Game to go with the flow

Simply expect unforeseen incidents to crop up during a concert, play or match - and learn to look beyond them to enjoy the experience

When splurging on a concert, play or football match, I have learnt - and accepted, mostly if they are unforeseen - that not everything will go according to expectations.

If there is disappointment, I do not automatically think the worst of the promoter, even as the organiser of the recent football game between Argentina and Singapore was slammed for not offering refunds when star player Lionel Messi was a no-show.

The organiser, which has taken risks and paid top dollar to bring in the act, can be a victim of circumstances beyond its control.

Promotional materials had touted Messi and other world-class players such as Angel di Maria and Paulo Dybala, with ticket prices set between $40 and $188 for the June 13 clash at the National Stadium.

Some fans said they would not have turned up if they had known that Messi was not playing.

They claimed that the promoter had been negligent or dishonest in not revealing the fact after knowing about Messi's pullout.

ST ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

Reports said the striker was preparing for his wedding back home.

These fans have a point, but I wonder if they were too narrowly focused or were just opportunistic.

Can the presence - or absence - of just one person, however stellar, make or break a show that has 21 other players on the pitch?

Even if Messi had played, is there a guarantee he would have called most of the shots on the field? What if he was substituted or had gotten injured early in the game?

Of course, one should expect professionalism from organisers.

Certainly, promoters should get all aspects that are within their control in efficient working order - such as crowd safety, transport (if the venue is the far-flung Changi Exhibition Centre) and food.

I agree that the organisers of the Guns N' Roses gig here on Feb 25 had let down many among the 50,000-strong crowd - and were slow in coming up with refunds - after the credits in RFID (radio frequency identification) tags could not be fully used when the food and drinks ran out.

I also expect fairness in how tickets are sold.

I do not think it is right to allow, say, holders of certain bank credit cards to buy tickets ahead of everyone else.

I know that promoters need to cover costs by working with partners, but such arrangements should be confined to non-contentious areas such as a meet-ups with the stars or sale of selected merchandise.

I am wary when extra seats are laid out to cope with demand.

At singer Elton John's gig in 2008, the additional seats were behind the stage. If that was not bad enough, a backdrop on stage behind the drummer also blocked the views of the musicians.

That, in my book, is not an ethical way to treat customers who likely did not know what they were buying into.

Given that Singapore now hosts so many events - from Formula One and UFC fights to airshows and food fests, apart from concerts - and that these also attract many tourists, promoters must stay on top of their game and not ruin the country's reputation.

They must invest in technology and people, as well as build an ecosystem.

Can there be an alliance, together with the Singapore Tourism Board and educational institutions, to sponsor and develop talents to work in the industry that also needs skills such as sound and lighting, hospitality, sports wellness and branding?

Then, there might not be this instance of fans of singer Jay Chou demanding refunds over a bad sound system during a National Stadium gig in September last year.

The lifestyle and entertainment industry can grow bigger only if all stakeholders band together, with the possibility of the country even hosting mega events, such as the upcoming three-day Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, a heavyweight event that draws big acts.

Already, there are some smaller-scale steps in the right direction here, with the Neon Lights and St Jerome's Laneway festivals broadening the show-business menu.

But the bottom line is that once you have bought the ticket, you must still expect the unexpected - and laugh it off as an experience if you can.

When The Eagles opted to play Hotel California as their fourth song in their concert here in 2011, I was stunned. Surely it should have been reserved for the encore?

But that sense of being "cheated" was forgotten and forgiven by so many other good things, such as the humour of drummer Don Henley, who said: "We are taking a break so you guys can go to the restroom."

It was a nod to the babyboomer crowd whose bladders were not as durable as before - but many in the audience chortled knowingly too. The ageing band members themselves were not any better off.

Or take the audacious act by two audience members who stopped Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply in song at the concert at the Harbour Pavilion in 2000 and broke the romantic mood in the venue.

The singer had come down from the stage to mingle when a couple "ambushed" him and whipped out a camera. He obligingly stopped singing to pose.

There were some boos over the breach of concert etiquette, but a lot more good-natured claps too.

And you learn to avoid certain pitfalls the next time round.

I have not stayed often for the encores, knowing that it can take up to an hour to get out of the parking spaces outside the Singapore Indoor Stadium. But if I stay until the end, I pop over to Kallang Leisure Mall for a coffee and a bite and wait for the traffic to clear.

So if things go awry and this is not totally because of the promoter's fault or omission, I say: "Just go with the flow. Relax and enjoy the show."

As it happened, there were six goals in the Argentina game that kept the more than 20,000-strong crowd enthralled and surely glad that they had come, despite the hoo-ha whipped up by some over refunds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Game to go with the flow'. Print Edition | Subscribe