Deprived in my own country. That's how I feel when it comes to attending international live concerts from the west. Many top acts have been to this part of the world in Asia. However they simply bypass us in Malaysia. Due to countless restrictions our authorities designed specially to keep themselves busy and powerful. Not to mention the many layers of red-tapes and approval the concert organisers have to put up with before the show is allow to go on at the very last minute. By the time the many levels of authorities are 'taken care of' to 'protect' the concerts, there isn't much left for the organiser. This was a fact told to me by a marketing manager friend Bryan who was once in charge of live acts sponsorship when he was with a renown brand company.
If you are an organiser, it will be quite an expensive ordeal since your investment will be decided by the wimps and fancies of the hungry power that be. So its never a question of whether the artiste can sell tickets. It is always whether you are allowed to sell them in the first place. Due to this, many organisers would think twice before bringing any pop stars to our local shore.
But that's only half of the nightmare. There is also the religious counsel to be content with. The overzealous counsel members seems to have alot of man-made rules to keep themselves morally superior too. So they sat Gwen Stefani down last year and told her to cover her arms and legs before she can take to the stage. She humbly did so. I wondered how her make-shift wardrobe looked like. I bet it must have been a total malfunction!
Then a year later, they demanded Beyonce to revamp her costumes to suit their self-righteous hang-ups. But Beyonce said, 'Screw you. I am taking my act to the largest Muslim country in the world. Which is totally not as insecure and uptight as y'all'. Indonesia then welcomed her with open arms and minds.
Here are the odds. Can one night of concert attended by just a tiny fraction of the young generation be able to corrupt the minds of the entire population? Funny how Beyonce and Gwen continue to show their skins all over Malaysia on TV and no one seems to be complaining. Dear members of the counsel, go figure.
So by some strokes of luck, I managed to catch 10 international live acts over the pass fifty odd years. I am not even talking about my top 10 list of concerts. I don't have the luxury of choice to put up my favourite top ten. Ten concerts are all there is I managed to attend in my entire life. So far. That works out to one concert in every five years! Some are not even concert size. Deprived? You bet I am. However the following are the 10 acts I have attended that should calm my deprived music driven soul. Here in the order of my favourite:
1. Linkin Park : Merdeka Stadium
Easily the best concert I have attended so far. The thought of attending a concert by my favourite rock band is like a dream come true. Yes, I got to see them live and loud. Mike Shinoda rapping as he paced about the fully imported mega stage. Chester Bennington screamed through his songs and left us all in a state of shock and wanting more. He actually screamed just like he would in their CDs for the entire concert. No audio tricks. Every monumental rousing song send us into a head banging frenzy. From beginning to the last encore. The ultimate in live rock concert experience. We were all fully charged and totally pumped.....I was so numbed.
2. Michael Jackson : Merdeka Stadium
The first time I saw MJ in concert was in Singapore. I was on the ground level in the middle of the stadium field. That was a big bad idea. If not for the giant video wall, I can only see a pin size head of Michael bopping about from where I was standing. The crowd was too tall for me. Or was I too short? A few years later, when he was to perform in Kuala Lumpur, I got smart. I bought a side terrace seat which is not only cheaper than those standing ground, I had a grand full view of the stage with Michael doing everything including his famous moon walk. Yes I saw him for real. Twice. The sound system was crystal clear and thumping even though it was an open air concert. It dawned on me that I am witnessing a first class international act from the mesmerizing king of pop himself with precision choreography to superior audio and visual technology. What a treat.
3. Duran Duran : Putra World Trade Center
By the time I got to see them live on stage, they have already past their prime with only 3 original members remaining. Well, at least I got to see Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor. When they took to the stage, the absence of Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor didn't matter much anymore. Simon had the Malaysian crowd lapping up every dated hits they dished out. I paid a good price for this show and ended up very close to the stage. Mainly because Duran Duran has been my favourite band during the 80s. I went with Kutie a colleague who is totally crazy about them. Naturally we had a ball and can't get enough. After the show we were still hungry like a wolf.
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates : Stadium Negara
They came to Kuala Lumpur during the peak of their fame. Maneater were to be one of the best album they have ever recorded. In fact it was this album that made me comb through their back catalogs and own most of them. But how would they sound live? I must say it was a gem of a party. The songs were danceable and hip during that time. Everyone was into it. Daryl's mullet hairdo was a rage. His signature voice rang out unmistakably around the stadium only to remind me that I am watching the maneater himself. At one point he even directed a guitarist back to his spot when he has over done his solo. Alas the diva in Daryl was showing. Throughout the concert, John Oates was very much to himself singing a few numbers with occasional harmony.
