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Album Review: If You Like Indie Rock & Punk, You'll Love Titus Andronicus' Latest 91-Minute Album
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Album Review:  Wilco - 'Star Wars'
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Album Review: Carly Rae Jepsen Is Back With An 80s Inspired Technopop Record, E•MO•TION!
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Smoke + Mirrors is the sterling sequel to Night Visions and also Imagine Dragons’ jam-packed 90-minute gig that jumpstarted the heart of sleepy Singapore to its very core.

Imagine Dragons’ presence here is anything but a mere whirlwind that’s stopped by: it was a tour de force, a reigning tornado of high-octane pop and rock fusion that left ears ringing and fists pumping in its wake.

A quarter past eight and vibrations fired from the amplifiers left the Indoor Stadium quaking with frenzy: here there be Dragons! The leading notes of Shots rippled off guitarist Wayne Sermon’s strings shortly, dire proof that there’s indeed no escape from being devoured by the beasts of rock.

The almost psychedelic animations flashed on the LED screens injected a sense of surreality into the arena – a underlying semblance that’s omnipresent in both of their albums. The dexterous use of strobe lighting and lasers left me in a trance, but then I caught the sight of Dan Reynolds’ glorious man bun. The frontman dominated the giant bass drum on stage, clad in a black sleeveless tracksuit that showed off his biceps.

After roaring through an upbeat Trouble, Dan relinquished and took the time to express his sentiments, saying they’re absolutely blown away to be here, and to have experienced the local culture and sights (particularly that of the Botanic Gardens). And then he turned the mic on us. The atmosphere burst with united, proud proclamations of the famous line, “I’m never changing who I am” – It’s Time.

Smoke + Mirrors and Polaroid were both curiously satisfying songs. The eponymous track was the most enigmatic of all renditions, but Polaroid segued into a prodigious series of guitar solos thanks to Wayne.

It was only during the electrifying I’m So Sorry (my personal favourite) that I felt the incredible magnitude of their stage power surpassing anything I’ve witnessed before; a seemingly composed auntie even got her head bobbing wildly to the snazzy bass that’s courtesy of Ben McKee.

Gold hit so many hauntingly great notes during the chorus whilst Demons practically had close to 12,000 of fans singing their throats out (or better yet, unleashing their vocal demons).

A chirpy Hopeless Opus was followed by Release, but not before Daniel Platzman delivered his frantic, awesome drum solos – after all, how could ANY concert be complete without drum solos?

On Top of The World generated all new high contrary to Friction, the track equally agitated as the title claims – the ruckus especially resonated within the standing pit, as bodies gravitated to the sounds of Imagine Dragons.

Everyone was elated to lap up I Bet My Life, the single we all got familiar with not too long ago. But we didn’t surrender our voracious appetites for the Dragons, until Radioactive. It spanned the longest performance, as it should be. Even so, it felt short, the brevity of their iconic track limited by how fast time passed.

As the final cadences of encore track The Fall slowly fell away, the members of Imagine Dragons joined hands and graced the front of the stage one last time, but we know it will not genuinely be the last as the band made a pact to revisit our island once again.

As the saying goes, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, but I’m more than relieved that Imagine Dragons is the exception to the rule.

 

Setlist:

Intro/Shots
Trouble
It’s Time
Forever Young (Alphaville Cover)
Smoke + Mirrors
Polaroid
I’m So Sorry
Gold
Thief
Demons
Hopeless Opus
Release
On Top Of The World
Friction
I Bet My Life
Radioactive

Encore: The Fall

Photo credit: Live Nation Lushington, Sports Hub Singapore, Aloysius Lim and Alvin Ho

2 years ago, The Maine promised us they'd come back to Singapore in less than 7 years, and well, they did so last Saturday night with a bang. Hailing from Pheonix, Arizona, this American 5-piece rock band has garnered a huge following in Singapore over the band's lifespan, and the huge turnout filled every nook and cranny in Neverland II, St. James Power Station.

The Maine are probably one of the nicest musicians you'll ever meet and they showed that with a lovely meet-n-greet session before the show, signing albums and giving hugs to many jaw-dropped fans in line.

The very last show of the American Candy Tour was opened by local alternative folk band DEON who warmed the crowd up with a "4 Seasons" themed display of original songs like "Summer" and "Spring". Their washed-out guitars and chill sound really covered the place in good vibes as we waited for the maine act of the night. (mispell intended)

It didn't take these American boys long to get everybody jumping with hands reaching out hopelessly for them as they began the night with the opener from American Candy, Miles Away before the upbeat guitar-driven Run from the album prior. It seems they were as excited as us to be back in our country. Bassist Garrett Nickelsen supplied the most energy throughout the gig screaming and dancing around.

