Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Lingering Smile

It was one of the conversations that you'd simply love to have - delightful, cheery, filled with laughter - and the smile I wore towards the end of it wore on a while longer after it had ended. As I continued walking in that mall, I noticed others looking at me, some more obviously than the others, with the what's-with-her expression on their faces. I know how I must had looked - walking alone, looking at nothing and nowhere in particular, a smile on my face. That smile which had lingered on, from having shared happy moments in conversation, having laughed and having had someone to laugh with.

The next time I happen to see someone smiling alone, apparently at nothing, and for no reason, I'll think about the wonderful moments that must had been, to put that lingering smile in place.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour Malaysia

Frankly, I don't know under which katak's tempurung I must had been hiding when people elsewhere in the world turned off their lights for an hour in 2007 and 2008. I vaguely recall hearing about it after it was over, perhaps in 2008, and ignorantly thinking - what difference was it going to make switching the lights off for an hour? An hour was enough to save Earth? (yes, you may roll your eyes at me)

I understand now, that I won't be actually saving much of Earth by switching off the lights for an hour this coming Saturday at 8.30pm, but I'd be making a strong statement, with the rest of the world, on our pledge to be serious about going green. If all of Earth goes dark for an hour at precisely 8.30pm of their own respective time zones, imagine how we'd would look from space - one darkened strip at a time, advancing westward per the hours - that would be quite a sight!

I'd been looking forward to doing this all March - but then:

As a *ahem* supporter of local performing arts, I will be attending this concert. Of all the shows that there are, I somehow ended up with the tickets for:

There goes my plan to sit at home, in the dark. I wonder if the performers for Buatan Malaysia would mind singing in the dark for the first hour of the concert. Wouldn't it be grand if they'd really do that for Earth Hour? In fact, wouldn't it be very grand if all concerts around the world which happen to be on Saturday night carried on in the dark for that one hour? Ah, wishful thinking.

I'll call my mother from KLPAC at 8.25pm to remind her - LIGHTS OFF in 5 minutes!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sarah Brightman's Symphony in KL

For Jason Mraz, I said to myself - no screaming, and no singing along - which I didn't honour. For Sarah Brightman, I said to myself - no crying. Yes, when I saw her in 2004 at her Harem World Tour at Stadium Negara in KL, I cried. I was so excited at just catching a glimpse of her, I cried before she even started singing. Therefore, it was important that I kept myself composed this time, especially since the Symphony World Tour in KL was held in the Plenary Hall in KL Convention Center, in an intimate, theatrical setting.

The venue was considered small, compared to say, Stadium Negara, and with theband, the orchestra and the choir on stage, there wasn't much space left for Sarah. There would be no dancers, and no fancy props, hydraulic platforms, or holograms. Some were evidently displeased, or disappointed - as shown by the following excerpt of a conversation in Hakka of the Auntys next to me -

Aunty1: Aiyer, the stage is so small! There is no space for dancers!
Aunty2: I don't think there will be dancers.
Aunty1: Aiyerrr, why is this concert so cin cai?

I, on the other hand, was very pleased with the simplicity of the set up. I went to watch and listen to Sarah Brightman, and I didn't need the distraction from dancers, fancy props and high-tech visuals, or fireworks. Of course I wouldn't had minded her signature mid-air somersaults for A Question of Honour, but without would be just as well, had she sung the song. Without distractions, all attention would be on her and her voice alone, and for me, I do think that that made the concert a lot more enjoyable.

The concert begun with the instrumental of Sanvean - so I read in the fan's forum, on the official website - I couldn't be sure, for the moment the lights dimmed, I was too wildly excited to actually register what I heard. My earliest memory of the show's starting was the thunders at the end of Gothica, followed by the very dramatic intro to Fleurs du Mal. And then, there she was - leisurely, unceremoniously strolling out of the curtain on stage, in the lovely bright red Symphony-signature gown. To say that it was breathtaking would be understating the moment.

