If award-winning songwriter/producer David Walter Foster were ever to consider a change of career, he could definitely make a go of organising singing contests, judging from the professionalism of his most recent appearance in our capital for a concert originally scheduled for late last year but which had to be cancelled because of the severe floods.
Held on Monday night at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, "David Foster and Friends Live in Bangkok" featured the hit-maker himself, several well-known guests and a few budding vocal talents whom Foster discovered on YouTube.
The evening ended up being half talk show and half concert, with lots of crescendoes and big notes. Songs were interspersed with _ sometimes lengthy _ stories told by Foster who also cracked jokes, related titbits about hit tracks of his (there were so many of them) and generally jollied the audience along. But the amount of chatter didn't seem to detract from people's enjoyment, judging from the warmth of the response he got from the good-humoured crowd. His first guest was the beautiful Hayley Westenra, a brilliant 25-year-old from New Zealand who grabbed our attention right from the outset with her version of I Dreamed A Dream, followed quickly by Amazing Grace. Her voice is somewhat reminiscent of Celine Dion, the chanteuse for whom Foster wrote many chart-topping songs.
Westenra was then joined on stage by operatic singer Fernando Varela, a YouTube star from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the pair delivered a heart-warming rendition of Prayer. But the best performance from Westenra by far was her take on Kate Bush's nervously sweet Wuthering Heights, with its eccentric fluctuation of high notes and triplets, which the New Zealander carried off without a single flaw.
Next up was one of Foster's higher profile guests, Paul Young, who exuded supreme cool even as he dashed around in a suit during Come Back And Stay. The crowd _ most of whom seemed to be in their 40s or late 30s _ went wild when the 80s pop star launched into Every Time You Go Away, the familiar opening bars no doubt eliciting a rush of nostalgia in many.
It has become something of a tradition, on his visits to this country at least, that Foster at some point in the proceedings wades into the audience, hands his microphone to someone _ seemingly selected at random _ and asks that person to sing. It probably wasn't pure chance this time around, though, since the three ladies selected in turn by Foster were all familiar faces on the local music scene. His first "random" pick was the winner of the KPN Music Award in 1988, Nonthiya Jiewbangpa. Then the microphone was offered to 15-year-old Maneepatsorn "Myra" Molloy, who (most coincidentally) carried off first prize in Season One of the Thailand's Got Talent TV show. And Foster's last choice was Rapeeporn "Pearl" Pratum-anon who represented Thailand in the Avon Voice Singing Contest held in New York last year.
While Foster insisted that his three choices were random, all we can say is that the audience must have been absolutely packed with great crooners that night or else this man has an exceptional eye for spotting talent.
After this interlude, Foster's current proteges, Swedish electro-pop band Dirty Loops, took to the stage. Foster said he first came across these artists on YouTube but their music was, rather unfortunately, something of a mismatch with that of the rest of the evening's line-up. But Dirty Loops' covers of Britney Spear's Circus and Adele's Rolling In The Deep did give quite a twist to the original tunes. While this three-strong combo was proudly experimental (like so many Swedish popsters nowadays), it was obvious that its members have had a solid grounding in musicianship.
One of the highlights came when Foster invited up the two Thai winners of last year's "Born To Sing" contest who were originally supposed to perform at his 2012 concert here which had to be cancelled. The first to sing was a young woman who introduced herself only as "Doraemon" and went on to give her interpretation of one of the late Whitney Houston's best-known numbers, I Have Nothing. The second winner, a lady called Nok, did justice to the soulful And I Am Telling You, which was originally sung by Jennifer Holliday and became a hit again when Jennifer Hudson sang it in the film Dream Girls.
Making another appearance in the Kingdom, this time as a guest of Foster's, was Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds. The handsome songwriter/producer accompanied himself on acoustic guitar for his hit song When Can I See You Again. After host and guest teased each other about who had won more Grammy awards (it turns out that Foster has netted 16 while Babyface's total to date is 11), the two went on to play a medley of hits from 90s R&B group BoyzIIMen (which Babyface produced) including I'll Make Love To You and End Of The Road.
Foster then dared Babyface to make up a song on the spot which would include a specific word. "Freedom" was the word chosen by a front-row member of the audience named Issara (Thai for "freedom"). Babyface took up the challenge and delivered a very spontaneous-sounding, slow jam, with "freedom" as the hook word _ and he carried it off wonderfully.
Announcing that this was his last number, Babyface then grabbed his guitar again and played a song he originally produced for Eric Clapton, Change The World.
Soul diva Chaka Khan then made an entrance to deliver a fierce and fantastic performance as the last guest of the evening. Now 59 but still supremely elegant, Khan flaunted her new, slimmed-down incarnation (the result of some serious dieting, apparently) as she treated appreciative fans to a quartet of past hits of hers: Tell Me Something Good, Through The Fire, Ain't Nobody and I'm Every Woman.
Foster capped off a most memorable evening by getting all his guests to join in a rendition of the late Michael Jackson's Earth Song. As the crowd started to thin, with people heading for the exits, Foster returned to his grand piano and gave an encore, comprising Conscience and St Elmo's Fire. Then Chaka Khan's back-up singers enthusiastically took up the task of serenading departing punters with the sound of Earth, Wind & Fire's September.
An evening well spent. We look forward to Foster's next visit and to seeing which friends he will choose to bring along on that occasion.
About the author
- Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer