it shows with each note; there is musical mastery with every trumpet note and guitar strum.

Each of Taylor’s “best ofs” are present as expected with each one holding its own unique melancholic story at it’s core. “Walking Man” centred on Taylor’s absent father throughout childhood, “Fire and Rain” about his depression and drug addiction, and “Carolina on my Mind” and “Copper Line” expressing Taylor’s longing and pining for his rural home life. “Copper Line” had passed me by and it really stuck with me during the concert and I’ve been hitting it up on Spotify a lot the past few days.

If another voice sung those songs they wouldn’t work nearly as well. Taylor’s voice and song composition adds meaning that many many musicians have tried and failed to muster since we started enjoying the sound that banging stones together made.

So musically the concert was excellent. Taylor has a 20 minute interlude which he seemed to question why light heartedly beforehand. He spent the time signing a never-ending autograph/selfie line from the stage (which over-ran the said 20 minutes and got everyone a little impatient).

The Star Theatre is a fine venue for concerts and I’ve seen quite a few there; sound always seems to be excellent. The never-ending escalator journey up from ground level can be a little vexing though.

Next up on the concert to-do list…Guns N Roses…a little different.

James Taylor Setlist The Star Theatre, Singapore, Singapore 2017, 2017 World Tour

Thaipusam Festival 2017

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Religious fervour has had its fair share of bonkers moments throughout history. Sadly, most of it involving killing/torturing non-believers or other people that an old book told you to…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thaipusam, thankfully, restricts the torture to its very friendly and devote Hindu followers. Not that torture should play a part anywhere in life but there you go. Here’s where Thaipusam originates from:

This festival was created during one of the battles between the Asuras (or to be more specific Soorapadman) and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognise that day the people created the festival, Thaipusam.

According to Skanda Puranam, the legend of Murugan, and Thirupugal which are divine verses on Murugan, adhere to Shaivam principles. Murugan is the embodiment of Shiva’s light and wisdom and devotees pray to him to overcome the obstacles they face, as He is the divine vanquisher of evil. The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are destroyed.

Today, Thaipusam centres around the Kavadi Attam or the “burden dance” where Hindu followers ask for help through physical burden. This can be as little as carrying a jug of milk on your head to piercing yourself like a human-porcupine hybrid.

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Thaispusam in Singapore

This was my second time experiencing Thaipusam in Singapore. On the second day of festivities devotees get all prepped up (and poked up) at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (SSPT) and take the 4km trek to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (STT).
SSPT is where it’s at as an observer/weirdo taking photos of people getting impaled and/or possessed. I spent nearly 3 hours there taking it all in. Smoke, skull shaking drumming, incense, crushed squeezed limes under feet, sweat, throngs of devotees and observers clambering over each other to experience…something, and every sense under siege with every turn of your head.
When I stood still allowing the drumming to wallop over me and the smoke to fling itself around me I got a vague semblance of how these environments could elevate the stirrings of devotion you may have inside you to something more….tangible. When you have so much attacking your senses you get to lose a lot of sense. I was physically and mentally exhausted after it. I can only imagine how the people who actually took part in it felt. I loved it.

If you find yourself in Singapore for Thaipusam you need to experience it for yourself. Here’s some photos.

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What I felt like after it all…

Metallica: Live in Singapore 2017

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Metallica. The smell of leather jackets, blue denim, and wet green self-graffitied parka jackets. The pointy fonted logo that nobody could replicate or emanate to express HEAVY METAL ever again. The Black Album. Playing air guitar to “Sad But True” and “Where Ever I May Roam“. The confusing negativity from old die-hard fans baying for a return to ..And Justice For All and Master Of Puppets type slash and burn metal. The meandering and depressing direction after the Black Album. The return (somewhat) to form and roots on 2016’s Hardwired…To Self Destruct.

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It’s the morning after and my hearing is not good. I SAID MY HEARING IS NOT GOOD.
I saw Metallica the last time they played Singapore in a desolate parking lot at Changi Exhibition Centre in 2013. Heavy metal should not be expressed outdoors. It’s best savoured indoors where the sound can envelop you, bounce off the walls and into your ear canals; making your ears ring for a week after. The Indoor Stadium is a much much better venue for concerts. Having said that, the sound last night was a little muddled at times, especially for the first song of Metallica’s setlist: Hardwired. But they seemed to get on top of it after that.

Metallica Setlist Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore, Singapore 2017, WorldWired Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It says a lot about a band that include 6 songs from their latest album in a set-list of 18. They do fit in well into their set-list and the crowd were receptive yet reserved to them. It’s the classics that stand out though and are instant pleasers, which in a way is a bit of a shame that we have such overpowering fond memories of their “classic” days that you can’t help but wait for them to be played. And play them they do.

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Metallica have aged well and musically are near perfect on the night. It’s worth noting that Lars Ulrich now looks like a garden gnome.

Stand outs of the night have to be Master of Puppets, For Whom The Bell TollsSad But True, and Seek and Destroy. There were some minor flat notes, with James’ vocals and Kirk’s lead guitar on The Unforgiven sounding a little out of out of odds with each other during the verses. That’s nit-picking though.
One thing about the new album songs is that they’re not short. Average song length is about 6 or so minutes so they can get a little plodding.

Mention must be made about the stunning light and visual show that Metallica have on this tour. The screens give amazing close-ups of the band throughout which is very welcoming in a venue the size of the Indoor Stadium. The back-drops and lights that accompanied each song were top notch too.

Overall, a very good show indeed. Wonder will I get to see them again for the fourth time…? And where…?

Singapore Indoor Stadium as a concert venue standing on it’s own? Not bad. I arrived at 19:45 for what was stated as a 20:00 start. I walked straight into Pen B through the West Premier entrance without queues. I have a big problem with not knowing if there’s a support band or not. I was dreading having to stand through some guys biting their guitars for 30 minutes or so. Thankfully Metallica appeared on stage around 20:30.

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Queues for merchandise were horrendous. Sadly.

It didn’t look like there were enough food and beverage stalls. The lines were horrendous even a few minutes before the show started (at what point do you say “meh, didn’t need a beer anyway?”). The lines for merchandise outside before the gig were also huge and put me off buying anything. Something that needs to be looked at for future gigs methinks.

Ok, I took a few photos. I admit it. Then when I moved to the back of the venue for a quick getaway I filmed a little bit of Nothing Else Matters. Nobody was behind me, okay!
I swear, there was a guy in front of me for the first 6 or 7 songs live streaming the whole thing. He wasn’t the only one. There were people there who held up their cameras for the majority of the show. At times I would have had a good view of the stage if not for the stance of a new generation….hand in the air grasping a device.
When I went to the back there were more people taking selfies with the concert going on behind them than there were people actually watching and listening to the joy and magic that is LIVE MUSIC going on RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!

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