It was one of the best moments of the night.
All eyes (and ears) were on American Idol S2 winner Ruben Studdard who, accompanied by prolific songwriter and producer David Foster on piano, was belting out Night Of A Thousand Stars.
Wait a minute, Night Of A Thousand … what?
Neither Foster’s nor Studdard’s most ardent fans could have recognised this number from their repertoires. Could Foster be playing one of his earlier works that never got recorded? Could Studdard be treating the audience to a new song ahead of its official release?
It all began when Foster informed the audience: “Did you know Ruben can write a song on the spot?” The audience wasted no time in suggesting phrases the singer could incorporate into the impromptu tune. Within seconds, Studdard launched effortlessly into what became a love ballad, complete with a verse and a chorus.
“When I look at her it’s all I can see; it’s absolutely the place I wanna be; they remind me of the night of a thousand stars,” he sang to thunderous applause.
It was this element of spontaneity peppered throughout the concert last Friday at Arena Of Stars, Resorts World Genting that made the two-hour concert a truly memorable experience.
Held in conjunction with Genting’s 50th anniversary, the Hitman David Foster & Friends Asia Tour 2015 show saw Foster playing the piano while a few of his famous musical friends – R&B and soul singer Natalie Cole, R&B vocal group Boyz II Men, former Chicago singer-turned-solo-artiste Peter Cetera and classical crossover vocalist Jackie Evancho along with Studdard – serenaded the audience.
The show was fun, random and, at times, downright irreverent thanks to Foster. The music man made it a point to keep the evening light and informal, from holding on-the-spot auditions for audience members – and boy, were there some good singers among the crowd! – to constantly cracking jokes (“I bet you guys didn’t have to pay for your seats,” he said in jest to a particularly quiet part of the auditorium.)
But let’s not forget the music.
Evancho was up first. The little girl who took the world by storm with her soaring, operatic vocals on America’s Got Talent looked all grown up in a beige sequinned gown as she took the stage. Now 15, she wowed the audience with a flawless rendition of Music Of The Night and Nessun Dorma. The latter, in particular, sent chills down my spine when she nailed the song’s biggest note.
Besides thrilling fans with his ad-libbed piece, Studdard’s R&B spin on Michael Buble’s Home felt like a warm cup of tea on a rainy day. His rich, velvety voice on I Swear also transported audiences back to the 1990s for a moment.
A feeling of nostalgia was present the entire night, even more so when the third act, Cetera, took the stage. The audience sang and swayed their heads along to If You Leave Me Now, Hard To Say I’m Sorry, and You’re The Inspiration, a song Foster revealed he had written with Cetera for Kenny Rogers, but the country star took a pass on it.
Foster was not done springing surprises on his musical guests. Cetera, who used to play the bass back in his Chicago days, was handed the instrument once more, and looked just as comfortable with it as ever as he performed Chicago staple 25 Or 6 To 4.
Nothing says sentimental more than Natalie Cole singing Unforgettable, a song her father, the late Nat King Cole, had popularised. Accompanied by a video recording of the jazz legend, she performed a virtual duet with him, making it one of the most magical moments of the night.
Boyz II Men shifted gears and got the crowd grooving to the uptempo Motown Philly. The group knew how to work the crowd alright, giving out red roses to fans while singing I’ll Make Love To You, before turning on the waterworks with End Of The Road.
The evening ended with Foster bringing all five acts back on stage to deliver Hey Jude. It was nice seeing the artistes singing together; I only wished it had happened sooner. It seemed odd there wasn’t a duet or any sort of collaboration between the performers until then. Without that, the show felt fragmented, as though there were five back-to-back mini-concerts.
In the end when Foster played St Elmo’s Fire for his encore; it was perhaps one of few things that was predictable on a night of surprises.