Singapore is not New York or London, but it has a decent arts scene. I wrote last year about the Singapore Arts Festival, which featured an eclectic mix of artists from around the world. This month, Singapore hosted its Mosaic Music Festival, a ten-day run of shows that opened with one of my favorite artists: Harry Connick, Jr.
I had never seen Connick in concert, so I jumped at the chance. He played the Esplanade Theatre, which is housed in the "bug eyes" structure at the mouth of the Singapore River. We had balcony seats, with good sight lines to Harry and his 11 piece band. He entitled the tour, "My New Orleans Tour", and it was a tribute to his home city. He played all kinds of songs, from upbeat classics to soulful, jazzy numbers that would have been at home in a smoky little bar just off Bourbon Street. These were peppered by solos from his talented band mates, as well as plenty of spotlight time for Harry on the piano.
Connick is immensely talented. In addition to his excellent work on the ivories, he often took centre stage to sing and dance. One number had him dancing with his friend, Lucien Barbarin, an excellent trombonist and jazz singer, that included a Ricky Martin-type booty shake across the stage. For a guy my age, Harry is in quite good shape!
On top of everything, he is hilarious. He played the crowd like a comedian, picking out people in the audience and even coming out in the crowd to get his picture taken with one fan. This after he had read the man's name, phone number, and email address from off his business card!
All in all, it was a fantastic performance. If you ever have a chance to see him live, GO! His trip in Singapore was part of a larger Asian and Australian tour, but I think his stay in Singapore, while brief, proved far more enjoyable than that in his next venue. In Shanghai, where he flew the next day, he inadvertently submitted an old song list to the authorities there, who closely monitor all Western performances. Apparently, they were in no mood to grant exceptions (the Icelandic artist Bjork just a few days earlier had ended her concert with a cry of "Free Tibet", which led to the increased scrutiny of foreign artists). So, he was forced to follow that song list, which meant that most of the time he played solo while his band sat silently on stage. I suppose that in China, the old adage applies: the song remains the same.