Written by Raisa Tanawi
Photography by Shirley Damian
When we came to Singapore Indoor Stadium on February 28, my friends and I were utterly surprised on how – finally! – there are concertgoers who are 24 and above. The stadium is usually the venue for K-pop concerts, and if you juxtapose this audience with that of the Korean boybands, it was so different!
The whole place was filled with couples, and fans (both guys and girls), but without much of the hassle of signboards, lightsticks or worn fan tees (of course there were a little clique of here and there, but it ain’t much compared to the young fandom these days). Reliving when you used to dance and sing along to their tunes back when you were a primary student, the three representatives who took over the SIS after their Jakarta tour two days back at JIEXPO for The GreAtest Hits Tour 2012: Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees, A1, and Blue sang their greatest hits for 2.5 hours! There were technical glitches which resulted in boos from the crowd, but once the stage acts kicked in, there was no turning back to start karaokeing and singing along on spot with the dudes who used to decorate your room walls back then.
“Any 98 Degrees fans right here? I’m so, so thrilled to be here this evening,” greeted Jeff Timmons, who came as a solo act that opened the night, crooning the most iconic hits of 98 Degrees, like “Because of You” and “True to Your Heart”. Timmons did the ultimate fan service around: seat-toppling over from the front, climbing it one by one and greeting fans by showing his hands, and also striding the middle alley of the VIP seats. If you were a huge fan of his back in the days but never got to see him up close before, and seated at the VIP inner section, I take it your night was made.
“When I say A1 you say: ‘Yeah!’ Try it. When I say A1 you say?”
“And when I say Blue you say: ‘Alright!’ Let’s try!” hollered Timmons, pumping out the crowd. Continuing cheers in unison arised the entire stadium. He even brought up a girl on stage for “I Do (Cherish You)”.
The “Take On Me” and “Same Old Brand New You” crooners a1, the British-Norwegian pop group who came as a trio (originally there were four members, but Paul Marazzi had left the band a couple years ago, leaving Mark Read, Ben Adams, Christian Ingebrigtsen and causing the hiatus) entertained the entire stadium for a full hour. They even slipped in the recent hot songs on the pop charts, like “I Gotta Feeling” and “Poker Face”.
“You guys know what this song is? Seriously? Mark only played one chord!” Ben reacted and laughed. The three jammed up filling out with their other three band members for “Like A Rose”, “Everytime”, “Be the First to Believe”, “Summertime of Our Lives”, and that famous hit of theirs, “Caught in the Middle”. They rapped up their repetoire with their new single, “In Love and I Hate It”, before giving the stage up for the long-awaited Blue.
When we expected the four UK boys, Timmons came back to finally deliver his old group’s remaining greatest hits: “The Hardest Thing”, “This Gift” and the ever-popular “The Invisible Man”; the sound system was previously screeching itself right before these songs and his act had to be postponed. “This is a brilliant rendition of the song with you singing along!” The patience of (well, considering that everyone are…) “old teens” was definitely tested in this concert. The clock striked 10PM past 15 minutes when Timmons finally re-did that “When I say Blue, you say… Alright!”
My moment came at last – the tingling sensation that traveled underneath my skin once that familiar minor tune from the piano and the smoke that came thereafter on stage, revealing the four gentlemen all were screaming for: Duncan James, Simon Webbe, Antony Costa, and Lee Ryan. “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” for the opening song opened my tear ducts as I self-rejoiced; having been a Blue dork in sixth grade eight years ago, I have now listened to them live, without auto-tune or lip sync.
No one should not know about the song that went global without much help from the internet: “One Love”. They showed their latest music video while changing outfits into a casual, cutesy outfit, before kicking off their share of greatest hits, starting from “Too Close”, “Breathe Easy”, “Fly By”, “Signed Sealed Delivered”, “If You Come Back”, “Best In Me”, “Guilty” and “All Rise”, where they showed off their moves, inviting a whole lot of positive reactions. In this era, it’s not everyday you see Western musicians dance in choreography. They took a final bow and sadly, never to return to the stage as we waited for an encore, or at least for the three bands to take the stage together to bid their final goodbyes.
Most would agree the concert kind of ended abruptly, and that it wasn’t fair for Blue to have not sang as long as a1. But as it ended late at 11:15PM, due to the wait for difficulties, it was understandable how there was not an encore as public transport calls to a close not long after. Nonetheless, we old teens had our fair share of nostalgia, walking back to the days when we adored the West for talent and true, beautiful lyrics, something that is arguably now dominated by the fresh, small milky faces of Asians.
Special thanks to Jocelyn Lee from Rock Records!