“I know you’ve got seats and you’re gonna treat this like you’re in a cinema, but you are going to find out later that the seats are for your handbags,” the 44-year-old English singer assured confidently as he addressed the 7,000-strong crowd last Friday, 23 March.
In fact, the audience at the MAX Pavilion was treated to an evening of laughter and fun throughout the 90-minute concert performance last Friday, which is part of his world tour to support his fifth full-length album, The Afterlove.
After 30 minutes of anticipation, Blunt got things started with two energetic and soulful opening tracks, Heart to Heart and I’ll Take Everything. For a brief moment, I had the impression that I was attending a rock concert: clad in a fitting black graphic t-shirt and denim jeans, the folk-pop star took the stage with fervour, jumping across the stage from end to end to deliver a surprisingly lively performance.
In between songs, the British artist jumped at every chance to ease the crowd. For one, he joked, “I’ve already got your money, don’t worry I’ll not play You’re Beautiful tonight,” which received a playful disapproving jeer from the audience.
Blunt also shared that he had just come back from touring four months around the States, and Someone Singing Along – a prayerful track on his latest album – was inspired by US president Donald Trump. He quipped, “I didn’t tell the (American) audience for the whole four months that the song’s about Trump because I thought that would piss them off, and you know no one likes an angry American… do we have any Americans?”
Expectantly, one of the most memorable performances of the evening went to his ballad hits, Goodbye My Lover and High. The spotlight dimmed dramatically on Blunt as he serenaded the audience on the piano, allowing just his silhouette and the complementing light beams to deliver an emotionally-charged performance. However, I can’t help noticing that the spotlight has instead cast a dark shadow over his face, concealing Blunt’s facial expressions unnecessarily.
The audience was finally unable to contain themselves midway through the set, with more than half of us taking Blunt’s cue to leave our bags in our seats. Filling every possible space to get as close as possible to the singer for Postcards, the uplifting number got the audience up to their feet till the end of the entire concert, clapping along to the beat at every chance.
The crowd consists of a balanced mix of middle-aged and couples in their 20s, who were eager to interact with Blunt and his band at any chance. Noticing their enthusiasm, I can’t help but wonder why the concert organiser would make this a fully-seated concert – anticipating a much older audience, perhaps?
With that said, I noticed that the crowd was not very interested in tearing the roof down, as I could hear myself screaming to You’re Beautiful – a rare phenomenon that would not have been possible at any other concerts I have attended to date.
Despite being more known for his melodic ballads, the mood of the concert remained high thanks to the well-balanced mix of energetic tunes across the setlist. Blunt effortlessly turned the multi-purpose hall into a dancing arena with Bartender and his electronic hit OK, which saw Blunt directing the crowd by sections to squat and jump on his cues for the latter.
While some tracks such as Stay the Night bordered on bland and forgettable, Blunt’s versatility as a musician and an entertainer made them negligible. Not only was he able to inject the right amount of energy and fun onstage, his vocal abilities were also unmistakably perfect, as played-to-death radio hits such as 1973 and You’re Beautiful sounded much fresher and invigorating during his live performances.
To put it bluntly, it is hard to believe that I was kept thoroughly entertained (and awake) throughout the 18-song setlist. If this has been anyone’s first time attending a James Blunt concert too, one thing’s for sure: this would not be our last!
James Blunt, The Afterlove Asia Tour 2018 – Setlist:
- Heart to Heart
- I’ll Take Everything
- Time of Our Lives
- Someone Singing Along
- Goodbye My Lover
- Lose My Number
- Carry You Home
- Make Me Better
- You’re Beautiful
- Same Mistake
- Stay the Night
- Bonfire Heart
Photos courtesy of Aloysius Lim.