Swedish House Mafia, Gwen Stefani and Red Hot Chili Peppers steal the show at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix concerts – festival report

Swedish House Mafia, Gwen Stefani and Red Hot Chili Peppers steal the show at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix concerts – festival report

This year, Singapore hosted its 12th consecutive Night Race, otherwise known as the Singapore Grand Prix. Apart from just the races however, the Singapore Grand Prix has become known for its increasingly stacked musical line-ups. Over the past years, we've seen performances from Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jay Chou, and Pharrell Willams among others. 

This year, however, may go down as the best line-up the event has ever seen, with headlining performances from Swedish House Mafia, Gwen Stefani, Muse, Fatboy Slim and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you don't think a line-up of that magnitude is a big deal, then we ask you to consider this: The 2019 Singapore Grand Prix was the second-most attended event in its 12-year history. 

Below, we take a look back at the headlining performances of this year's Singapore Grand Prix. 


Swedish House Mafia 

(Photo credit: We Rave You)

In 2013, the legendary dance music trio Swedish House Mafia – the teaming up of Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello – performed at the sold-out Singapore Indoor Stadium as part of its farewell tour, disbanding after one final hurrah around the world. 

Last year, the trio made an unexpected comeback, as it made a surprise appearance to close out the main stage of Ultra Miami 2018, five years after playing its final show at the same spot. Since then, the boys have played a very select handful of shows, and made its grand return to Asia for the first time in five years at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix. 

The crowd packed out the Padang nearly an hour before the trio took the stage, with a horde of fans donning the group’s merch from five years back sprinkled throughout the grounds. 

Photo credit: Loopcentral

In the minutes leading up to the trio’s performance, sporadic chants and cheers echoed through the Padang, growing more frequent and raucous with every passing minute. Three red beams of light shone from the stage, out into the open night sky, bleeding out far into the night sky. As the background pre-set music faded, the red beams were shut down one-by-one, backed by a singular thumps of bass. 

When the lights went down, and the veil dropped – literally – a massive wall of white blinded the wide-eyed fans for a split second, before it faded back to black, and three silhouettes appeared. One of them grabbed a mic, and greeted the crowd with one of the most iconic lines in all of dance music: “My name is Axwell, this is Steve Angello, and this is Sebastian Ingrosso. And we are the Swedish House Mafia.”

(Photo credit: EDMTunes)

That’s when the fun truly began. The elevated platform and an arsenal of specially-flown in lighting rigs made for a visual spectacle all on its own, pushed to greater heights only by the sounds of the trio, and the iconic sight of three decks onstage. 

The trio ran through a plethora of its greatest hits, like ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Antidote’, while balancing its set out with a bevy of new unreleased tracks. But amidst the dazzling display of pyrotechnics, slick visuals and specially-crafted and imported LED rings, were the standout moments, during which the three DJs huddled and smiled to each other onstage, and played its biggest hits, ‘One’, ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ and ‘Save The World’, that the energy of the night was at its peak. 

The crowd exploded during the aforementioned tracks, roaring along to the iconic verses and jumping frantically during its euphoric drops. At the end of the night, it was clear that the supergroup’s first show in Asia in five years had everything fans could’ve wanted and more. 

I consider myself to be a massive fan of dance music, having travelled far and wide to experience festivals on the other side of the world, and while Swedish House Mafia’s set wasn’t the absolute best, it still ranks as one of the better performances I’ve caught. If you’re at a festival that the trio happens to be performing at, I assure you, you’re going to have a great time. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, the visual spectacle that the group brings with it is a sight to behold. 


Gwen Stefani

When it was announced that Cardi B had to pull out of this year’s Singapore Grand Prix festivities, fans and ticket-holders were devastated, as a significant portion of attendees were highly anticipating the Grammy-winning rapper’s debut in Singapore. But in the meantime, the Singapore Grand Prix team rallied to find a replacement act that would please the crowd. And that’s exactly what we got with Gwen Stefani. 

A bona fide icon, Gwen has cast a tall shadow over nearly all aspects of pop culture, especially music and fashion, for the better part of two decades. This time was no different. With a vast catalog of music at her disposal, ranging from her days as the frontwoman of No Doubt, to the chart-topping pop anthems of the 2000s, her performance was littered with fan-favourites and commercial hits alike. 

Her first solo performance in Singapore since 2007, Stefani wasted absolutely no time, kicking her set off with the catchy ‘Sweet Escape’, before launching into No Doubt territory with ‘Sunday Morning’, dancing and prancing around the stage with infectious energy. As she stopped to greet the crowd, her attention was captured by a fan, with a sign that asked Gwen to sign her arm for a tattoo. Within minutes, the fan was brought onstage, and her arm was signed as the crowd cheered. 

Sprinkled throughout Gwen’s setlist were songs that you probably haven’t heard in years, but once that opening notes hit, everything would have come flooding back to you. The crowd matched Gwen’s energy, singing along word-for-word to tracks like ‘It’s My Life’, ‘Rich Girl’ and ‘Cool’. 

The last segment of her set, however, was the true highlight of her performance, as she ran through arguably five of the biggest hits in her discography with ‘Don’t Speak’, which was deafeningly echoed by the crowd, followed by ‘Hey Baby’, ‘Spiderwebs’ and ‘Just A Girl’, before closing the set with her most distinguished track, ‘Hollaback Girl’. If her set proved anything, it’s that Gwen’s still got it, and her music – solo and with No Doubt – is timeless. 