In the night nobody wanted to end, there was a sudden pause just before the chorus of Growing Up when frontman John O'Callaghan reached out to the crowd pleading "Hey! Put your phones down just for the next 3 minutes!", and his "scolding" of those few still holding their cameras up just brought everyone closer and connected us all to the wonderful music put out right in front.

After a string of headbanging songs highlighted by My Heroine and English Girls, the band paid tribute to one of their longtime friends, dedicating the soft-rock tune Jenny, before Pat, Kennedy, Jared and Garrett exited the stage, leaving John to have a moment alone with the rest of us.

An amazing lyricist, John began to preach deep words of inspiration and self-belief to everyone while picking the guitar part of Take Me Dancing to set the mood, before giving us an invitation to an acoustic singalong of Into Your Arms, probably their most-known song.

"All those dreams you have, all those fucking aspirations you have, they are all so fucking attainable my friends."

Probably the best moment of the night was when John jumped into the middle of the crowd to dance with us to the beat of The Rolling Stones' Satisfaction, ensuing absolute chaos and inciting everyone, even the fangirls way at the back, to bully their way towards John to get a selfie with him, or just to touch him god-knows-where.

The Maine showed us their hardcore side with an energetic performance of Let's Eat Grandma before closing with Right Girl and capping off an incredible night that will leave all of us with a bad case of post-concert depression for many days to come.

P.S. Your goldfish will be waiting for you, John.

Setlist: 

Miles Away
Run Growing Up
Inside Of You
Misery
My Hair
My Heroine
Same Suit, Different Tie
Like We Did (Windows Down)
English Girls
Jenny
Into Your Arms
Identify
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Love & Drugs
American Candy
Let's Eat Grandma
Right Girl

Photo Credits: Instagram (jielim / aliciaclz_ / doughnads / genghaot / ellyskies / nicoletteyim / _humannequin)

It was a night of pure bliss and nothing could go wrong - the thought every person in the crowd of 4000 had when Kodaline and Sheppard took the stage on a serene Thursday evening.

Describing Sheppard’s opening number as ‘energetic’ would be an understatement. I felt the heart of the city shook as everyone stamped their feet along with Hold My Tongue, Let Me Down Easy, and yes, a cover of Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag.

Already covered in sweat within just the first few minutes, George Sheppard made us all jumped in sync as we screamed “Say Geronimo!” repeatedly for the last chorus. Never in my life would I have imagined using all my muscles together. Yes, I’m talking about my vocal cords included, which were already toned up even before Kodaline’s set.

While Sheppard has a habit of announcing their songs before they perform, Kodaline surprised us every 4 minutes with a loud bang. Although it left ‘regular’ fans confused, they ended up singing along to each chorus, oblivious of the fact that it doesn’t matter if you know the title as long as you’re familiar with the tune. After all, music is about the connection and not the facts.

We were reminded of the sweetness and sorrows of love as Kodaline serenaded us with their mellow hits, One Day, The One, High Hopes, and Love Will Set You Free. All of which were expressively sang it resonated to every person in the crowd with the same emotions as Steve Garrigan’s.

I took a few seconds to peek at the people behind me every once in a while and I would always be moved (not literally) by the expressions on their faces, eyes closed, as they mouthed every word of each song. It made my heart flutter.

Aside from their tear-jerking slow-paced songs, Kodaline got everyone on their feet with Ready and Coming Alive. These made me overly enthusiastic as I danced along to the moving lights and upbeat tunes. It’s not everyday that you get to hear live music in such a perfect setting.

After an hour and a half of emotional outpouring and aching muscles, Kodaline ended their set with the much-awaited encore, All I Want, and that evening, no one was a stranger. The moment radiated with such euphoria and I must say we really are ‘In A Perfect World.’

 

Photo Credit: Aloysius Lim and Alvin Ho for LAMC Productions

Talk about going full circle. One year ago, I discovered Echosmith all thanks to a Samsung commercial (yes, can you believe it?). And just yesterday I saw the Sierota clan live, although they were late to their own party, kicking off their 90-minutes music hoopla at almost close to 9pm.

I thought I’d give YouTuber artist David Choi the full credit for being a charismatic and entertaining opening act, even if it was only for a short and sweet half hour.

He was all smiles and brimming with bon mots, dishing out honest songs inspired by his relationships, and romantic advice (“My advice if you’re in a long-distance relationship? Don’t do it.”) If yelling "Hey Singapore!" wasn't personal enough, David had one special song up his sleeve named Dempsey Hill befitting for us locals.

