Isnin, 23 September 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Rihanna rocks it


In the first of her two shows in Macau, Rihanna mesmerised the sold-out Cotai Arena with a scintillating performance.

THE bets were hedged on how late Rihanna would be for her concert on Sept 13 in Macau (or Macao, as some spell it). It was her first ever concert in the SAR of China and the first Asian stop on her Diamond World Tour (with following stops including Manila and Singapore – for a showcase during the F1 race).

The ticket said 8pm, but we in the media knew there would be a warm-up act, and that turned out to be some deejays who kept the crowd suitably happy and pumped up. Thanks to inside information from M.A.C (whom Rihanna is the face of the moment for and collaborating with on four makeup collections), who were kind enough to be bring in a media entourage from the Asia Pacific region for the show, we heard she was scheduled to arrive at 9pm.

I knew from experience, as that was the time the deejay set would be over. So I gave Rihanna another hour (it's rare for a big artiste to start on time). True to form, she "dutifully" appeared on the rather small stage at 10pm – with the adoring crowd giving her a huge welcome. 

Robyn Rihanna Fenty - known by her stage name Rihanna - tones down her look but still shows her perfectly toned body as she performs at her concert in Gdynia, Poland, on July 7,2013. - Photo from EPA/ADAM WARZAWA POLAND OUT

Rihanna aka Robyn Rihanna Fenty toned down her outfit in a concert in Gdynia, Poland
but still showed her toned body. — EPA

She looked really hot! And her legs seemed to go on forever.

I couldn't figure out who designed the outfit though. Reportedly, during the tour, she would don several outfits designed by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Raf Simons, creative director at Christian Dior and Adam Selman, her personal costume designer.

Rihanna started off with songs from her latest album Unapologetic. But the anticipation to perform her hits from the crowd was palpable.

Right from the get go, she had members of the audience engaged, sitting down at the front of the stage and letting them lap it all up. Apparently, there was a "shoe-malfunction" (a wardrobe-malfunction would have been more titillating), where she needed to take her stilettoes off.

At one point, she told her back-up band to give a sneak peak of a track from her yet to be released album.

(So, she kind of gave the game away. One of the questions I posed for the interview with Rihanna scheduled two days later in Hong Kong was about her upcoming album. Her pre-release(d) answer: "I love making music, so I never plan on making the album based on timing. I never say: 'Oh my gosh, OK, new year, new album.' For me, recording an album is like buying new shoes or lipstick. You get bored, you want something exciting, you love what you have, but you want something else. So, I love making music and it excites me. I end up making my albums really close together. So far, it's been almost one every year. But who knows?" Want to bet it's going to be November? That seems a favourite month for her to drop a new release.)

Then she teased the crowd even more by walking down to the barricades facing the stage, to put on her new pair of shoes. "Hey guys, where's my sneakers." That promptly created a stampede to get a "piece" of her.

The crowd sure had a Rihanna-crush going on, with me getting crushed to boot!

During the second part of the concert, there was more uhm ... "candy crushes" for the fans. Another glitch, this time with the sound – which prompted RiRi to apologise. And to kill time, she decided to get back to the barricades for an Instagram session with a fan (and everyone photo bombed it). The guy had been holding up a sign, saying, "@badgirlRiRi. Take a picture with me ... Kiss ... Kiss."

Who says wishes don't come true?

Rihanna performing in Macau. — S. S. YOGA/The Star

Back to the most important thing – the music. The first part of the concert was mainly numbers from her current album. And while the fans still lapped it up, the party really started during the second half – when it was hit after hit from the multi-platinum-selling artiste.

Umbrella, We Found Love, Where Have You Been, Only Girl (In The World), Don't Stop the Music, Rude Boy, S&M, Jump (from Unapologetic), What's My Name – you name it, she sang it.

RiRi showed her dance moves on stage, and the crowd seemed satisfied. But let's put it plainly, she ain't no Britney, Madonna or Janet (Jackson). After awhile, you could see her steps were repeated, though she had some signature moves. She tried some twerking, too.

Her backup dancers, though, were superb and complemented her well. But many in the audience expressed disappointment when Rihanna seemed to pull back on the raunchy moves – sure there were some sexy moves and crotch touching, but it was kept to a minimum. And her dressing was decidedly conservative – she kept the same outfit on throughout the show. Her dancers had more costume changes.

Perhaps the recent controversy over Miley Cyrus' racy performance during the Video Music Awards played a part in that. But during the next night's concert, Rihanna wore more "provocative" clothes.

She closed the show with Stay and Diamonds. While there were times during the concert when you could see her lip-synching, the last two songs she actually sang live. And whatever you want to say about Rihanna, she has vocal chops.

To sum it up, it was a satisfying 90 minutes but it did not hit the stratosphere. She did convert some non-fans though, if eavesdropped conversations were an indicator!

Mr Brightside


The Killers' drummer opens up about the band's latest album and his doppelganger.

WHEN The Killers take the stage for its highly-anticipated gig at the Sepang International Circuit in Selangor tomorrow, all eyes will be on charismatic vocalist Brandon Flowers and guitarist Dave Keuning. Then, most likely, bassist Mark Stoermer. It's easy for most people to forget about the drummer since he's often positioned right behind the lead singer. But, you might want to pay attention to drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

"You know, it's hard to not sound like a car salesman. We're going to pour sweat (and blood) to hopefully end up with a show where everybody is enjoying themselves," said Vannucci, 37, in a phone interview from Los Angeles, California early this week.

For the affable drummer, playing for thousands of fans live is akin to being in combat. "It's a dogfight (laughs). I'm trying to think about the music, but at the same time, I don't want to overthink it. I want to enjoy the process. It's like making love! When you think too much about what to do, it's no longer fun."

Vannucci also said the band has a new pre-show ritual. Previously, he said the band gets together and "huddle" before a show. It was explained as a "manlier version of cuddling."

"A couple of weeks ago, our friend Michael Valentine left us a voice message. So, we played it and he had recorded a rap song for us. Now, we just listen to it to get ourselves pumped before a show." Prior to joining The Killers, Vannucci was in a band called Romance Fantasy with Valentine.

For its latest album Battle Born, The Killers collaborated with a number of noted music producers, including Brendan O'Brien, Steven Lillywhite and Stuart Price. Interestingly, Price has also worked with British rock band New Order. The Killers got its band name from a music video of New Order's single Crystal.

Vannucci tried to play it cool when we asked him about what it's like working with someone who had a connection to one of their major musical influences. "No, it was not stressful at all. Yeah, at first, we thought it's going to be a nerve-wracking experience but then, we got to work in the studio and everything was alright. It was interesting!"

Later, he admitted: "Okay, it was actually quite stressful (laughs)."

The pressure was also on for The Killers to come up with music together again after a long hiatus. "Working with different producers has definitely helped us to bring our A-game to the music-making process. It gave us the direction we needed after not playing together for so long. We're really happy with the end result."

With the success of hit singles Runaway, Miss Atomic Bomb and Here With Me; Vannucci also described Battle Born as "the band's return to form".

Formed in 2001, The Killers' debut album Hot Fuss sold over seven million copies worldwide and was even nominated for Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards in 2005. The album also spawned hit singles Somebody Told Me, Mr Brightside and All These Thing That I've Done.

The Killers will be releasing Direct Hits on Nov 11. The greatest hits compilation album features some of The Killers' best tracks including new single Shot At The Night, produced by French electronic duo M83.

"It's part of our contractual obligation to come up with a greatest hits album after a certain period of time (laughs). It's fun to be able to look back at what we've done for the past 10 years." When The Killers took a hiatus in 2008, Vannucci went on to form project band Big Talk.

