SINGAPORE — If there was one thing I took away from watching two days of music over the Formula 1 weekend, it’s that I seriously need to hit the gym again.
Watching Muse, Gwen Stefani and the Red Hot Chili Peppers put on their high-energy shows gave me newfound respect for these long-touring musicians and was enough to fitness-shame me into getting some exercise. Not to mention the fact that all three acts braved the haze and didn’t falter in seeking to please their fans.
On Saturday (21 September) night, Gwen Stefani’s 75-minute set saw a capacity crowd of some 50,000 fans swarming the Padang. Despite the heat and humidity, the 49-year-old singer took fans through songs like Sunday Morning, Underneath It All and Hey Baby from her ska-punk days with No Doubt and into material from her solo career.
With so many hits under her belt, fans were kept singing along, especially on numbers like the break-up ballad Don’t Speak and R&B club staple Hollaback Girl. She even paused for a moment to sign her name on the arm of one young woman who wanted it as a tattoo.
Later that night, English rockers Muse kept the bar high with an equally electric 90-minute performance. In keeping with the futuristic visual theme of their 2018 album Simulation Theory, the band’s stage show featured back-up dancers in multiple costumes, glow-in-the-dark guitars and a “sci-fi” light show.
Strutting the stage in a pair of LED-affixed “sunglasses”, frontman Matt Bellamy was equal parts imposing and camp as the ultra-tight trio stormed through hits like Supermassive Black Hole and Hysteria. The band’s emotional rendition of Time Is Running Out was a crowd-pleaser that saw the entire field joining in the song, while the closing number Starlight was made especially glorious with confetti cannons being fired off at the climax.
Sunday (22 September) night’s main musical event was the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP), who are still touring after 36 years. With three of the band’s four members now in their 50s, it was a sight to see them charging up and down the stage in our tropical heat. (As one friend said to me later, “Flea (RHCP’s bassist) has a better body than most 30-year-olds.”)
Proving that they still have the funk, RHCP opened with Can’t Stop with Flea’s signature bassline sending the crowd screaming from the first few notes. While I wish they had played Scar Tissue and Under The Bridge, they still brought plenty of hits, from the slinky ballad Soul To Squeeze to the melancholy By The Way.
Interestingly, the band also played a handful of covers: the Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog, Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground, Prince’s Purple Rain and the Cars’ Jus What I Needed (RIP Ric Ocasek). Saving the best for last, RHCP closed the night with their funk-rap classic Give It Away, which got the crowd going one last time.
As I slunk my way home with tired feet after the show, I remember thinking: “I’ve got to get in some cardio.”