Veteran singer Sheila Majid still captivates

Singer Sheila Majid impressed the crowd in a musically flawless show.
Singer Sheila Majid impressed the crowd in a musically flawless show.PHOTO: WISNU HARYO YUDHANTO

Sheila Majid wowed fans with her lovely costumes, velvety voice and stage humour



Esplanade Theatre/Last Friday

With her always-chic image, jazz- inflected tunes and sophisticated take on Malay pop, Malaysian singing veteran Sheila Majid can sometimes come across as a sort of ice queen, always cool and collected.

How wrong that notion would be.

At her Esplanade Theatre concert last Friday, the 51-year-old was only too happy to ham it up for the almost full house audience at the 1,950-seat venue, peppering her three-hour set with self-deprecating jokes.

Her distinctive, velvety voice was near impeccable, gliding effortlessly between notes without having to resort to melismatic voice acrobatics.

The show was visually grand, with three giant chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and the singer looking good in all her three costume changes, sparkling diamond accessories and all.

More importantly, she also had a canny understanding of how to entertain her audience which, as she pointed out, includes not just fans from Singapore, but also from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Billed as a celebration of her 30th anniversary in the music industry, her setlist was a long list of hits dating back to the 1980s.

The fact that many of her mournful love ballads became some of her biggest hits was not lost on her.

"We Asians love sad songs, the 'bring me a rope so I can hang myself' kind," she said.

"The sadder my songs are, the more popular they become."

Indeed, songs such as Di Himpit Keraguan (1986) and Berakhir Cintamu (1985) were some of the ballads that were fused together as part of a long medley.

But she also knew that her fans do not go to her shows for hours of sad songs.

There were upbeat, funk-pop anthems such as Warna (1988) and Sinaran (1986), the kind designed to get the fans off their seats and on their feet. Many were given alternative arrangements, different from the familiar recorded versions.

The catchy melodies of her first hit, the 1985 single Pengemis Muda, for example, were almost unrecognisable, buried under a dense rhythm that made the tune sound unnecessarily busy.

Her band and three backing singers were a lively bunch. Led by her husband and musical director Acis, their tight and symbiotic connection with Sheila gave the set a distinctive zest.

As one of Malaysia's top singers, it would have been a surprise if the gig was anything less than musically flawless.

Her on-stage humour is also what sets her apart from other singing divas.

For example, she likened her third costume, a shiny and elegant gold outfit with a long, sheer cape, to a "kelambu", or mosquito net, and executed exaggerated twirls.

She made jibes about her age and how she has to dye her greying hair and reluctantly exercise to maintain her famously youthful looks.

It was the kind of light-hearted banter that made the set endearing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Veteran Sheila still captivates'. Print Edition | Subscribe