JJ Lin: Best concert of the year?

Pop star JJ Lin's dramatic stage displays and a parade of hit songs made this concert truly enjoyable

Stirring vocals, a parade of hit songs and top-notch stage production made the JJ Lin Sanctuary World Tour one of the best concerts of the year.

The home-grown Mandopop star made a dramatic entrance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Wednesday when a tall curtain enclosing a small circle dropped with a flourish.

Before a crowd of 8,000, he appeared suspended in mid-air cocooned in white and spinning head over heels slowly.

He then transformed into a white butterfly, complete with white "wings", for the opening hit ballad A Thousand Years Later.

This was the first of four sold-out shows (also yesterday, tomorrow and Sunday) - a feat eclipsed only by Hong Kong's Heavenly King Jacky Cheung, who pulled off five nights at the same venue in 2011 - and a testament to Lin's effervescent career and enduring appeal at home.

Any concerns that Lin, 37, might be pacing himself on the first night were banished with an assured, full-on gig that went past the three-hour mark.

  • Career milestones

  • 2003: Debut album Music Voyager released.

    2004: Wins Golden Melody Award for Best New Artist. Second album Haven released, includes the huge breakout hit Jiang Nan (River South).

    2006 to 2007: Holds first major tour, Just JJ World Tour, with seven dates in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.

    2008: Thanks to hits such as A Thousand Years Later and Westside, Lin is named Top Local Composer of the Year for having the highest royalty earnings by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore.

    2014: Wins Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Male Singer for Stories Untold.

    2016: Wins second Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Male Singer for Experimental Debut Album: From M.E. To Myself and for Best Composer for Bu Wei Shei Er Zuo De Ge (Twilight).

    2016 to 2018: Appears on the China music reality television show Sound Of My Dream as a judge.

    2018: Up for six Golden Melody Awards for Message In A Bottle and the single Little Big Us, but goes away empty-handed. Lin posts on Weibo: "Didn't win, no regrets. Just a pity that I could not properly acknowledge on stage all those who took part in the album behind the scenes." He is also the first local singer to perform four nights at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with his JJ Lin Sanctuary World Tour. The ongoing tour kicked off on March 17 in Shanghai.

He dug deep into his body of work with songs from his second album Haven (2004) such as Mermaid and his breakout hit River South alongside more recent hits Little Big Us and Bu Wei Shei Er Zuo De Ge (Twilight).

A party segment highlighted his faster-paced tracks from Bu Chao Bu Yong Hua Qian (High Fashion) to Yin Ni Er Zai (You N Me).

As a songwriter, he has penned hits for the likes of Taiwanese singers A-mei (Remember) and Cyndi Wang (Dang Ni, Whenever) and he reclaimed them for his own here. Each song was well-served by the lighting, the accompanying visuals and the dynamic stage.

The dark love song Killa was performed to stark black-and-white visuals and red-for-danger lighting.

At other times, the video screens above the stage moved about like a giant mobile.

For the number Jian Yun Zhe (Paper Clouds), clouds rolled by lazily across the drifting screens with Lin performing atop them.

The singer-songwriter's musicality was in full display as he sang, danced and played the piano and guitar.

It was also evident when he jammed with his guest star, veteran Canadian songwriter and music producer David Foster. The latter would start to play one of his big hits on the piano and Lin would sing along.

The woe-is-me vibe of All By Myself did not quite fit the concert's mood, though the segment gave Lin a chance to do some power belting in English.

Back on home ground, the Taipei-based star was in a relaxed mood, busting out Singlish and pointing out guests such as local singer Kit Chan, for whom he had sung back-up when he was 19.

Even a recalcitrant microphone stand failed to faze him as he deftly joked: "I think I might need someone to hold this for me."

Each number in JJ Lin's concert was performed with great effervescence and accompanied by theatrical stage effects.
Each number in JJ Lin's concert was performed with great effervescence and accompanied by theatrical stage effects. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Singaporean Syndi Siow, 23, who just graduated from Peking University, bought the $348 top-tier ticket for the Wednesday show.

She said: "I think it was better than the China shows as he changed the songs and content slightly. It was obvious he was very happy when he was singing. It's different to watch him back home."

She had caught his concert in Chengdu last month.

The long-time fan added: "He definitely sings very well and his image is very positive. I went through some tough times studying overseas and his music made me feel like I could go on."

She counts among her favourite songs Mo Li Yu (Raindrops), Guan Jian Ci (The Key) and Lang Man Xue Ye (The Romantic), all three of which were performed by Lin on Wednesday night.

Reading the placards held up by fans at the show, he ticked off places in China, Malaysia and even Toronto, before cheekily reeling off local neighbourhoods from Tampines to Kallang.

On the spur of the moment, Lin asked for a "Kallang Wave" and the crowd rose to the occasion with a beautifully executed one.

His last concert in Singapore was his Timeline: Genesis World Tour gig at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in September 2015, a one-night sold-out affair.

So what has happened for Lin to sell out four shows this time round?

Since then, he has gone from strength to strength as a musician and hit-maker.

Bu Wei Shei Er Zuo De Ge, from his December 2015 record Experimental Debut Album: From M.E. To Myself, was both a popular and critical triumph.

He won the prestigious Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Male Singer - his second such accolade - and Best Composer for the ballad.

The follow-up record Message In A Bottle (2017) spawned the sweeping hit ballad Little Big Us and six nominations at the Golden Melody Awards, though he went away empty-handed.

As an indicator of how popular his new songs are, radio station UFM100.3's comprehensive annual U1000 Music Countdown of Mandopop from the 1970s until the present, which is decided by public voting, is a good gauge: On the 2018 chart, Bu Wei Shei Er Zuo De Ge came in at No. 2 while Little Big Us was a new entry at No. 22.

His visibility has also increased, thanks to his appearance as a judge alongside big names such as A-mei and Hong Kong's Sandy Lam on two seasons (2016 to 2018) of the China music television show Sound Of My Dream.

During his concert, he shared that he was a loner who did not have many friends as a boy, "maybe because I didn't smile much".

When he found music, he found his reason for being.

Happily, Lin is no mere nostalgia act peddling past glories.

He continues to be a relevant musician putting out works which resonate with the ear and the heart, keeping his old fans happy and winning new ones over.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2018, with the headline 'Lights, drama, showmanship'. Print Edition | Subscribe