The moment she burst into song, I knew the rumours of her not singing live were definitely untrue. She was singing live - I heard them all - those little differences in timing, pronunciation, vibrato; perhaps it was all my imagination, perhaps I heard what I wanted to hear and believed what I chose to believe - but, do not dismiss the fact that the entire band, orchestra and choir were on stage with her, and all those people were playing and singing in plain sight. I choose not to believe that they had the music play live to a pre-recorded singing voice, and I choose not to believe everyone on stage that night were hands-and-fingers-synching along to a pre-recorded track. Sarah Brightman sang live. Her duet partner, Alessando Safina, who toured with her to this part of the world, sang live too. Together, they sang Phantom of the Opera live.

From the earliest days of my being a Sarah fan, I never dared hope to hear the Angel of Music sing POTO live. She'd never sang it in her previous concerts - Harem, La Luna, One Night in Eden. No doubt, I was aware that she performed it in her Symphony Live in Vienna, but I still didn't imagine that she would include it in her concert in KL. And she sounded so good, it was unbelieavable. I may be biased, but I think her POTO live in KL sounded even better than the one on the Live in Vienna dvd!

Throughout the concert, Sarah took only two short breaks for changing - yes, a total of only 3 evening gowns for the entire night. Following the fiery red Symphony dress, she donned a white flowing one and lastly, a dark mermaid gown which was so dazzlingly lovely I want to have one just like it! (I know I'll probably never do though...)

I did't know about the rest of the audience, but I loved each one, and I loved the fact that she didn't go backstage to change after every 2 songs or so. I much prefer those simple dresses (they were, though very beautiful, simple relative to those she wore for Harem, especially that which was during Nessun Dorma!) to elaborate, out-of-this-world costumes.

Of a little over an hour, this concert was a little short, but especially if compared to Harem, which lasted well over two hours (including a 20-minute intermission). It was likely that all of her fans that night didn't expect the show to end so soon - when she announced the song Time to Say Goodbye, there were very audible gasps and sighs of disbelieve, disappointment, regret and resentment. However, TTSG it was. At the end of it, Sarah went behind the curtain and we waited patiently for the encores.

The encores. Sarah always sang several - but that night, she sang only one! I was rather disappointed myself - I was so not ready to leave! Though, to be fair, I wouldn't be ready to leave even if she sang for another hour. No amount of Sarah Brightman is ever too much! Now, thinking back, I should also had been a little disappointed at the fact that she didn't sing Attesa, because I was really looking forward to hearing this exceedingly beautiful piece live, but I guess by the end of the night, I was still too mesmerized by POTO to actually think about what I didn't get to hear :)

List of songs (in the correct order, I hope):

1. Fleurs du Mal
2. Let It Rain
3. Symphony
4. Phantom of the Opera
5. Sarai Qui

6. What a Wonderful World
7. Dust in the Wind
8. Hijo de la Luna
9. La Luna

10. Anytime, Anywhere
11. Nella Fantasia
12. Canto della Terra
13. I've Been This Way Before
14. Time to Say Goodbye

15. Deliver Me

Sarah Brightman's concert tickets are considerably more costly than those of the others that perform in Malaysia, but - well, she was definitely worth it. Please do come to KL again for your next world tour, yea!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baffled neil

Someone I know, who has a heart of gold and probably the size of her chest cavity, does a lot of charity work with a Buddhist group. One day, over lunch, she amused us with some stories from the group's social charity, which includes monthly financial assistance for the really needy. One particular story deserves some attention here, methinks.

The gist of it - there was a widow with several young children, for whom they provided a monthly allowance to help her make ends meet. After some time, they discovered she had remarried and was pregnant. Reassessing the case, they had to change their form of assistance to foodstuff, because the new husband was a drug addict, and had a tendency for domestic violence. If they gave her money, he would probably not hesistate to beat her to get it to feed his habit.

At this point in the story, my jaw dropped nearly to my clavicles - I didn't actually measure how far my jaw dropped, but someone else pointed at me and laughed really loudly "Just look at her!" and that alone should be good enough indication of just how shocked I was. I simply couldn't understand!

They couldn't understand it too - I was told - and they won't try to understand. Human behaviour is complex. The choices people make are even more so. Perhaps she'd wanted a man to lean on, to depend on, they said, perhaps she wasn't aware of his drug habit before she married him. Perhaps.

Well, ladies, just let me say this - do not delude yourselves into believing that if a man marries you, he will sincerely love and care for your children. Sure, there are (lots of?) exceptions, you could probably quote me several - but men in general are just not made that way. It's biological, it's nature, it's survival instincts, to feel no inclination towards offsprings not their own. They are the least dependable if your objective is to obtain more love for your fatherless children. At least, that is the impression I got, having lived in this world thus long.

Some may not understand my way of thinking, just like how I'd never understand she who accepted into her and her children's lives, a drug addict.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jason Mraz Live in KL

No screaming, I kept saying to myself. No screaming. My voice was barely back to normal - on Monday, I was still all croak-and-squeak. No screaming. And no singing along - I attended the concert to watch and to listen to Jason Mraz, and that was what I intended to do. No screaming, and no singing along, I kept saying to myself.

Ticket collection counters were opened 2 hours before the 8pm concert, and by 6.20pm, there were already huge crowds queuing at the entrances. I thought I was early, but apparently not early enough. So there I stood, with the other eager fans, for near an hour in my 3-inch heels, waiting in line. Perhaps it was the waiting, perhaps it was the mounting excitement as show time drew nearer, or perhaps they just wanted to warm their voices up a little - when the doors were finally opened, the crowd cheered.

This was a crowd extremely generous with their cheers and applause. They cheered when the guitars were brought on stage. They cheered when a pony-tailed guy came on to test and tune the instruments - several times. A group near me attempted to shout in unison "JASON, JASON, JASON!" though they gave up after several feeble attempts. Several girls held up a home-made poster with the words "We are MRAZMERIZED by you!". How very nice, I thought.

When the lights finally dimmed and the spotlights sprung to life on stage, the screams and applause were deafening. Jason Mraz came on stage - taking what seemed like a video of the venue, the crowd, the stage. I cannot recall the precise moment I started screaming, but it was probably then - for the girl next to me never did hesitate contributing to the collective shouting and squealing, and that proved a temptation to go along too strong to resist. So, every time she screamed and flung her arms up, I did the same.

When he picked up his guitar and started playing, the crowd went absolutely wild, and when he burst into song, they sang along. I did not sing along - yet. My brain was busy coping with the bombarding impulses from my optical and auditory nerves. There he was - in his plain, grey, v-neck T-shirt, slacks and... no shoes! There he was - making music as if he was made of music, his fingers deftly over the strings of his guitar, his voice, his dancing and prancing on stage, his ability to spontaneously modify lyrics and insert snippets of other songs during a song... I was quite overwhelmed.

Somewhere in the "unauthorized" biography on his website, I remember reading this fragment - "... impressive verbal torrent that spills forth on 'Dynamo of Volition' and once again shows Mraz's unmatched (except perhaps by Toca, who has to sing just as fast, because he sings the harmony) ability to sing at the speed of sound..." - and experiencing that live was incredible. I saw him standing there, I saw him playing his guitar, I saw him open and close his mouth, but I heard was "sdjkfhiweuryvnocfl...." - apparently, my brain is incapable of processing sound waves of a song coming in at the speed of sound.

