Rocking the F1: Concerts to feature Jennifer Lopez, Robbie Williams, Mayday

This year, that slot goes to pop sensation and Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez (above centre). -- PHOTO: ST FILE
This year, that slot goes to pop sensation and Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez (above centre). -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Miguel Antonio Vedanaigam. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Miguel Antonio Vedanaigam. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The Sam Willows (from left) Jonathan Chua, Sandra Tang, Narelle Kheng and Benjamin Kheng. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE GP
The Sam Willows (from left) Jonathan Chua, Sandra Tang, Narelle Kheng and Benjamin Kheng. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE GP
Pet Shop Boys’ singer Neil Tennant (left) and keyboardist Chris Lowe. -- PHOTO: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT
Pet Shop Boys’ singer Neil Tennant (left) and keyboardist Chris Lowe. -- PHOTO: UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT

The biggest concerts of the year featuring stars such as Jennifer Lopez will play alongside the Formula One races

Along with the deafening roar of high-powered cars at the 2014 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix next weekend will be melodic strains and rhythmic thumps from the various stages across the Marina Bay circuit.

Since the Singapore leg of the F1 race flagged off in 2008, the main stage at the Padang has always hosted the biggest concerts of the year.

Up to 50,000 people are expected to throng the venue on each of the three nights this year on Sept 19, 20 and 21.

Pop music juggernauts rule the big stage - headliner Jennifer Lopez, who plays on Sept 21, has an arsenal of dance-pop hits to her name while singer Robbie Williams, who performs on Sept 20, is one of Britain's most successful pop acts with 14 No. 1 singles.

As is the F1 tradition, the first night is the domain of top regional music acts and this year, Taiwanese rockers Mayday are expected to play a high-energy set on Sept 19.

The music action is not confined to the Padang stage though. In total, about 20 music acts have been lined up this year.

The eight other stages across the circuit park will feature international music acts of different genres, from Jamaican reggae star Ziggy Marley and British synth-pop pioneers Pet Shop Boys to Colombian latin/pop/jazz band The Shock and American bluesman Seasick Steve.

Exciting performers from the local live music scene, such as The Sam Willows, ShiLi & Adi and Fungkimunkees, will be holding their own at the various stages too.

Life! finds out what some of the artists have planned for their F1 sets.

dinohadi@sph.com.sg


PET SHOP BOYS

Where: Zone 1 - Village Stage

When: Sept 20, 8pm

They might be the most established pop act performing at the 2014 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix but Neil Tennant, one half of British music duo Pet Shop Boys, will have you know that he has little interest in cars.

"I'm famous for knowing nothing about motorcars," he says drily over the telephone from Glasgow, a stop in their current global tour.

"I learnt how to drive only five years ago. Someone once asked me 'What kind of car do you have? And I said, I can't remember.'"

For the record, the 60-year-old drives a Land Rover Freelander. It is the other half of the duo, Chris Lowe, 54, and their tour manager who are big fans of the Grand Prix, he reveals.

Still, Tennant is looking forward to coming back and performing here again.

One of Britain's most successful pop acts, Pet Shop Boys have staged several shows here. The last one was in August last year, when they played to a 5,000-strong crowd at Resorts World Sentosa's Compass Ballroom.

"We like Singapore and it's changed a lot since we first played there in 1994," says Tennant.

"It seems more lively now and there are always new buildings that have gone up every time we go there."

While their biggest and best-known hits such as West End Girls, It's A Sin and What Have I Done to Deserve This? date back to the 1980s, the 33-year-old duo have consistently put out albums that have enjoyed both commercial success and critical acclaim. All their 12 albums are top 10 hits in Britain, including their latest Electric, released last year.

Besides regular global tours - Electric Tour, the latest, is their 10th - Pet Shop Boys have always taken creative risks and regularly venture out of their electronic pop domain.

For example, one of their latest projects was an opera, A Man From The Future, based on the life of British computer science pioneer Alan Turing. It was staged at London's Royal Albert Hall in July and was part of the British Broadcasting Corporation's classical music series The Proms.

Tennant and Lowe also recently made news when they made a cameo playing themselves in the long-time BBC radio soap opera The Archers.

