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Kelly Clarkson - Wrapped in Red

 

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Album Review: McBusted
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Album Review: Cheryl - Only Human
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Album Review: Gareth Fernandez- Gareth Fernandez
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To state that Yellowcard has been plagued by a series of unfortunate events would be to oversimplify the upheavals that have persistently challenged the four-piece from Jacksonville, Florida. From violinist Sean Mackin’s fight with thyroid cancer to the harrowing accident that paralysed frontman Ryan Key’s wife, these were already potential tell-tale signs that could have ruptured the band’s future. On top of it all, the hasty separation from beloved drummer and founding member Longineu Parsons stole further headlines but nevertheless, YC refused to be eclipsed and the result is Lift a Sail – a lavish rock record whose natural habitat could easily include sold-out arenas.  

The Coliseum is no arena but as the pop punkers’ second Singaporean stint there, the air close to that of a homecoming was unmistakeable as a similar restless fervour audibly simmered. Drawing a parallel to the headliners’ compelling narrative of resurgence was Sign of Five – the refurbished alter ego of Dropbeat Heartbeat who injected a brand of light-hearted (if not shop-worn) banter into their opening set. With a limited repertoire that spanned only a handful of songs, their cover of the bawdy Fountains of Wayne favourite, Stacy’s Mom, boded well enough with the audience as did Wheatus’ one-hit wonder, Teenage Dirtbag. Implicitly stirring certain antagonistic sentiments against One Direction, ‎Rozaihan Ramlan was eager to please – poking fun at their own poorly-lit acoustic endeavour of Less Than Three while guitarists Matin Wallister and Shafiq Hameed busted out melodic riffs to close the quintet’s lead single, Here We Go.

Usually associated with his signature backflips (which later made a striking appearance mid-Way Away), it was Sean Mackin’s stringed soliloquy of Convocation that held the crowd enraptured in its sombre grip notwithstanding the halting technical glitches that preceded it. As former Thursday drummer Tucker Rule smashed out thundering beats that grew louder in succession, the slow-burning instrumental lead-up inevitably erupted into a frenzy of beefy, blaring fretwork courtesy of lead guitarist Ryan Mendez. In remission or not, Mackin’s onstage athletics were far from compromised; never failing to gesticulate wildly in encouragement towards those in the front row to join in Crash The Gates’ soaring battle cry.

Placating long-time fans with the inclusion of 2006’s Rough Landing, Holly and Lights and Sounds, the setlist for the evening was Lift a Sail-centric that was charged with emotional highs. Having proclaimed a worldwide guarantee that it would be absolutely impossible to remain stationary throughout Make Me So, vocalist Ryan Key aired his heartfelt thanks to staunch listeners of the particular album (next to multiple complaints about the humid weather). As a reiteration of his hope that the group’s “darkest days are done,” Illuminate was ever the uplifting track that saw Key’s versatility in crooning silkily, “As we ascend air will get thin, we’ll become ghosts together again.”

Memory, it seemed, still served those present well, euphorically lapping up rare Paper Walls jams like Fighting, before responding equally enthusiastically to more recent anthems like With You Around and Awakening. Coolly sauntering across the stage, bassist Josh Portman was hardly a man of many words, opting instead to let his instrument do the talking by grinding out the gnarly rhythms of Southern Air. Having recently shared a co-headlining tour with Memphis May Fire, it would’ve also been interesting if YC had attempted The Deepest Well sans Mutty Mullins but one can’t really complain too much.

Key initially had qualms about pouring his heart out whilst writing lyrics dealing with his wife’s tragedy – comparing it to a “really, really, rocky road,” – but as a lone figure on the piano singing California, it’s quite apparent from the hypnotic quality of his performance that the heart-warming ballad and even the band’s recent record as a collective, has to be a purgative experience every night. There is a certain poetic symmetry too as the jagged riffs of Ocean Avenue come crashing in that is quite meta. Yellowcard literally tells you that this is goodbye (for now) and it is this seamless connection that mirrors one’s easy investment in this group of individuals who have already displayed a willingness to bare the banes of their existence. 

Setlist:

1. Convocation
2. Transmission Home
3. Crash the Gates
4. Way Away
5. Lights and Sounds
6. Make Me So
7. Illuminate
8. Light Up the Sky
9. Rough Landing, Holly
10. Awakening
11. Fighting
12. Lift a Sail
13. Only One
14. With You Around
15. Southern Air
16. Believe
17. California

Encore:
18. One Bedroom
19. Ocean Avenue

Photo credits: Instagram/ danfollowill, arcariee

If you want to know what it’s like to be in love in the 21st century, just look towards Vine couple Us The Duo. In early 2014, they found Internet fame on Vine with their six-second covers, quickly amassing over four million fans, earning themselves a record deal with Republic Records as well as a chance to tour with the grande dame of wholesome television, Oprah Winfrey.

Two months after their inaugural landing in Singapore for a brief show at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals, they found themselves craving the tropical Asian air, the warmth of this little city-state. And here they are, Dec 10, in the Kallang Theatre preparing for their first-ever Asian concert – thanks to the good people of LAMC Productions.

The night kicked off with the home-grown Gentle Bones (also known as Joel Tan, a singer-song writer, one of the island’s most prized possessions), joined by the ace scarfed violinist, Josh Wei. Serenading us with singles including Elusive, Until We Die, and a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Lego House, he warmed up the auditorium for the love that’s about to permeated the air.

We couldn’t take the amount of gorgeousness radiating from the husband-wife folk-pop team, Michael and Carissa Alvarado – one, a mocha-skinned Filipino stunner; the other, an American charmer looking just as delectable with his curls up in an irresistible man bun. Laidback yet heartfelt, their acoustic set was bereft of the glitz and glamour, and featured only two backing instruments maximum at any one point.

Getting off to a slow and steady start, the smitten-eyed crooners opened with the quietly romantic Make You Mine while the 1,000-strong audience sat in the presence of two immensely adroit artistes. The 70-minute gig was one big storytelling session where audiences were taken through their love story, largely narrated by and from the perspective of the suave cavalier, Michael.

It’s like a romance novel come to life (Take note, Nicholas Sparks). He never believed in love at first sight until he locked eyes with the exotic brunette bombshell at a music video shoot three years ago. And there, he knew he had met his wife. Cue Falling in Love, a dreamy and dizzy number.

But the course of true love never does run smooth. It took Michael incessant tweets (50 times a day) and social media wooing from across the country to win the lady over. Eventually, love begets love and they’re ascending the stages of online dating – culminating in a movie date via FaceTime. That’s when they birth their first collaborative effort, Missin’ You Like Crazy, a cute little track exploding with chocolate wishes and candy kisses.

Sauntering over to the keyboard, they brought the atmosphere down to a poignant degree with the ever-emotional Take Me Home, written when they were away from each other. Just the piano prelude itself (courtesy of Michael, the insanely versatile multi-instrumentalist) was effortlessly poetic enough to melt our hearts and moisten our eyelashes.

But of course, it’s not all lovey-dovey at the Us The Duo concert. The night saw them belting out an ode to the banana, as well as an “open letter” to a few singing competition judges who didn’t believe in their talent. The highlight that stuck with us was their cover of David Guetta’s Titanium. Forget the EDM-laden original. With Carissa dominating the cajon and Michael dropping the slickest of grooves on the electric guitar, the song was at its best stripped down to the basics.

The night closed on a crescendo with No Matter Where You Are, the title track of the duo’s second record, the hit that made its way into the animated film, The Book of Life. From the way they sent figurative sparks flying towards each other every time they looked at each other and launched into a dulcet duet, the audible outbursts of Aww’s in unison were to be expected. It sucks to be single and witnessing these lovebirds in action, but they sure make it easier for the members of the Lonely Hearts Club with a reciprocal outpouring of adoration. If you didn’t believe it before, you’d believe it now: Love conquers all.

 

Set List:

1. Make You Mine
2. Falling in Love
3. Missin’ You Like Crazy
4. ‘Til The Morning Comes
5. Titanium (Cover)
6. Take Me Home
7. Never Gonna Leave You
8. Final Bow
9. Don’t Lay Your Head
10. The Banana Song
11. Top Hits of 2014 Medley
12. No Matter Where You Are

Encore:

13. Christmas Medley

 

Photo credits: Aloysius Lim/LAMC Productions 

It’s been 10 years since The Reason brought light into our music-obsessed lives, and we’re still not tired of the golden hit. Neither are its creators, Hoobastank. They’ve dropped by this sun-drenched city five times now, and they’re still not tired of us. Neither are we of them.

The last time we saw Hoobastank, it was 2009 and minutes away from the new year. Since then, they’ve left Island Def Jam and birthed a new record, Fight or Flight (2012), as an indie outfit. But bassist Jesse Charland was quick to remind us of their affinity for and connection with Asia. “We’re not independent here in Asia. We’re part of Universal Japan,” he said at the press conference hours before show time.

“It’s simply fun to make music,” shares Dan Estrin, the lead guitar maestro. “You just play something and you’ll get a natural high that feels really good. That’s what I keep going back to. I walk out of my kitchen to go my bedroom and there’s a piano and I just ‘bleh’! Sometimes, I hit something that’s really cool and I just end up sitting down and playing just based off of ‘bleh’.”

Evidently, their “blehs” turned into a refined anthology of more than 90 songs and six albums that a multitude of followers (from the opposite end of the globe) have come to witness live.

For starters, home-grown 14-piece percussion army Wicked Aura warmed up the stage with a half an hour set, escalating our heart rates with explosive rhythms and slick grooves. A melting pot of samba, funk, rock, reggae and a touch of screamo, the noisemakers are fronted by Idham Budiman, an electric ball of energy, who left some of his effervescence in the air ready to be followed up by the headliner.

Soul-shredding riffs, courtesy of Dan's handiwork, were aplenty that evening – the first of which came from opener Just One. Lovely, lively and limber, frontman Doug Robb was like an athlete on stage with his jersey numbered 00 (which may or may not be a nod towards the band's success as a '00s post-grunge wonder), prancing about with ease despite the humidity.

Two songs in and he decided to launch into his go-to song for hyping lukewarm crowds. “This next song has the perfect tempo for this entire floor of beautiful people to jump up and down to,” Doug declares. He was right. No Destination never fails to lift our feet off the ground. The Hoobastank maniacs in Singapore may be an intimate bunch, but nothing could stop them from howling and hooting at the top of their lungs in reciprocation to the leader's call.

In case the Coliseum at Hard Rock Hotel starts to combust, the Californian hard rockers had to mellow down with Remember Me andIf I Were You. The 90-minute set included deep cuts like Same Direction, Born to Lead andInside of You – all delivering punchy, anthemic ear candy.

If there's anything that could top Jesse Charland's Movember-fresh bristles, it'd be his bass line, with which our bodies trembled in sync. Behind the drum set was Chris Hesse whose silhouette was projected onto a wall left of the stage on a larger scale, adding to the enigma and upping the drummer’s cool factor.

Mid-set, Hoobastank whipped out the good old call-and-answer with My Turn, getting the ladies to sing a melody while the lads bellow, “When’s it gonna be my turn!” “I did this last time here and it went so good, I want to do it again,” Doug prepped the audience. Because what’s a good concert without a little two-way interaction? Needless to say, they kept the energy and excitement in the air, a feat not quite easy with the typically reserved local audience.

Climaxing at the 2004 kingpin, The Reason, the show was greeted with a much-anticipated, slightly nostalgic, yet blissful and epic sing-along by the masses. The night closed on headbanging heights with schizophrenic numbers like Out of Control. Thanks to the heavy thumpers, we left with muffled hearing, but in high spirits having been in the presence of an underrated gem. Whether a diehard Hoobafan or a single-song admirer, it’s clear that there’s no getting tired of Hoobastank - for now and for(n)ever.

Set List:

1. Just One
2. Let it Out
3. No Destination
4. Same Direction
5. Remember Me
6. If I Were You
7. I Don’t Think I Love You
8. All About You
9. Born to Lead
10. Running Away
11. No Win Situation
12. My Turn
13. Inside of You
14. The First of Me
15. Pieces
16. This Is Gonna Hurt
17. The Reason
18. Out of Control
19. Crawling in the Dark

Spin or Bin Music is proud to be the Official Music Blog for Hoobastank Tour in Singapore!

Photo credit: Impact Entertainment Group

It is quite uncommon for artistes of high calibre to visit Singapore twice in a single year.  In light of their sparkling Laneway debut last January however, Glasgow’s CHVRCHES beg to differ – storming back for seconds with their very own headlining show. 

Having conquered the likes of Reading and Leeds, Coachella and T in the Park since we last saw them, the electronic pop outfit did make us feel pretty special by concluding the final chapters of The Bones of What You Believe in this particular region of the world.

Coaxing the lukewarm crowd to a delectable start was Riot !n Magenta, a home-grown indie quintet that managed to both electrify and sooth.  A lithe Eugenia Yip was evidently in her element, busting multiple moves between long draughts of vocal gymnastics that garnered a smattering of applause. Buoyantly backed by the reverberating beats of Ritz Ang, Yip even coerced the drummer to flaunt his lean bod albeit in an abashed fashion.  Noticeably, the rippling chords weaved by guitarist Khairyl Hashim (of The Great Spy Experiment) melded subtly with Yip’s soulful rendition of Told You So. Simply thrilled to be bestowed with an opening slot at The Coliseum, the stratospheric act lived up to be one of the Little Red Dot’s gems that tend to be hidden in plain sight.

After over a year of touring in support of their debut record, it was almost customary that CHVRCHES kicked off the night with We Sink, rousing impassioned yells of “Say, say, say!” The looping synths – buzzier and more aggressive live – provided the necessary bite for Lauren Mayberry’s halting enjambments. Despite her stage patter being compared to “an uncomfortable best man speech at a wedding,” Mayberry’s microphone-wielding skills were on another level entirely. Whipping strands of cable around her fist, the frontwoman’s Lies routine was pulled off with finesse as were her occasional Lazzara-esque swings which drew gasps of awe from those in attendance.         

Helmed by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty, the trio’s synths bristled with pop-infused hooks, inciting flailing arms throughout the course of punchy anthems including Gun andLungs. The multi-instrumentalist Cook who was also on bass and guitar duty, was likened by Mayberry to the role of a “driver” whose regrettable sneeze could bode ill and disrupt the remaining course of the set. A sentiment not held without its fair share of truth for Cook’s experience with previous assorted soundtrack work probably came in handy when crafting Get Away, as part of Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 Rescores: Drive with its sheer 80’s bombast.

Upon belting out favourites – from the slow-burning Tether to the compulsory Recover and The Mother We Share, a massive sing-along was inescapable as an exhilarated Doherty even directed his mic stand towards the audience, egging them further. Armed with his signature snapback, Doherty was an irresistible force to behold even from the start. Constantly in one schizophrenic motion or another, it’s safe to say that this writer lost all his shit once Doherty was substituted onto centre stage for a highly-kinetic Under The Tide. While Mayberry could be characterised by her shimmering yet delicate tones, what Doherty offers is a blatantly emotive presence plus thicker, slurred Scottish nuances.

In a not-so-subtle play on words, the band was shrouded in a dimly-lit setting during You Caught The Light, with a single spotlight trained on Doherty’s bass-brandishing silhouette. An ardent Hunger Games enthusiast herself, Mayberry was impressed by the few who flocked to watch its latest instalment, quipping that she hoped to hear more than a whiff Dead Air throughout the flick.  Tributes and salutes aside, the revolution-igniting track saw the singer stretching her vocal flexibilities and bursting into squealed choruses – in contrast to a coolly concluding By The Throat which was no less haunting. As a band that has been propelled at warp speed, it’s heartening to appreciate CHVRCHES’ well-deliberated palette and their humble reciprocation of fan adoration i.e. an impromptu meet-and-greet session mid-Din Tai Fung. This rare willingness to invest in a second go at a country with terribly foreign weather mirrors their genuineness as performers – one that has obviously been gratifying for all parties involved.

Setlist:

1. We Sink
2. Lies
3. Lungs
4. Gun
5. Night Sky
6. Get Away
7. Science/Visions
8. Recover
9. Tether
10. Under the Tide
11. The Mother We Share

Encore:
12. You Caught the Light
13. Dead Air
14. By the Throat

Photo credits: The Gathering Instagram

One of the most respected names in modern pop culture, Mariah Carey, finally made her way back to Kuala Lumpur for her second concert – The Elusive Chanteuse Show (her first was back in February 2004). I am pretty sure I am not alone in having an OMG-I-CAN’T-BELIEVE-I-JUST-SAW-MARIAH-IN-THE-FLESH moment. 

Looking pretty and fresh, Carey appeared on stage during Wednesday’s concert at Stadium Merdeka in a black buttoned-up jacket outfit to a strong crowd of 12,000 fans in plastic raincoats. Suddenly, being drenched under the relentless pouring rain wasn’t such a big deal after all. The pop-diva smiled and waved to the crowd as she opened the show with Fantasy, followed by Touch My Body.

There were a couple of random/spontaneous interludes including one where she was making up lyrics “It’s raining, it’s pouring, what are you going to do when lightning strikes? Just hold on tight, Kuala Lumpur” before encouraging us to shake, shake, Shake It Off. I was slightly let down that Through The Rain wasn’t included in her set list. It would have fitted nicely in corresponding with the weather.

Fans who attended her Charmbracelet World Tour a decade ago may remember that Carey only stuck to her bright pink spaghetti-strapped top and tight-fitting blue jeans throughout the concert as a result of the strict dress code regulations. Thankfully, history did not repeat itself. This time, she had several costume changes including a glamorous black gown with a plunging neckline and snakeskin-print trench coat.

One of the more notable outfits was when Carey sashayed unto the stage again in a one shoulder long Grecian pink dress to perform one of my favourite Mariah Carey covers, I’ll Be There, (by The Jackson 5) with backup singer and long-time friend, Trey Lorenz. Their duet was first featured in Mariah's 1992 MTV Unplugged album. 

The most memorable moment of the night for this writer came when she sang her gospel-inspired song Fly Like A Bird while seated on top of a large piano. Mama Carey not only took us to church, she carey-ed us up and beyond to the heavens. That's right,the best-selling female artiste proved that she still has it despite hitting some sour notes recently in Japan.

Frankly speaking, Carey’s is no longer up to par compared to her prime years. But albeit having to sing one octave lower (particularly on her classic songs such as My All, Hero and aforementioned cover, I’ll Be There), the 44-year-old singer hardly faltered whenever she did her signature whistle register throughout the night.

Another personal favourite moment was when she belted out her much-loved ballad Hero and was accompanied by a black and white video footage paying tribute to all the inspiring heroes who have made their mark on the world. From Gandhi, to Princess Diana, Oprah, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa, this performance was one of the most poignant parts of the evening.    

Yeah, there may have been a few glitches here and there. The long wait, thunder and lightning, fire (the stage had a little mishap), technical issues, and the exasperating bad weather… All that being said, it was a real privilege to witness the legendary Mariah Carey singing live and gracing us with her incredible voice.  

Carey ended The Elusive Chanteuse Show with her signature mega hit We Belong Together and returned for an encore for crowd favourite Always Be My Baby and Butterfly (Reprise). Carey’s musical style may have changed over the years but to echo one of her fans, “she was, she is, and she always will be…”

Mariah Carey’s The Elusive Chanteuse Show: Tour Live in Malaysia 2014 Set List:

1. Fantasy
2. Touch My Body
3. Shake It Off
4. Emotions
5. Cry
6. Fly Like a Bird
7. My All
8. Heartbreaker
9. #Beautiful (with Trey Lorenz)
10. I'm That Chick
11. Honey
12. I'll Be There (The Jackson 5 cover) (with Trey Lorenz)
13. Thirsty
14. Meteorite
15. Hero
16. Supernatural
17. We Belong Together

Encore:
Always Be My Baby
Butterfly Reprise

Favourite vocal performance: Fly Like A Bird, I’ll Be There

Favourite Visual Footage: Hero

Shout outs during the show: L.A. Reid (I’m That Chick), Monroe & Moroccan Cannon (Supernatural)

****

The concert was organised by IME Productions and supported by Malaysia Major Events, an agency under the Tourism and Culture Ministry.

Photo credits: IME Productions