Scents of Jam

Versatile singer Jam Hsiao glided effortlessly from pop to rock to ballads.
Versatile singer Jam Hsiao glided effortlessly from pop to rock to ballads.PHOTO: ONE PRODUCTION/MARCUS LIN

Fragrances were released while Jam Hsiao performed at his gig


Singapore Indoor Stadium/ Last Saturday

This was billed as a concert for the ears, eyes and nose. A triple dose of Taiwanese singer Jam Hsiao, so to speak. During selected songs, a scent that he had a hand in creating would be released into the stadium.

It turned out to be somewhat underwhelming.

During the ballad Marry Me, a fragrance supposedly distilled from roses was pumped into the air. I spent a good minute or so inhaling, distracted from the song and wondering what it was I was supposed to smell. Eventually, it was the whiff of lavender that I caught.

The same floral scent was used during Kiss Me - it seemed at odds with the faster-paced number.

Visually, there was also a gimmicky moment when Jam's Band, comprising eight muppet-like musicians, came on stage for his rendition of Calla Lily Love. It was just too random and had nothing to do with the rest of the concert.

Good thing, the Golden Melody Award-winning singer was in fine form when it came to the most important element - the vocals.

Cloaked and gloved in silver and black, he opened the show with Colours and The Prince's New Clothes. Hsiao threw himself into the rock tracks with gusto and hit the high notes with ease. Even at the end, after close to three hours, his voice showed no hints of strain.

Often, the vocal drama was raised for maximum impact.

New Endless Love - the song he sang on the televised singing competition One Million Star in 2007, the platform which launched his star - started out with just his voice and keyboards and then built to a big and showy conclusion.

At times, he seemed to be channelling Michael Jackson with his howls and yelps and vocal tics. Other times, he seemed to be channelling Bruce Lee with his air kicks.

It made for an entertaining segment in which he let his falsetto run loose on the retro disco of Kiss Me and even showed off some dance moves.

His versatility as a singer is one of his biggest strengths, the crowd of 7,000 applauding his effortless gliding from pop to rock to ballads to a cover of Stevie Wonder's For Once In My Life.

Instead of slick patter, he offered earnest anecdotes, which sometimes simply trailed off, and a sense of humour.

Hsiao wondered aloud why the song Anywhere, Somewhere, Nowhere was widely requested when it was actually used in a little- seen 2014 Taiwanese movie of the same name. He said: "I got a scientist to investigate and the reason is because the singer performs it too well."

Later, he claimed that coming to Singapore felt like returning home, before admitting he had said the same thing in Hong Kong. At least he backed up the claim about Singapore by mentioning his love of bah kut teh.

What is definitely true is the key role played by Singaporean musicians in his career.

The opening track on his 2008 self-titled debut, Collection, was composed by veteran songwriter- producer Lee Wei Song. After he performed it, he asked Lee, who was seated among the audience: "Teacher, did I sing well?"

Thanks to Lee's request, the fans got to hear another hit he composed for Hsiao, the lovely ballad Believers.

It might have been Hsiao's night, but Lee certainly came up smelling of roses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'Scents of Jam'. Print Edition | Subscribe