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Hercules and Love Affair @ Esplanade Concert Hall (4.10.12)

Coming all the way from New York to perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall last Wednesday was disco house group Hercules & Love Affair, the music project of boss man Andy Butler. I had seen the band at Music Festival Asia back in March earlier this year but unfortunately, their set came to an abrupt end after three songs whenAndy Butler had a seizure. So when Mosaic announced that the band was set to perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall, I was excited but also iffy about the venue. I predicted that it would be mostly empty on the day of the show and sure enough, it was. There were probably only less than a hundred people in the audience. Not even half of the first floor was filled.

Despite the disappointing turnout, vocalists HowAboutBeth, Stef Gustaph and Redhouane Braik put on a great show. After the first couple of songs, they introduced themselves, complimented some members of the audience on their clothes, and talked about where they got their outfits. They danced and strutted on stage like they were models on a catwalk and interacted with us throughout the show. Their positive attitude and enthusiasm rubbed off on us and the whole crowd fed off on their energy; collective cheers every time Gustaph hit a high note and showed off his vocals.

It took some time for the predictably reserved Singaporean audience to warm up, but eventually we couldn’t help but dance along with the band, especially when they performed their hits ‘You Belong’, ‘My House’, ‘Raise Me Up’ and ‘Blind’. Besides, if you’ve listened to their music, you’d know that it’s hard not to boogie to it; it’s disco after all! The highlight of the show was when HowAboutBeth got off the stage and came down to the front row to sing and dance with us. There is simply nothing bad I can say about their performance; they were fun to watch and made the best out of the situation they were in, which only goes to show how professional and what great sports they were. They also played a number of new songs… which could only mean that album number three is in the works!

While their performance was nothing short of incredible, I had this nagging question at the back of my head throughout the show. Why was it held in a concert hall? First of all, their music is more suited to a more intimate setting– a club like Zouk or Avalon, or even the Esplanade Theatre Studio. Secondly, not many people in Singapore are as into dance acts as they are into indie bands that usually fill up the concert hall, which explains the turnout.

I actually think that booking a dance act to perform in an unnecessarily large venue is almost disrespectful to the audience – since it’s hard to dance with chairs getting in the way – and also disrespectful to the band, especially when they see that the show has sold so badly considering the size of the concert hall. I can’t imagine that many acts would feel good about that. All of these factors ruined what could have been an incredibly fun experience, had the concert been held in a club. And maybe the turnout could have been better if the tickets were cheaper– the show would’ve been a complete disaster if not for the showmanship of the band. I felt ripped off to be honest, being charged $83 for a one-hour show and I can only hope that Mosaic and other promoters/bookers in the future would stop seeing the venue as a mean to an end, because ambience and atmosphere are just as important.

By Cindy Tan