Imagine this. You’re at a restaurant and the list of appetizers on the menu looks interesting. There’s an option of an appetizer platter and you went ahead to order it.
The thing about mixed platters is that there’s sometimes not enough of one particular dish for you to enjoy, and that’s exactly what happened at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Saturday evening (March 10).
'Imagine – A Soundtrack to Peace' was Esplanade’s maiden attempt at producing a concert. Held as part of this year’s Mosaic Music Festival and in conjunction with the arts venue’s 10th anniversary celebration, Imagine features a selection of local, regional and international acts all performing around the theme of ‘peace’. According to Esplanade’s assistant director of programming Clarence Yap, “The concert is named after John Lennon’s iconic song of child-like innocence and honesty.”
Yuna. Photo: Esplanade
The concert started innocently enough with Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna giving an earnest performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”
After that, we got more than we bargained for when the concert turned into one part variety show, two parts motivational/aspirational event and one part musical concert. The cheesy asides by host/narrator Munesh Panicker (scripted by filmmaker Lillian Wang) didn’t help to uplift my spirits during the 90-minute affair. It was like going through a local version of “We Are The World.” It also seemed that every artist had to give his or her take or experiences with ‘peace’ or ‘love’ when they’re on stage (Cue: Goosepimples)
What actually did was Singaporean singer-songwriter Art Fazil’s rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin bout a revolution” which in my opinion started the concert proper. Before this, he gave a spoken word performance of his self-penned protest song “Mama, I Can’t Breathe”.
Before you get all confused about Art doing spoken word poetry at a concert, well earlier in the evening, local musician Ling Kai gave a rather awkward one about “being the youth of today” or something like that. It was so dreary that a fellow reviewer sitting beside me fell into a slumber.
Papa Rock Ramli Sarip gave the night a dash of rock ‘n’ roll swagger with Bonnie Tyler’s “If I Sing You A Love Song” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” with his distinctive raspy vocals. There were moments that I want to walk onstage and pass the local rock legend some Strepsils.
Stacey Kent & Jim Tomlinson. Photo: Esplanade
The international acts followed with Spanish group Russian Red performing George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord,” German-Brazilian outfit Bossarenova Trio doing The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and American jazz singer Stacey Kent (who elicited the most applause) for her tender rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” with her husband Jim Tomlinson on saxophone and Singaporean composer Joshua Wan on piano.
Of course, we cannot end the night without hearing the song that inspired the concert. Yuna, Zul Sutan, Ramli Sarip, Cat Ong, Ling Kai, Plain Sunset’s Jon Chan and Art Fazil all came out to sing a medley of Imagine and “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
Stacey Kent came out at the encore to sing Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now”.
Despite the rather tawdry aspirational theme to the concert, props must be given to Esplanade for giving local and regional artistes a platform to perform at the concert hall. Yes there were some misses (Ling Kai, the cheesy script) but overall it was a commendable performance throughout.
Our only gripe is that we did not get to sample enough of the international artistes (with the exception of Kent, everyone else performed just one tune).
Perhaps if that were to happen, wouldn’t our spirits be more uplifted?