"Yeah, during the break, I just kept on making music. For a long time, I didn't have anyone to play with. So, I called up a good friend of mine and said 'Hey man, do you want to come play the guitar and we can maybe make a band?' That was it."

Big Talk was formed in 2010 with Vannucci on vocals/guitar and Taylor Milne as lead guitarist. Later in 2011, Big Talk's self-titled debut album was released with singles Replica and Big Eye.

"The experience was a lot of fun and it taught me to really push myself as a musician. In fact, I'll do it again when The Killers go on another break."

He is eyeing a meeting with My Name Is Earl star Jason Lee in the future. Vannucci is aware that fans on the Internet have talked about his likeness to Lee. With a laugh, Vannucci said: "We have never met each other! Don't know why it didn't happen sooner! Which is a funny thing because we have mutual friends who said the same thing about us."

Vannucci only has nice things to say about his famous doppelganger, "Well yeah, he's a handsome guy."

Local rock outfit Kyoto Protocol will be the opening act for The Killers' concert at Helipad, Sepang International Circuit in Selangor tomorrow. Gates open at 7pm. Presented by Future Sound Asia, tickets are priced RM238 and RM358, and available at selected Rock Corner outlets in the Klang Valley or online at For more info, visit

Swift lessons


How a country singer became music's biggest superstar.

Look what's happened to Miley and Biebs. Twerking on TV and peeing in a bucket in public. But while Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have been making fools of themselves, Taylor Swift is demonstrating how to sustain stardom and effectively navigate into adulthood. Sure, she has made some dubious choices in boyfriends, but aside from that, her career – we met her at 16 and she'll turn 24 in December – has been exemplary.

Here are some things we've learned from her approach.

Write from your age and experience. No young artiste in the history of popular music has been more effective at writing songs reflecting what it's like to be her age. Witness her songs Fifteen and 22. This isn't Carly Rae Jepsen, at 27, writing Call Me Maybe as if she's 17.

Work with collaborators who will help you grow. She's been writing songs since she was 12. But after she moved to Nashville and signed a record deal at 14, she worked with various professional Nashville co-writers. When she decided to go in a more concerted pop direction for last year's Red album, she turned to experienced popmeisters, including Max Martin (Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Pink, Ke$ha) and Dan Wilson (Adele, Pink).

Be who you are. Her songs ring true because they are her ideas and her stories; the pros just help edit her ideas. She hasn't tried to grow up too fast – though she has dated older guys – so her fans can still relate to her.

Do your homework and be prepared. When she hosted Saturday Night Live in 2009, she showed up with a long list of ideas for sketches. And when she appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon that week, she spent all of her time quizzing him about SNL.

Be fearless. It's not just the title of her second album; it's her approach to life. The first time she performed in the Twin Cities, she hit the stage solo, playing an acoustic guitar version of rapper Eminem's Lose Yourself. Since then, she has rapped with T-Pain in a video and performed with an unlikely list of stars, including the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Ellie Goulding, Carly Simon, Def Leppard, Jennifer Lopez and the Civil Wars. She's even talking about starring in a biopic of Joni Mitchell.

> Make time for fans. What other superstar does four meet-and-greets with fans at each concert? Not to mention all the tweeting, blogging and Facebook postings. When she announced her Red album last year, she did it with a webcast surrounded by a gaggle of fans. She knows where her bread is buttered.

Work hard. Since the fall of 2006, she has released four studio albums, three live albums, three EPs and 30 music video clips; undertaken three headlining world tours encompassing 278 concerts (after three years of opening concerts for other stars); appeared in four movies and four TV shows, and given countless interviews. She writes or co-writes her own songs – 67 for her four studio discs.

Don't be a puppet; be involved in decision-making. She's a visionary, thinking of everything from music video concepts while she's writing the song, to how to assemble her touring show, to marketing her third perfume. On her Red album, she was listed as "creative director." She is actually her own manager, though a "tour manager" does a lot of heavy lifting and dirty work under her direction. – Star Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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