Arriving at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday night, I did NOT have a good feeling about the concert. Having previously been in the venue for my brother’s BMT graduation during which I heard only 20% of what the announcer was saying, I was doubtful about how well even the queen of Mandopop A-mei would be able to control the thousands-strong crowd in such a venue.
Paying $68 bucks for a ticket, I got a seat even worse than what was afforded to me for free previously at the famous Taipei arena. The stage was entirely blocked by a low-quality LED screen the size of a large Plasma TV which had a noticeable livestream delay and none of the graphics or lyrics that were displayed on the large screens at the front of the stadium. Being the law-abiding citizen I am, I moved into empty seats with a better view soon after the start of the concert, but due to the large running field that separated about half of the audience from the stage, A-mei was unfortunately still the size of an ant from where I was sitting. Furthermore, the acoustics did not do the place justice at all, with a terrible echo that reverberated oddly throughout the stadium, reducing the quality of the sound heard and even causing a little delay. While some like to say that hearing music live is better than listening to an album, this was not a model example of that situation.
But putting aside all the troubles with the concert venue, Zhang was resplendent and showed the crowd what it truly meant to be the reigning Queen of Mandopop. Appearing in a black feathered dress atop a throne as her alter-ego Amit, she led the crowd through a 37 song-long set, rallying the crowd to a roaring finish by the end of the performance. Singaporean audiences are famous for their ‘cool’ nature, but in all my years of concert-watching, A-mei has been the only artist who has truly been able uncover the underlying passion of Singaporean audiences for music, and for life, something which is no easy task from what I’ve experienced thus far. No amount of coddling, telling them to wave along or playing singing games was able to match the standing ovation that A-mei garnered that night with little more than a pinch of her infectious and exuberant stage personality and her well-stocked armory of meaningfully curated hits. Truly a night that every person in the audience will cherish for a long time to come.
From the moment I sat down and saw the ‘Utopia’ logo flickering across the screens, one thought came into my head: ‘by the end of this concert, I’ll know what Utopia truly means’. And indeed I did. Using the darker social critiques from her Amit albums as a starting point, Zhang’s set list kicked off presenting the chaos and misery of modern life, before slowly transitioning towards her ‘Amei’ style, preaching a message of warmth, happiness, exhilaration and love-creating the Utopia every human being yearns for. Zhang herself described the concert as going through several phases: Firstly, the ‘Amit’ phase, then the ‘Amei’ phase followed by the ‘love is all around’ , ‘sensual’ and ‘party’ phases. Although I found it a little abrupt how the phases were so solidly sectioned off, I still believe that it was a wonderful way for Amei to put across her concept of heading towards Utopia. Furthermore, I truly applaud the way the musical theme of the concert adhered closely to the unique brand of EDM/Punk Rock/Pop Zhang had forged in her two previous albums, “Amit 2” and “Faces of Paranoia”. Old hits such as ‘我可以抱你嗎 Can I hug you’ and ‘Bad Boy’ were completely rearranged into A-mei’s distinctive new style, however newer songs such as ‘母系社會Matriarchy’ and ‘怪胎秀Freak Show’ from her “Amit 2” album remained much the same arrangement-wise.
The Queen was truly on point vocals-wise on the night, rasping and roaring on more Rock-inspired tracks such as ‘黑吃黑Black eating black’ and ‘母系社會 Matriarchy’ and getting the audience singing along to evergreen ballads such as ‘記得Remember’ and ‘人質Hostage’, crooning and showing off her soaring vocals like a pro. However, like true royalty, A-mei also has the habit of asking audiences to sing along while she stays silent, savouring their voices. As beautiful as that image seems, it would be nice for her to sing along with her audience too, especially on songs which they don’t often hear her sing live but yet are karaoke favourites, such as ‘掉了Dropped’.
In between songs, Zhang spoke to fans as if they were long-lost friends, even singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them! Truly the most beautiful ‘Happy Birthday’ song I have ever heard. The bond between herself and her audience only grew stronger as she threw out a wildcard that no one, not even myself were expecting. In 2014 when performing at the Spring Wave Festival in Singapore, A-mei was banned from singing her song ‘Rainbow’, which is a well-known anthem celebrating gay rights, which caused a huge uproar and brought to light the amount of censorship that Singapore’s media undergoes. Despite this, A-mei started off the segment by expressing that she believed that all kinds of love are to be given our blessing, before launching straight into her acoustic rendition of the song to the delight of her audience. In that moment, I could practically feel the happiness and unity radiating around the room and for the very first time that day, I truly put down my troubles and waved my hands in the air like I just didn’t care. The cute Kiss-cam was a nice touch too, and it was surprising to see Singaporeans game enough to play along. Anything is possible when you’re A-mei, I guess.
And if you thought that was hard to top, the Mandopop Queen immediately one-upped herself by leading the audience in a warm and touching rendition of her hit ballad “我最親愛的My dearest”, organically cumulating in a sea of smartphone lights that moved the singer to tears. The warmth and touching atmosphere her silken vocals weaved through the air however, were perfect from start to finish, leaving me a little choked up myself. Soon after, Zhang kickstarted the party with jacked-up party hits such as ‘Booty Call’, ‘渴了Thirsty’ and ‘Bad Boy’ where she showed off her groove and partied along with her talented dancers, before bringing the concert to an end by performing the song which initiated the theme of the concert, ‘Heading towards Utopia前進烏托邦’.
Although she left the stage so abruptly at the end and didn’t return for an encore, I was was still kind of appeased by the high that she had created prior to leaving. Although the location and some of the technicalities were completely off-balance, this was no match for A-mei who gamely shrugged it all off and continued doing what she did best-spreading her message of love and music throughout the world. Just before she left, she repeated a phrase from her last song ‘Heading towards Utopia前進烏托邦’ in a poignant memory that will stay with me forever. “有愛什麼都對With love everything is right”, she said, and at that moment I realized that the answer to true Utopia was not some kind of strategy or planned place; it was as simple as it was hard to achieve. Spread love, and a Utopia is what you will achieve.
**Missed out on all the action? Never fear, Hello Asia’s got your back! Click below for our specially curated playlist of the songs that were performed (yes, even in their original order)!
Concert Track list
1. 怪胎秀Freak Show
2. 開門見山Mountain at your doorstep
3. 黑吃黑Black eating black
4. 你想幹什麼What D’ya want?
5. 不要亂說 Shut it
6. 牙買加的檳榔Jamaican Betel Nut
7. 血腥愛情故事 A bloody love story
8. 母系社會 Matriarchy
10. 偏執面Faces of Paranoia
11. 跳進來Jump in
12. 火 Fire
13. A級娛樂 First Class Entertainment
14. 薇多莉亞的秘密 Victoria’s Secret
15. Happy Birthday
16. 你是愛我的 You do love me
17. 我可以抱你嗎 Can I hug you
18. 記得 Remember
19. 這樣你還會愛我嗎 Will you still love me like this
20. 聽海 Listening to the ocean
21. Medley：三月March＋我要快樂I want to be happy＋人質Hostage
23. 永遠的快樂 Eternal Happiness
24. 好膽你過來 If you’re brave come over
25. 哭泣與耳語Tears and whispered words
26. 彩虹 Rainbow
27. 我最親愛的My dearest
28. Booty Call + 渴了Thirsty
30. 女人說Women say + So good + Bad Boy
31. 三天三夜Three days three nights＋狠角色＋Yes or no
32. 前進烏托邦Heading towards Utopia
Photos from UnUsUaL Entertainment.