Esplanade Concert Hall is described as a world-class facility that boasts excellent acoustics, with reverberation chambers that boost sound quality for different musical performances and concerts. One would imagine the sheer number of international orchestras and bands that have played in this majestic venue before – and just this week it hosted two-time Grammy Award winning Snarky Puppy for their third gig in Singapore.
Instead of the conventional, formal dress code of suits and ties that one would expect performers to wear on the rather extravagant stage, the puppies (as what they call themselves) were clad in simple button-downs, t-shirts and jeans. Snarky Puppy has been known as a jazz band that keeps it cool, and is practically focused on producing music – as claimed by leader Michael League – “for the brain and the booty”. The band effortlessly fulfilled this goal and kept the entire concert as a casual, pleasurable affair with infectious head-bobbing and body-grooving for the whole three hours. It was a pity that everyone had to be seated. I was literally dancing on my own for the whole night as well.
Michelle Willis, a fellow artist from League’s GroundUP record label, opened the show with five of her singles (accompanied by Snarky Puppy members Mike League, Mike Maher, Larnell Lewis and Mark Lettieri). Her vocals were so warm and rich – listening to her almost felt like I was wrapped around by soft cashmere, and no, I’m not exaggerating. After that night I tweeted a request for her to release the new single named Liberty (which she performed during the opening and begged us “not to like it too much because it cannot be found in any of her albums yet“) and I was delighted when she retweeted and favorited my tweet. It got me looking forward to the release of that track, and also, it makes my day to see an artist making an effort to acknowledge what listeners think. Willis managed to dazzle the audience with her soulful act – me included of course – and she is definitely an artist to look out for as she is, evidently, ready for great things.
After a fifteen-minute intermission, the concert hall was suddenly filled with exuberant applause and whistles to warmly welcome the main act of the night. The band opened with tunes such as Tarova, Semente and Grown Folks from their latest studio album Culcha Vulcha. Semente sealed the deal though – the Brazilian-inspired single warmed everyone up with its salsa-ish hook. The band transitioned to playing older hits from their 2014 album (my favorite) We Like It Here and I knew my life was complete after personally witnessing Larnell Lewis ravishingly killing it on his drum set during his What About Me? solo. To be honest I was a little disappointed as they did not play Lingus as that was that fine piece of work that made me fall in love with these people, but I guess we shall save it for the next round when Cory Henry can be present to rape his keyboards.
As we approached the end of the show, bandleader Mike League gave a short speech to thank the people in the hall, many of whom purchased albums and official merchandise to support the band throughout their eight years of work, and for being there physically that night to groove along. He also announced that the band will be organising a music festival again next February… in Miami. At this point everyone guffawed and Mike went “Oh, what guys, don’t act like you’re not coming!” I’ve always found Mike really adorable, and he is also filled with so much commitment and humility. It definitely was not easy congregating this group of insanely talented individuals together and making the band so powerful and his record labels a success, and Mike is still going strong by being an inspiration to young artists out there. I respect him so much as well.
The audience awarded the puppies with a final standing ovation after their encore performance of the extremely catchy Shofukan and that was when I was doubly determined to watch them when they return for their fourth gig in Singapore. As compared to raving in sardine-packed clubs (not that I do, but my friends do), a Snarky Puppy gig would be a quadruple times more worth the cent. Zero percent shame to have gone to this concert alone (though it would have been nice to have a friend to dance along with, but too bad my friends who actually appreciate jazz were overseas damn) as I am more than satisfied to have been part of this such an exciting, and irrepressible energy. Nothing beats a night out with such a marvelous, audacious polyphony.
(Photos by SingJazz)