Oh, James Arthur. The singer you are. The performer you are. The lyricist you are. The man you are! To have watched you perform is the perfect way to end off the roller-coaster of a year 2023 has been. And what a roller-coaster your show was. There were smiles, laughs, tears and flashbacks hitting every single person in the audience that night. Today, we talk about concerts and concert etiquette in Singapore. More specifically, we talk about James Arthur’s sold-out show that the James Arthur South East Asia Tour 2023 brought to our shores last week.
We have a fantastic line-up of artists coming our way in 2024. It’s almost nostalgic thinking about the ticketing hell some of these shows brought us (ahem, Taylor Swift, ahem!). But the upcoming year is slated for world-class artists like Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Niall Horan to perform in Singapore, and we’re all thrilled for what’s to come.
But something that I’m not looking forward to is the concert experience. Ladies and gentlemen, this might hurt, but we don’t exactly win the award for best concert etiquette. In fact, take a read of my experience at Kings of Leon and Post Malone’s shows at the adrenaline-packed extravaganza that was the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2023, and you’ll see what I mean.
With the way phones shoot up into the sky, the lack of actual singing and enjoying the flesh and blood right in front of you, and staying seated instead of getting those bums up to dance and jump even in the seated sections, it becomes hard to truly enjoy the concert. And standing pen behaviour? The ridiculous pushing, being packed body-to-body with everyone else (I think I now know what sardines feel like), and the feeling of not having fresh air to breathe – absolutely insane!
But attending James Arthur’s concert on 5 December restored my trust. That show single-handedly made me believe that a concert can really be the feel-good, wholesome, soul-healing experience it’s supposed to be. The show that man delivered was phenomenal. Here’s why.
Let’s start with the setlist. It was a perfect curation of his greatest hits and his slightly less-known songs. As talented as James Arthur is, his discography is not as mainstream or well-known among the masses. We all know his greatest hits like Say You Won’t Let Go, Train Wreck, Car’s Outside, and his incredible covers of Zac Efron and Zendaya’s Rewrite The Stars, Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years and, of course, his winning song on The X Factor, Shontelle’s Impossible.
I thought it was brilliant how the setlist started with the songs that the fans would definitely know, like You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You then segued into Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me a River, Falling Like The Stars, Empty Space, and Can I Be Him. He then moved on to some of his more popular songs like Rewrite The Stars and Train Wreck, then did some songs that I hadn’t heard before (but I fell in love with), and then ended off with bangers like Car’s Outside, Lasting Lover, and Say You Won’t Let Go.
It was a perfect combination of songs that served the hardcore fans but also people like, well, me! I loved it.
And guess what? At the end of the show, when James and his band did their final bow and were leaving the stage, the crowd chanted “One more song!” at the top of their lungs in a collective symphony. You could see the discussion that ensued between James, the band, and the crew. Everyone waited with bated breath, and the chanting never stopped. Eventually, they ran back onto the stage, and James said into the microphone, “We’ll do one more song for you”. Yes, an unplanned encore!
It was truly unplanned because James asked us what song we wanted to hear, and he performed one of the fan favourites, Empty Space, for the second time that night.
And that brings me to my second reason why I adored James’ show. The crowd. Usually, it’s the crowd that makes for a rather disappointing concert experience with the poor etiquette I talked about earlier. But at this show? I’d never seen a crowd come together in a more perfect harmony and unity than this one did. Even James said, “You guys are my favourite singers ever”. We got his seal of approval!
The way they sang along to every single song. The way they clapped when James said to. The way they jumped when James told them to. The way they cheered was so loud and gave confidence to a lucky fan that James invited up on stage to sing along with him. The space the fans created in The Star Theatre that night felt so safe and wholesome. With the flashlights turned on during some songs, I felt like I was in the stars. It was an inexplicable feeling. I would do anything to go back.
The phones were most certainly up in this show as well, despite photography and videography being strictly forbidden (when has that ever stopped us?). But the snug yet angled seating arrangement of The Star Theatre ensured it didn’t kill the fun. My view remained pretty much unobstructed, even on the first floor. I did love that the entire concert was seated. However, some people behind me remained seated even when mine and all the other rows in front of me had stood up. Stand up, people! Immerse yourselves! You’ll never get this night ever again!
And finally, the reason why the show was as magnificent as it was – the man himself, James Arthur. He is a master at crowd participation, which made the concert more interactive for him and all of us in the audience.
Whether it was asking us to turn on our flashlights on the third song, Falling Like The Stars (he knew what he was doing!), telling us to sing the highest-pitched ‘Naked’ during the chorus of Naked, telling us to help him sing A Thousand Years because it was a tough song to sing for him (as if!), making us jump during Lasting Lover, or making us clap and wave our hands side-to-side during all the other songs – he was a master at getting us involved in the musical experience he was bestowing upon us.
And, as mentioned earlier, he also invited a fan up on stage to sing along with him to Just Us. According to Mothership, it was 19-year-old Jon Chi who’d gone up. It was so wholesome watching James make the stage a safe and comfortable space for Jon, an avid fan. Imagine the core memory this must have been for Jon, who sang with his idol and even sang some parts of the song on his own.
It was so cute watching how James would step back and signal to the crowd to cheer Jon on, and the crowd would do exactly that. They screamed like their lungs were on fire. They clapped like they’d never before. They cheered for Jon. Together, James and the crowd ensured Jon knew how bright he was shining. It was a beautiful moment to witness.
If I may, I would point out that the concert fell short on the audience engagement front. While James did perform 18 songs and he did lots of audience participation during them, I also wish he spent a little more time talking to the audience. This was a sold-out concert jam-packed with hardcore fans and people inspired by his journey and stories. It would have been nice to see a little more of his personality shine in some talk sets with the audience.
Nonetheless, he’s a performer for the books, and that doesn’t change, no matter what.
A concert is meant to be an invigorating experience. And after experiencing the masterclass of a concert that James Arthur delivered, I’m convinced it can be.
First of all, for the love of humankind, please retire your devices. I’m sure you want to capture photographic evidence of this euphoric night with your favourite artist performing your anthems in front of you. But there’s no need to record the entire concert, is there? By raising your phones so high in the sky, people behind you, who have also paid for the same spectacular night you’re hoping for, cannot see.
And if you are situated in the standing pen of your next concert, please do not push or squeeze. Give yourself and others around you the room to breathe and jam out in peace. Everyone is here to have a good time, so let’s do our part to let it happen.
And, of course, sing! Sing your hearts out! Sing every word at the top of your lungs! The sore throat you’ll get the next day will be so worth it. So, do your homework. Find out the songs that will be played at your show and learn the words. Memorise them. And when the time comes, blow their minds and sing them so loud!
James Arthur, you performed an outstanding show for us, one I won’t forget. Thank you for coming, and we can’t wait to have you back again soon.
And to all the other artists coming our way, we welcome you with (very) open arms. 2024 could not come soon enough!
Stay tuned to all things James Arthur on his Instagram, X, and TikTok pages. Get your dose of his honey-like voice and soul-wrenching lyrics on streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.
Keep an eye out for and pre-save James Arthur’s latest album releasing on 26 January 2024!
Visuals courtesy of CK Star Entertainment Singapore.