Tortoise (17 March, Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore)

I’m not even a Tortoise fan, but the gig was pretty damn awesome.

I’d gone in with some trepidation – I bought Millions Now Living Will Never Die some years back, didn’t like it and returned it, later bought TNT too, didn’t like it and returned it. I found the albums overly clinical and very unengaging. Every time I put an album on, hoping that better familiarity with the music would help me “get it”, it faded into the background for me within minutes. So I had plenty of doubts about how well that sound would fare in the Esplanade’s huge concert hall but decided to go anyway, based on the band’s immense stature in indiedom and the added appeal of the Observatory as opening band.

Right decision. The sound was full-bodied and assertive in a way it never sounded to me on record, and with the Esplanade’s amazing sound system, detail was never lost even at the music’s most cacophonous moments. I was incredibly impressed by their individual flair as musicians, as well as their tightness as a band, as was everyone else. Standing ovations and screaming brought them back for two substantial encores, and prompted a “Singapore is CRAYYYYZEE!” from one of them.

By the end of the gig I found myself filled with happiness at the sight of other audience members, clearly huge Tortoise fans, over the moon with how great it had been. Watching them I remembered myself at 16, standing in the World Trade Centre Harbour Pavilion delirious with joy that Sonic Youth had come to Singapore and I was there to see it. To this day I can hardly believe that even happened. Similarly, I would never have expected such a difficult-listening, left-of-centre band as Tortoise to be brought to Singapore to begin with; the fact is that the Esplanade not only brought them in but had the balls to put them in the country’s biggest, most state-of-the-art musical venue. It’s the stuff of dreams, and a real testament to the sort of artistic vision that drives the Esplanade. I should never have doubted them for a second.