MUSE

When Muse announced late last year that it would be swinging by Singapore to perform at this year’s Night Race, I was stoked. I had been a massive fan of the band, and I’m not afraid to say that I spent well over eight hours queuing outside the Singapore Indoor Stadium in 2015 to see the trio from the front row. And you know what? It was worth it. That concert was one of the best nights of my life.  

I think we can all agree that Muse’s latest entries into its dense catalog of music isn’t as great as its predecessors, but the band has shown time and again that it is a world-class performer. And as long as it break out its greatest hits, it’s going to be good. 

Naturally, Muse was one of the acts I was most looking forward to over the weekend. Sadly, however, my excitement for the band waned within the first 20 minutes of its performance. 

Despite having a long discography, packed to the brim with fan-favourites and commercial hits – from the guitar-driven assault of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to the hypnotically chaotic ‘Assassin’ –  the band instead, chose to open its set with three songs off its latest album, Simulation Theory – arguably the weakest in the discography. 

What resulted, was an opening backed by futuristically clad back-up dancers – which is highly unusual for the band – that seemed flat, and failed to resonate with the masses, exciting only a handful of die-hards in the process. Throughout the band’s set, they threw out a multitude of tracks from its latest album, which was met with feint cheers, and a predominantly still crowd, save for when the band brought out its biggest hits – the likes of ‘Hysteria’, ‘Starlight’, ‘Uprising’, ‘Plug In Baby’ and ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. 

The band’s closer, however, proved to be its crowning glory of the night, as they whipped out ‘Knights of Cydonia’, to which the crowd went nuts, as it built up to a raucous climax. 

It’s common for a band to experiment with new sounds after more than two decades in the industry, and we don’t blame Muse for dabbling in a more electronic sound, but the band works best when they strip everything down to its three core instruments. When all was said and done, Muse put on a good show, but it certainly wasn’t its best. 


Fatboy Slim

Fatboy Slim is a legend in the dance music world, and he let his presence be known as he opened up the festivities at the Padang on the final day of the F1 weekender. The Padang Stage was packed at 5:30pm under the scorching sun, as the crowd eagerly awaited the first of the two main performances of the night.

An OG of dance music, the English DJ has  enjoyed a career spanning over two decades. He has produced rave staples such as ‘Praise You’ – some of which were even accompanied by unforgettable visuals like the Spike Jonze-directed 'Weapon of Choice’, ‘Right Here, Right Now’, and the cult-classic ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’, which has gone on to become a mantra within the dance music community. 

Yet another mantra that was carried out throughout his set were the words that were plastered on his laptop: “PUT YOUR PHONES AWAY, LET’S ENJOY THE MOMENT”. As he appeared onstage, the crowd erupted, giving the living legend the welcome he rightfully deserved. 

Dancing barefoot, he was one with the music – its high-octane energy pulsing through the veins of everyone in the field. His hypnotic visuals – especially those of Idris Elba – charmed the crowd, as they laughed at the wacky animations, and close-up shots of Slim’s entertaining expressions. 

Fatboy Slim’s performance was light and mindless fun, cutting through the heat, haze and hearts of everyone present, energising them for the race, and the final performance of the weekend. 


Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) made its grand return to Singapore after 17 long years under the brightest of lights that the country’s entertainment circuit – pun intended – has to offer, and wasted no time at all, leaving its mark in the history of the Singapore Night Race as the best closing performance yet. 

For 17 years, fans have waited, and for 17 years, the band has continued to cement its place in music history, being inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the process. It took that long, but it all led to this. 

Let's just put it this way: There were hundreds, upon hundreds of people watching the show from outside the field, because it was too full and they weren't allowed in. 

Flea, Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer kicked things off with an impassioned instrumental, before playing the opening chords of one of the band’s biggest hits: ‘Can’t Stop’. Frontman Anthony Kiedis pranced onstage to one of the loudest roars of the weekend. 

As the band jammed along to its opening track, it was evident that the band’s mix, while crystal clear, was the loudest of the entire weekend. Sure, Chad Smith hit the drums incredibly hard, and Flea slapped and plucked the bass unlike anyone else, but the band’s unrivalled sound mix made the performance that much bigger. 

As the song wound to a close, Flea took the liberty of greeting the Singaporean crowd, with a short freestyle, which was met with an roar of laughter. The band then launched into its next two songs: ‘Fortune Faded’ and ‘Zephyr Song’, kicking the set off incredibly strong. 

It’s clear that the band has a strong understanding of just how strong its discography is, and the fact that it would be impossible to perform every crowd favourite in a single set. The Chili Peppers did their best however, crafting a hefty set that included the likes of ‘Dark Necessities’, ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’, ‘Californication’,  its masterful cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘By The Way’. 

Throughout the night, the audience’s energy was at an all-time high, matching the band’s infectious energy. But the night’s peak came in the form of the band’s closing number, the hard-hitting and funky ‘Give It Away’, which saw the packed-out Padang transform into a sea of jumping fans, giving the band everything it had. 

Say what you will about RHCP, but they deserved to be up on that stage, closing out one of the greatest Grand Prix in history, as the biggest headliner on the bill – and that it did, proving to everyone that the quartet of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer are one of the greatest performers of our time.

Special thanks to the Singapore Grand Prix for the invite.