5. Santana : Stadium Negara
My first ever concert experience in a stadium. The euphoria I got from the crowd was something that cannot be felt from watching any concert on TV. I was not even on drugs. Never had anyway. Watching Carlos in real life, frying his guitar with his signature closed eyes was enough to get me high. I don't remember how I got to the front of the stage. If I can recall well, the pricey ground level wasn't packed and we were allowed to join the sparse crowd about 20 minutes into the show. So I ended up right there under his guitar spell. I jumped, clapped, shouted and head banged with total lost of inhibition. That embarrassing sight came complete with a paisley head-band on my forehead emulating Carlos. What was I thinking.
6. Paula Abdul : Stadium Negara
The most memorable part of the act was her entrance. I remembered she just appeared and rocketed towards the ceiling of the stadium with cables. While she was up there at the center peak of the stadium roof, she pivoted and danced in mid-air. It was so high up there I just couldn't comprehend her lack of fear for heights! The upward gazing crowd was in awe and went wild. I haven't seen any appearance like this since. The rest of the performance was very colourful due to the video wall I saw for the first time. Goes without saying, the dance routine choreographed by Miss Abdul herself turned the whole concert into a party.
7. Bee Gees: Universiti Malaya Auditorium
The Bee Gees I saw was way before Saturday Night Fever. They were already casted off as has-been before they reinvented themselves with the disco beats. They were so uncool that they couldn't even command a stadium crowd. To be booked in a university hall in Malaysia says alot about their popularity then. I did enjoy the mini concert. Mainly because I got to see the real Gibb brothers doing all the songs I knew by heart. Oh yeah, Robin Gibb was already singing with a hand covering one of his ear then. It's also before he got his face fixed. Barry has not yet discover the frenzy he would create with his medallioned hairy chest later in his career. But he looked so much better then. They were all so young. So was I. I went home singing to their songs cupping my ear with one hand.
8. Dionne Warwicke : Harlequin Ballroom, Merlin Hotel
No I didn't spell her name wrongly. Dionne put the E at the end of Warwicke thinking she could revive her post Bacharach career. Instead she ended up singing in a hotel in Malaysia. For 3 nights she entertained the crowd with her then newer songs. But it was her Burt Bacharach songs that really got the crowd going. Its clear that she can't do away with her collaboration with Burt. The Harlequin Ballroom is not exactly a concert hall which is just perfect for an evening with DW. Very intimate. Very lounge. She charmed the dinner crowd with her warm rapport. I felt her eventhough I was sitting far back as a non-diner. At one point her mic was not working half way through a song. She gamely encourage all of us to continue for her before another mic was fixed for the next number. So professional she was.
9. Blood Sweat & Tears : Kuala Lumpur Hilton Ballroom
During the early 70s Jazz Rock was one of the IN thing in music. Blood Sweat and Tears was just right up there with Chicago. With hits like Spinning Wheel and You Make Me So Very Happy, I have been a faithful fan when it comes to buying all their black vinyl. By the time they made it to the KL Hilton Ballroom's stage in the early 80s they were already a has-been band. What I got to witness was just half the original 8-piece band fronted by the original singer David Clayton Thomas. That was good enough for me. His sexy gravel soulful voice was still recogniseable all except his obesity. It was a sit down concert and the crowd was well behaved. At the end of the show, the Malaysian crowd didn't know how to call for an encore. The band didn't return either. Quite an odd ending I was thinking to myself.
10. Sting : Stadium Negara
He appeared on stage unceremoniously in a black tee-shirt backed by his musicians also dressed in black. Very simple. Very honest. For the next one and a half hour, he was to sing from hits to hits standing on the same spot with his guitar without addressing the crowd only but once. Typically, the crowd would wave lighters whenever Sting does a slow number. It would be a great if the venue was an intimate one. One of my ex-colleague Agnes whom I went with was drooling at the sight of Sting. Just because he was her type! For me, I wouldn't have miss a thing if I was at home listening to his CDs. Its the same. Believe me. I love him and his songs but live? Eh, I don't think so. However now I can claim that I have seen Sting in person. No big deal really.
11. Muse: Stadium Negara
Oh ok, so its 11 acts I have attended. Not 10. But this one doesn't really count. You see, a friend Raymond got us free tickets. 20 minutes into the concerts, we were still not singing along with the audience. I didn't know Muse well then. I didn't know their songs. I begin to realise this scene is not for me. We all walked out and pass our 4 tickets to some Malay boys who were contended with just listening to Muse from outside the stadium. They were so thankful. Speaking of deprived.