Bilingual singer-songwriter Rie fu, who is currently based in Singapore, performed to a full house at The Substation concert venue, offering fans a mixture of her Japanese offerings and English hits! Prior to the Singapore stop of her Life is like a boat tour, Rie fu also held a separate concert for kids and babies at the same venue which was well attended by the Japanese community in Singapore! That did not stop her from delivering an intimate and utterly charming performance!
30 minutes prior to the doors opening, there was already a sizeable queue being formed outside the black doors of The Substation. The concert was attended by an interesting mix of Singaporean audience members of different ethnicities and some older members of the local Japanese community! When everyone was seated and extra seats were brought in for latecomers, the lights went dim and a dreamy instrumental piece played as Rie fu’s distinctive voice echoed ‘Welcome to my show’.
Rie fu then stepped onto stage, clad in a blue dress. She began to pick up her acoustic guitar and strummed away as she played the chords for decay. Starting off with her English verses, she seamlessly transitioned into Japanese and back into English during the course of the entire song – all while playing the guitar on her own! Without pause, she then went into one of her more iconic songs, I Want To Go To A Place…, famously known as one of the ending theme songs to Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. This evidently struck a chord with the audience as some of them began to sing along with Rie fu or wave along to the music! Once again, she did a flawless transition between Japanese and English and with just the guitar accompanying her voice, it was a truly magical performance! This was however, just the beginning.
Rie fu then put the guitar down and began to engage the audience in an emcee session, done in English to engage the largely Singaporean crowd! She searched the crowd for repeat concert goers and was particularly delighted to know that most of them were actually first-timers to her live! She revealed that she was really excited for this solo concert as it would be the first time she would be collaborating with another band for a live audience in Singapore. She also revealed that her favourite Singaporean dish is prawn mee. Of course, no Japanese artiste concert in Singapore is complete without a mention of our infamously hot weather! Rie fu joked about how her skin had become much more tanned compared to two years ago when she first came to Singapore and how even 25 degrees Celsius is considered to be cold for her now. Before moving back to her songs, Rie fu decided to show gratitude to her Singaporean fans for being so accommodating towards her by giving them some of her well-known Anime song hits to warm up the crowd.
She proceeded to walk towards the keyboard and began to play the first few notes to Tsuki Akari, one of the ending themes to the anime Darker Than Black. Her pure voice made this performance very haunting as her vibrato rang across the theatre. The audience seemed to be so moved to the extent that many were caught by surprise when she asked “Somebody sing along” halfway, inviting some giggles from the crowd. Amazingly, she did not lose her musical or emotional momentum after that one-off moment of humour! Following that, Rie fu moved on to her next musical number and this time, it was Anata ga koko ni iru which was used as the fifth ending song to the popular anime D. Gray Man. Some fans were caught singing along to the song and once again, Rie fu managed to deliver a splendid and emotionally heartwrenching performance!
Rie fu then proceeded to banter with the audience once again, explaining to them that the song is about finding the reason for a loved one’s existence. She also comments on how anime itself covers a very broad range of themes, one of which is the theme of happiness. She notes that doing something that one finds pleasure in creates a sense of happiness that is infectious and spreads across to other people, making them happy as well. She then proceeded to sing For You, the ending theme to the anime Horou Musuko. Once again, she displayed her prowess as a keyboardist and sang in a much more fragile tone of voice despite the song being relatively more upbeat than her previous offerings, undoubtedlt sending chills down listeners’ spines.
With that, it was time to get the concert into full swing as she begun her first ever collaboration in Singapore! She revealed that she had just started jamming with the ex-members of The Goodfellas, a local Singaporean band that was renowned for its shows in Timbre – a popular haunt for the classiest night owls – just during the week of the concert! The members of the band appeared on stage and tuned their instruments on the spot, further adding on to the intimate feeling of the concert. The simple arrangement of the band also provided a raw sort of energy that Rie fu particularly enjoyed. With a full band to back her up, she proceeded with the next segment of her concert with Rie fu herself playing the guitar.
Starting with the song, 5 Minutes, a projection of Rie fu’s adventures in the famous, psychedelic Haw Par Villa was played as she sang the funky number with immense energy! Without pause, she proceeded to sing Voice, which was met with enthusiastic synchronised clapping from the audience. A relatively more ‘rocky’ number, this song breathed new life into the theatre following the one-instrument warm-up that Rie fu treated the audience to. 1962 on the other hand was an interesting number in that it had a rather melancholy beginning with a strong build-up. While some in the audience may not be familiar with her offerings outside of anime, they nonetheless joined in the fun, swaying to the beats and clapping along to the rhythm of the upbeat song.
The next number, They Always Talk About, saw Rie fu going back to the keyboard. Once again, this song contained both English and Japanese segments, not so different from I Want To Go To A Place…, and Rie fu did not fail to impress the audience during her performance. She then proceeded to return to her emcee session and this time, it was marked by an interesting discussion on music. She praised the local music scene for being one characterised by diversity and a lack of categories, noting that it while it is still experimental, it comes with more freedom. Rie fu also showed the audience multiple facets of her personality, giving us a peek into her introspective side as she talked about the cultural aspects and differences between Singapore, Japan and the United Kingdom. “After two years, I realised the deeper meaning of ‘can-can'”, she said during the emcee, referring to the colloquial term used by Singaporeans. She interpreted it to be a commitment and devotion to deliver what can be done. She would definitely take that into consideration as she continued to give the best of her vocals to her attentive audience.
