You know, I could just be lazy and say, “Please go to Hyrul Anuar‘s blog and get the full gist of the concert“, cos really he beat me to it and I for one, was blown away by his excellent write-up on this event. It kinda makes my job on typing my own two cents’ worth a little easier in that he has basically shared most of my sentiments and also for the fact that he was kind enough to refresh my memory inadvertantly by remembering every song that was sung. Observing the guy who was sitting on my left at the concert and seeing his body language throughout the whole event, not to mention reading his latest entry on the concert review, my words in my last entry proved prophetic when I said that Hyrul is an even bigger fan of Datin Sri Hajjah Siti Nurhaliza (ok let’s call her “Siti” subsequently to save space and since we’re so used to calling her that) than me. And rightly so!!!
The humble props on stage…
I had gotten wind that Hyrul was going to sit along the same row as me about two weeks ago from a colleague of mine, who happens to be a good friend of his. But little did I expect that we would be sitting next to each other right smack in the middle of the first row. Yes, we were THAT close to Siti and if in the last entry I said that seeing her upclose during the Konsert Diva in 2000 was the closest I got to watching her perform (And I also forgot momentarily that I was one of her minders when she performed at Malam Amal Suria at the Singapore Expo in August 2002), this was within touching distance had she sat in front of us. So yes in terms of touching distance, this was indeed the closest I had to watching her, but it was a case of so near yet so far, cos I would have liked her to rub her hands on Aida‘s bulging tummy for good luck, even though I don’t subscribe to superstitions myself.
I guess for those still not in the know, or have not met us in ages or did not get the little hints that I’ve been dropping over the past 6 months, you would be surprised to hear that Aida is expecting our second child and is due for delivery in a fortnight (which explains why I am contemplating going to APM 2008 in Kuala Lumpur next month). Even though it is something good to share with others, we just thought that we would let the cat out of the bag naturally if people asked or noticed anything different about her outlook. If not, we’d just prefer to keep mum and let the delivery be of a surprise to everyone. So yeah, since we’re both so fertile (the gap of delivering the first and conceiving the second being just 7 months apart), I had this crazy idea of asking Siti to rub her hands on Aida‘s tummy but of course, it was just a figment of my imagination.
I have never missed a single publicised concert / showcase (note the keyword “publicised“) she has made here in Singapore ever since she won her first award in her colourful career at Anugerah Muzik Popular on 24 December 1996 at Suntec Convention Centre. Yes and that includes gatecrashing Anugerah Berita Harian dinner showcase at Ritz Carlton Hotel dressed as one of the minders and blending in with the distinguished guests in 2001 (I think I deserved an Oscar for that!!!). This “love affair” for her exceptional vocals and genuine character has continued through the passing of time and seen many of her ups and downs in the entertainment industry. Basically I grew up with her music and she has been one of my greatest musical influences along with KRU, Anuar Zain and Liza Hanim amongst others. Some of you might remember me winning the karaoke segment on Hafeez Glamour‘s show a couple of years ago when the theme of the week was singing her songs. Anyway it’s been 32 months and a day since we watched her last big concert here in Singapore at the Singapore Indoor Stadium (the two APM performances in 2006 and 2007 before this don’t count). And this period of time between the two concerts have seen us gotten married and me at press time, a father of one.
I believe Siti has grown so much in stature since her virgin concert here on 15 April 2000 at the now-defunct Harbour Pavilion. Wait a minute, I think that was quite a dumb statement to make. Of course she has grown in stature, in status and in her capacity as arguably the number one Malay singer in the Malay Archipelago. I still remember the colourful but cheesy props that filled the stage during her first concert here, not to mention the many costume changes. I think the costume changes were becoming quite a trademark to her concert shows subsequently, as well as the props and number of extras that graced her performances. As recently as the 2005 concert, even though there were no props, the traditional segment itself was colourful with so many back up dancers accompanying her. But not this time.
The small and intimate settings of the Esplanade Theatre did not allow that to happen. Overall, she only made one costume change on Friday night and the humble props on stage (a sofa, a lampshade, a candle holder, two cushions, a teddy bear and two photo frames of her) were just token presentation. Anyway, with 13 years of experience in the industry, Siti now no longer need props, pyrotechnics and back up dancers to accompany her as people are already mesmerised and in awe of her voice and flawless looks. Of course, the settings itself provided Siti with the best platform to showcase her extraordinary talents via acoustic means, which is definitely a first for her here in Singapore. And lest us forget, the reputation of the Esplanade now is on par with its Australian and London counterparts (Sydney Opera House & Royal Albert Hall). Anyone accorded the opportunity to grace either the Esplanade‘s Theatre or Concert Hall can already be considered as being “up there” amongst the higher echelons of the arts / entertainment industry. But you would have to wonder aloud why it has taken her this long to finally grace this venue. Nonetheless, it was better late than never. And the overwhelming honour of finally gracing the venue was very much evident when Siti herself thanked the good people at the Esplanade no less than three times throughout the 90 minutes setpiece.
Did I just say “good people“??? Hmmm to an extent, I was very much peeved by the fact that photography and video recording were not allowed. I mean that’s natural enough for a distinguished and exclusive event like the concert I attended. But what made it worse was we were not even allowed to snap photographs of the interiors of the Esplanade Theatre or amongst ourselves in it. What possibly could be of high security in the vicinity till we cannot even snap photographs of the interior??? The posh and elegant architecture deserves to be captured and mused about, and for us to be proud that Singapore boasts a world-class venue for concerts to be held. Having ushers coming over and telling you to delete your captured images before and after the event, is quite an embarrassment, but at least nobody stopped a lot of people from capturing them discreetly from my personal observations. I had a field day, albeit discreetly, as you can see from the images I took and included in this entry.
