In a display of what’s come to be expected of stars who have made it big on the Internet, buoyed by likes and followers, musicians Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider made sure that communication was a two-way street during the Manila leg (June 25/26) of their Asian tour.
“Manila has become a city that we love,” Sam told the crowd, to raucous cheers. “We haven’t tried balut yet, though!”
This easy conversation, peppered throughout the show, added a degree of normalcy to these two YouTube stars, who, between their channels, have accumulated about 5.7 million subscribers. And it makes up for the more polished perfection that veteran musicians, who have toured for decades, can give an audience.
The upbeat numbers immediately (and rightfully) opened the show, with a focus on the original songs. “Make It Up” was the punchy opening number, and songs from the new EP, dropped while the duo was in Manila, were part of the set, including “Wildfire,” and “Love and Us.” (WATCH: Sam Tsui, Kurt Hugo Schneider answer questions from PH fans)
Fans were also treated to Sam’s dancing – infectious, peppy, and as one teen fan next to me put it, “OMG, So adorable!”
In a previous phone interview with Rappler, Kurt had said that “Shadow” was one of his favorite productions to date. “I love the song and I think the video..is beautifully done and Sam sounds great singing it.” That confidence shone through as Sam tore into the song with gusto.
“What’s a goodbye good for anyway / there’s nothing left of you to remind me,” sang Sam. “I’m trying hard to forget you…when you took it all you forgot your shadow.”
For those who were wondering if the duo would perform with a Filipino star, they did. Singer Rita de Guzman, who opened for the two, made an appearance to sing “Bring Me the Night” with Sam, taking the lines sung by Kina Grannis in the original. (WATCH: Sam Tsui and Kurt Hugo Schneider perform ‘Don’t Want an Ending’)
The original songs were catchy, with many diehard fans singing along – but the two were really at their best when they deftly worked their way through the often complex arrangements of their mash-ups and covers. This is another achievement altogether, and the arrangements often make sense thematically as well as musically.
For example, when Sam sang the mash-up of Frozen’s “Let It Go” and Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” the former is less a song about discovering your own inner power than it is about going through conflicting emotions after a break-up.
Sam and Kurt sometimes address a younger demographic – check out their channels and you’ll see covers of songs from High School Musical, One Direction, Justin Bieber – but they are serious artists who put real thought into their arrangements.
As an intro to “Cups,” which featured Sam singing while he and Kurt made sounds out of plastic cups (like Beca’s audition to the Barden Bellas in Pitch Perfect), Sam told the crowd the real story behind the video, saying that they had to do that “about 50 times” and that they would sometimes mess it up. But of course, they didn’t miss a beat.
A few major medleys made it into this concert, with the boys mostly sticking to the same execution as their videos. The first was “Summer Pop Medley 2012,” which had Sam singing everything from Bieber’s “Boyfriend” to Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
The second, “Pop Medley 2013,” was a more mellow, stripped down version of 2013 hits, which included Sam’s own “Make It Up.” But the show’s centerpiece was the mother of all their mash-ups – a history of their YouTube hits, beginning with the Michael Jackson medley that made them famous.
Fans might have missed the signature high notes, which were fewer and farther in between. For instance, during the YouTube history medley, Sam didn’t venture into “Beat It” territory, nor did he go into the climax of “Don’t Stop Believing.” But there were plenty of quiet moments with the piano that emphasized Sam’s vocal range. Of these, his own “Worth It” was a highlight.
The most high-impact number of them all, to many in the audience, was their “Just a Dream” – the Nelly cover that got them over 81 million views on YouTube. Kurt had told media that the piano portion was one of his favorites to play, and it showed.
“If you ever loved somebody put your hands up,” sang Sam, in the song’s signature line, as fans in the crowd lost it.
Of course, sometime during the high energy show, Sam and Kurt took a crowd selfie, while Kurt took videos of the audience.
Manila, thank you for making our last night here so amazing! Your energy blew me away – SINGAPORE are you READY!!!?? pic.twitter.com/LD0AxgBTv8— Sam Tsui (@SamuelTsui) June 26, 2014
This two-way communication is key to the duo’s onstage personality, and likely to their success: whenever fans shouted “I love you!” they shouted back. And when fans tweeted their excitement, they sometimes responded with an RT or a favorite.
As promised during their press conference, Sam and Kurt began winding the show with an acoustic version of original song, “Don’t Want an Ending,” sung close to the crowd, on the stage steps. At this point, fans had come forward – almost close enough to touch them. (I have the footprint on the back of my T-shirt to prove it.)
And when Sam sang the finale, “Wherever You Are,” he prefaced it with a promise that no matter where they were, with today’s connectivity, they wouldn’t really be far away – words welcome to their fans who will no doubt be scouring YouTube for more Sam and Kurt. – Rappler.com
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