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BEST AND WORST 2015

Best and worst 2015: Gigs

WESTERN

BEST

• St. Jerome's Laneway Festival Singapore

The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay/Jan 24

This year's festival, the fifth held in Singapore, upped the ante with a 12-hour show featuring 19 acts.

From the avant-garde electronica of British artist FKA twigs to the complex pop of American singer- guitarist St Vincent to the downtempo tunes of Australian Chet Faker, the myriad sounds and performances reject boring mainstream pop tropes for music that is dynamic, current and adventurous. (See correction note below)

• House Of Riot Presents A Triple Bill: Charlie Lim + Inch + The Great Spy Experiment 

Esplanade Concert Hall/June 6

The Singapore music scene hit a milestone with this triple-bill concert, the first time home-grown indie artists were headlining arguably Singapore's most prestigious stage, the Esplanade Concert Hall.

Singer-songwriter Inch Chua, indie rockers The Great Spy Experiment and multi-genre wonder boy Charlie Lim proved that they could hold their own as well as pull in the crowds, with performances that did justice to the hall's world-class acoustics.

• Sing50 Concert

National Stadium/Aug 7

Made-in-Singapore music from the last 50 years came full circle with this multi-genre and multi- language show, a concert that featured 250 artists across different generations, including 1960s pop pioneer Vernon Cornelius and Singapore's biggest Mandopop exports Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin.

Despite complaints of bad sound, the 21/2-hour concert was a showcase of Singapore's rich music heritage.

WORST

• One Direction

National Stadium/March 11

With anticipation building up for more than half a year, what should have been the year's biggest Western pop spectacle at the National Stadium struggled to live up to the hype. The quintet looked like they were going through the motions.

And if poster boy Zayn Malik performed like he would rather be somewhere else, it was probably because he did. Less than two weeks after the concert, he left the multi-million-selling group.


ASIAN

BEST

• For Music, For Life... Liang Wenfu Concert 2015

The Star Theatre/April 10 and 11

Singer-songwriter Liang Wern Fook, whose name is pretty much synonymous with the home-grown Mandarin music movement that is xinyao, held his first solo concert and showed why he is the quintessential chronicler of Singapore life.

So what if he is primarily a songwriter and not a singer? His modest voice has a charm of its own and the fans lapped up the little anecdotes behind the famous compositions.

• Jolin Tsai 2015 Play World Tour - Singapore

Singapore Indoor Stadium/July 25

Taking inspiration from her album Play (2014), Jolin Tsai morphed from Medusa - complete with a headpiece of writhing mechanical snakes - to roaring 1920s flapper girl to underwater princess.

The Taiwanese diva shimmied with a bevy of statuesque dancers and delivered on both the high- octane tracks as well as the ballads. She even performed We're All Different, Yet The Same - a song banned on radio and television here for its homosexual content - by presenting it as a broader anthem of inclusion and acceptance. Well played.

• JJ Lin Timeline: Genesis World Tour

Singapore Indoor Stadium/Sept 5

Home-grown singer-songwriter JJ Lin kept it all in the family in the homecoming leg of his latest tour. He sang duets with his mother, father and elder brother and proclaimed to the full-house crowd: "Don't blame me for being partial on my Singapore stop."

There was also an SG50 moment when he sang Our Singapore, the English theme song for this year's National Day celebrations. Singapore fans had no problems with him playing favourites at all.

WORST

• S.H.E. | Aaron Yan Forever Stars 2015 Singapore

Singapore Indoor Stadium/ Nov 10

Popular Taiwanese girl group S.H.E. find themselves in this awkward spot no thanks to their labelmate Aaron Yan. He had problems with pitching and high notes and the loudest applause came when he announced his final number. Enough said.


CLASSICAL

BEST

• Mahler 8: A Gift To The Entire Nation By Orchestra of the Music Makers/

Esplanade Concert Hall/ July 10 & 11

Helmed by master orchestra builder Chan Tze Law, the production involved eight international vocal soloists, 133 instrumentalists and more than 200 singers from Singapore and Australia. An aural and visual spectacular truly befitting the nation's Golden Jubilee Year.

• Marco Polo: The Trilogy By The Philharmonic Winds/

Esplanade Concert Hall/June 21

The world premiere of Spaniard Luis Serrano Alarcon's Marco Polo, a programmatic symphony in three parts, was led by three conductors, including the composer himself, Leonard Tan and Timothy Reynish.

Tracing the Venetian's epic journey to Cathay and back, the 90-minute work embraced Asian instruments and idioms in an original and vivid manner that remained true to its spirit of exotic adventure and story-telling.

• Benjamin Britten's The Turn Of A Screw By New Opera Singapore

Victoria Theatre/Aug 2

• Holocaust: The Diary Of AnneFrank, Singapore International Festival of Music By Opera Viva

The Arts House/Oct 10

In a land where opera productions are as rare as hen's teeth, quality triumphed over quantity.

The Singapore premiere of Benjamin Britten's The Turn Of A Screw, based on Henry James' ghost story, was a milestone, crowned by edgy performances from Teng Xiang Ting (Governess), David Charles Tay (Quint) and Ashley Chia (Miles).

Grigory Frid's The Diary Of Anne Frank featured only one singer, but soprano Akiko Otao was a one- woman tour de force in the highly demanding multi-faceted title role.

WORST

• Mikhail Rudy, Piano Recital

Conservatory Concert Hall/ March 17

Once a celebrated soloist, Russian pianist Mikhail Rudy gave a wearied and error-strewn recital that confirmed a sad decline and diminution of his abilities. Barely holding together his own arrangement of Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka, he was also totally beleaguered by the multitudes of notes in Ravel's La Valse.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that Chet Faker was an American, when in fact he is actually an Australian. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Gigs'. Print Edition | Subscribe