Rie fu‘s steady yet gentle vocals were a refreshing difference from some of her more powered-up tracks as she began her next track Romantic. Much like the title suggests, this song explores the theme of love and romantic feelings, but from a far more introspective angle than most songs covering this topic in the mainstream pop scene. In terms of vocals, the long notes, infrequent pauses and fluctuations in pitch made this a relatively challenging song to sing, and demonstrated Rie fu‘s vocal prowess even more with the acoustic setting of the concert. She then proceeded to play the iconic starting notes on the piano to her song 5000 miles, much to the joy of some members of the audience who could identify it, especially from the refrain “take your time, but I can’t wait anymore“. Interestingly, the phrase “take your time” would make its appearance again in the next song Butterfly, which is sung entirely in English and has scenes in its music video filmed across different parts of the world. In this track, Rie fu‘s lyrics call on the listener to be comfortable with growing at their own pace and not have to rush through anything, reminding them that “nobody’s born a butterfly” – an apt use of the title’s theme.
With that, Rie fu broke the pace and poured out her feelings towards the audience as she introduced her ‘Super Singaporean Song’! She wrote the song shortly after moving to Singapore and was inspired by the sight of the floating lights from ships at East Coast Park. Injecting some humour into her emcee, segment, she mentions how she had forgotten to add ‘haze’ as one of the few seasons in Singapore aside from ‘hot’ and ‘rainy’. After taking a sip of water, she decided to give the audience some behind-the-scenes peeks for the music video to the song (which was eventually played when she actually performed it). She revealed that the cheongsam was the easiest outfit for her to shoot in due to the long slit in the outfit while the Malay baju panjang was the most difficult as she had to endure the heat while wearing it, giving her a newfound respect for the Malays who opt to wear that outfit daily. One of our reporters’ favourite moments though was when she talked about her experience with the sari whereby a temple keeper in Little India assisted her with the outfit when the sash was nearly about to fall off during the filming. With that, Rie fu introduced the members of The Goodfellas to her audience with Mang on the guitar, Nal on bass and Boi on the drums!
Probably the segment of her live that many in the audience were eagerly looking forward to, Rie fu tantalized her fans with a resounding rendition of the song Singapore, which she revealed to be inspired by the time she spent here since she moved to Singapore a few years back. Perhaps as a timely “gift” to the nation, her release of the song last year coincided with the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Singapore. The music video (as shown above) was filmed across multiple parts of the country, notably the Singapore Botanic Gardens which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, as well as various areas rich in cultural heritage such as Geylang Serai, Little India, Kampong Glam and Chinatown – complete with Rie fu interacting with ordinary Singaporeans and clad in ethnic costumes fitting to the location! Indeed, Rie fu has also mentioned that she is very fascinated with the emerging local music scene in Singapore.
Following that, Rie fu announced some news that marked a new chapter in her life. Her family had plans to move to the UK in 2016. She hoped that this would not be her last gig in Singapore though. She then introduced her last song for the night, which also shares the title of her concert here: Life is Like a Boat. She gave some exposure to the audience about how she conceptualised the song, citing her days as a 17 year old girl in high school who was still confused about her identity. She was then inspired by a story from a preacher who noted that when rowing a boat, you can only see the past and not the future with no idea of what the shore looks like or where it is, giving her the main premise behind the song.
The titular song is also one of the ending themes for the Bleach anime series, and was instantly recognizable to many in the audience as she called upon the audience to sing along with her if they knew the lyrics. Of course, Life is Like a Boat is an iconic track in Rie fu‘s diverse discography, and beyond the familiarity which it has for many fans due to its association with Bleach, it holds a different sort of familiarity to Rie fu herself as it holds deep personal meaning for her. The emotion and intimacy could be felt up close as she shared the space and moment with the full-house audience in what is perhaps a song which both the audience and artiste could relate to very well.
With that, Rie fu ended her concert segment and headed backstage with her band. The audience clearly wanted more though with the theatre going into shouts of ‘encore’ over and over again! True enough, she did emerge from the wings of the theatre with the band to deliver her encore number, I Met You.
Rie fu definitely ended her concert with a bang as she treated the audience to a massive sing-along and clapping session, transforming the piece into one co-created by Rie fu, The Goodfellas and most importantly, the audience themselves as they sang along to “Never give up, never give up, never give up”! It was definitely a whale of a time for everyone as the theatre was filled with a festive mood in the spirit of the new year! Rie fu proceeded to give her final thanks to the audience but not before encouraging them to check out the members of The Goodfellas who will be playing next door to The Substation every Thursday and Saturday. Once again, she thanked the audience for making that night a memorable and wonderful night before proceeding to the wings once again, officially concluding her gig here.
The team at J-Network definitely had a blast during what is undeniably the most intimate concert the team had been to. With such an intimate setting, everyone had a wonderful view of Rie fu and the closed environment with its good acoustics also did justice to her incredible voice. We definitely hope that this would be not be her last gig in Singapore! Fans of Rie fu will also be delighted to know that she will be releasing a new album, titled ‘O’ on 6 April 2016! Do look forward to this release!
2.I Wanna go to a Place…
9.They Always Talk About
14.Life is Like a Boat
I Met You
~Astrid and grayingmantis