November 7, 2012

David Foster & Friends - Star Performing Arts Centre, 3rd November 2012


This review comes a tad late, but that's what happens when bloggers have full-time jobs to contend with.

And yes, this technically isn't "theatre", but I do post concert reviews here on and off, so please bear with me. :)

Oh, and isn't it funny that for the first time in 3 years, Life! didn't send a reporter to critique the show? Maybe his nasty writeup in 2011 got him banned. It's about time, heh. :)

For a huge David Foster fan like myself, however, I can never get enough of his gigs, and I haven't missed them since he decided to include Singapore on his Asian tour in 2010.

Having listened to his music for decades without an opportunity to watch him 'live' overseas, the David Foster & Friends Asian Tour is nothing short of a godsend!

Even better, I've now caught him on stage at 3 very different venues, from 3 vantage points ranging from 2nd row centre ( 2010 at the Esplanade ) to all the way at the back ( 2011 at Marina Bay Sands' Grand Theatre ).

This time, I was somewhere in the middle, with a good view of the theatre and stage. The Star PAC is indeed an impressive structure, but still pales in comparison to the gorgeous Esplanade. Sound system-wise, the Star is definitely superior to the MBS, but I prefer the mind-blowing power afforded by the Indoor Stadium. ( Hmm, 2013 perhaps? :))

As always, Foster gave us our money's worth with 2.5 hours of non-stop entertainment ( no intermission! ) and a dazzling star lineup.

New Zealander Hayley Westenra opened the show with a breath-taking rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables. I made an active decision to NOT Google search the set list, so every song on the repertoire was a wonderful treat.
I've heard Westenra's angelic voice on and off over the years - a friend bought me her CD long ago, plus the occasional radio play etc - but experiencing it 'live' is absolutely magical. Now 25, her tone has obviously matured, but the song choices showcase her abilities to full effect, leaving the audience spellbound.
Amazing Grace moved me to tears, and her cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights was spectacular!
Her set ended with a note-perfect duet with rising star Fernando Varela, whose career Foster is nurturing. I don't know his exact age, but I'm guessing early 20s.

Varela emerged the victor in Foster's 2011 Born To Sing competition, and for very good reason. I'm very cynical where crossover tenors are concerned, but was tremendously impressed with what I heard. He playfully belted a verse from When A Man Loves A Woman, then sang a version of Nessun Dorma which exceeds every single version I have ever heard, hitting impossible notes and holding them for an eternity. WOW!!! ( Yes, he deserves 3 exclamation marks. :))

The other major highlight of the evening was Babyface, aka Kenny Edmonds. When he started crooning When Can I See You Again and Boyz II Men's I'll Make Love To You and End Of The Road, memories from my teenage years came flooding back like a massive tsunami. And when he ventured into the audience during End Of The Road, he practically caused a small riot! After recovering from the initial shock, I recovered in time to put my hand out as he ran past my seat bestowing high-fives. I touched Babyface's hand - YES! :)

His vocals were flawless, an exact match with his studio recordings. Despite bending over after his off-stage foray, panting, "I'm getting old!", he effortlessly launched into Change The World, a piece I sang to death when I was in college. The lyrics came unbidden, and as I sat there humming along with the composer of this incredible song, I couldn't help beaming like a Cheshire cat.

Last but not least, let's not forget Babyface's improv skills! Ruben Studdard and Michael Bolton showed these off at previous shows, and this year's audience offering was a real doozy: I love Singapore chilli crab.

But fear not, he made up a ditty on the spot - something about going to the market with his girl then hopping in a 'cab' to go find some 'crab'. It literally brought the house down. Awesome job! :D

The closing act was none other than diminutive powerhouse Chaka Khan, who looked svelte and sexy in a pants ensemble ( very different from all the photos I've seen ) and made the walls shake with her earth-shattering vibrato.

After Tell Me Something Good and Through The Fire, she gamely acquiesced to an audience member's shouted request for Ain't Nobody, which clearly wasn't part of the programme. Someone brought Foster a music score and everyone started playing on cue. I don't know if they've performed this at other gigs already, but it was seamless and orchestrated with such professionalism, it was a wonder to behold.

She finished the set with I'm Every Woman, then everyone came out for the grand finale - a rousing rendition of Earth Song, which Michael Jackson sang many years ago.

For the encores, I can't remember the title of the first piece, but the 2nd is the world-renowned theme from St. Elmo's Fire. Foster sat at the piano and captivated us all with his solo performances. Believe me when I tell you that I NEVER tire of his music. :)

The only downer of the evening was Paul Young. I love his songs, but I don't know if he was sick 'cos his voice sounded terrible. Maybe he had laryngitis but tried to push on so he wouldn't disappoint his fans, but I think it would've been better if he'd taken a rest instead. I hope he's better now!

Foster also introduced a Swedish group called Dirty Loops, which combines jazz, pop and funk. They found fame on YouTube covering chart toppers and adding their own distinctive style, but it was lost on me ( sorry! ). I couldn't recognize the first piece, and the 2nd ( Adele's Rolling In The Deep ) sounded so way off it didn't appeal to me at all. There were girls screaming ( or maybe squealing ) their heads off here and there - no doubt because the lead singer is rather cute - but this is one group whose music is too experimental for my taste.

So in short, it was yet another fantastic evening with the legendary David Foster! My personal wish list for subsequent concerts: Josh Groban ( #1 on the list! ), Clay Aiken, Renee Olstead and Kenny G. I'm also hoping for Chris Botti but he tends to tour solo. Never hurts to hope, right?

Till next year... :)

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