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BEST & WORST 2016

Best and worst 2016: Gigs

WESTERN

BEST

• Queen+Adam Lambert

Padang Stage, Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, Sept 17

How do you follow Freddie Mercury, one of the most dynamic frontmen in rock history?

By putting your own flamboyant and highly entertaining spin on British rock icons Queen's most beloved tunes, as American singer Adam Lambert showed the audience at this year's Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

Big anthems such as We Will Rock You and Bohemian Rhapsody deserve a flashy stage set-up and the sight of guitarist Brian May "levitating" amid a fancy laser-light show was quite a sight to behold.
 

• St Jerome's Laneway Festival Singapore 2016

The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, Jan 30

The sheer volume of quality acts in this year's Laneway line-up makes it, again, one of the year's most exciting music events.

From the demented-pop of Canadian act Grimes and the bittersweet synth anthems of Scottish trio Chvrches to the euphoric sounds of Australian electronic act Flume and the breezy ditties of home-grown indie rocker Cashew Chemists, the annual festival's biggest edition here to date featured more than 12 hours of some of the most outstanding acts in the non-mainstream music world.
 

• Baybeats 2016

Esplanade, June 24 to 26

Baybeats, the Esplanade's annual alternative music festival, is proof that a music festival driven mostly by home-grown acts can pull in massive crowds.

The line-up was a winning mix - percussive rock troupe Wicked Aura brought the house down with earth-shaking ferocity at the big outdoor Powerhouse stage, while singer-songwriters such as Nicholas Chim played pensive and arresting stripped-down sets at the intimate Chillout stage.

Established names such as former The Great Spy Experiment frontman Saiful Idris made a welcome return with his new project, The E's, while fresh acts such as metal band hrvst heralded the new wave of talents making their mark on the scene.
 

WORST

• Madonna Rebel Heart Tour 2016

National Stadium, Feb 28

The three-decade wait for a Madonna show in Singapore turned out to be a bit of a letdown for fans of the Material Girl.

Many vented their anger online after the show ended, complaining of sub-par sound and the lack of big-enough screens for fans seated far away from the stage in the National Stadium.

Fans also felt they were not getting the full show, compared with the rest of the stops in the global Rebel Heart tour. Instead of living up to the show's name, she played by the rules and had to follow local guidelines, leaving out risque segments.

Eddino Abdul Hadi


CLASSICAL

BEST

Wagner's The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner Society/OperaViva/ The Finger Players

Victoria Theatre, Oct 23 to 30

By no stretch of the imagination has Singapore become Bayreuth (the German town which hosts the annual festival where performances of operas by the German composer Richard Wagner are presented), but the first local production of a Wagner opera was a success on many counts.

Directed by Glen Goei and Chong Tze Chien and conducted by Darrell Ang, The Flying Dutchman with a South-east Asian setting, and which used wayang kulit and shadow puppetry, had a memorable outing. The Asian cast (with Martin Ng as the Dutchman and Nancy Yuen as Senta) who performed on Oct 28 were no pushovers alongside their Western counterparts.
 

Visiting soloists with national orchestras

•Joshua Bell with Singapore Chinese Orchestra, Esplanade Concert Hall, April 9

•Andras Schiff with Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra, Esplanade Concert Hall, Nov 1

•Yo-Yo Ma & Silk Road

Ensemble with Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Esplanade Concert Hall, Nov 11 and 12 This was a year when big-name soloists collaborated with local orchestras and audiences became beneficiaries in a host of musical feasts.

American violinist Joshua Bell in Vivaldi, Saint-Saens, Sarasate and Chinese music; Hungarian virtuoso Andras Schiff in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1; and celebrity cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Elgar and Zhao Lin have all been firmly implanted in the collective memory.
 

Debuts

•Mathea Goh, Violin, Esplanade Recital Studio, Oct 26

•Felicia Teo Kaixin, Soprano, Esplanade Recital Studio, April 13; Singapore Conference Hall, Nov 4; Esplanade Concert Hall, Nov 18

This year's recipient of the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award, 16-year-old violinist Mathea Goh, gave stunning and mature performances of Bach, Ysaye, Grieg, Paganini and Ravel in her debut solo recital.

Also making a big splash on her return from studies in New York was soprano Felicia Teo Kaixin, who impressed in Donizetti's Rita (New Opera Singapore), Dick Lee's The Journey Of Lee Kan (Singapore Chinese Orchestra) and the Singapore Lyric Opera's annual Gala Concert.
 

WORST

Amateur pianists with professional ensembles

School of the Arts Concert Hall, Jan 31 and April 10

Amateur music-making is to be encouraged, but parading non-professional piano players in public performances of concertos by Chopin and Rachmaninov alongside professional musicians is the height of hubris and folly. Two such performances at the School of the Arts Concert Hall came to grief, with calamitous memory lapses necessitating an emergency page-turner coming to the rescue on both occasions.

Chang Tou Liang


ASIAN

BEST

• Stella Zhang Qing Fang Live In Singapore 2016

Singapore Indoor Stadium, Jan 30

It has been 20 years since Taiwan's Stella Chang performed here and time has not dimmed her crystalline-clear vocals. Remarkably, her voice grew in strength and vibrance over the course of the show.

It also helps that she was never a cutesy teen idol and her love ballads have weathered the years well. The staging was elegant and classy and it all came together with a flourish for the finale.

Dressed in a vermillion gown and framed by a giant gazebo with a huge wall of flowers as a backdrop, she cut a striking figure as red confetti drifted down lazily.
 

• Terry Lin Onetake Concert 2016 World Tour In Singapore

Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Aug 26

Taiwan's Terry Lin might not have idol looks and he can be a little awkward on stage.

But none of that matters when he sings. There is a purity to his pipes that makes emotions ring bright and true, and he glides effortlessly over the high notes, even in falsetto.

Apart from performing his solo hits and songs from his Ukulele duo days, he took on several covers, managing to make even a hackneyed ballad such as Making Love Out Of Nothing At All feel fresh. And to think he had a cough that night.
 

• Yuzu Asia Tour 2016 Summer Natsuiro

*Scape The Ground Theatre, July 9

To mark their 20th anniversary, Japanese folk-pop duo Yuzu embarked on their first Asian tour. They brought with them a taste of natsu matsuri (summer festivals) with their sunny and breezy tracks, which were accompanied by guitars and the plaintive wail of the harmonica.

There was even a fun mass dance segment with two costumed Japanese Citron (yuzu) Monkeys leading the choreography with chirpy instructions to "tap tap your bum".
 

WORST

• "The Invincible" Jay Chou Concert Tour 2016

National Stadium, Sept 3

As expected, the production was top-notch for Mandopop king Jay Chou's gig. But vocally, the singer was not at his best. He was too ready to point his microphone towards the audience members for them to sing along and he seemed to be relying heavily on his back-up singers.

The sound quality was contentious as well, with some fans demanding a refund after the show due to the poor acoustics.

Not being able to make out what Chou is singing because of his characteristic mumble is one thing. Not being able to do so because of murky sound is another altogether.

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Gigs'. Print Edition | Subscribe