But even David felt the incredible, aching desire from the 2,400 strong crowd to meet the Los Angeles natives, and fashionably parted ways to the ‘It’s-About-Damn-Time!’ entrances of Sydney, Graham and Noah Sierota. Touring guitarist to missing in action, soon-to-be father Jamie Sierota was Josh Murty.

If there is one thing 17-year-old Sydney Sierota has naturally acquired, it’s her unmatched, magnetic stage presence despite a petite frame. She’s so much more than a two-dimensional pretty face to front the band; her drumming skills with snare drums clearly showcased that.

Ran Off Into The Night awakened the musical palates of us plebeians, and cemented itself as the appetizer of a night of rousing, feelgood harmonies.

Taking the liberty to bundle up her golden ombre locks in song transition, Sydney quipped, “It’s so hot!” Yes Sydney, this is Singapore for you. But the persistent humidity didn’t stop the quartet from launching into Talking Dreams and Come Together. (The latter surprised me as I thought they’d save one of the best for the last.)

Happily attached to Cameron Quiseng of the on-hiatus Allstar Weekend, Sydney introduced favourite Tell Her You Love Her, describing it as “a song that’s very close to my heart.”

Alright, how can we not succumb to the atmosphere that’s now thick with affection? Even the slight breeze in The Coliseum couldn’t evaporate the adoring glances exchanged by the couples dotted in the crowd.

Love – 1, Humidity – 0.

Bright was the one convivial track that sparked something in the fairly-odd parents that were chaperoning their kids. After all, their faces looked much less painful than the ones at a One Direction concert.

Come With Me was as playful as the song went: One lucky guy and girl (who are now “best friends” thanks to Sydney’s cheerful introduction) were invited on stage to dance. The infectious, free-spirited disposition of Echosmith’s tunes permeated even the laziest concertgoer, the air punctuated with rambunctious claps.

Nothing’s Wrong saw the patriarch and matriarch of the Sierota clan helpfully recording a rhythmic clapping session between their children and the throngs of ardorous fans. Mom – and Dad – on tour together?! I admit, this was one memorable Meet-The-Parents session. Of course we should have seen it coming.

The first notes of Cool Kids drifted off the amplifiers, and instantly, on cue, anything affixed with a camera went up. Redolent of the times I used to hear this on radio, Cool Kids was the song I felt like I could immediately understand and relate to. We don’t have to fit in with the Cool Kids.

Obliging us with one last song titled Up To You, Echosmith swiftly recovered a handful of concertgoers who thought the band had called it a night. I secretly bet those are the same people who exit the cinema once Marvel films flash the closing credits.

It’s nothing less than amazing to realize that in the two years Echosmith have spent penning the songs in their bedroom, they have also washed themselves ashore to perform for us, a tiny island in South East Asia.

They are met with something larger than success itself: a sincere affinity that only music and lyrics can bring.

Echosmith certainly has tender roots in the alternative pop genre, but their familial chemistry and genuine need to connect with their fans halfway across the globe were what rocketed them from Warped Tour to “World Tour”.

 

Setlist:

DAVID CHOI

All I Need
Missing Piece
You and Me
Dempsey Hill
By My Side
Can't Take This Away

ECHOSMITH

Ran Off In The Night
Let's Love
Talking Dreams
Come together
This Must Be The Place (Cover)
Tell Her
Bright
Come With Me
I Melt With You (Cover)
Nothing's Wrong
We're Not Alone
Cool Kids

Encore: Up To You 

 

Photo credits: Resorts World Sentosa, Aloysius Lim and Alvin Ho for Warner Music Singapore

Twenty One Pilots (sometimes stylised as twenty | one | pilots or twenty one pilots) is an American musical duo from Columbus, Ohio.” Such a premise barely encapsulates Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun – unassuming natives of the Buckeye State who have found themselves revered as forerunners of an international cult. They enjoy a rabid following; surely the envy of other fledging acts and their recent hijacking of the Billboard charts is testament to the potential harnessed by a core group of fans. Yet it still feels pretty surreal to truly appreciate what these two men have managed to accomplish and what they represent.

As a first-hand witness to their winning debut performance in Singapore, it's safe to say that TØP is genuinely louder than life.

No stranger to tiny venues, Twenty One Pilots somehow retains the same type of intimacy you would expect from a club show. [Besides, the Suntec Convention Centre Halls are basically idealised, starkly frigid rooms, yes?] This is in part due to the air of camaraderie palpable amongst concert-goers (tainted only by thuggish attempts to surge forward, jfc people) as a sea of red beanies a la the Tear In My Heart video is common sight. Heck, the lucky kid who got hoisted up onto stage specifically to execute an over-eager, in-group handshake was wearing one in almost uniform conformity. Seriously, I haven't seen a passion for crimson hats burgeoning like this since Taylor York's pre-self-titled aesthetic.

Weathering a throat infection that forced the band to cancel a previous Taiwanese date, Joseph did not appear to falter even once throughout the night. At one point, the MC pretty much gave the finger to tonsillitis, exuberantly declaring “I’m on fire!” while twirling around with a stalk of sunflower in between his toothy grin, all Cheshire Cat-like. But perhaps “We’re all mad here,” is exactly the sort of rhetoric 21P intends to espouse. Health-related demons quashed, it is common knowledge that Joseph treats their live component as a decisive battle against his insecurities (in Dun’s case, it’s more therapeutic in nature) and though considerably muted down, a hint of strictly utilitarian theatrics was still discernible. It’s a rather ludicrous image to conjure up – a grown adult in a skeleton mask playing the tambourine – but it sticks and Joseph wore it with utmost ingenuity. His pleas to save his HeavyDirtySoul become increasingly agitated while he clings to an encircling and visibly illuminated microphone (possibly his salvation), his frame contorting in spasms with each of Dun’s smashes. There’s a reason why “catharsis” is a favourite word of Joseph’s and his constant state of jumpiness is merely a physical manifestation of that coveted release.

But to mistake Joseph’s overt display of his vulnerabilities solely for a sign of weakness is to miss the point. “What’s my name, what’s my name?” he taunts the audience, teetering on malicious glee. His name’s Blurryface and he cares what you think. Rather than succumbing to the weight of paranoia, he revels in the spotlight and by acknowledging his fears, siphons the strength to lead a rousing, fist-toting rendition of Guns For Hands. The innate sense of sentimentality that Joseph embodies doesn’t quite dissipate however, with the most tender of moments weaved within livelier anthems.

“There’re two parts to this. I want you to sing the other part.” Behind a piano, the frontman’s tones ring forlorn as the crowd chants, “Help me.” When isolated from the overall bounce of Ride, such seeming desolation may be anomalous but that is the unavoidable reality of juxtapositions as asserted by TØP. One minute you could be hollering along to the ukulele-driven Lane Boy and the next, literally raising the roof next to a bemused parent who’s wondering whether that transition into DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win really happened.

Joseph doesn't simply defeat Blurryface - the personification of all his insecurities - per se. Victory at face value is presumably as ephemeral as the temporary rush attained when executing their invigorating set without so much as a slight hiccup. The true triumph then lies in recognising this underlying entity of doubt and subsequently ensuring that we're not in its destructive grasp, devoting our resources to more productive preoccupations. In Joseph's case, it's being a symbol of hope for the "the few, the proud and the emotional." He is not incorruptible (unlike Batman); incessantly hounded by a misplaced sentiments of inadequacy and an acute awareness of his band’s two-piece status. "Did we do okay for you this evening? Did we do okay?" Joseph does little to mask his fretting, holding fans in the highest esteem.

Remarking drolly, he affectionately refers to a wide-eyed Dun as “the rest of the band,” seizing every opportunity to draw attention to his BFF with the precision and fervour of David Letterman’s once ubiquitous, “Are those your drums?” Indeed, the pair’s friendship takes centre stage at times – ranging from aerobatic leaps off the piano to ukuleles playfully converted to mimic \trumpets and BB guns, betraying an ingrained eternal youth that is matched only by adult Big Wheels. Dun uses his sticks as a form of peephole for crying out loud.

Still, it's consoling to know that despite what personal turmoils they've faced and the statistical improbability of success, Twenty One Pilots have propelled themselves to the top on their own terms. Their fundamental appeal lies in the desire to connect with others – their disclosure of human fallability profoundly frank yet refreshing without being too jaded.

So who’s Twenty One Pilots anyway? (If not “one of the biggest bands in the world no one has heard of?”)

We’re Twenty One Pilots and so are you.”

Setlist:

1. HeavyDirtySoul
2. Stressed Out
3. Guns For Hands
4. Migraine
5. House Of Gold
6. Bugatti (Ace Hood cover)
7. All I Do Is Win (DJ Khaled cover)
8. We Don't Believe What's On TV
9. The Judge
10. Lane Boy
11. Fairly Local
12. Holding Onto You
13. Fall Away
14. No Woman, No Cry (Bob Marley cover)
15. Ride
16. The Run And Go
17. Tear In My Heart
18. Car Radio

Encore:
19. Trees

Photo credit: Aloysius Lim | Live Nation Lushington SG