Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Tag: concert

Iron And Wine Live in Singapore 2018

Source: Instagram @minniebean

On a forgotten and cold January evening back in 2008 after a long day at work I took two trains from mein Zuhause in Düsseldorf through Köln HbF to Koln-Nippes. The destination was the Kulturkirche Köln and an Iron and Wine performance. The fact that I almost fell asleep standing up was not entirely up to Sam Beam’s lullaby-ish crooning vocals slathered atop soothing drifting melodies. As I mentioned it was a long day at the office and the venue was manically centrally heated (which was unusual for an ex-church). The commute was a killer too.

After writing all that out I now realise that I actually saw Iron and Wine along with Calexico in Krefeld (on the back of their collab album In The Reins) which is a little northwest of Düsseldorf back in 2006. From what I remember I had a sick stomach. So, man, I have not had a lot of luck with watching Iron and Wine.

So I was happy to test out my stamina and sickness levels now in 2018 in Singapore after a long day at work to see Iron and Wine again. Ten years later. At least there would be air-con to keep me sitting up-right. But sitting is more conducive to sleeping so I was worried.

Before getting into the concert allow me to….allow myself…a minute to dissect why I like Iron and Wine. I have no clue how I got into them. Their first release The Creek Drank the Candle in 2002 was followed up in 2004 by Our Endless Numbered Days. I guess Iron and Wine just clicked with me on an emotional level; most of the songs are melancholic and soothing. I think I needed that type of music in my listening repertoire. Songs like Sodom, South Georgia, Bird Stealing Bread, and Love and Some Verses still stand out to me as meaningful over 16 years later. I’ve lost track somewhat of Iron and Wine’s offerings from 2009 or so on (the last album I remember delving into was 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog and then I just lost track) until 2017’s Beast Epic but I’ve put in some listening time recently to get back into the Iron and Wine listening mood. There is a mood involved. It’s not work-out music.

So to the concert then. The last time I was in the Capitol Theatre was to watch The Force Awakens. It’s an historic theatre which dates back to 1930 or so and has been renovated numerous times with the last face-lift taking place only a few years ago. There are no food or drinks available once past the ticket collectors. The sound seemed to be very good. The seating is quite flat so you end up craning your neck around whoever sits in front of you.

Iron and Wine came on stage with a subtle musical nod. Starting off with the meandering Trapeze Swinger the scene is set for the rest of the night. Sam Beam’s vocals are like polished wood. Not mahogany or something heavy; more like willow or ash. Yeah, that’s it. His vocals carry each song to places where they wouldn’t go without him. He is a great talent and it was a pleasure to hear him perform.

But wait. I had a problem with the performance.

It’s just that every song is warped into new and weird melodies and in different keys to the studio albums. I love live music and I appreciate artistic expression but I’ve never witnessed any artist radically change the melody so much as Iron and Wine. Bird Stealing Bread, which is one of my favourite songs, lost it’s sweet chorus line which brings together the song beautifully. The live version just aimlessly went along with no central hook. Does Fever Dream really need to plod along any slower? It’s one of Iron and Wine’s slowest songs on track and the live version just stretches it out and again the melody gets warped into something unrecognisable. Call me old fashioned but I want a live version of the album song. Sure, tweak it a bit but don’t make it a mutant.

Anyway, that’s my gripe but I did enjoy the night. Musically it was very polished and Sam Beam’s voice is something to behold live (even if it’s a twisted version of the album songs!).

I will leave you with two versions of Bird Stealing Bread and you can decide which one works better.

Foo Fighters Live in Singapore August 2017

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I remember unwrapping the cellophane from around the cassette of the Foo Fighter’s first album. I bought it from a shop. A real shop. With real Irish bank notes. The year was 1995, after all. A lot has changed.

Still smarting from Kurt’s violent departure from this mortal coil I remember being intrigued and excited with what the shaggy haired drummer from Nirvana could do. Nothing much naturally, right? Wrong.

The album cover’s weird off-world retro laser gun promised…something. Even the band’s name “Foo Fighters” was weirdly attractive. Published by Roswell Records. Everything was alien friendly connected. Fun? I think so. Inviting? Very much…

“This Is A Call” set the tone from the get go on that first Foo’s album. Fuzzy, distorted guitar riffs and jangly pop-rock vocals adorned Dave Grohl’s first Foo Fighter’s album (worth to note; he played all the instruments on it). The evolution throughout their following 7 studio albums was sometimes a little stunted but always head(bang)ing forward with delivering rock n’ roll in abundance.

