Subscribe to Feed            Add to your Favourites

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Concert Review: ONJ in Singapore

You may not know this, as geeky and smart-alecky as I appear to be, deep inside I am really a hopeless romantic.

Yes, I know it's hard to believe, just like discovering that "I can't believe it's not really butter" isn't really butter. But it is true.

So when I found out from TV adverts that Livvy "Neutron Bomb" Olivia Newton-John was coming to Singapore for her first concert here, I promptly went and bought a ticket.

The cheapest ticket, of course. I'm a student - I need to eat!

I am quite a Livvy fan. I have five of her CDs, two cassette tapes and her Xanadu movie on video. In fact I think that Xanadu is her best movie.

"WHAT!?!! Are you a frakin' Xanadude?" you ask.

Wait, let me explain.

First of all, I hate Barbara Streisand and neon-coloured clothing.

Second, I first watched Xanadu (1980) when I was like ten years old, so the story was romantic and magical to me then. Of course now I know it has a stupid plot; boy do I know - I recently watched it side-by-side with Ridley Scott's awesome Alien (1979) that was released around that time.

The contrast is just mind-blowing. I mean chest-bursting.

As I was saying, Xanadu is great because it had a kiddy plot and a hot babe on skates.

And one more thing.

Feathered hair.

Here is Livvy next to another sexy denizen of the 70's, Farrah Fawcett.

I love I love I LOVE!

Feathered hair spells S-E-X. It should've never gone out of fashion.

Anyway, let's talk about her concert now.

I took a bus to the Indoor Stadium last friday evening to catch Livvy's concert.

Boy was that a mistake. Four words: Traffic... Jam... Orchard... Road.

'nuff said.

When I arrived a long line of people had already formed. Surprisingly I find a number of younger people in the audience - and some very old uncles and aunties.

Tad outside the target demographic.

I wanted to take some photos of the concert, but there is a big sign on the entrance that said "No Photography".

Oh well. I wasn't there to hear my own voice if I get dragged out of the stadium screaming and kicking.

So you'll have to get your pictures from the excellent Only Olivia website instead. Which is all the better since they have kickass cameras and a much better shooting angle.

Here's one of their photos. Click on the picture to enter their concert resource page.

As you can see, Livvy looks great for a 58-year-old. I think she lost weight for her concert tour.

The stage setup is simple and low-key. Livvy is accompanied by a seven-member band which has multi-talented members. One of the guys can sing, play the harmonica, and even does a mean saxophone.

This sounds cruel, but it is true: apart from the lead guitarist, the other band members aren't pretty to look at. I believe this is no accident. There is a saying in Chinese: "鲜花要有绿叶来陪衬".

Now for my overview of her concert. I won't go into all the details - you can check out what other people have to say at the end of this post.

Instead I will just highlight some notable observations.

The opening performance was sung by Olinda Cho, a Singapore Idol finalist. Her sentimental rendition of Culture Club's "Karma-Chameleon" was just... weird.

New Wave pop - soft rock style? To me it doesn't work.

Next, Livvy's voice floated over the speakers, singing part of "I Honestly Love You" before she made her appearance to the cheering audience.

Her introductory banter was brief and she sounded distant. She said that she hadn't sung in Singapore for a long time, that it was wonderful to be here in our beautiful city and thanked the audience for making her feel so welcome.

I would have prefered country. I am being picky, but these things matter to me.

And then the songs began.

If I can sum up her vocal performance in one word, it would be: Power.

Some reviewers say that her voice is still the same after all these years - I definitely disagree. There is no question that her vocal range is still impressive and and she's still pitch-perfect, but her voice is noticeably lower in pitch and her singing style sounds stronger and brighter than her records from the 70's and 80's.

To me, this emphasis on power and energy makes her sound very different from the more endearing, wispy voice that you hear in the CDs. I believe much of this is due to the inherent nature of a concert - louder, brighter and more impersonal.

However some of this is definitely due to design - for two songs (including the Bossa Nova version of "Physical"), Livvy goes into ear-piercing falsetto, which underscores her superior pitch control and shows off her voice training. While that radiates positive energy, I certainly didn't like those parts.

I sense a feeling of distance throughout the concert. Let me give you two concrete examples.

After every song or two, Livvy would take a sip of tea and say "Cheers!"

The first time she asked "Cheers...what do you say here?" Some people in the audience screamed "Yam Seng!", but she didn't hear it. Which is a pity because apparently in the Taipei concerts she said "Gan Bei!" every time she had a drink.

In addition she asked if there were Aussies in the audience, much to the delight of Australian fans of course. However it made me feel that perhaps she considered Singapore just as a generic city that is somewhere near Australia.

Thus, try as I might, I couldn't feel any romance in the air when she sang "I Honestly Love You" as part of the encore. It sounded well-rehearsed, technically accurate and lacked intimacy.

At the closing of the concert, the appreciative audience gave Livvy a standing ovation. I think it was no mean feat singing with so such accuracy and so much energy for two hours straight. She definitely deserved the applause and cheers from us fans.

But, at the same time, I felt a disconnect. Despite the Livvy's youthful appearance and contemporary hairdo, the reality is that since the 70's she has become a double platinum record holder, an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Order of Australia (OA) awardee.

A cancer fighter and survivor. An environmentalist. A multi-millionaire. A businesswoman. A mother.

She has received much and been through much in life - it's my own stupid fantasy to believe that she is still the same bright-eyed starlet who started on her path to fame with Bob Dylan's "If Not For You" in 1971.

Or perhaps the image of vulnerability and innocence was a fantasy from the start, a facade that conceals a strong, competitive and ambitious fighting spirit.

Livvy herself said it best in Xanadu: "I am not as I appear to you."

And so I leave you with this well-edited video from Youtube that reminisces on the past thirty years of her singing career.

I'll love you forever, Livvy.

Would you like to know more?

Other ONJ concert reviews
Taipei concert
- Singapore concert (Channel News Asia)
Genting concert