[Review] Sungha Jung Live in Singapore 2016 with Special Guest Neil Chan

by Desiree Ng

I once read a comment on one of Sungha Jung’s YouTube videos that went something like, “When it comes to guitar skills, there is the Asian level … and then there is Sungha Jung. “

They’re right.

At 7.30pm, Kallang Theatre was a full house, and the emcee came out to greet the audience. Just the day before, the Sungha Jung Guitar Competition had concluded, and the winner, Lee Guo Liang, was brought on stage to open the show for Sungha Jung.

Soon after, Sungha Jung emerged from behind the red velvet curtains, and the enthusiastic, cheering crowd welcomed him with a large round of applause. It was very exciting. He took a seat and started playing the songs that he wrote for his new album, L’Atelier. The moment he began, it was clear most of us were mesmerized. Years ago, I watched a video of him as a young boy, playing “Canon” on the guitar, and now I was listening to him play live.

His hands were gliding over the guitar, pressing, hammering and going so fast that it was hard to comprehend what was going on, but somehow, it worked, a bit like magic.

Everything that came out of that one instrument and those two hands was impressive. Somewhere in the middle of “Nocturne” (one of my favorites on the new album), with four white spotlights shining down on this person in a white shirt with a guitar, you start to think about how the world has been blessed with such a talent.

After the intermission, local fingerstyle guitarist Neil Chan came on stage to play an impressive piece. Sungha was then brought on stage again, and the both of them played a duet piece Sungha wrote, that blew the crowd away.

In addition to the songs from his albums, he also arranged and covered two of local singer-songwriter, JJ Lin’s songs, “Remember” (记得) and “Jiangnan” (江南). Much to the pleasure of the fans of Korean boyband BTS, Sungha Jung covered their song, “Butterfly”.

The last song he played was “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”, by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Utada Hikaru. “You know when I say that this is my last song, it’s not usually my last song, right?” he asked, with a chuckle, inducing laughter in the crowd. After he left the stage, the crowd’s applause turned into cheering for an encore.

He then reappeared to play and sing John Mayer’s “St. Patrick’s Day”.

As a bonus, fans who had brought their guitars or bought a CD from him could get them signed after the concert. I left Kallang Theatre, feeling absolutely blown away by the 1.5 hours of solid good music – definitely worth the time and money. Note to self: bring my guitar next year.

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