I would had succeeded in refraining from singing along, but then he pointed at us and said "Take it!" for the chorus of The Remedy - as if any fan with a sane mind would deny him that! After a repetition or two, he said "Alright, just the ladies!" - and I sang so loud my vocal chords must had hated me for abusing it. And that was just the beginning. "One more time, girls! Come on!" and sang, we did. He really knew how to work the crowd up - especially the female portion of it. More than once he invited the crowd to sing while he played, and the "Now, just the ladies!" would always follow. In addition to "Sing with me on this one!" for I'm Yours, which made the audience roar, somewhere in the middle of the song he got them to repeat random notes and funny sounds after him. He even showcased the lower limit of his vocal range by going "Now, the girls!" and proceeded to sing a low note "Low, low, low" which we repeated. It was really amazing, for he went a couple more notes lower, and all the ladies actually did, after him. There must had been quite a number of altos in the crowd. But after that there was a really low, "Low, low, low" which took us all by surprise - it was Toca! The crowd simply went wild.

After the really grand and crazy scream-along, sing-along I'm Yours, he and his band vacated the stage. Though the crowd continued their screeching and crying out for more, I thought I saw some actually leaving the stadium. I didn't know if they actually thought it was over, but the lights were still dim - that alone should had been logic enough that there was more to come. Several minutes later, Jason and the band members came on stage once more, and predictably, the crowd went wild once more.

He got hold of his guitar, got ready to play, but didn't start playing. He looked around, looked at the others on the stage, and they looked back at him. Then he went on to explain that he's actually expecting a guest singer, a "beautiful" lady with a "beautiful" voice, but she wasn't there. At that moment, it didn't occur to me that the show really was missing a person. But the show must go on, and he made sure it did. With such an ever willing crowd, he must had known he would had no trouble performing a duet all by himself.

"If she doesn't show up, you guys will have to sing the part" and the crowd screamed as if they would scream down the building. When he started Lucky, they started too - I thought he only asked them to sing Colbie's part, not his part as well... but, what would you expect of a crowd overcharged with adrenalin, and way overdosed on Jason Mraz? And on he went "... oh my, baby I'm trying... Now, take it!" Then, he actually stepped back from the mic, and continued playing while the audience continued on the song. I can't even begin to describe how exhilarating it was to be singing a Jason Mraz song, with Jason Mraz accompanying on the guitar! I wish the moment would last forever, but alas - about a minute into the song, the missing Malaysian singer showed up.

I really want to caci her - her being late, her not-so-nice voice, her terrible pronunciation of the lyrics, her sneaking up to the wrong side of Jason's guitar - but at the same time, I want to keep this piece as positive as possible, which is why I don't plan to mention how very warm and stuffy the stadium was, and how even before the end of the first hour I could smell the ever increasing odour of the sweaty people around me, and how after the first few numbers, Jason's shirt was visibly damp with perspiration. Oops.

Quite a few asked me how the concert was - it was an experience like I never had before (though I must admit the only other concert I'd ever been to was Sarah Brightman's Harem in 2004, if musicals and orchestral recitals don't count). The way Jason Mraz teased and charmed the audience, his spontaneity, creativity and pure talent, were simply awesome. The crowd's very active, perhaps excessive, participation was grand too, even if a little annoying to whoever who simply wanted to listen to the performer only, and naught else. The continuous screams, cheers and applause were irrefutable proof of our profound love and regard for Jason, and he must had felt it too, for the last thing he said before ending the show was that the concert wouldn't be the last that he'd perform in Malaysia. And the crowd went wild again - for the hundredth (perhaps, for I wasn't counting) time.

I ought to had known how stupid it was to make the no-screaming-and-no-singing-along resolution that I did. It had so easily, so willingly, so heartily been broken! I was, perhaps, not louder than the girl next to me, but if the girl sitting in front of me were blogging about the same wonderful Wednesday evening, she'd probably write a paragraph about the crazy, shrill-voiced girl behind her, who screamed and sang so much!

Edit:List of songs (probably not in the right order, but hopefully complete):
1. Make it Mine
2. The Remedy (I Won't Worry)
3. You and I Both
4. If It Kills Me
5. Live High
6. A Beautiful Mess
7. Geek in the Pink
8. The Dynamo of Volition
9. Life is Wonderful10. I'm Yours

11. Lucky

12. No Stopping Us
13. Butterfly

For further reading: