Well as you can see by the title, I'm not exactly in Taiwan yet...but this concert was too good for me not to share it with you guys so here you go! Yen-J everybody!
Saturday, the 25th of January turned out to be a cool day in Singapore, perfect concert-watching weather. Unfortunately, not many residents of Singapore took advantage of the weather to attend Yen-J’s <Piano Man> concert at the Singapore National Stadium in Kallang. A crying shame, it was. And I’m not referring at all to the concert itself, which I feel was a great success, but instead feel bad for the people who weren’t able to take this opportunity to watch such a great artist in action. Upon entering the stadium, the empty rows and general unenthusiastic atmosphere among concert-goers fazed me, and I found myself wondering, ‘Would there even be an encore?’ . But unlike me, Yen-J remained unfazed and took the stage; gazing out upon a tough crowd (less a handful of enthusiastically bobbing glowsticks) and performing with such enthusiasm, passion and ease that by the end of the concert; there was indeed an encore. And as I looked around in amazement at the crowd that 2 hours ago seemed to all have been dragged in against their will, I saw in their place a horde of supporters singing along to every word of the song, enthralled by Yen-J’s true passion for music and his love for his fans.
The concept for the <Piano Man> theme was well thought out and executed in every sense of the word, linking into many of yen-J’s interests and ideas throughout his life as an artist and musician, as well as relating smoothly to each and every song within the concert track list. The mini movie that played at intervals threaded a plotline and the notion of finding ones’ soul, bit by bit throughout the concert, stringing along fans and critics alike for the ride of a lifetime.
Yen-J was in great vocal form tonight, shedding his notorious but endearing image of <破音王>(voice breaking king) for a night, capturing everyone’s attention when he rose onto stage to the sound of <The year 2000>, breaking out in dance moves that could put Korean stars to shame. Although his slight frame and demure stage presence were obstacles in getting the crowd’s enthusiasm levels to reach a high, yen-J’s sincerity and hard work were enough to capture the audience’s hearts.
Yen-J breathed new life into each of his songs by using his immense creativity, pumping out his numerous hits such as <Temporary Boyfriend>, <A Good Lover> , <I like (no, I love)> and <Good things> , each giving listeners and fans alike a whole new listening experience. Throughout the concert, Yen-J takes us through the periods of life where music in its different genres have inspired him. As he classifies himself as a fusion Jazz-Pop artist, the first section of his concert was more electronic themed to go with the Piano Man theme, with the second segment Jazz themed and the third more pop and alternative genre focused.
The first section featured a dub-step version of <Donna Lee> , forgoing the chinese traditional feel for a more electronic one with Yen-J’s signature style of tongue-twisting lyrics. As for his hits such as <Temporary Boyfriend> and <Good Lover>, he kept changes to a minimum, allowing fans to sing along to these chart-topping hits.
One of my favourites of this concert was his rendition of <The next floor up> , which was a fully rap-genred song from his second album. Interestingly, he used it to lead into the Jazz section of his concert, fusing heavy-metal rock with a prominent jazz influence that included a solo by Yen-J himself on the trombone where he showed off his improvisational skills as a Jazz musicians, playing the crowd to a roaring high. I especially found it quite amazing how he was able to introduce Jazz in some of its most purest forms to a mainstream audience with such a great response. Also receiving a notable makeover was <Thank you for your inspiration> , that was totally remade as a Jazzy piece, complete with Yen-J on the piano and a prominent Saxophone part. Also included within this section were Jazz standards of his, such as <I haven’t given enough> and <The days where I am without you> , as well as a cover of Stevie Wonder’s <Sir Duke> that represented Yen-J’s personal music preferences and how Jazz influenced his adolescent years, with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane as his inspiration.
In his second section, he impressed with his acapella cover of <花心> , a oldies chinse traditional that incorporated acapella harmonies as well as beatboxing vocal percussion, while still feeling traditionally chinese with the help of the melody line. Turns out to be a great combination, but who would have ever thought of that other than Yen-J? I swear, he could put together any combination of genres in the book and it would still sound great. Anyway, I digress. <花心> was fused with an acapella opening to <The world isn’t all bad>, melding into a funky arrangement with the electric guitar. At this point he began to walk around the stadium, handing out Red Packets to fans and shaking hands, which was a great chinese new year surprise! This by far was the highlight of the concert for me, musically and also in terms of his interaction with his fans. <A small Umbrella 2013> was yen-J’s cover of a 1980s Hokkien song of the same name, with a completely different hip hop arrangement, a rap part and different lyrics! I only found this out afterwards so it was kind of lost on me during the concert, but he definitely had the crowd going with this song despite my ignorance in the matter.
He followed this with a stripped down acoustic setting, and performed a number of folksy fan favourites, such as <As Usual> , <I like (no, I love)> and <You and I both>, a cover of Jason Mraz’s original. I especially enjoyed the humorous <A celebrity’s love> that he sang with humour and cute gestures to accompany it. By this point he seemed to really enjoy himself and had loosened up enough to make jokes with fans and converse more easily about his personal feelings. Starting in the wrong key on the piano in <Chasing> was nothing his glib tongue couldn’t cover up, and he went on to perform it in high spirits, even standing up while playing and showing off his prowess with complex improvisation with the audience cheering him on.
His encore song list and his sincere gratitude that he showed to all his fans and listeners for coming were what really touched me, as he dedicated the classic <Meeting> to all listeners and fans while the rest of the songs within the encore really represented to me his transition as an artist since his debut until the moment he was standing right there on the stage in front of us all. Definitely, this concert was impressive as Yen-J showed off his musical skills by performing beatboxing, the trombone, guitar and piano. A few messed up lyrics and mistakes were nothing on this guy. He really won me over not only with his signature creativity and innovation this time around, but his complete sincerity and honesty in which he performed to his audience. I’ve been to many a concert, and yen-J may not have the best voice, or the best stage presence, or the best dance moves (A+ for effort though); but what he does have that no other artist I’ve seen live has is the way that he is able to make every performance about the fans and listeners. He makes them feel welcome, he makes them feel like they’re friends, and this concert showed me what a long way that can go when he transformed a stone-cold room of listeners into a pack of screaming, singing, arm-waving fans. And that, is really what makes him special.
Concert review: 4/5
1. The Year 2000
2. Donna Lee李唐娜
3. Temporary Boyfriend战时的男朋友
4. Good Lover好的情人
5. The next floor up隔壁大楼
6. Thank you for your inspiration谢谢你的灵感
7. I’ve not given enough I给的不够
8. The Days where I am without you没有你的日子的我
9. Sir Duke-Stevie Wonder
10. Summer Romance 夏天罗曼斯
13. 一支小雨傘2013 A small umbrella 2013（Original：洪榮宏-一支小雨伞）
14. I like (no, I love) 我喜欢（不，我爱）
15. As Usual照样
16. You and I both (Jason Mraz)
17. A celebrity’s love明星的爱
19. What would I do without you 没有你怎么办
20. It’s not like I won’t be lonely despite this又不是这样就不孤独
21. One heart for two uses 一心二用
22. Love x Pi
23. Chasing 追寻
24. At least I have me至少还有我
25. Thanks for your greatness谢谢你的美好
26. Good Things好的事情
27. Trapped in Taipei困在台北
30. No evidence at the scene吾在场证明
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! This may include upcoming events in Taipei, concert reviews, and just titbits on life in Taipei in general. (Feb 2014)