Venues: Esplanade Park Stage & The Padang, Singapore
Date: 22nd September 2013
Promoter: Singapore GP Pte Ltd
Review by: Fadhil R.
Special Thanks: The Singapore GP Pte. Ltd team
Photos by Alvin Ho: The Sam Willows | SGP 2013 Album
The Sam Willows, Rihanna
“Music is its own reward. If you treat music as a vehicle to some destination of fame and fortune, you will undoubtedly fail.” Just some random British dude talking loudly to his mates to celebrate the F1 SGP 2013 on race day. His words surprisingly made sense.
The sun is setting. A crowd of more than 100,000 occupied the Padang and it’s the third day of F1 SGP, presumably the calm before the storm. The announcement of Rihanna touching down on Singapore soil obviously brings great delight to the surroundings and her diehard fans will be the storm when the accomplished singer-songwriter takes the stage later on into the night. But to be fair, a lot rests on her shoulders. There’s no doubt she’s the driving force behind the modern music industry now and that her ambition is a big part of why she’s reached the point that she had. In fact her work in making top-notch albums a reality seems to have dominated and shaped what was already a love for music. Indeed, Rihanna has managed to maintain a steady setlist for most of her concerts in other regions, which is pretty good going for any singer out there, especially one that encountered considerable difficulties for many years in her personal life. Now, however, Rihanna is firing on all cylinders with her second appearance in Singapore performing live.
While the previous day saw cyclonic winds at some point of time, Esplanade Park Concert sees Sam Willows turning on the charm. With bands like them continuing to push down hard on the speed pedal, The Sam Willows are a reminder that not all cover bands need to be truly effective mainly on song covers. Our homegrown band had a good range of crowd-pleasing hits to satisfy every fan in the venue.
From “Glasshouse” to a stripped down version of “River Dance” confirmed three things: their intensive brand of soul-folk, their devoted followers who don’t give a damn about what other people say, and lastly they proved they are capable of writing fabulous originals. Songs like “Glasshouse” and “Epilogue” isn’t to everyone’s taste but those songs have poise, purpose, and power. This band right here won’t stop having great songs and distinctive basslines to put the cherry on top. As if that isn’t enough to induce a united lineup, the band’s EP album should be worth looking out for.
This is it. Strap yourselves in, bid your loved ones adieu and prepare to scream. Rihanna had no problem making use of the giant platform; with an enormous backdrop and mass of predominantly female fans, she powered through with “Phresh Out The Runway” as what it looks like a giant dome elevated from the stage. It’s hard to know whether the look on Rihanna’s face is grin or grimace. Both ways, only the most upbeat of vibes pour from the stage and the mass chanted “Come and put your name on it,” to the song of “Birthday Cake”. No stranger to the Singapore crowd, she inspired her Rihanna Navy to start up a dance pit and sing along to classics such as “Talk That Talk” and “Pour It Up”. There are some well-received dedications to those who have always been with us; “Numb” getting the party started. Her dancers ready up the room with their flowing movements, proving the set highlight that goes along with Nuno, her tour guitarist who was smashing things up with his superb solos. Perfect.
Witnessing “You Da One” is like watching a tsunami of weed hit the crowd in slow motion as they sway in unison causing a cool effect. The crowd is spreading thinly somehow as a relatively known song titled “Man Down” hit their stride the opposite. This doesn’t bother singer Rihanna as she thrashes around with her way of performing Caribbean dances. She rubbed sexy and high on life together like two flints about to start a fire and oh boy, it works well on the crowd.
Rihanna hit the stage running yet again with “Rude Boy” as the crowd was singing along to every word amidst drunkards galore, making the set so far a supercharged one. We may have been hearing about twerking being mainstream but damn, that woman can melt hearts like she’s dissolving them into an intravenous elixir. “What’s My Name” seems almost like it’s going to break the spell to cheer throughout as Rihanna was concentrated on twerking for most parts of the song. Wild crowd was inevitable. This already seems a far more ordinary event for the fans to be watching on the big screen at the back, although from the front row, it’s remarkable. At this point, it would be easy to assume this all sounds like a terrible idea but I dig her sleeping dress she’s wearing. As an example of how accepted Rihanna is here, a combination of “Jump On It” and “Umbrella” caused tongue sprains in trying to pronounce the words during the chorus, but then again those resounding words of Umbrella are clearly very well known here. Her other songs like “Turn On The Lights” and “Rockstar 101” are sung along to by the majority of the crowd, and clearly have accessible mass appeal musically.
Only Rihanna look like she had just finished a smoke pot, has a unique tone that suggest at least a passing familiarity of an acoustic version of “What Now” to keep a fan glued to her beauty. “Take A Bow” however is a different story. It’s enough to get the pulse pumping in the purest way as she belt out superb song after superb song. Huge choruses rolling off the stage every minute as Rihanna was creating a novel experience to the huge crowd. Everyone is enjoying themselves far too much, even attempting to break past the barriers to join her onstage. “Hate That I Love You” got the audience firmly back on an even ground as Rihanna herself seem to be having just as much of a blast singing to this nostalgic track. It’s possible you’ll see backup singers visibly loving being in Rihanna’s Diamonds World Tour more, but only if there were unexpected celebrities having a duet with the Barbadian artist. As “We Found Love” ensued, that youthful energy we all felt at the start of the concert was on for a healthy length of time, which offers pure entertainment. It’s a welcome sight all over again to see such fit fanatics in one place, but with the kind of setlist so far, it shouldn’t be a surprise.
Disappointing is a word seldom, if ever used in conjunction with songs like “SNM”, “Only Girl (In The World)” and “Don’t Stop The Music” in one tainted crust grinded together and it certainly can’t be used to describe Rihanna’s display. Her vocal talent is again the focal point as the she blasts through the set that is never more outstandingly awesome than when Paris Hilton decided to be the DJ at ME@OUE. Flying under the radar, “Where Have You Been” greeted the night and the knowledge that this is the end hangs over the crowd and manifests itself as tangible danger and very real. As Rihanna left the stage, there was a short interlude with the crowd still very much the order of the day, perhaps a little less frantic now.
Two questions instantly spring to mind as Rihanna takes to the huge stage again. The first is why isn’t a singer this consistently brilliant and influential praised for her relentless dance antics and singing all at once? The second is why no one has thought of putting Rihanna together with Cobra Starship as they were in town too? Either way, she proves once again with an encore, recreating the magic with “Stay”. No, this is not truly Rihanna as we know and remember her to be, but the warmth, passion and cheeky little smiles she inspired around the Padang evoke everything that was great about her live concert. Quite simply, the lady’s turning into a genuine national treasure.
Performing “Diamonds” for her final song, on this kind of form, she’s going to be unstoppable in the future. If you can catch her before she goes supernova, you owe it to yourself to do so. She has little to fear, though. Every melody sung in ear-splitting unison as she moved to the end of the set. While many watch in open-mouth horror when Rihanna took a bow from the stage, we all know that this story is far from over.