And so it was that the Foo’s first concert in Singapore in over 20 years started off with that first album’s second track “I’ll Stick Around”. A fitting start in many many ways. The pace rampaged on for the next 3 songs with “All my Life”, “Learn to Fly”, and “The Pretender” following in manic succession. The pace subsided welcomingly with an emotional sing-along of “Big Me”. Someone was cutting onions somewhere.

Foo Fighters Setlist National Stadium, Singapore, Singapore 2017, Concrete and Gold Tour

The Foo’s back catalogue is spread out throughout their set and is represented well. One must admit though that the songs from “Sonic Highways” sound less cohesive and composed when they stand together with more accomplished and polished songs from other albums.

 

 

A word on Mr. David Grohl. Impressive.

Ok, more than one word. Funny, powerful, sincere. His screaming delivery has never sounded better and his stage presence is second to none. Which is good because there’s not a lot of activity with the other band members other than a frenetic and grimacing Taylor Hawkins on the drums. Their musicianship speaks for itself though without any added histrionics needed. Nate Mendel’s swirling bass holds up many a song throughout the night.

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The National Stadium is a fine venue for a concert and it seemed to be organised well but I never buy beer at these events anymore so I can’t speak for waiting times to get drinks and food. Plenty of transportation options abound too and memories of Guns N Roses at Changi Exhibition Centre are fading….slowly….

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

Weezer – Live in Singapore

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Want to feel old?

Here are a few of Weezer’s greatest hits…

“Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” – released in 1994
“Say It Aint So” – released in 1995
“Hashpipe” and “Island in the Sun” – released in 2001
“Keep Fishin'” – released in 2002

It’s with those aural memories ringing in my old ears that I bought a ticket for Weezer. Playing in the weird venue that is the Suntec Exhibition and Conference Centre, I slalom-ed my way from City Hall MRT through the numerous Poke-Stops to make my way for an 8pm kick-off.

Having made my way up to the 6th floor by the longest escalators in the universe, I was met by some rigorous body scans from aunties who may not have known what they were doing. Or holding.

Did I mention how weird this venue is? You walk through the doors to be faced by a skyscraper of scaffold-ed seats right in front of you. No signs going anywhere else, and the “anywhere else” was dark anyway. So up I walked several flights of scaffolding thinking I would walk my way down into the standing area. But no… seating only, the entrances to the standing area were in the “anywhere else” area in the dark.

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Finally in the standing area, 8:10 came around and Weezer hit the stage. The standing numbers were a little light if I’m being honest, looking back in the seats there was a healthy enough crowd but still a number of empty areas.

So the concert.

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Again, not being a super fan, they were good. They deliver their songs a little clinically, with not too much gusto (especially from Messrs Shriner and Bell). Yes, Rivers Cuomo, the oft curious front-man, took a wander through the crowd, donned a crown and cape for “King of the World”, and they all broke out the leis for “Island in the Sun” but they’re all a little sedate while actually playing through their set.
Having said that, I’ve seen some sedate musicians/bands in my time (*cough* Nate Mendel) who play rolicking tunes and it takes nothing away from their musicianship on the night. I guess when you’re in your late 40s and still rocking you should perform however the hell you want to.

I formed a theory while standing there with my fellow head nodders. I don’t think Weezer is in the top 5 bands of many people in the world. They, perhaps, are a band that people follow for a core group of their songs and don’t buy the rest of the happy meal. Perhaps. I’m sure they have their super fans. Everyone does. Just my opinion yo.
But I saw many people get very excited (ie. scream in my ear and jump up and down with excitement) for some songs I was there to hear, then I saw said people put their heads down in their phones for let’s say “Back to the Shack” (which, actually, is one of my favs).

There you go. Enjoyable. $158 enjoyable? Nah. But they certainly have a number of great songs to bop along to until they go down your Spotify playlist once again.

Here, have “Buddy Holly” I recorded  while waiting to beat the crowd to the escalators before Youtube removes it or something.

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