Of their propensity for taking on multiple creative endeavours, Tennant says: "It's creating new stuff, new works, new songs, new shows, crazy things like The Proms, the unexpectedness of what we do.

"It all boils down to going to the studio and me and Chris writing new music that becomes a record and that becomes a new tour."

However, race fans who catch their show here on Sept 20 will get to experience what the duo are best known for: classic and contemporary electronic pop songs set to a fancy costume and light show.

Tennant says: "There are a lot of hits, it's a very exciting show. Since we were here a year ago, we've changed it around a little bit to make sure it moves really, really fast. You won't get a chance to be bored."

Eddino Abdul Hadi


THE SAM WILLOWS

Where: Zone 1 - Paddock Club Lifestyle Stage

When: Sept 20, 7pm

Where: Zone 1 - Sunset Stage

When: Sept 20, 10pm

Where: Zone 4 - Esplanade Park Stage

When: Sept 21, 7.30pm

It has been a good week for home-grown folk-pop quartet The Sam Willows. Not only are they gearing up for their F1 sets, the band are also in the running to be a nominee in the upcoming MTV Europe Music Awards.

If they get through, they will join regional star Stefanie Sun as the other Singaporean act in the running for the Best South-east Asia Act award.

On Tuesday, MTV revealed five confirmed nominees, including Sun and Filipino singer Sarah Geronimo, but also announced that a "wild card" nominee will be added.

This will go to the act that has the largest number of fan tweets. The MTV Europe Music Awards will be held in Glasgow in November.

The Sam Willows' vocalist-keyboardist Sandra Tang, 23, says: "It's a big honour because I grew up watching MTV. We're competing against acts who have a much bigger following, but we're hopeful."

They are up against four other regional acts, including Indonesian acts Afgan and Agnez Mo.

A big fixture in the local gig scene in the past two years, The Sam Willows have been on the bill of many major shows, such as the recent Here! arts carnival party at National University of Singapore and Ignite! Music Festival at Republic Polytechnic.

They are looking forward to their three performances at the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix next weekend.

Their debut F1 gigs last year left a deep impression on the band. Guitarist Jonathan Chua, 23, says: "I don't think we've ever played a show that was so well-organised."

The F1 audience is different from the crowd that their shows usually draw too, he adds. "It's an international audience and it's amazing to see how they accept Singapore-made music so openly."

Another reason for their excitement is the chance to play at the same event as some of their idols, such as American soul/R&B singer John Legend and Taiwanese rockers Mayday.

Singer-guitarist Benjamin Kheng, 23, says: "It's just the magnitude of it all. It's always fun to play to people from all walks of life."

Formed in 2012, the band, which also includes Kheng's sister Narelle, 20, on vocals and guitars, released their self-titled debut EP in the same year.

Last year, the band embarked on a North American tour that included sets in two music festivals, South by Southwest in Texas and the Canadian Music Festival in Toronto.

Their music videos on YouTube are highly popular and have racked up more than 500,000 views in all, and they have picked up awards such as the m:idea Youth Choice Award 2013, organised by Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film & Media Studies where winners are decided by online voting open to the public.

The band are currently prepping for what would be one of their biggest undertakings to date - their first full album, set to be released next year.

Chua says: "Every band have only one first album - our first EP does not count. We really want to put all our creative juices into this and put out the best product that we are capable of."

Eddino Abdul Hadi


MIGUEL ANTONIO VEDANAIGAM

Where: Zone 1 - Paddock Club Lifestyle Stage

When: Sept 20, 8.30pm

Where: Zone 1 - Sunset Stage

When: Sept 21, 5pm

Since he broke into the limelight three years ago, local music talent Miguel Antonio Vedanaigam has sung on stage for star-making producer David Foster, performed in Hollywood and inked a deal with an artist development firm headed by Apl.de.ap from pop chart-toppers Black Eyed Peas.

No mean feat for a 13-year-old, certainly.

Next weekend, the Secondary 1 Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student, who was born in the Philippines and is now a Singapore permanent resident, will be doing what he does best - entertaining the crowds. He is slated to perform on the second and third day of the 2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

He is no stranger to shows on a grand scale though, having performed at major events here such as Chingay 2011 and Asian TV Awards 2012.

He currently performs two gigs a month, usually for private and corporate shows or school performances.

