Popular Korean guitarist and YouTuber Sungha Jung returned to Singapore once again on the 28th of May for his sixth concert held in the country in six years. The sold out show was held at Kallang Theatre and was filled with good music, adorable banter and lots of fan interaction.
After a short introduction by a local emcee, guitarist Lee Guo Liang (newly crowned winner of the Sungha Jung Guitar Competition 2016) took the stage and opened the show with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” Sungha then appeared and performed “On Cloud Nine,” the first track from his latest album, “L’atelier.” Just like its title, the song was light-hearted and cheerful, which livened up the atmosphere in the theatre. While tuning his guitar Sungha introduced himself and his new album, before playing its title song. “L’atelier,” which means “the studio” in French, was a very bittersweet yet soothing piece. The guitarist certainly delivered on these emotions with his perfect expression of the song’s distinct melody.
A departure from the quieter nature of his first two songs, Sungha followed up with the jazzy “In The Midnight” and the rhythmic “Seventh #9,” both from his newest albums. These two songs were results of his experimentation and exploration into different styles of music, and they certainly paid off. “In The Midnight,” for example, was “the first of its kind to be composed,” but Sungha managed to show off his finger-style guitar playing prowess while managing to convey the intricateness of the jazz elements in the song. He returned to his roots with “Nocturne,” which was a “sad but peaceful” piece that Sungha particularly enjoyed. Its introduction sounded like the beginning of a beautiful K-drama soundtrack, or OST, and this feeling lingered throughout the whole melody. The quiet pensiveness at the end of the piece was palatable and made the whole performance that much more memorable.
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Next on display was “The Milky Way,” which was also the lead single of Sungha’s previous album “Monologue.” This piece was a lot more cheerful in nature and conveyed a certain wide-eyed innocence that was comforting and enjoyable to listen to. To end off the first half of the concert, Sungha performed a piece which was specially arranged for his Singaporean fans. It was none other than JJ Lin’s (a famous Singaporean singer-songwriter) “Remember,” which was also previously covered Sungha Jung’s Youtube channel. With his masterful arrangement and skills, Sungha was able to convey the richness of JJ Lin’s voice through his playing while also keeping the piece rhythmic.
Featured local guitarist Neil Chan kick-started the second half of the concert with his solo performance of the self-composed song “Merci.” His unique way of playing the guitar by lap-tapping was fascinating and helped him to play the melody fluently, as if he were playing a keyboard.
The first music student of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) also had the honour of collaborating with Sungha, who made his reappearance with “Stars.” The piece was originally composed by Sungha as a tribute to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy but was rearranged into a duet. The simple yet heartfelt piece was definitely enhanced by the natural chemistry that was evident between the guitarists despite their different playing styles and nationalities.
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After Neil left the stage, Sungha performed a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” which he had recently covered on Youtube with Eric Nam. The performance was a massive hit with the audience who cheered incessantly even before he began playing. This was followed by the obvious crowd favourite of the night, which was also the only K-pop cover in the concert. Sungha’s version of BTS’s “Butterfly” is different from the original with its more relaxing and soothing tone but he played around with the dynamics of the song to show different levels of intensity.
The last song performed by Sungha from his latest album was “Catching The Beat,” a piece that was highly rhythmic in nature but had a somewhat disjointed melody. This piece was the hardest to appreciate in the whole concert but it showed off the guitarist’s fantastic sense of rhythm and technical ability. As another special gift to his Singaporean fans, Sungha performed yet another of JJ Lin’s songs, this time a classic called “江南” (or South of Yangtze River). His dynamics were very pronounced here in an effort to imitate the singer’s emotive voice but there were also times when Sungha’s chord accompaniment ended up covering the melody of the song.
In his slightly awkward but charming way, Sungha playfully introduced the last song of the concert, his cover of Ryuichi Sakamato’s “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.” After stating that this cover was one of his favourite arrangements of all time, he discreetly hinted about his hope of receiving an encore call, causing a lot of laughter among the audience. Of course, the guitarist’s enthusiastic supporters did not disappoint him and Sungha made his return onto the stage with his “real last song,” John Mayer’s “St Patrick’s Day.” He surprised and delighted the crowd as he started to sing as he played, and his sweet and stable voice surely melted the hearts of all who were present.
All in all, “Sungha Jung Live In Singapore 2016” was a great success and Sungha Jung definitely left audiences wanting for more. Even as he bid goodbye with a cheery wave and humble bow he promised his fans that he would be “back again soon.” Next year perhaps?
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