Backed by a stellar outfit led by renowned composer Aubrey Suwito and ably assisted by her trusted back-up vocal group Swara, Siti enchanted the audience as only she knew how to. Lessening the number of performances she has made ever since she became a wife, I was a bit sceptical whether she could produce a stellar performance since I was not particularly impressed by her showing at the recent Zoom In showcase on TV1 that she did a few weeks ago. One could see how nervous and emotive she was when she first addressed the audience on Friday night, but do not for one think it was a feeling of being overawed by the occasion. Siti is just too experienced to be lulled into that kind of false insecurity. It was more a feeling of gratitude for finally being able to perform at such a prestigious venue like the Esplanade. Yes, like the normal cliche we hear time and time again to describe the form of a football team, “Form is temporary, class is permanent!!!” and the 90 minutes showcase oozed class from start till the end. It is Siti anyway and you know you will never be disappointed with her performances, especially when it comes to the big events which she thrives.
The mark of an exceptional entertainer as I had mentioned when I reviewed Imran Ajmain‘s showcase earlier in the month is his or her ability to engage the audience and have them at the snap of the fingertips. Siti did well to acknowledge the audience at the back and on the upper levels from time to time and did a little banter with them, so that they did not feel estranged or separated from those on the lower stalls. Of course when she saw familiar faces amongst the audience, her eyes would widen and sparkle, followed with an acknowledging nod and smile. Likewise when she made eye contact with yours truly, she had the trademark cheeky grin which she always gives whenever she sees me in the audience. Don’t ask me to replicate that grin cos I can’t do it myself. Oh yes, we’ve shared some sweet memories in the past from the times I acted as her minder as well as when I regularly sent her off at the airport. I cannot substitute those times and it will forever be etched in my memories forever.
The power of her exceptional memory was evident when she acknowledged people like Warna 94.2FM‘s TG (she pronounced “TJ” at first before the audience corrected her) for promoting her music throughout her career (funny she did not ask for Adi Rahman instead!!!) and of course the talented young man seated to my left, Hyrul Anuar, who represented artistes in attendance. Though I am still wondering where the Michael Jackson thing which she used to describe Hyrul came from and the fact that he knows when her pitching goes off. I asked Hyrul how did she know, he himself admitted he was stumped himself and said perhaps it could be when his eyes widened. All I know is Hyrul was the happiest person that night and you could feel it too when you read his review in his blog. It was also nice to note that Siti acknowledged the achievements of people like Aliff Aziz and Imran Ajmain across the Causeway and even wondered if Taufik Batisah was in the audience, since he was afterall invited to her grand wedding in August 2006.
Funny how come I came across slimmer in this photo compared to the one at Hyrul‘s blog. No photo editing was done for your info…
After the concert had ended, I felt a little vacuum in my heart. I know I’ve been less of a fan ever since she got married. I have not even bought her latest album “Hadiah Daripada Hati” up till then. Which was why a few of the songs that she sung at the concert were a bit alien to me. But that all changed when I stepped out of the theatre and saw a booth selling her CDs and I immediately bought the latest offering from her. It was scant consolation I could afford to her as I had earlier contemplated along with Hyrul about giving her a standing ovation, but she had already gone backstage as we were just about to lift our bums up from our seats. It’s like that Rascal Flatts song “What Hurts The Most” where it goes, “What hurts the most, was being so close, and having so much to say but letting you walk away…” I know I will never go back to days of yore again where chatting her up after shows or at the hotel lobbies or even sending her off at the airport would be enough to make my day. Which is why every show now is a magical moment for me as a fan. Relating her experiences in Singapore throughout her colourful career during the concert, also jogged my memory back to some of the crazy things I did for her and you guys wouldn’t want to know what I did.
The best part about sitting directly in front of her was we were able to see the little things that most in the audience might not be able to, like the big diamond rock on her right wedding finger (that could leave a big impression on someone’s forehead if she were to land a punch) and the sly glances she made towards the two monitor screens on stage when she sang songs that were not hers. Maybe the only grouse I would make is the fact that she still needs to polish her pronunciation of English words cos when she sang Beyonce Knowles‘ “Flaws And All“, Aida and I were wondering what were the lyrics to the song being sung all about. However it has to be said that even with the little flaws and all, Datin Sri Hajjah Siti Nurhaliza has once again blew the sell out audience (well it certainly looked that way when I turned around to see after the show ended) with another classic riposte which has left an indelible mark in our memories for as long as we live. 90 minutes was too short for most of us who are used to her two and a half hour concerts, but it was enough to whet our appetite and rekindle our love affair for her. Our only hope now is that she would make a swift return to the same venue when P. Ramlee The Musical comes to our shores on 17-19 May 2008. We would definitely love to see “Azizah” reprising her role once again. I leave you now with the chorus of the song “Flaws And All” which describes the love the fans share for her and vice-versa:
“I don’t know why you love me
And that’s why I love you
You catch me when I fall
Accept me flaws and all
And that’s why I love you
And that’s why I love you
And that’s why I love (hmm)…”
P.S. Apologies for the low quality images…