Homegrown singer Gentle Bones gets emotional at triumphant sold-out show

12 June 2016 / 4 months 1 week ago

Eddino Abdul Hadi
​The Straits Times
June 11, 2016



Esplanade Concert Hall/Friday

As he returns to the stage for the encore, homegrown singer-songwriter Joel Tan, aka Gentle Bones, takes a few full minutes to bask in the cheers, whistles and boisterous applause from the adoring audience.

Then the tears flow, briefly, before he covers his face and quickly composes himself. It is an understandably emotional moment for the 22-year-old. The show is his moment of triumph, the first of two sold-out nights at the Esplanade Concert Hall.

It is a remarkable achievement for a young singer, certainly a feat previously unheard of among his peers of the indie ilk, especially since these are his first ticketed solo shows.

While Tan has not fully shaken off onstage jitters, frequently tripping over his words during the banter between songs, he truly comes into his own when the music kicks in.

The brittle yearning in his singing and the trademark falsettos are on point and the live instrumentations that accompany him sound a lot more muscular than they do on the record.

New singles Run Tell Daddy and Geniuses & Thieves, the latter also the title track of the sophomore EP released just last week, sound immersive and monumental.

His excellent five-piece band, made up of rising talents such as Nazaruddin Mashruddin on keyboards and grand piano, Ritz Ang on drums and multi-talented violinist Josh Wei, bring a much welcome heft to the live renditions.

In the grand confines and flawless acoustics of the concert hall, the layered blend of electronica, indie-rock and acoustic ballads take on a life of their own.

Earlier, opening act .gif too benefits from the flawless acoustics. The duo play a beguiling, if brief set, with singer Weish' expressive vocal contortions ringing true over producer Nurudin Sadali's cavernous and deep-bass soundscape.

Visually, Tan's main set is ambitious, thanks mostly to kinetic lighting that switch between dazzling strobe lights to cosy and warm, depending on the mood of the music.

Tan has been through a lot to get the shows done and to put out the new music found in the new EP. He speaks to the fans about the 99-day detention that he and his crew endured in Indonesia last year, due to concert permit issues, which led to the cancellation of the original Esplanade date timed for December that year.

The starry-eyed, 1,500-strong crowd hang on to his every word. Predominantly in their late teens and early to mid-twenties, they come well-prepared, singing along with gusto to almost every word. Several wear their dedications on their sleeves, wearing caps and jackets from Tan's recently launched fashion wear, also named Geniuses & Thieves.

Tan is only too happy to oblige, letting them take over the introductory lines to Geniuses & Thieves, as well as Elusive, from his self-titled 2014 debut EP.

If there is any complaint, it is that the band overwhelms his fragile vocals sometimes, especially during the rousing, meaty choruses. At an hour long, Tan's set also feels a little short for a headline show.

But these are minor quibbles. The gig is a landmark show, a portent, hopefully, of bigger things to come for a millennial star-in-the-making.

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