I’ve followed Mel since he won the Talentime with his younger brother Joe in the mid-1970’s when they were very young (one a teenager and the other a pre-teen). I bought a ticket for today’s concert (an Esplanade Presents programme that takes place every first Monday of the month) as soon as it was on sale because I did not want to be disappointed (there were times when I couldn’t get tickets) and because it would be the last one I would be able to attend this year. I was also curious about Mel’s 29-year-old daughter and wanted to watch her debut at the Esplanade. Before father and daughter appeared, the programme co-ordinator, manager Chris, gave a short introduction and recounted how he was introduced to Gabrille in 2010 when she was a back-up singer for jazz singer Nathan Hartono and then opening a show for veteran singer Robert Fernando. He then decided to invite her to perform with her father for today’s show.
Mel and Gabrille began performing the moment they appeared and sat on high stools, with Mel on the guitar and Gabrille doing the vocals. They had with them a young man (who was later introduced as an eligible Alan Henderson) on the cajun. To my delight, they performed the Beatles’ Till There Was You from a musical called Music Man. I was surprised that Gabrille has such a sweet voice and looks so good (much better than all the photos I’ve seen in the publicity materials). When they announced that they would sing The Bee Gees’ Islands In the Stream next, I was very sure this would be a very enjoyable concert. True enough, their set list (not sad list) consisted of all my favourites such as John Lennon’s Imagine, Bee Gees’ Don’t Forget to Remember, Skeeter Davis’ Silver Thread and Golden Needles, The Carpenters’ Close to You, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, Frank & Nancy’s Something Stupid, Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love, Bee Gee’s Smile and Cliff Richard’s The Young Ones.
In between songs, father and daughter engage in easy banter, such as: how Gabrille raided Mel’s collectiion of cassettes (not CDs) when she was little, about how Mel’s heyday is now referred to as hairday, about how when Gabrille suggested they do Something Stupid (the song), Mel thought she was going to do something stupid (they don’t live together as Mel is divorced), about how Gabrille wanted to learn to play the trumpet but both parents said it was like “cats dying”, so she turned to the harmonica, which she promises to play at the next gig, and settling for the ukelele today. Incidentally, an “even younger” man played the trumpet for many of the songs.
Gabrille did a seatch and found that there are over a thousand songs with names like Michelle and Gloria but none called Gabrille (“so sad!”) so they’re going to sing two with names of Adam’s ex-girlfriends (Carol and Diana). Adam had to agree because “he doesn’t have a microphone” and “this is part of the deal”. Throughout the songs, Gabrille adds some ‘drama’ by moving her hands expressively, using eye/facial expressions and body gestures that are just humorous yet appropriate.
The audience roar with discontent when Mel and Gabrille announce that they have sung the last song. In the end, they agree to do one more song for the encore (not two); with Gabrille telling the audience to buy tickets for both shows to listen for more songs, especially since they would probably not stick to the same ‘happy (not sad/set) list’. The song is Can’t take My Eyes Off You, which is clearly the house favourite.
Indeed, it was such a wonderful concert that if I did not have another appointment, I would dash to the box office to see if there is a ticket available tor the aafternoon show! I just hope I don’t have to wait too long for their next performance. In the meantime, I will look out for the day when tickets to Mel Ferdinand’s performance in A Date With Friends, another Esplanade Presents programme, in November.