There was a time when Singapore was considered a tag-on in the regional tour calendar of big pop music concert acts. Michael Jackson probably preferred to perform in Tokyo where the Japanese worshipped him. Madonna too. Singapore was a by the way stopover for the sake of their fans. And the Rolling Stones usually played to massive crowds in Sydney before stopping over here to collect some extra pocket money on the way home to London. Singapore was not ulu but was by no means a must-go-to happening place.
I think no more. It has become a regional concert hub for the major acts.
Coldplay has just broken the record for the number of performances in one stop. They will do six shows at the National Stadium in January next year. Never before in my living memory, one may say. Taylor Swift will also be here for six days in what the promoter calls “the only stop in South-east Asia”. Her venue is also the National Stadium at the Sports Hub.
Even before next year, this year will see some big acts already scheduled for Singapore. They include Jacky Cheung, SUGA and NE-YO. Not to mention the likes of Robbie Williams and Mr Big.
Why the sudden mini explosion of acts which are not cheap to watch? The tickets cost as much as the subsidies being handed out to cushion the impact of the GST hikes.
First, Singapore is becoming an attractive performance destination. There are more state-of-the-art theatres. The much-improved National Stadium, the Star Theatre and the Sands Theatre now join the Expo, Suntec City and others to offer a fairly impressive variety of options.
Second, more people now know of Singapore because of the F1. At least the people with cars, cash and clout to spare. And the F1 is a big draw in itself. It generates the world publicity and buzz which performers crave. Singapore is infinitely much easier to sell as a venue than other places.
Third, it is like Singapore is hitting a kind of sweet spot in its development as a world city. Everything seems to be coming together effortlessly after decades of lego-building. Brick by brick.
In the end, however, entertainment trends in any city cannot be eternally sustained by guest participants – whether as big-spending visitor attendants or as purely foreign acts.
I have not been to big act shows lately, I must confess. But it has always been a tradition for organisers to invite a local act as a prelude to the main act. Example: local blues group Heritage belted out in a warmup session before Bob Dylan appeared for his concert in the 1990s at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Can we see Jeremy Monteiro appear somewhere during the Coldplay show? Or Tanya Chua do a duet with Taylor Swift? Or JJ Lin match NE-YO’s footwork?
In the end, good pop music performances are about trends. Just enjoy them while they are around.
I asked a friend, who was a well-known concert impresario in his time, for his thoughts on Coldplay and Taylor Swift and their choice of Singapore as a favourite destination. He gave me an interesting answer: “Read up tulipmania in the Dutch Golden Age, then you will understand.”
So I consulted Wikipedia:
“Tulipmania was a period during the Dutch Golden Age when contract prices for some bulbs of a fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels. The major acceleration started in 1634 and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. It is generally considered to have been the first recorded speculative asset bubble in history. The tulipmania was more of a then-unknown socio-economic phenomenon than a significant economic crisis. It had no critical influence on the prosperity of the Dutch Republic, which was one of the world’s leading economic and financial powers in the 17th century.”
My friend is saying that entertainment has its own laws and logic. Nothing to do with real life in Singapore. It is just music and escapism.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also the managing editor of a magazine publishing company.
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