A big fan of the late Michael Jackson, he received the ultimate compliment when the King of Pop's oldest brother Jackie Jackson, who had heard him sing on a recording, told him he "sounded just like my brother".

They met when pop veterans Jackson 5, of which Jackie and Michael were part of, performed in Singapore in 2012. A mutual family friend had introduced the Vedanaigams to the Jackson family at the hotel they were staying in.

Miguel is also a talented musician who taught himself to play the piano through YouTube videos.

"I didn't know how to read notes so I would just stick a piece of tape on the keys and write the notes," recalls the soft-spoken teen, whose mother is Filipino and father is Singaporean Indian.

He has three younger sisters.

The youngster is currently learning how to read notes through his school's music programme.

While he admits that school and studies take up most of his time, he spends at least an hour a day working on music, singing and practising on a piano that his parents bought for him.

Last month, he officially became a signed artist with Apl.de.ap's regional company BMBX Entertainment, whose roster includes Singapore rapper Kevin Lester and regional acts such as Hong Kong-born singer Jessica Reynoso.

In June, Apl.de.ap featured Miguel as one of the acts at The Rebuild Philippines Benefit Concert in Hollywood, which raised funds for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, alongside other popular acts such as Black Eyed Peas and Talib Kweli.

In a press statement released last month to announce BMBX's newest signing, Apl.de.ap said of Miguel: "I heard about this boy with the angelic voice from Singapore and met him in 2012 when he was 11.

"Always remembered him so when we met again earlier this year, I invited him to perform at my benefit show. When he hit the first note, the audience and media simply went wild."

Apl.de.ap has been like a mentor to him, says Miguel. "When I was in Los Angeles, we would work on songs and jam at the studio at his house."

While he has a self-released Christmas EP from 2012 under his belt, Miguel will release a new pop-rock single, Everyday, in the coming months, his first as a BMBX artist. There are also plans for him to record more singles as well as release an EP.

He used to harbour ambitions of being a doctor when he was younger, but he is now certain his calling is in singing. He intends to pursue music full-time when he completes his studies.

"I love singing. After doing all the shows, I thought to myself, I want to continue singing and writing songs. It's what keeps me going."

Eddino Abdul Hadi


OTHER ACTS TO CATCH

JENNIFER LOPEZ

The biggest pop star on the bill traditionally plays the closing set after the race champion is crowned. This year, that slot goes to pop sensation and Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez.

A music industry juggernaut with album sales of 80 million copies, she is also the United States' most influential Hispanic artist. She is best known for her string of dance-pop hits that include If You Had My Love, Love Don't Cost A Thing and Jenny From The Block.

She is putting out new tunes - expect her to play fresh tracks of her eighth and latest album, A.K.A., released in June.

Where: Zone 4 - Padang Stage

When: Sept 21, 10.30pm

JOHN LEGEND

The American soul/R&B singer and songwriter is certainly living up to his surname, what with nine Grammys and No. 1 hits such as All Of Me under his belt.

If you caught him when he performed here at the Timbre Rock & Roots music festival in 2011, you would know that the charismatic performer has a penchant for inviting female fans up on stage to serenade them with his sexy, soulful tunes.

Where: Zone 1 - Village Stage

When: Sept 21, 6.30pm

INDIGO

The home-grown act, made up of jazz singer Dawn Ho, guitarist Munir Alsagoff and saxophone player Kaye, have been a fixture in previous F1s for a reason: Their unique hybrid of Brazilian samba, jazz, funk and electronic beats is a surefire way to get the crowd into a party mood.

Where: Zone 1 - Paddock Club Lifestyle Stage

When: Sept 19, 8.30pm and Sept 21, 10pm

VANESSA FERNANDEZ

Singaporean singer and electronic artist Vanessa Fernandez, also known as Vandetta, is a seasoned performer in the local music scene, having been part of acts such as hip-hop/pop group Urban Xchange and electronic duo Octover.

Her recent solo output, which fuses soul with electronica, has garnered critical acclaim and landed her gigs at major events such as St Jerome's Laneway Music Festival 2014 as well as a headlining performance at the Esplanade Recital Studio.

Where: Zone 4 - White Bar Stage

When: Sept 21, 6pm