Sunday, December 18, 2005

Keiko Lee's 10th Anniversary Tour Concert

Keiko Lee 10th Anniversary Tour
16 December 2005, Friday, Esplanade Concert Hall

Before a review of Keiko Lee’s concert comes out in the Straits Times, I would like to attempt to give my personal review on it, though I am definitely by no means, a credible music critic. =)

I actually chanced upon the concert by accident. I was browsing through a complimentary copy of GetThat when details of the performance caught my eye. I hate to admit it, but the clincher came in the form of a 50% discount for students. I simply had to milk my student’s concession for all it’s worth, since, I am expiring that status very soon. So it was there and then, that I decided on impulse, to purchase a 40 dollars ticket for the price of 20. Pretty good deal, plus I am into jazz music. Unfortunately, I have never sampled any of Keiko Lee’s songs, though I have long been aware of her fame as a distinguished jazz vocalist who sings and plays deep from the heart with a voice marked by soulfulness and virtuosity. Despite performing with some of the greatest of jazz giants, she eschews the jazz categorization and is just as eager to dig into Motown tunes, rock and pop numbers.

Her concert is then hardly a jazz treat, as she bobs to tunes of hot sultry numbers of ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Day & Night’. I thought I was extremely lucky to get front row seats but it turned out that I had to risk permanent deafness at the expense of getting an up close and personal view. The woofers and speakers were a mere meter in front of my seat! Yikes!

She had a total of 3 costume changes, something which spiced up her entrance and re-entry onto the stage. I have to say, she did have great chemistry with her band, which consisted of 4 guys. Jiro Yoshida is the guitarist who also sings duets and harmonizes some of her songs with much aplomb. He enjoys himself immensely and draws the audience into the mood of the songs with his upbeat enthusiasm. The keyboard and piano player, Souichi Noriki, is a wonderfully talented man who does a mean improvisation on the ivories. Benisuke Sakai is a quiet supporting bassist who plays with much grace. He is seen to indulge in moments of personal ‘conversations’ with Keiko as she grooves to the tunes he belts out. Yuichi Togashiki lends great rhythm to the performance by his energetic drumming.

Keiko's First Costume-A Shiny Blue Sequined Dress

Keiko's Second Costume-A Sheer Black Number with Velvet Violet Prints (and leather boots!)

Keiko's Last Costume-A Glittering Hot Pink Pant Suit

My favorite moments of the concert came when Keiko started the second half of her performance with her much-loved cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. Apparently, she had to do over 40 vocal overdub layers to create the effect of a choir chanting the chorus line—“we will we will rock you.” It was really a refreshing chill out twist to the foot stomping original. The other memorable moment for me came in the form of a slow oldie called ‘Tennessee Waltz’. I have always loved the tune and hearing Keiko’s heart-rending rendition of the song, one cannot but help been drawn into the beautifully tragic soul of the song.

Keiko was completely at ease on stage, mainly because she focused more on enjoying herself with her band and became oblivious to the presence of an audience. Perhaps this quiet one day performance in Singapore is truly dedicated to herself and her 10th anniversary as a recording artist.

The appreciative audience was reluctant to leave their seats long after her intended exit and was duly rewarded with two more songs. The last encore in the form of her 1995’s ‘Imagine’ was very unplugged and it totally brought out her signature smoky voice with its rich dulcet tones that has been described by fellow musicians as a voice that is “on equal footing with musical instruments” and by critics as “a low, deep voice that penetrates the listener’s heart”.

It is exactly this type of voice that is found wanting in the Asian pop industry, with the spin-offs offered from the cookie-cutter mold come the Jolin and Cyndis of Taiwan, the Twins of Hong Kong, and the Guo Mei Mei of Singapore. Shudder. Seriously, though, I really enjoy the popular music offerings of S.H.E. and the dance numbers of Jolin, and love Jay Chou and MayDay’s compositions. But when I spend good money to watch a performance, my choice is clear.
My only lament is that the audience is rather old. =P And it’s a relatively small crowd for the 1,811 seating capacity of the Esplanade Concert Hall. Pretty sad, cos, firstly, I feel like a dinosaur who graze alongside with the geriatrics in Singapore, and secondly, I am indignant that good performances like this pale in popularity to the sell-out concerts of the 5566 and 7788s ;-) in music industry.

Daily Trivia: (Lyrics to the sad, sad ‘Tennessee Waltz’)

I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend I happened to see
I introduced her to my loved one
And while they were dancing
My friend stole my sweetheart from me

I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes, I lost my little darling
The night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz


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