Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ recent showcase wasn’t perfect but he gets full marks for effort, writes Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli
DEVOTED fans at Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ first showcase held recently might have enjoyed it, but some things could have been better.
One Night Only With Stephen Rahman-Hughes saw less than 300 at Seduction Club in Jalan P. Ramlee. The venue did have an intimate setting but much of the crowd was seated at the far right of the stage, leaving ample space in front. Perhaps Rahman-Hughes had wanted the audience to come closer and dance along to his songs while he performed. Sadly, no one did.
The songs that Rahman-Hughes chose for that night were mainly slow numbers, though, rather than upbeat, danceable ones.
He started off with two tracks off his self-titled debut Malay album, Ekspresi and Cinta Masih Ada. These are the kind of songs that are well-suited to his theatrical voice, thanks to his background in acting at London’s West End. He sang the songs with a perfect play of the high and low notes, and he was able to pull off the really high ones, and there were many in the songs.
The only thing marring this picture of perfect showmanship was his reference to the lyrics of these songs some of the time. This made me think that perhaps this idea to hold a showcase to promote his album was a bit rushed.
Rahman-Hughes also sang his first single, Bawalah Aku, Bertemu Di Syurga and Ku Lepas. The audience was more familiar with these and cheered.
He also covered current hits such as Who You Are by Jessie J, Jar Of Hearts (Christina Perri), Halo (Beyonce), I Set Fire To The Rain (Adele) and Somebody I Used To Know (Gotye).
As these are songs in English, you would have expected him to have memorised them but his eyes kept glancing at the lyrics sheet. This only strengthens the notion that he didn’t have enough rehearsals for this showcase.
There was a flaw in his performance when he tried to make the cover songs his own by injecting his own sounds and, with it, unnecessary improvisations. The songs unfortunately were rendered almost unrecognisable.
On the plus side, Rahman-Hughes’ experience of being on the musical stage did prove to be useful. His rendition of I Set Fire To The Rain was so powerful that it totally made up for the slow numbers before that.
At the press conference two days earlier, Rahman-Hughes expressed his desire to be more intimate with his fans through a show that spoke to a smaller audience.
I was really expecting him to walk off the stage and approach the listeners as he sang. Instead, he just remained on the stage. He did communicate between songs, from there, and thankfully, he sounded very jovial. The crowd seemed to like it even though he could’ve picked better topics to talk about.
For example, he recalled during rehearsal when the band started to play Lionel Richie’s song Hello when he had Beyonce’s Halo in mind. Although that story tickled the audience, the next item had them scratching their heads — when he started to promote his brother’s (who was there at the show) scuba-diving classes.
The highlight of the night was perhaps when Rahman-Hughes performed Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know. He invited the men in the room to sing a lower part of the chorus, the ladies higher notes. The result was quite impressive, and he was able to end the song with a bang.
It’s perfectly understandable that the showcase was less than stellar, considering that it was Rahman-Hughes first in conjunction with the release of his first album. At least he intended to show his appreciation to his local fans despite his busy schedule.