Waiting for Tonight
By Kwok Siew Loong
It's been a difficult time for music lovers. Even as Singapore crawls forward with its re-opening efforts during the pandemic, some activities remain firmly off the table: karaoke is one; clubbing is another. Also on a moratorium: hands-in-the-air, everyone-packed-sweaty-shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder pop-rock concerts. My own most unforgettable live music experience is not the carnivalesque spectacle of a Madonna tour, the head-banging, air-guitar thrills of a standing-room-only Bon Jovi concert, or even being packed with 6,000 other middle-aged Retrolicious fans in 'I Heard a Rumour' T-shirts singing along to Bananarama. It is J.Lo outdoors at Gardens by the Bay in December 2012. I am 37, and my date that night is the most important woman in my life: my mother.
One night over dinner, she asks if I am going to the concert. No, I reply, having only a passing interest in the singer-actress-American Idol judge.
"I don't mind going with you if you are interested," she says, pointing to the advertisement in the conveniently placed copy of The Straits Times on the dining table. "She's so beautiful."
My father doesn't say a word, just laughs as he continues his meal.
"But only if you want to," she adds.
That my mother, a pint-sized, God-fearing, Catholic woman in her 60s, even knows who Jennifer Lopez is, is already a surprise. When I think about my mother, a hip-shaking, Lambada-grooving 'On the Floor' popstress does not spring to mind. Indeed, I don't think my mother even till today can name a single J.Lo song, but this is what it means to be a pop-culture icon: you can be famous by being famous.
"You'll have to stand throughout, you know?" I warn her, eyebrows up, the fork in my hand pointing at her threateningly.
"I'll wear my comfortable shoes."
How to say no? This woman gave me life. (My mother, not J.Lo.) But her Love Does Cost a Thing: tickets, at three figures, are not cheap.
Still, there we are at 8pm on a Tuesday night, my mother and me, standing at the rim of the short-grassed, bowl-shaped Meadow at Gardens by the Bay, waiting for Jenny From The Block to make her grand appearance. Or rather, we are sitting on a patch of wet grass. Okay, sitting on a plastic sheet on a patch of wet grass because my mother, bless her, is always prepared: "It was raining just now, so I thought better bring. Just in case."
In front of us, much younger people are on their feet in the mud whooping and cheering in anticipation. I don't care. I'm not still in secondary school, embarrassed to be caught spending the afternoon with my mother while my (much cooler) friends are hanging out at McDonald's together.
I'm just disappointed that the woman doesn't have a whole rotisserie chicken in her handbag.
We wait. And wait. I fear my mother will fall asleep before the show begins. Divas never start on time, I know, but come on, this is a work night, some of us still have to go into office tomorrow and then, suddenly, without warning, about an hour in Jennifer Lopez! For the next 45 minutes, mother and son watch a thumb-sized, faraway J.Lo cavort onstage with her hunky dancers. 'Get Right'. 'Waiting for Tonight'. 'Ain't It Funny'. She appears to be singing live while dancing her ass off. Impressive. We sit back, enjoy the music, ooh at the light show and pyrotechnics. There are no monitor screens for those of us at the back of the Meadow, so we have to stand up occasionally for a better view of her calisthenics and costume changes and then my mother says she is tired and wants to go home.
What? Even before 'Dance Again', the one J.Lo song I actually like? I am disappointed, but, as another great musical entertainer once said, I will survive. And this way, we get to beat the crowds out of the Meadow.
What made the night so memorable was not the dance routines, the thumping beats or the singer's exuberant, perspiration-soaked performance. It was my mother's satisfied smile as we walked arm-in-arm across the overhead bridge to Marina Bay Sands where my father was waiting to pick us up.QLRS Vol. 21 No. 1 Jan 2022